Broadway at the Beach features 350 acres of shopping, dining,...

Broadway at the Beach features 350 acres of shopping, dining, nightlife, entertainment, attractions and hotels. Credit: Myrtle Beach Area CVB

Myrtle Beach has a reputation as a family beach - a workingman's destination where a week of sun and fun with the kids won't break the bank.

In a time of layoffs, high unemployment and recession, that makes the Grand Strand - the 60 miles of shoreline from Georgetown, S.C., to the North Carolina state line - especially attractive.

The area offers a bit of everything: weathered beach bungalows at Pawleys Island and mom-and-pop hotels amid pricier high-rise condos in Myrtle Beach; amusement parks where you pay by the ride; and golf challenges ranging from tilting at mini-golf windmills to making the green on windswept layouts winding through stands of oak. But the main attraction is, and always has been, the beach.


With 60 miles of coastline, it's not hard, or expensive, to find a room with a view of the water or one within a block or two of the shore. The Grand Strand has nearly 90,000 rooms for rent, from upscale hotels to mom-and-pop motels to villas and condos on golf courses. Online rates for many condos and hotels in April and May cost less than $100 a night. Peak summer rates can creep closer to $200. Many hotels offer spring and fall specials, giving visitors a free night or two if they stay a specified number of nights. If the ocean is too cold for you in spring, many condo towers on the beach have free indoor-outdoor water complexes with pools, hot tubs and lazy rivers. You can also stretch your dollar by looking at amenities. For example, The Dunes Village Resort has a full-fledged, 15,000-square-foot indoor water park, free for guests, with a slide big enough for adults, so there's no need for a trip to an amusement park (from $79, 877-828-2237,



WHY GO A new mile-long, $6 million boardwalk, set to be completed this spring, is being built along the shore in the center of Myrtle Beach. It will have green spaces for sitting and old-fashioned street lamps. During the summer, there are street performers, face painters and free concerts.



WHY GO It's the only seaside amusement park in the area. Dating to 1966, it features the signature Swamp Fox wooden roller coaster and the largest Ferris wheel in South Carolina. There's no admission to the park itself, so parents won't have to pay if it's only the kids who want to ride. Individual ride tickets are sold, or spring for a $33 combo pass that covers a day of unlimited rides at both the amusement and water parks.



WHY GO Between the shore and the Intracoastal Waterway, this 350-acre entertainment and shopping complex features everything from an IMAX 3-D theater to Ripley's Aquarium and from Hard Rock Cafe to burger restaurants and pubs. As the weather warms up, there are free concerts with regional acts followed by fireworks. The famous beachfront Myrtle Beach Pavilion closed down several years back, but a number of the smaller rides have been relocated to the Pavilion Nostalgia Park here.



WHY GO A change of pace from the lights and bustle of downtown Myrtle Beach, the walk in nearby Murrells Inlet offers picturesque views of the fishing boats and wildlife such as heron and gulls - and it's free. On the mainland side, the walk connects with a string of eight seafood restaurants in the town locals like to call "The Seafood Capital of South Carolina."



WHY GO From June through August, this shopping complex on what was once the old Myrtle Beach Air Force Base offers a KidZone every Monday with jumping castles and the like. Kids can jump all day for $10. Friday nights the complex's Valor Park has free live music.



You'll find outlet stores, national chains like Victoria's Secret and everything in between. The Grand Strand has 326 gift, novelty and souvenir stores, including the ubiquitous beachwear shops. The most popular souvenir? Anything from gym shorts to T-shirts and from paperweights to drinking glasses with "Myrtle Beach" on them, says Kimberly Miles, public relations manager for the chamber.


During spring and fall, you'll find more people on the golf course than on the beach. With 100 regulation golf courses, there's something for every golfer and most courses are public. More than four million rounds of golf are played annually. One place to start is the Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday Web site, where you can log in with details about your trip plans and get quotes on golf packages with accommodations (

Golfers not trying to pitch out of a bunker are often trying to putt past buccaneers. The Grand Stand has more than 50 miniature golf courses, many with nautical themes. Full-price tickets run $8 for adults and about $6 for kids - but most courses offer discounts if you play during the day rather than during the busier evening hours.



May 1-29

A string of free concerts, including Jordin Sparks and "Hannah Montana's" Mitchel Musso (May 29). Also celebrity appearances ranging from "Twilight" star Alex Meraz (May 1) to TLC's "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro (May 15).


June 4-5

Free concerts, live entertainment and the Miss Sun Fun pageant.


Sept. 3-4

Part foodie festival, part beach dance party, the third annual festival winds up the season over Labor Day weekend.


IF YOU GO . . .

TIMING Fall and spring are increasingly popular times for golfing and shopping, and you'll find plenty of vacationers from cold places such as Buffalo or Vermont who think the weather's perfect here for the beach in April. But the most popular season is still summer, with July Fourth as the busiest weekend. July is also the hottest month; temperatures average 87 degrees and the seaside humidity can make it feel hotter, but often the afternoon brings a sea breeze or even a thundershower.

GETTING AROUND Most visitors arrive by car. On busy beach weekends, that can mean traffic snarls. New roads in recent years have helped. The Carolina Bays Parkway, state Route 31, and the Conway Bypass, state Route 22, now provide expressway alternatives to what was once stop-and-go traffic. An interstate link, I-73, is also in the works.

MORE INFORMATION Start your visit at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce ( The main office is a few blocks off the shore in the heart of Myrtle Beach. There's a second visitor center at the airport and a third in the fishing village of Murrells Inlet to the south.

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