There’s a reason the Myrtle Beach area is consistently the No. 1 vacation destination in the world. We came up with the top 20 (listed in no particular order) summer places, activities, attractions and events we professionally recommend checking out in 2021. Just keep in mind that, with the unpredictability of the pandemic, dates and protocols may change, so check each website before you make plans to go.
Brookgreen Gardens - 1931 Brookgreen Garden Drive, Murrells Inlet
There’s nothing like tiptoeing through the more than 9,000 acres of the world-renowned Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet this time of year. Around since 1930, when the wealthy Huntingtons from New York purchased the former rice plantation grounds, Brookgreen is the first public sculpture garden in the United States, it serves as a fusion of gorgeous displays of local blooms, lush landscaping and Anna Huntington’s sculptures. Highlights include the Live Oak Allee (pictured above) framed by 250-year-old live oaks, a butterfly garden, the whimsical Fountain of the Muses sculpture, and the Lowcountry Zoo. For more information, hours and tickets, visit brookgreen.org.
Ice Cream - Various Locations
We all scream for ice cream in the summer! It’s the perfect way to cool out in the sun. Here on the Grand Strand, the list is long for available ice cream stands. Our picks for the cherry on our sundae are the Original Painter’s Homemade Ice Cream in North Myrtle Beach, Painter’s Homemade Ice Cream right at the Garden City Pier, Twisters Soft Serve ice cream stand across from the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk, Cold Stone Creamery beside the movie theatre in the Market Common (plus multiple locations) and Bruster’s Real Ice Cream in Carolina Forest. Keep an eye out (and an ear out for the jingle) for the Mister Softee ice cream truck that makes its rounds throughout our local neighborhoods, ballparks and playgrounds.
Walk the Walks - Various Locations
There is no shortage of waterfront boardwalks to walk and wander, from river to inlet to ocean. It’s outdoor living (and playing) at its finest! Starting from the south end of the Strand, historic Georgetown’s Harborwalk skirts the Sampit River and is lined with boat docks, restaurants, bars and museums, including the South Carolina Maritime Museum. A short drive farther north is The Murrells Inlet Marshwalk, where a bounty of the county’s best seafood restaurants and bars with live music live year-round. In the summertime (pending COVID restrictions), you can also find local artisans selling their wares. The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is 1.2 miles of oceanfront fun, stretching from the Second Avenue Pier to the 14th Avenue Pier, with bars, restaurants, arcades, a park and the SkyWheel in between. West of the Waterway, historic Conway’s Riverwalk on the Waccamaw River offers kayak rentals, a marina, a park and pretty views.
Carolina Country Music Festival - 812 N. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, June 10-13
CCMF returns to Myrtle Beach this year, after COVID silenced the festival in 2020. And the three-day oceanfront festival is coming back with a bang, featuring a 30-plus all-star lineup that includes Luke Combs, Eric Church, Darius Rucker, Jake Owen, Kelsea Ballerini and many more. For more info and tickets, visit carolinacountrymusicfest.com.
The Piers - Various Locations
The Grand Strand coastline extends beyond its beachfront to nearly a dozen piers that jut out over the ocean swells. There is always something to see and do when you step foot onto each of our piers—from the northernmost Cherry Grove Pier to the south end’s Veterans Pier in Murrells Inlet. It could be from the simple pleasures of a stroll out to get a bird’s eye view of the sunset or to witness one of the pier fishermen reeling in a big one, to sitting down at one of the pier bars and restaurants or dancing the night away to live music. Two piers are in the process of being rebuilt after hurricane winds ripped through their boards, but there are still plenty of piers to take in and enjoy.
Savannah’s Playground & Lake at The Market Common - 5712 Springs Ave., Myrtle Beach
There are playgrounds, and then there is Savannah’s Playground, an enabling playground with ADA-approved equipment for children of all abilities. The landmark playground is named in honor of Savannah Thompson, a local Myrtle Beach native with Williams Syndrome. The playground is massive and, better yet, it’s free! Kids from toddlers to school age will love climbing, sliding, spinning, swinging and ziplining up, down and all around the playground. Of course, you can’t forget the interactive harmonious music section! Bring lunch and picnic at any of the nearby pavilions. Follow it up with a stroll, bike ride or scooter ride on the fitness trail that surrounds the picturesque lake that borders the playground. For more info, visit savannahsplayground.org.
Water Sports & Tours - Various locations
There are loads of ways to have fun on the water–and countless professional services on the Grand Strand and the Waterway that make that happen–from jet skis and pontoons to kayaks, surfboards, canoes and SUPs. You can even hire a guide to teach you a thing or two, from technique to the history and wildlife of the area.
Alfresco Dining - Various Locations
Take a deep breath and smell the salt air over the salt rim of your margarita. The beauty of our area is that most of our restaurants offer alfresco dining on a deck, porch, dock or courtyard. Feast your eyes on the beauty of the great outdoors while you dine on some of the best food in the country.
Shark Wake Park - 150 Citizens Circle, Little River
Are you strapping your feet onto a wakeboard for the first time or just finessing your fancy footwork? Either way, Shark Wake Park is the best place to go on the Grand Strand for wakeboarding. The ultra-cool Shark Wake Park offers a high-tech cable pulley system to pull you around the manmade lake (and ramps if you’re up to it) for boarders of all skill levels and speeds. Lessons, day passes and memberships are available. If you want to add to the fun on the water, the lake next door is laid out in the Aqua Park: a floating obstacle course to slip, slide and climb up, down and around. It’s perfect for all ages. For more info and tickets, visit sharkwakepark.com.
Fishing Charters & Dives - Various Locations
If you want to discover the treasures that live beneath our ocean surface, take advantage of the abundance of local fleets that provide fishing charters of all distances and depths along the Grand Strand coastline. Two of the many we recommend are Crazy Sister Marina in Murrells Inlet on the south end and Little River Fishing Fleet in Little River. Or take a scuba diving course to swim through the many artificial reefs buried in our area. Coastal Scuba in Little River and Scuba Express along the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk are good bets.
Mini Golf - Various Locations
Myrtle Beach isn’t known as the Mini Golf Capital of the World for nothing. We even host the annual US ProMiniGolf (USPMG) Master’s Championship every October at the Hawaiian Rumble in North Myrtle Beach for pros vying for a $20,000 cash purse. Our beach town boasts more than 50 mini golf, aka putt-putt, courses to choose from each summer. You and your putter will be whisked away to courses laid out in tropical themes from around the world, in and out of caves, mountains, fountains and pirate ships. Some are tied together as a sort of passport playing card; some even feature snack stands and tiki bars to heighten the overall mini-golf experience.
Salute from the Shore on Fourth of July - Various locations
This special decade-long all-American tradition only requires that you stand on the beach and look up to the sky for a military flyover that takes off from the North Carolina/South Carolina border at 1 p.m. and continues south to Hilton Head. Heighten your patriotism by bringing your American flag swag and waving them with pride. You’ll be amazed by the spectacular spectacle, a parade from the most modern military aviation to older propeller-driven warbirds. For more information and updates, visit salutefromtheshore.org.
Ropes Courses - Various locations
For a unique workout adventure (and for those who have no fear of heights), there are a handful of ropes courses on the Grand Strand for all skill levels laid out above water and above trees. There’s even a fun ropes course right outside Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s restaurant in Barefoot Landing. Step, climb and balance!
Rainy Day Venues - Various locations
You can count on abundance of sun here, but if it does rain, we have you covered with plenty to do, choose from a number of museums (including a pinball museum), trampoline parks, arcades, theatres, shopping malls, bowling allies, an aquarium and more.
■ Myrtle Waves, 3000 Mr. Joe White Ave., Myrtle Beach
■ Wild, Water & Wheels, 910 US Business 17, Surfside Beach
■ Splashes Oceanfront Water Park (at Family Kingdom), 300 South Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach
To the speed demons out there, there’s one thing cooler than swimming in a pool: speeding down a water slide. We recommend making a splash in these top three area water parks that have everything from thrill slides (open or enclosed, body or tubes) at all heights to kiddie splash areas and mini slides to lazy rivers and more. There’s also the wave pools that will almost make you feel like you’re in the ocean. Fill the day in with these parks’ snack stands and biergartens and you’ll be even happier.
Pelicans Games - TicketReturn.com Field, 1251 21st Ave. North, Myrtle Beach
Take yourself out to the ballgame at Myrtle Beach’s very own minor league team, a Low-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The season will be in full swing by summertime, with baseball action hitting the diamond each inning, as well as fun entertainment in between innings, food, craft beer and more. For tickets, a full schedule and more info, visit milb.com/myrtle-beach.
The All-New Wonders Theatre - Broadway at the Beach, 1320 Celebrity Circle, Myrtle Beach
Summer 2021 marks the reopening of the Charles Bach Wonders Theatre next to Dave & Buster’s. The Theatre will feature three world-class performances from Vegas and around the world, including the theatre’s namesake Charles Bach Wonders Show, a combo show of magic, dance, and illusion performed by Bach, giant puppets and dancers. There are also the “Catch This” shows starring eight-time Guinness World Record-holder Niels Duinker, a world-class juggler, and Steve Falcon’s Comedy Hypnosis Hour, which makes the audience the star of the show. For tickets and more info, visit wonderstickets.com.
■ Myrtle Beach: 4401 S. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach
■ Huntington Beach: 16148 Ocean Highway, Murrells Inlet
We pride ourselves on our two pristine oceanfront state parks along the Grand Strand: Myrtle Beach and Huntington. Myrtle Beach State Park was the original in the state park system in 1936 and features a plethora of playtime activities, such as fishing from the surf or the pier, camping, playgrounds, picnic shelters, swimming at the beach, and biking and walking trails. Farther south, Huntington Beach State Park is a beauty, offering locals with a seasonal pass and visitors a little bit of everything over the summer. From historic tours of Atalaya Castle, the winter home of Archer and Anna Huntington (founders of Brookgreen), to some of the best birding opportunities and so much more, our state parks are a must-visit for the summer. For more information, visit southcarolinaparks.com.
■ Family Kingdom, 300 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach
■ Pavilion Park East, West & Central, Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach
■ The Funplex, 1405 N. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach
It’s time to smile, scream, and laugh out loud at this trio of amusement parks on the Grand Strand truly designed for all ages. Roller coasters, bumper cars, kiddie rides, high-flight rides and drops, go karts, oh my–and so much more await you. With affordable prices and tons to do, be sure to make this your next family summer day. The new Funplex and Family Kingdom parks are oceanfront and the three Pavilion Park locations, featuring a mix of new and nostalgic rides from the razed Pavilion, are located in three areas within Broadway at the Beach.
Our Mega Multi-Use Majesties
■ Barefoot Landing, Highway 17 North, North Myrtle Beach
■ Broadway at the Beach, Celebrity Circle, Myrtle Beach
■ The Market Common, Farrow Parkway, Myrtle Beach
This trifecta of mixed-use complexes along the Grand Strand offer hours of dining, shopping and entertainment all in one stop. Barefoot is situated along the Intracoastal Waterway as a wide oval filled with some of the best restaurants, bars, breweries, shops, live music venues, theatres, a ropes course, playgrounds and more connected by docks stretching over ponds and paths on the outer circle. Broadway, located between 17 Bypass and Business, has been an entertainment mainstay for decades, but has evolved over the years to stay ahead of the trends, with Dave & Buster’s, WonderWorks, a host of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, Ripley’s Aquarium, ziplines, shops, speedboat rides and so much more. The Market Common, open for business on the shut-down Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, now is a hub of some of the best of the beach in dining, shopping and entertainment.
Images by Sean Pavone, Natalia Pyzhova, Larry Porges, Margaret Wiktor, Chris Perello, Justin Heckman, courtesy of Carolina Country Music Festival, Sterling Munksgard, Debby Wong, courtesy of Savannah’s Playground, K Parmalee Photography, courtesy of Carolina Rover, John Willman, Courtesy of Big Tuna Raw Bar, Catie Todd Photography, Victor Beloded, courtesy of Shark Wake Park/Ian Jacob Photography, Elena Simona Craciun, Sharkstock, courtesy of Salute from the Shore, Courtesy of Lulu’s Ropes Courses and by Andrew Angelov, courtesy of Ripley’s Entertainment Inc., Horry County Museum, Big Air Myrtle Beach, The Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum, Courtesy of Wild Water & Wheels, Splashes, & Myrtle Waves, courtesy of Wild Water & Wheels, Family Kingdom, and The Funplex, courtesy of visitmyrtlebeach.com, George Burns.