By CF's Senior Editor, Robin Stevenson, with testing assistance by Charlotte, 6
This spot has been the southern getaway for generations of families looking for an affordable vacation.
good to know before you go
There is a reason people drive to Myrtle Beach—other than Porter Airlines twice-weekly flights from Toronto between February and May, there are no direct flights from Canada. The major carriers offer connecting flights often from Newark, N.J., Charlotte, N.C. or Altanta.
what to do there
• The newest addition to Myrtle Beach is a 1.2-mile long boardwalk that stretches from 14th Avenue to the 2nd Avenue Piers. It is a great way to experience the beach, especially if pushing a stroller, with lots of restaurants and shops just steps away.
• Broadway at the Beach has everything but a beach! This festival entertainment complex boasts restaurants, shops, a nightclub district, movie theatres, mini-golf and waterpark. It also features a cool attraction called MagiQuest for wannabe wizards. Admission into this interactive, live-action game includes a customizable wand that you can take home or use again at another MagiQuest location (none in Canada sadly). The game is easiest if kids can read, but is still fun if parents help. There’s also an outside quest incorporated into the landscape at Broadway at the Beach try as well (free once you have a wand).
• Located at Broadway at the Beach, Ripley’s Aquarium is essential visiting for any kid or parent who owned a fish at any point. The highlight of the aquarium is Dangerous Reef, where guests travel on a slow-moving 340-foot long guide path through an acrylic tunnel as giant turtles, stingrays, sharks — seriously big ones — and thousands of fish swim over your head. We rode the path three times. It was just that cool.
• With more than 50 miniature-golf courses in the area, there is a track for every taste but we headed for Hawaiian Rumble where the Masters Pro Mini Golf Championship is held each year. You won’t spot a single windmill at this adventure-themed course. Admittedly, some younger kids may enjoy that type of putt-putt course more, but my six-year old did well on this one and liked the 40-foot volcano that trembled and erupted with flames every 20 minutes as well as the clubhouse’s chatty parrots.
when to go
South Carolina is south, but it’s not tropical, so time a visit accordingly. The average temperature in March is about 68 F (nice but far from toasty). By early May temperatures rise to a balmy 83.
where to stay
Many of the hotels in the area feature conveniences especially for families. We stayed at the oceanfront Dunes Village Resort about a 10-minutes north of the downtown area. In addition to good-sized suites with full kitchens and tons of kids’ activities, it has the area’s only indoor water park, including adult-sized waterslides, kiddie play area and a lazy river ride — perfect for rainy-day fun or if the ocean is just a little too chilly for your liking. Prices start at US$109 per night.
do it or regret it forever
If your kids are six and up, consider a guided tour of South Carolina’s Lowcountry. A couple local operators offer this experience, but we had a great time with Carolina Adventure Tours. Our four-hour tour included Huntington Beach State Park, a tour of Atalaya, a Moorish-style castle, plus lunch in Murrells Inlet, a quaint fishing-village and one-time pirate-hideout (be sure to order a side of hushpuppies with your meal). But the highlight for my daughter was our walk through a haunted pre-civil war cemetery near Pawleys Island. She was mesmerized by the tale of Alice Flagg, a teenager who died grieving a lost love. Legend has it she appears if you walk around her grave backwards 13 times (there is a path worn around the stone). Charlotte still talks about Alice the ghost to this day.