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Myrtle Beach: Sun, sand, surf, entertainment for all

  • Published
  • By Ed Drohan
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
While Pope is only a few hours drive to several excellent beaches, one stands out amongst the rest as the "grandest" of all.

Myrtle Beach, part of South Carolina's Grand Strand, is less than three hours away by car, but is a Mecca for tourists from around the globe. As a vacation destination, it has almost anything a person or family could want — sun, sand, surf, great restaurants, and entertainment tailored for adults and children alike.

Hotels abound in Myrtle Beach for those who want to spend a few days, with everything from large resorts to small mom-and-pop hotels, and prices that vary as much as the accommodations. Reservations are definitely required, especially during the peak summer months, as some hotels along the beach can be booked up months in advance. Some require minimum stays of three or four days during certain time periods, so check with individual hotels for their terms. A good place to start your search for hotels is with the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site, www.myrtle, where they list almost 150 hotels in central Myrtle Beach alone.

Myrtle Beach boasts some of the finest white sand beaches on the east coast, but beaches aren't the only thing that attracts millions of people to the city each year.

If you like to golf, there are more than 100 courses around Myrtle Beach, with many hotels catering to the golf crowd with package deals that include play at a premier course, hotel accommodations, show tickets and other amenities. For those who might prefer their golf in a miniature format, there are almost as many putt-putt ranges in Myrtle Beach as there are full-size courses.

There are so many other entertainment venues that anyone would be hard-pressed to visit them all in a year, let alone while on a summer vacation. The Myrtle Beach Pavilion amusement park is celebrating its final season on the beach this year, so try to visit before this icon disappears.

You can also head down to Broadway at the Beach, a 350-acre complex that includes Ripley's Aquarium, where you can ride a moving sidewalk through a clear tunnel that allows you to get a close up view of sharks, sawfish and other denizen of the deep. Military members get 75 percent off the normal entry fee, making it an affordable family destination.

If you have a need for speed, try out NASCAR Speedpark, where you can grab something to eat and then try your hand at maneuvering a go-kart around the track a couple of times, or maybe just check out some of the memorabilia on display.

Entertainment doesn't stop when the sun goes down, either. The Palace Theater, Alabama Theater and the Carolina Opry all offer great family entertainment, while Dixie Stampede and Medieval Times mix eating dinner with your fingers with outstanding horsemanship and sword battles. And Elvis hasn't left the building yet at Legends in Concert, where imitation isn't only flattery, but entertainment as well.

While hitting the beach and taking in a show are all part of a vacation in Myrtle Beach, so is great food. There are restaurants to match every taste and price range, and seafood buffets abound. Try Capt. George's on 29th Avenue North - it's a little pricey but the crab legs are outstanding and the buffet is always full. You should also check out Dick's Last Resort in Barefoot Landing, but only if you have a thick skin, as your food comes with some friendly insults along the way. Another fun stop is the local Hard Rock Café, which is built in the shape of a pyramid at Broadway at the Beach.

So, what do you do when you've had enough beach, entertainment and food? Why shop, of course. The Tanger Outlet Center on US-501 includes everything from Brooks Brothers to OshKosh B'Gosh outlet stores. Broadway at the Beach includes hundreds of small shops that offer everything from beachwear to framed artwork. And then there are the hundreds of souvenir shops stretching along the length of Kings Highway for those who can't resist bringing some t-shirts or a hermit crab home as a reminder of your trip.

If you can't make it to the beach this summer, never fear. One of the best kept secrets in the south is Myrtle Beach around Christmas. While you won't want to take a dip in the ocean in November or December (unless you're a member of the Polar Bear Club), the entertainment and restaurant venues are still up and operating, and hotel rooms are usually a third of their summer price. Myrtle Beach is truly a year-round destination.