As I sit inside Rickenbacker Airport and wait for the flight that has already been delayed ten hours, I can’t help but be slightly irritated that I’ve lost almost an entire day on the beach. At this moment, my only amusement is the older ladies in the corner who, rather than complain about the flight, are joking about their incompetent husbands while discussing the copies of “50 Shades of Grey” that lay in their laps. Oh, the conversations you over hear when you’re bored and waiting.
When planning this press trip, as a result of Vision Airlines new, non-stop 737-jet service to Myrtle Beach, S.C, I had no idea it would start off so… interesting. However, after a couple of long flight delays, some unwanted horror stories on the plane, an unscheduled stop in Indianapolis, and some rental car complications, 12 hours after our scheduled arrival time in Myrtle Beach, my roommate and I, finally made it. With an open schedule to do as we please and numerous options, we were ready for some away from home fun.
I should mention this wasn’t my first trip to Myrtle Beach, considering my family has been vacationing there since I was a kid. But if I’ve learned anything from my countless family vacations to Myrtle Beach, S.C, it’s that the sandy beaches of the Grand Strand seem to be a hot spot for Ohioans. Located roughly 10 and half to 11 hours away by car, or a short hour and a half trip by plane, they welcome around 14 million visitors annually. Hardly a surprise, considering how tourist-centered the town seems to be.
Through each visit, especially this one, I’ve realized there are a few things that you can’t miss out on. Here are the 5 must do’s, in my opinion, in Myrtle Beach.
1. Stay oceanfront
Imagine waking up each morning to the sound of waves crashing, the sight of the sun rising over the sea and the luxury of walking just a few short steps outside of your room before your feet hit the sand and the ocean breeze is aiding to wake you up. Each an equally compelling reason in which everyone should experience staying in an oceanfront accommodation on their vacation.
We had the privilege of staying in the extravagant, 20 story, oceanfront Embassy Suites Hotel on Kingston Plantation, which recently went through a multi-million dollar renovation project in April. With the stunning ocean view, close beach access, complementary breakfast, nine pools, nine tennis courts, two oceanfront restaurants, the outdoor Splash Café, and Splash Caribbean Family Water Playground and Lazy River, luxurious would be an understatement. I realize not everyone might be able to afford to stay at Embassy Suites. I admit the place was slightly fancy and a bit out of my college student price range, but this is just one of many oceanfront options in the Grand Strand.
Hey, you’re on vacation, why not treat yourself by spending a bit of money? And I’m not talking about the ordinary tourist shop, although you can probably find a “Wings” or “Eagles” store every mile. I mean outside of the “Myrtle Beach, South Carolina” T-Shirts and shot glass souvenirs you’ll probably buy.
During our second day in town, we decided to spend some time at the infamous Broadway at the Beach, 350 acres of shopping and entertainment encircling a 23-acre lake in Myrtle Beach. And even though the wide selection of over 100 apparel boutiques is what my shopaholic personality was after, there’s enough to keep anyone satisfied, in case shopping isn’t really your thing. From a variety of themed restaurants such as Margaritaville, and the Hard Rock Café, to family attractions such as Wonderworks, to nightclubs, I have yet to make a dent in checking out everything Broadway consists of, even after my several trips there. My favorite place? The Kiss themed Coffee House. Yep.
3. Let loose your inner child
For those of you who think vacation is all about laying out without the worry of having to do a single thing, well I guess I can’t argue with that. If I said I wasn’t guilty of falling asleep on the beach and spending two hours in the lazy river of the water park, I would be lying. However, the relaxation aspect of a trip should be limited to only a day or two. You can sleep when you’re dead, right? Whether you’re 10, 21, 40, or 60, make some time to truly enjoy yourself.
Take complete advantage of the beautiful ocean around you, because you’ll regret not savoring it when you get home. I don’t mean take a quick dip when you get a little too sweaty from soaking up the sun. I mean legitimately “play” in the water, boogey board, body surf, or just swim. And when you’re not spending time on the beach acting as though you’re remarkably younger than you actually are, the fun shouldn’t stop there.
During our day at Broadway at the Beach, we decided to stop by Ripley’s Aquarium. I had been quite a few times before, but seeing under sea creatures face-to-face never gets old to me. Nevertheless, I must say, this specific aquarium is unquestionably targeted to younger kids, and it’s not difficult to figure that out when walking through the door, especially this time of year. And as if there wasn’t enough to have every child in Myrtle Beach pouting and demanding to be taken to Ripley’s Aquarium, they’ve recently added a Mermaid Meet & Greet, and a dinosaurs exhibit, “When Giants Ruled.” But fighting my way through the crowds of screaming children was only a small price to pay, and well worth it, in order to see animals such as various sharks, stingrays, an octopus, and exotic fish up close and personal, and life-like, robotic, moving T-Rex’s too, of course. Also, their mandatory “Exit through the gift shop store” policy resulted in the purchase of over a pound of candy. How old am I again?
My thoughts of Ripley’s Aquarium can be summed up by a quote that they have on the wall.
“Those who have never seen themselves surrounded on all sides by the sea can never possess an idea of the world, and of their relation to it.” – Goethe.
Words to live by.
4. Eat, a lot
Forget that low carb diet you promised yourself you wouldn’t quit, like I said, this is vacation. No holding back.
After our afternoon at Broadway at the Beach, it was to one of South Carolina’s Historical Restaurants, The Parsons Table, to close out the night. The Parsons Table, established as a restaurant in 1978, is located in Little River, South Carolina, not too far outside of North Myrtle Beach. Constructed in 1885, the building’s original purpose was as the Little River Methodist Church. From the exterior, the building still looks as though it could pass as a modern day church. Upon walking through the antique doors, every room is filled with breathtaking stained glass. I had a bacon, wrapped, 6 oz. Filet Mignon. As a firm believer that bacon makes everything better, this wasn’t a hard decision for me. And even though I’m sure turning to whoever is sitting next to me and saying, “This is the best steak I’ve ever had,” has happened more than a couple of times, this time I’m positive that the others couldn’t compete. I made sure I told chef and owner, Ed Murray, who I must say is one of the most charismatic and kind men I’ve ever met, this statement personally.
The following day, we had lunch at The Original Mr. Fish, restaurant, seafood market, and sushi bar. It’s a small, tucked away, local place on North Kings Hwy, with local art filling every wall. We shared fried and sautéed shrimp, which tasted like any other shrimp I’ve ever had in my life, but it was a quaint affordable place I would go back to, and we did.
On our last night we had dinner at the conveniently located, Vintage Twelve Restaurant in the Embassy Suites Hotel. Of course we chose to sit next to the large window, because who doesn’t want an ocean view while eating, or doing anything for that matter? The look of the establishment was upscale, to match the hotel I suppose. I’ll admit that I had a hard time choosing what to eat because I wasn’t used to the high-end cuisine they offered. I ended up choosing the roasted chicken, because that sounded easy enough, which Chef Caitlin Bradley prepared beautifully.
5. Don’t write off the tourist attractions
The list of attractions in Myrtle Beach seems to be endless and all as equally corny as the next, but then again, that doesn’t mean they’re not worth a try. So we decided to give the Medieval Times Tournament & Dinner a visit, and I must say, they’re not messing around.
Driving up to the large castle-like building in which the shows take place is a slight surprise and the outside appearance is just the beginning. A few workers, who seemed to really take their job seriously, greeted us upon entrance. Each in elaborate costumes and not breaking from the cheesy, practiced accent and speech, they were all highly committed to recreating this historical time period.
Each guest received different color crowns to organize us into groups in which we would cheer for that color knight. You are then served a four-course meal, eaten in true medieval style, with your hands, consisting of garlic Bread, tomato bisque soup, oven-roasted chicken, a spare rib, herb-basted potato, and an apple pastry, while watching the fictional story they have put together. A vegetarian dinner is available if you so choose. Not bad for $50.
The knights rode, fought and jousted for the guests’ entertainment and everything was quite believable. And the beautiful, trained horses were just as spectacular. These people really did their research.
Disclaimer: I received complementary airline, lodging, and a media pass, which allowed access into a number of attractions, for purposes of this article.
For more information: www.VisitMyrtleBeach.com.