One of the United States’ most popular family vacation destinations, Myrtle Beach is a manmade island separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway, which stretches from Boston to the southern tip of Florida. The South Carolina city, named for the area’s wax myrtle bushes, attracts more than 14 million visitors annually, including families, bikers, and raucous spring breakers. Although the main strips are crowded with attractions and restaurants, open-space outdoor activities are plentiful, both on the water and at the local state park. Compared to inland cities, Myrtle Beach experiences warm, humid summers, although the ocean waters temper the heat. Winter temperatures rarely dip below freezing.
Much like a beachside Catskills, Myrtle Beach draws families back year after year with its friendly, all-American atmosphere and numerous beaches. The local population is just over 30,000 in the off-season but jumps more than ten-fold during the summer months. Rumor has it that Myrtle Beach is the birthplace of the 1940s dance craze the Shag, which has now become the official state dance and was featured in the eponymous 1989 film shot here. Myrtle Beach and the nearby Murrells Inlet are also well known for their motorcycle rallies, with the spring rally attracting diehard Harley fans and the fall event catering more to sport bikers.
Aside from the plentiful beaches and watersports, Myrtle Beach’s numerous attractions are mostly geared towards families, including several amusement parks. The Broadway at the Beach complex offers numerous dining and entertainment options, such as a movie theater, zipline, and aquarium, and the nearby Myrtle Beach Skywheel allows riders to get panoramic views on a 187-foot-tall Ferris wheel. Diverse entertainment options range from down-home performances at the award-winning Carolina Opry to dinner theaters with medieval jousting, pirate battles, and Polynesian luaus. Warm weather allows golfers to tee off year round at the numerous local courses, while several local outlet malls provide shopping deals.
The most well known area is the Grand Strand, less an area than a strip of some 60 miles of beach stretching from Little River to historic Georgetown. Ocean Boulevard—or simply “the Boulevard”—contains the densest collection of sites, including a boardwalk and several piers. Up north, Restaurant Row is packed with dining options, including the notorious seafood buffets with more than 100 options. The former fishing village of Murrells Inlet, where Blackbeard reportedly hit piles of pirate loot, offers a break from the beach crowds in a quaint setting, with the popular riverside MarshWalk a popular dining destination.