It’s never a bad idea to have a game plan going into Myrtle Beach. So many attractions vie for your attention in the popular South Carolina destination that it’s easy to freeze up — and waste precious vacation time.
This tourist-friendly beach town has plenty of the things you’d expect to find: shops selling swimwear, beach toys, sunscreen and souvenirs; seafood restaurants for every price range; golf courses for all skill levels; and miles and miles of shoreline to explore.
What makes Myrtle Beach unique, though, are its lesser-known gems, some of which are hidden in plain sight. Rest assured — there’s plenty there to keep you busy when you decide to take a break from the beach or pool.
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade
The boardwalk isn’t exactly a hidden gem, but it’s so obvious that some people might dismiss it. Don’t make that mistake.
There are plenty of shopping opportunities (including the city’s largest gift shop) and several bars and restaurants. The premier attraction, though, is the Myrtle Beach Sky Wheel, a 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel–like attraction that lets you ride in temperature-controlled gondolas and get an amazing view of the city, ocean and beach.
For an extra $35, you can ride in the VIP car, which has leather seats, glare-free glass and a glass floor (plus, you’ll get to take six revolutions instead of the usual three).
Myrtle Waves Water Park
For a town situated on the beach, Myrtle Beach sure loves its water parks. Many resorts around town incorporate them into their offerings, and there are at least five stand-alone parks. But none top Myrtle Waves.
This 20-acre facility is loaded with slides, waves, floating rivers and more, moving more than a million gallons of water per day. If you’re looking for thrills, try the Night Flight and Rockin’ Ray — and the park’s Tsunami wave pool is definitely worth exploring, too.
The park’s size means crowds aren’t that big of an issue, even at peak season.
If you catch a rainy day and don’t want to go shopping, this entertainment facility is fun for both adults and families. Some people prefer the story-driven escape rooms to challenge their puzzle-solving skills, with theatrical lighting, special effects and high-quality set pieces to make it much more interactive.
The big draw, though, is the namesake attraction: a 2,000-square-foot mirror maze that will delight and confound just about anyone. Making your way through the maze is tricky enough, but to ramp things up, you’ll also be wearing kaleidoscope glasses, and the facility uses rainbow lights to keep you lost.
It’s thrilling and challenging — and tough to resist the urge to slip those glasses off the first time through. When you emerge victorious, there’s a real feeling of elation and accomplishment — no matter how old you are. (If you want to relive the feeling, you can reenter the maze as many times as you’d like.)
Huntington Beach State Park
Sometimes you want to take a break from the excitement of Myrtle Beach to enjoy a quiet moment. If so, Huntington Beach State Park is unquestionably the place to go.
This coastal reserve has a large beach, typically barren of tourists, as well as plenty of wildlife to observe, especially birds like loons, tree swallows and several species of duck.
You can fish from the jetty (though be sure to get a license first) or hike along the two-mile Sandpiper Pond Trail (where you’re likely to see an alligator as you stroll).
And be sure to visit Atalaya (pronounced Ah-ta-LIE-yuh), the former winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington and a National Historic Landmark. There’s not much left there these days beyond fireplaces, metal-barred windows and the exterior walls, but it’s a great place to get some very stylish photos and learn a little about its history.
By the end of the day, you might want to hit the town — maybe see a show or grab a nice dinner. Barefoot Landing is the place to go. With 15 different restaurants, you can find whatever food you’re in the mood for and then dance the night away at one of the shopping center’s four clubs. Here you’ll also find the Alabama Theater, which regularly hosts national acts such as the Four Tops and the Oak Ridge Boys.
You can catch the Barefoot Princess Riverboat and watch the sun set from sea as you sip an evening cocktail and jam to the onboard band. Heading to the boat’s open-air third deck is the most authentic way to sail, but there are two climate-controlled decks, as well, if the South Carolina heat proves too oppressive.