School's back in session, but that doesn't mean summer is over.
There are still hot, sunny weekends in August and September for beach adventures, and if you're looking for a way to keep up the family fun despite the homework and studying, consider a drive up the coast.
Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand area is lined with sandy beaches and dotted with refreshing swimming pools, surf shops and beachfront boutiques, seafood buffets and pancake houses. Ride the Ferris wheel, visit Ripley's Aquarium, get active at the Aqua Park.
Go for a day and soak up the sun and fun on the beach or at a putt-putt course. Or, spend the night at one of Myrtle's many beachfront motels or hotels for an extended experience.
Whatever the length of your stay, we've got some ideas to keep you busy on the Grand Strand. We've divided it up by location, from south (closest to Charleston) to north, for your travel convenience.
My parents are gardeners, but unfortunately I did not inherit their green thumb. I killed every plant in my first garden (I am really bad at remembering to water things) and have murdered many a cacti and succulent. So, I love the idea of going to look at pretty flowers that other people have planted and nourished. You can do just that at Brookgreen Gardens, where you'll find botanicals, lots of cool sculptures, a little zoo and a dose of South Carolina history. Tour excursions will explain the flora and fauna of the Lowcountry, and in December you can attend the dazzling light display, "Nights of a Thousand Candles."
Continuing toward Myrtle Beach, you'll pass this little cluster of 25 boutiques and restaurants. Find your Myrtle ornaments at The Christmas Mouse or a signature scent at Isle of Candles. The Candy Cottage will cure your sweet tooth, while Alter Ego will satisfy your inner fashionista. You can also eat at Bisqit Burgers, Bottles & Shakes or Southern Comforts.
This is my favorite place to go out for dinner, drinks and nightly live music along the Grand Strand. The MarshWalk is a little removed from main stretches like Broadway, so you'll find fewer people, though it can still get crowded. Wander the boardwalks, wave hello to Goat Island (yes, there are goats on the island) and enjoy waterfront seafood fare at restaurants like Wicked Tuna, Wahoo's and The Claw House.
There's a castle en route to Myrtle Beach, and you can view it within the 2,500-acre Huntington State Park, which features three miles of beaches, 173 campsites and more than 300 species of birds. Admission to get into the park is $5 for adults, $3 for kids 6-15 and seniors, and free for kids 5 and younger. It's a dog-friendly place.
It's like a pedal pub, but on the water instead of on land. Bring your own beer and hop on the Brew Boat, a 15-passenger vessel with seats at the bar and pedals below. You'll work out while you drink by powering the boat, while a (sober) captain guides you through the Murrells Inlet marshlands.
Shop, eat, drink and explore at Broadway on the Beach, a stretch of businesses in close proximity that makes for a fun day or night out. Attractions include a Hard Rock Cafe, escape games and mirror mazes. Below are a few of the biggest things to do at this main strip.
One of the main attractions at Broadway is the Ripley's Aquarium, which is getting penguins (!!!) soon. From Rainbow Rock to Ray Bay, explore the wildlife the aquarium has to offer. You can even dive with sharks.
Now, there are plenty of acclaimed golf courses (and putt-putt courses) in Myrtle Beach, but for a golf experience without riding the cart in the heat from Hole 1 to Hole 18, you can try this entertainment venue with climate-controlled hitting bays, food and bev, music and other sports games.
Broadway entertainment also includes live music in the form of celebrity impersonation concerts at this popular venue. See the likenesses of Elvis, the Blues Brothers, Lady Gaga, Bob Marley, Britney Spears, Cher, Jimmy Buffett and other star acts here, depending on the night.
This building, which was constructed to look like it's upside down, is a Myrtle Beach "amusement park for the mind." Get your edu-tainment on here with kid-centric exhibits and hands-on activities.
See celebrities frozen in time at this museum full of more than 100 wax figures. You can try to fool your friends with selfies with those celebs, which is good enough reason to go. "What?! You met Ellen DeGeneres???" Sure did.
You can see "The Simpsons" in 4D at the Aztec Theater and shop at the cartoon world's convenience store, Kwik-E-Mart, at Broadway. Giant doughnuts, Duff beer energy drinks and merch featuring Homer, Marge and the fam all are for sale.
I got a thrill watching a jet boat race along the Broadway at the Beach waterway underneath the walking bridge. It's not your typical boat tour. This is all about whizzing around at top speed, pulling splash-inducing turns and inciting roller coaster-level screams. Worth adding to your Myrtle to-do list if you're feeling a little daring.
Get your sports fix on vacation with Myrtle Beach's minor league baseball team. The team's ball park is located just down the road from Broadway at the Beach.
Beyond Broadway, there are a few other Myrtle destinations to look out for, including this hub for shopping, eating and drinking. It's Myrtle Beach's "downtown uptown," featuring an acai bowl eatery, bowling alley, cinema, doughnut emporium and art gallery.
Ocean Boulevard is another hot spot in central Myrtle Beach and includes this family-friendly amusement park with roller coasters, bumper cars and a lazy river, all with ocean views.
Kick back in some Adirondack chairs with a tropical beverage in hand and listen to live music while watching the waves at this beachfront bar along Ocean Boulevard.
Come on, where else are you going to see knights jousting while you consume an entire roasted chicken in the audience? Raise your chalice and enjoy what might be equated to modern wrestling.
Go shopping along Ocean Boulevard at the Gay Dolphin, a multi-story gift shop that has been a Myrtle tradition since the 1940s. You can spend hours in this huge shopping emporium with its wide selection of sea shells, apparel, home decor, collectibles, jewelry, shark's teeth and seven photo opportunities ranging from a life-size Yeti and Elvis to Egyptian guardians and pirates. It's an experience.
Also located along Ocean Boulevard is a more than 4,000-square-foot haunted house where you can get scared year-round. You don't have to wait until Halloween. This scare factory, established in the '80s, features an undead adventure in the Zombie Zone with guts and gore galore and a Biohazard escape room. "Save yourself, save humanity!"
Along King's Highway is one of Myrtle Beach's most renowned putt-putt courses, though there are plenty more scattered about for your putting pleasure. This one features a minotaur, straw huts, waterfalls, caverns and a shot to win free putt-putt there for a lifetime.
Get your adrenaline rush with this zipline course, the "Adventure Matrix." Complete with more than 50 elements and extreme ziplines, it will take you on a whirlwind ride with beach views.
You don't have to travel to a vineyard to enjoy good wine during your Myrtle Beach trip. The Duplin Winery in North Myrtle Beach is known for its Muscadine wine and features tastings Monday-Saturday.
If you're into live music, then this is the venue to visit while you're in Myrtle Beach. The House of Blues has funky art on the outdoor patio and deck, and inside the restaurant next to the concert space. The venue features a murder-mystery dinner theater, Gospel Brunch on Sundays and live shows by some big names in the music industry as well as touring cover bands. Coming up at the end of August, catch Nirvana, Van Halen, Blink-182 and Journey tribute shows.
The Horry County Bike Run Park, a.k.a. "The Hulk," is a mountain bike trail that starts with a 30-foot hill climb then turns into a wooden roller coaster for three-quarters of the seven-mile route. The trail has ditch digs, dramatic drops and field laps ideal for the thrill-seeking cyclist.
Argh, matey. This dinner theater will have you setting sail for the seven seas with Captain Blackbeard and Calico Jack. Watch an epic battle for lost treasure — sword fights and full-size pirate ships in a 15-foot deep indoor lagoon included — while eating a four-course feast.
This giant inflatable floating playground features monkey bars, climbing towers and slides of different challenge levels. You can wakeboard here, too, no prior experience required.
Located at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, this arcade and ropes course owned by Jimmy Buffett's sister offers family-friendly fun, including video games and other head-to-head competitions and board games. There's a sandy outdoor space for drinking, eating and playing, in addition to the indoor arcade.