Myrtle Beach has been the no-fuss vacation destination for generations of Canadians. Just ask around, you probably know someone who has made the drive down with their family. While South Carolina’s Grand Strand—comprised of 14 communities including Myrtle Beach—is known for its 96 kilometres of Instagram-worthy coastline, this city has way more to offer than sun, sand and surf. Here are our picks for kid-approved fun you won’t want to miss.
Down by the boardwalk
Myrtle Beach’s almost two-kilometre-long boardwalk and promenade is where the action is, especially during the peak summer season. But don’t rush—curious kids will want to check out all the diversions along the stroller-friendly route that stretches between the 14 th Avenue and 2 nd Avenue Piers. Ice cream shops, an old school arcade, the delightfully kitschy Gay Dolphin Gift Cove (a Myrtle Beach institution since 1946), thrill rides, and the boardwalk’s most recognized attraction, the 20-storey SkyWheel, are just a few of the ways to get sidetracked as you make the trek north or south. Or simply sit on one of the many benches and just enjoy the view.
Good to know: During the summer months, families head to Plyler Park for the Hot Summer Nights series of free concerts, kids’ carnivals, karaoke and weekly fireworks show.
Broadway at the Beach isn’t on the beach, but it’s got so much going on you won’t even notice. This complex is packed with shops and restaurants plus a movie theatre, nightclubs, mini-golf, a waterpark and features twice weekly fireworks displays that light up the sky during the summer. If that’s not enough to keep the family busy, be sure to explore WonderWorks, a science-themed attraction with 100 hands-on exhibits—lie on a bed of 3,500 nails (!)—that fuse education and entertainment. If you have a Finding Nemo/Dory fan on your hands, Ripley’s Aquarium’s Dangerous Reef exhibit is a must- see. A slow-moving glide path takes visitors along an acrylic tunnel through the aquarium’s largest tank filled with thousands of fish, a giant turtle, stingrays and sharks of all sizes that swim right overhead. Good to know: It’s natural to want to head inside on rainy or chilly days, so be prepared for lines and crowds at the complex’s indoor attractions like WonderWorks.
Choose your own adventure
Beached out? It happens. Fortunately, Myrtle Beach has multiple options for families looking to add some action to their vacation.
Located inside the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex, Go Ape! Zip Line & Treetop Adventure is a two- to three-hour rope course (depending on pace) that takes participants 50-feet up through the park’s forest canopy. Kids aged 10 and up, accompanied by an adult, will thrill at negotiating the 40 suspended crossings including five zip lines. It’s a workout, but totally exhilarating. Even little ones can get in on the fun with the Treetop Junior tour.
Need more of an adrenaline rush? Hit the waves with Myrtle Beach Watersports’ two-hour Jet Ski Dolphin Watch Tour. This 64-kilometre tour takes riders along the Intercostal Waterway into the open ocean for an up-close dolphin experience—a pod of eight swam and played alongside us on our early morning tour. Drivers must be 16 years old with valid ID to drive alone, but any age can ride with an adult (18) onboard. First-timers get lots of instruction from the experienced guides, but drivers should be able to physically handle the craft and kids should be old enough to hang on tight. Families who like their adventures on the milder side should check out Black River Outdoors Kayaking Tours. Their two- and four-hour guided paddles show visitors a different side to the Grand Strand. The tours, highlighting the ecosystems and animals of the Waccamaw River and salt marshes, are fine for beginners, but you’ll want to decide if your kids will be entertained enough to last the duration of the tour. Youth- sized kayaks are available for older kids and younger ones can ride with you in a tandem kayak to help with paddling (or not).
Good to know: These attractions get busy on weekends and holidays so secure a spot by booking in advance online.
Finding an outing that entertains both grandparents and kids isn’t the easiest task, but Brookgreen Gardens in Murrell’s Inlet melds art, nature and history in one beautiful setting. The park is home to the largest outdoor collection of American figurative sculpture in the world. Younger kids likely won’t be impressed with the 2,000 works of art or the stunning botanical gardens, but they’ll love getting up close to hundreds of butterflies at the Whispering Wings Butterfly Experience (open April to October) and wandering through the Lowcountry Zoo featuring animals native to the area such as river otters, bald eagles, foxes, owls, and of course, alligators.
Good to know: Your admission is good for seven days so can return later in the week at no extra charge.
Get in the swing
Myrtle Beach is a golfer’s—standard and miniature—paradise. Families can compete for hole-in-one bragging rights at one of the more than 50 mini-golf courses with themes ranging from pirates to dinosaurs. Some courses are easier than others if you have preschoolers in your group, but if you think you have what it takes to play where the pros putt, head to Hawaiian Rumble in North Myrtle Beach–this 18-hole course is the permanent home to the U.S. ProMiniGolf Master’s tournament (yup, it’s a thing).
Good to know: Many courses offer discounts if you play before 4 p.m.
When to go
South Carolina is south, but the weather isn’t always warm enough for a dip in the ocean. The average temperature in March when kids are off for Spring Break is 18°C but climb into the 30°Cs June though August.
Many families choose to make the drive—about 17 hours from Toronto—but if you prefer to fly, there are a few options including WestJet, Porter Airlines (twice-weekly flights from Toronto between February 13 and May 19) and for those close to the U.S. border, Spirit Air flies direct from Detroit (Windsor), Niagara Falls, New York (Southwestern Ontario) and Plattsburg, New York (Montreal).
Where to stay
Myrtle Beach caters to families, and budgets, both big and small. The Caravelle, a vacation standard in Myrtle Beach for over 50 years, has newly renovated rooms (non- oceanfront, ocean view and oceanfront) in the main building with one-bedroom efficiencies and suites to two-bedroom condos. The resort features pools, outdoor hot tubs, lazy rivers, plus indoor pools and whirlpools for colder days. If you are looking for something specific, check out the 14 properties on vacationmyrtlebeach.com to find a hotel or resort with the perfect mix of accommodation and amenities for your vacay.
Originally published in April 2019.