This travelling girl from north of the 49th parallel has a crush on the American South. The pull of a warm climate, genteel manners, copious glasses of sweet tea and loads of deep-fried goodness tempt me in ways that I can’t logically explain.
How fortunate then, that my travels brought me to the affordable, tourist epicenter of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where I encountered all of the above. Here are the best things to in Myrtle Beach with kids and families.
Best Things to Do with Kids in Myrtle Beach
Hit the Grand Strand
The pride and joy of Myrtle Beach is its Grand Strand – 60 miles of soft white sand that stretches nearly from the North Carolina Border to Georgetown, with Myrtle Beach in its center. The natural, coastal beauty of the Strand, particularly in its Beach State Parks, is breathtaking, as is the variety of traditional beach-going pleasures – sand-castle building, swimming, surfing, fishing, jogging and just laying in the sun.
Visit the Arcades at Beach Boardwalk
The bright neon of these old-school arcades attracts you inside, even if you didn’t think you’d play.No self-respecting beach boardwalk can be without its game arcades, and Myrtle Beach has several large arcades along the Strand. Particular favorites are the old-style games of chance and skill – think pitching balls or whacking moles.
Walking along the Beach Boardwalk with a peach ice cream from Peaches restaurant is great for people-watching and working off those delicious deep-fried hushpuppies (or deep-friend anything for that matter).
Ride the SkyWheel
For some sky-high thrills and views, take a ride on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel. It offers some of the best views of the beach and boardwalk areas. While I’m afraid of heights, I found the ride smooth enough to peek through closed lids and snap some photos during the ten-minute go-round.
Kayak in Murrells Inlet
Head south of the Grand Strand for 20 minutes and get natural on a kayak tour of the unique ecosystem that is Murrells Inlet. Guided tours with Black River Outdoors will transport you and the kids to a quiet space of shore and seabirds, pirate stories and pluff mud. You can book 2 or 4 hour eco or fishing tours, and double-kayaks are available for families with younger kids.
If you need a break from the bustle and commercialization of Myrtle Beach, a quiet paddle in the salt marsh of the inlet will rejuvenate and restore your spirits.
Tour Brookgreen Gardens
Who says kids don’t like art? Kids of all ages will love Brookgreen Gardens, one of the loveliest and most interesting gardens in the United States. The lush gardens include a Live Oak Allée of enormous 300-year old oak trees, fountains, more than 1,400 bronze, marble and aluminum sculptures and pieces of public art, as well as an historical interpretive centre and natural zoo. There’s lots of room for kids to respectfully roam free, and a free trolley tours between different sections of the gardens if small legs tire quickly.
Go Ape Ziplining & Treetop Adventure
Kids and adults up for an adventurous challenge will love monkeying around in the trees at Go Ape Zip Line and Treetop Adventure. About 15 minutes north of the Grand Strand, this tree-top adventure course includes 5 zip lines and a wide variety of tarzan swings and ropes in moderate and extreme levels. You will be climbing up quite high into the trees, secure at all times with your safety ropes while Conan the safety instructor’s mantra runs continuously through your head – “Always Stay Attached”. I was highly inclined to follow his wise advise as I whizzed across a small lake during the final 900 ft zipline of the course.
Play a Round of Mini-Golf
Myrtle Beach wins the prize as the ‘seaside golf capital of the world,’ with over 100 golf courses. But from a kid point of view, the more impressive statistic is that there are 50+ mini-golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area. The mini-golf courses are lushly landscaped and themed – from pirates to spewing volcanos to dinosaurs. You will find a mini-golf course here to please every club-wielding member of the family.
Visit Family Kingdom
Amusement park lovers will find themselves at home at the oceanside Family Kingdom complex. There are more than 35 thrill, family and kiddie rides within easy walking distance of the shops, arcades and restaurants of the main Myrtle Beach Boardwalk area.
Check out Broadway at the Beach
First thing to know, it’s not actually on the Atlantic, the ‘at the Beach‘ part refers to being at (Myrtle) Beach. This massive entertainment complex (300+ acres) is touted as the number one attraction in Myrtle Beach. With entertainment, attractions, restaurants and shopping galore, it reminded me a bit of Disney Springs in Orlando.
Two of the most popular attractions at Broadway at the Beach are the most kid-friendly – Wonderworks and the Ripley’s Aquarium. While this large complex is family-friendly in the sense that it hosts attractions that families with kids would like, much of it reminded me of a huge, open-air mall that in another life I’d be at pains to avoid.
Wonderworks bills itself as an ‘amusement park for the mind’, offering scientific education and information through entertainment. While it may be tough to measure how much knowledge may sink in, kids will certainly enjoy riding in a virtual roller coaster, feeling hurricane-force winds, or trying their hand at the indoor ropes course.
At Ripley’s Aquarium, you can walk through the Dangerous Reef, a 750,000 gallon shark tunnel with a slowly moving carpet. The sharks and giant turtles swim all around you, and you can step off the carpet for photos at any time. There’s also a jellyfish gallery, slime area, and hourly dive shows and marine education sessions.
The Aquarium is one of the most popular family attractions in Myrtle Beach, and is filled with families keen on underwater adventures.
Go on an Alligator Adventure
In addition to showcasing over 400 alligators, Alligator Adventure is the home to many other reptiles and animals, including; lemurs, kangaroos, frogs, birds, bobcats and wolves. It’s an eclectic mix of wildlife, and the real draw is the live animal shows offered throughout the day. Park staff teach captive audiences all about snakes, alligators and other reptiles during the 30 minute show. Park guests can touch the animals (gently), if they dare.
Where to Eat in Myrtle Beach
Not going to lie, I ate a year’s worth of deep-fried everything during my four night stay in Myrtle Beach. I loved it all – from the fried chicken, hushpuppies, fresh-caught (and fried) catch-of-the-day, green tomatoes, topped with collard greens and polished off with loads of sweet tea and peach cobbler. All of these great dining spots in and around Myrtle Beach are family-friendly.
For southern fried favorites, hit up Magnolias on 26th for its lunch-time $10 buffet. More refined dining with an ocean view, walk south along the Boardwalk to 2nd Avenue Pier for shrimp and grits. Post-kayaking, relax on the patio of Wicked Tuna at the marina in Murrells Inlet and enjoy a fried flounder sandwich. Out at Barefoot Landing, the Flying Fish Market & Grill has delicious fresh catches of the day to choose from along a water-front setting.
Finally, for one of the best meals of your life, grab a table at The Chemist, one block from the Beach Boardwalk. In its own words, the Chemist is ‘not your average Myrtle Beach restaurant’. The fresh, modern cuisine, craft cocktails, intriguing presentation (think Periodic Table coasters and staff in lab coats), mixes into a heady alchemy of instagrammable and delicious food awesomeness. Order the smoked trout under glass, bamboo rice risotto, and end with the EPIC Mango Buttermilk Panna Cotta Sunny Side Up. You’re welcome.
Where to Stay in Myrtle Beach
Hampton Inn Suites Hilton
The Hampton Inn and Suites Hilton in Myrtle Beach has a just reputation for friendly service. I was charmed by the warm, southern hospitality that I had hoped to find in South Carolina. The staff are friendly and very helpful to answer any questions. The generous, nautical-themed suites at the Hampton Inn are perfect for family stays; located on a golden section of the Grand Strand, close to the Boardwalk and other regional attractions.
Full kitchens allow for home-food preparation, a real money-saver for families. Each suite has lovely Atlantic ocean views from spacious balconies with comfy chairs. Your stay includes a free hot breakfast, with cold and warm offerings: cereals, yoghurt, fruit, waffles, eggs, ham/sausages. The hotel pools include a lazy river, but the beach is so inviting, I think it’s the bigger draw.
Sea Watch – North Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach offers even more affordable accommodation choices, yet it’s still within a 10 minute drive of the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. The Sea Watch Resort is a large, older property, with a variety of suite choices meant to accommodate families for weeks at a time.
Rooms have full kitchens, and the Captain’s Cove offers delicious buffet breakfasts complete with a custom omelette bar. The pool deck is extensive, with six pools, two lazy rivers, and 10 hot tubs, with kid-friendly dance parties during weekend evenings.
From gators to golf, these ten Myrtle Beach activities and attractions will keep kids entertained, happy and ready to drop from exhaustion at the end of the day; a perfect recipe for a successful family vacation at the beach.
Of special note to Canadians: Check Visit Myrtle Beach for seasonal special rates for visiting Canadians, including its 60 More Days of Summer deals.
Need more hotel deals for Myrtle Beach?
Photo Credits: C Laroye (unless noted)
Disclosure: The Travelling Mom’s visit to Myrtle Beach was generously hosted by Visit Myrtle Beach. As always her opinions are honest and her own.