Just like it has done before, the Myrtle Beach area is experiencing a rebirth. More than 35 years ago, The Carolina Opry opened, giving visitors an alternative in evening entertainment. The theater industry developed with numerous venues coming and going.
Today, standing steadfast with The Carolina Opry are the Alabama Theatre, the new Legends in Concert, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, The Palace Theatre and the Pirates Voyage.
Unless you’re a Johnny-come-lately to the tour & travel industry, you probably already know that the Myrtle Beach area is a well-known entertainment destination.
”We’ve really focused on our theater offerings over the years,” stated Sandy Haines, group sales manager at the Myrtle Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “With the new offerings this year, including Legends, Celebration and Pirates Voyage, we will continue to promote our entertainment options.
“However, as the Myrtle Beach area has grown, our focus has also grown,” she continued. That new focus might best be described, as “what’s old is new again.”
Many of us grew up with cherished memories of family vacations. A favorite destination was always the beach. Remember the cotton candy, french fries and saltwater taffy? Surely, you recall the warm summer breezes and the sounds of beach music keeping time with the waves. As kids we played all the boardwalk games and rode every ride our parents allowed.
In a survey by Y partnership and conducted for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, about 88 percent of today’s family vacationers said they “actively plan vacations with the hope it will result in special memories.” The lure of nostalgia is also a significant factor in drawing groups to the Myrtle Beach area. Student/youth, senior and special interest groups will all find memories awaiting them. Those memories can begin right on the beach.
This past year the new oceanfront boardwalk was completed and formally opened. Navigating through the sand for 1.2 miles, this seaside promenade begins at the 14th Avenue Pier and continues to the 2nd Avenue Pier. Both the north end and south end are filled with scenic beauty, perfect for a pleasurable stroll. The mid-section is located from Plyler Park at 10th Avenue North to 8th Avenue North and has more of a festival atmosphere with oceanfront dining, amusements and shopping.
The Gay Dolphin Gift Cove offers the best selection of souvenirs on the East Coast. The Grand Strand’s largest gift shop has been a “must see” for Myrtle Beach visitors since it opened in 1956. Wacky T’s and Kings Beachwear are both stops for that special shirt or beachwear.
Attractions galore highlight the oceanfront downtown area of Myrtle Beach. Visitors of all ages will find something that revives an old memory or creates a new one. More than just an aquarium, Ripley’s has been an Ocean Boulevard anchor for years with its Moving Theatre, Haunted Adventure, Marvelous Mirror Maze and, of course, Ripley’s Believe It of Not! Museum.
Remember those great carnival and amusement games? You’ll find the old staples, plus all the newest ones at the Fun Plaza and The Pavilion Arcade. Add the Nightmare Haunted House, The Slingshot and Wild West Old Time Photos and everyone in the group is in for a fun experience.
The beach air will work up an appetite and there’s no limit to what your taste buds have waiting for them. With nine downtown restaurants you can enjoy a full dinner while enjoying the evening at Pier 14, or just find the best foot-long hot dog at Peaches on the Corner. You can satisfy your sweet tooth at Mad Myrtle’s Ice Creamery. Let your appetite take over at New York Style Pizza, or enjoy lunch on the boardwalk at Boardwalk Bills, Marvin’s or the Oceanfront Bar & Grill. Dagwood’s Deli (just like the cartoon character made them) is just off Ocean Boulevard and worth the five-minute walk. If you’re feeling frisky, you can always stop at the Bowery, where super-group ALABAMA first performed.
Joining an already impressive list of boardwalk attractions and dining venues is the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and measuring almost 200 feet above sea level, it is the only observation wheel of its kind in the U.S. The attraction boasts 42 fully enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas and a one-of-a-kind LED light show staged nightly. Teaming up with the SkyWheel are Jimmy Buffett’s Landshark Beachfront Bar & Grill and Landshark Surfshack. Enjoy a SkyWheel ride, or just sit back and relax with a Landshark’s meal, beverage, do both.
Throughout the summer and on special days year-round, the downtown area comes alive with festivals and events. If your plans call for a summer tour you may want to checkout the Summer Concert Schedule. Sunday nights you’ll enjoy a drum show, while Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights have live concerts. Leave some time open on Wednesday for the fireworks display. Fridays are saved for Dixieland on the Boardwalk. A St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Oktoberfest round out a great year of fun.
Memories like those your group will experience on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk help position a vacation destination as special.
“Almost every community will say, ‘We have nature, we have history, we have culture,’” stated Rich Harrill, director of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel and Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina. However, the successful tour will discover the community that has romance, memories and nostalgia—just like Myrtle Beach.
There really is something for every group that visits the Myrtle Beach area, and the new boardwalk is the place to be. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll or a full-day itinerary, include the new downtown Myrtle Beach in your next tour offering.
For further information on all there is to see and do in the Myrtle Beach area, call Sandy Haines at 800-488-8998. You can e-mail Sandy at firstname.lastname@example.org or explore online at www.visitmyrtlebeach.com.
—By Dave Bodle