If you’re looking for a vacation with no shortage of activities to keep the whole family busy that also won’t break the bank, consider Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. From miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches to entertaining shows and attractions, the Grand Strand is affordable and tons of fun. Here are 33 of our picks for the top things to do in Myrtle Beach.
Take a Wildlife Safari
A safari in Myrtle Beach, you say? Indeed! Head to T.I.G.E.R.S. Myrtle Beach Safari at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, which is a 50-acre wildlife preserve home to more than 130 endangered animals from big cats to elephants to a “liger” (the world’s biggest cat), where you can interact with these amazing animals.
Myrtle Beach SkyWheel
Located in the heart of the boardwalk, the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel gives you a bird’s eye view of the Grand Strand from enclosed gondolas. It is the highest observation point of the Atlantic Ocean in North America and the East Coast’s only 200-foot ferris wheel. Even if you don’t ride, you can still enjoy the impressive nightly LED light show on the wheel.
Cool Off at a Water Park
Myrtle Beach has the perfect temperature each summer to cool off in a water park: hot! Choose from many options, including Splashes Oceanfront Water Park, the only oceanfront water park in the area, and Myrtle Waves Water Park, the largest in South Carolina, to get your fill of slides, lazy rivers and kiddie pools.
Hang at Your Hotel
Many Myrtle Beach hotels are amusements in themselves with many offering on-site water parks, pools and lazy rivers. At the Crown Reef Beach Resort & Waterpark, you’ll find three water slides, including the world’s first hotel “explosion” slide, the longest oceanfront lazy river in Myrtle Beach and 11 indoor and outdoor jacuzzis. Other properties like Captain’s Quarters Resort come with their very own 20-lane bowling alley plus a full water park.
Meet Celebrities in Wax
See what it’s like to stand next to some of your favorite movie stars, athletes and singers at the Hollywood Wax Museum at Broadway at the Beach, a large Myrtle Beach entertainment complex. You’ll get a real sense of their size and what they look like in 3-D by strolling past their wax renderings. Instagram selfie, anyone? The attraction also has a mirror maze, which is enough to make any family giggle as they struggle to figure out what is and is not a reflection!
See Something Odd
For something a little more off center, head to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium in the bustling boardwalk area. A mix of just about everything off kilter you can imagine, Ripley’s features shrunken heads, a spinning tunnel, a real vampire killing kit and endless curiosities. Plan to spend about an hour to tour the attraction.
Our family loved the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach. Visitor can walk through a tunnel as fish, sharks, turtles and more swim above, get hands on with stingrays (who knew you could touch stingrays without being stung?!) and even ride a glass bottom boat in the shark tank.
Get Up Close With Alligators
When in South Carolina, you must learn about alligators, as these ancient creatures are attracted to the area and are frequently seen lounging on golf courses. At Alligator Adventure, which is right next to Barefoot Landing, you can see hundreds of these reptiles safely up close, as well as many other species of reptiles and even a bird exhibit. Watch them feed, a show in and of itself, and learn all about these interesting creatures.
Family Kingdom Amusement Park
Myrtle Beach’s very own beachfront Family Kingdom Amusement Park offers daylong fun with roller coasters, bumper cars, tons of arcade games, thrill rides like the Sling Shot free fall and classic like the Scrambler ride — all with an ocean view.
Play Lots of Mini-Golf
Myrtle Beach is known as the “Mini-Golf Capital of the World” thanks to 50 area miniature golf courses. Just think, you could play a different course almost every week for a year! And, of course, the best part of miniature golf is always the theme. Choose from dragons, safaris, Hawaii, dinosaurs, jungles, and, of course, pirates to try hitting a hole in one.
Walk the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk & Promenade
A classic Myrtle Beach experience, walking the just over a mile-long boardwalk is a great activity for families and one of the area’s top attractions. Beach activities from sunning and swimming to volleyball and surfing run alongside, as well as a variety of restaurants, arcades and stores, giving you the true flavor of the Grand Strand. Not only can you burn a few calories, but the people-watching is excellent. The boardwalk runs from 14th Avenue Pier to the 2nd Avenue Pier.
How can you not take a dip when you have 60 miles of enticing beach? A free — and fun — thing to do along the Grand Strand is swim to your heart’s content. Not only is there the Atlantic Ocean, but the whole area is filled with pools and water parks.
Take a Dolphin Tour
Dolphins love to frolic off the the coast of the Carolinas, and Myrtle Beach offers several area dolphin tours to get even closer to these mammals. You can hop on a jet ski, kayak or take a boat tour in search of these curious animals.
Reel in a Big One
Whether you enjoy in-shore fishing or want to head out into the deep to fish for shark, tuna or sailfish, Myrtle Beach is rich in sealife. Fish right off ocean piers or in tidal creeks or take a fishing charter where experts will lead you to the best areas for the biggest haul.
Want the ultimate experience? Try Shark Fishing! Enjoy a 4 hour tour and catch Atlantic Sharpnose sharks, black sea bass, and grunts. You’ll be in 30-40ft water about 3-12 miles into the sea for the best catches. Bring a hat, sunscreen, snacks and drinks (no glass or alcohol) and a cooler to bring home your catch. Prices start as low at $48 with Crazy Sisters Marina.
Just south of Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet is Brookgreen Gardens, a 9000-acre garden and National Historic Landmark. Stroll through seemingly endless live oak trees with hanging moss, a sculpture garden with more than 2000 art works and a native wildlife zoo of animals, including those that once lived on 18th- and 19th-century area plantations.
Visit a State Park
There are two beautiful state parks in the Myrtle Beach area, including Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park. Each beach park offers peaceful, natural coastline with surf fishing, nature trails and campgrounds and plenty of space where you can walk the beach. Myrtle Beach State Park is home to Myrtle Beach Pier, as well as cabins built in the 1930s that you can rent.
At Huntington Beach State Park, don’t miss Atalaya Castle, the former home of the philanthropist who preserved the park and nearby Brookgreen Gardens, which turns into a Halloween attraction every fall. Admission to the home is an additional $2 per person for ages 6 and older.
Kayaking is a great way to explore the many waterways around the Grand Strand. Kayaks not only let you burn calories — and build arm muscles — but give you an intimate look at your surroundings. Many Myrtle Beach watersports companies like Island Adventure Watersports rent kayaks by the hour or day, which you can take out on the ocean or the Intracoastal waterways with its marsh grass and abundant wildlife.
Golfing is a pleasure in Myrtle Beach with gorgeous surroundings at every turn from moss-draped live oak trees and palm trees to stunning ocean views. The area offers more than 100 different courses to choose from — each of varying levels of difficulty and designed by some of the world’s most famous golfers. Most Myrtle Beach golf courses let kids 16 and younger play free during the summer and at steeply discounted prices the rest of the year. Many hotels also offer special golf packages to help you save on the cost of your tee times.
If you love nothing more than a great round of tennis, the Grand Strand has more than 200 area tennis courts with a variety of surfaces depending on your preference. Many resorts and clubs like the Grande Dunes Tennis Club offer lessons, clinics, camps and even cardio tennis for even more exercise!
Cal Ripken Experience
Myrtle Beach is increasingly rising on the radar of youth sports tourism. Many different youth sports come to the area to host tournaments and competitions. At the Cal Ripken Experience, you’ll find nine baseball fields, each of which are designed as replicas of famous ballparks, including Griffith Field, Navin Field and Huntington Park.
Catch a Baseball Game
Even if you — or your child — aren’t playing baseball, you can still catch teams playing America’s favorite pastime at TicketReturn.com Field, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The team has sent more than 150 players into the majors, and their season runs from April through September.
Driving a Car Really Fast!
The NASCAR Racing Experience at Myrtle Beach Speedway gives visitors the opportunities to see what it’s like to sit in the driver’s seat of a real NASCAR vehicle once driven by a NASCAR star driver at top speeds. You can also choose to ride along with a professional driving instructor if you don’t want to take the wheel. The Myrtle Beach Speedway hosts a variety of races, including the annual Myrtle Beach 400, and has seen many famous drivers win races at its track.
Broadway at the Beach
This longtime Myrtle Beach staple is a 350-acre entertainment district that hosts shopping, dining, many major attractions and fun activities. At Pavilion Park, you can ride some of the original carnival rides from the old Pavilion, which used to sit along the beach but was closed many years ago. The Broadway at the Beach area offers a mix of local boutiques and larger chains like Yankee Candle, Lids and Claire’s. Also on site are several of the area’s top attractions, including Ripley’s Aquarium and WonderWorks.
Find a Bargain
You’ll find plenty of steals and deals along the Grand Strand. The area has a top Tanger Outlet mall, which has stores for more than 200 different brands. Located off Myrtle Beach’s main highway 501, the outlet mall has clothing, shoes, home goods, accessories and more bargains along with several on-site restaurants to keep you fueled and ready for more shopping!
Buy a Souvenir
You can’t drive through the area without catching sight of its many souvenir and beach shops, which are their own attractions. Myrtle Beach’s Tsunami Surf Shop is a favorite located along the Grand Strand’s mile-long boardwalk. Whether it’s sharks seeming to take a bite out of a store or surfers hanging 10 on the store’s roof, you’ll find beach souvenirs and gear aplenty. Don’t forget to grab a magnet for Grandma!
If you want an out-of-the-ordinary dining experience for your family, make time for a meal at Medieval Times. You’ll sit around a large arena eating the hearty dinner with your hands — just as they did in Medieval times, of course — rooting for your team’s knight to win the tournament. Kids will love interacting with the characters and snagging an autograph at the show’s completion.
Eat at Sea Captain’s House
For a classic take on Myrtle Beach seafood, add Sea Captain’s House to your list of restaurants. A Myrtle Beach tradition for more than 50 years, you can pick from locally-sourced seafood like shrimp cooked anyway you can imagine it, She-Crab soup, shrimp and grits, crab cakes and the catch of the day. The restaurant is located seaside right on Ocean Boulevard between 30th and 31st avenues.
Have Calabash-Style Seafood
While you can get great seafood in Myrtle Beach, head just a few minutes north for an even more famous variety from the small town of Calabash, North Carolina, just over the South Carolina border. Known as the Seafood Capital of the World, Calabash seafood has a unique recipe, coating items in a light batter and then frying them quickly. It’s definitely worth the drive!
Catch a Show
The latest from Dolly Parton, who has created top shows like Dixie Stampede, is Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show. The show follows Blackbeard, a pirate who once sailed the seas off South Carolina, with many special effects, full-sized pirate ships, a 15-foot deep pool and actors performing acrobatics all while you eat a four-course meal.
Do the Shag
Did you know that the state dance of South Carolina is the shag and that the 1989 movie “Shag” took place in Myrtle Beach? Get a lesson in the Carolina shag at Fat Harold’s Beach Club, which is also one of the hosts of the National Shag Dance Competition, every Monday night.
See a Plantation
You can’t visit South Carolina without seeing a real Southern plantation, and Hopsewee Plantation just south of Myrtle Beach along the North Santee River will do the trick! This 1740’s home and property, now a National Historic Landmark, once served as a rice plantation and is also the birthplace of Thomas Lynch, Jr., who signed the Declaration of Independence. Visitors can tour the home and grounds Tuesday through Saturday and enjoy a cup of tea at the on-site River Oak Cottage Tea Room.
Franklin G. Burroughs – Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum
The only art museum in Myrtle Beach, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum features works in a variety of media, including sculpture, ceramics, video, paintings, photography and more. Free to visit, the museum has 11 galleries whose displays rotate throughout the year.
Wheels of Yesteryear Museum
Love classic cars? You’ll be in hog heaven at the Wheels of Yesteryear Museum, which showcases one couple’s collection of more than 100 cars, as well as the car from the movie, “Joe Dirt,” which is currently on loan. On display are 50 vintage muscle cars, including a Corvette Stingray, Mercury Cyclone and Buick Wildcat convertible.
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After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.