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Need New Year's plans? Here are some safe, outdoor options.

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Brookgreen NYE Live Oak Allee.jpg

Brookgreen Gardens' Nights of a Thousand Lights is from 4 p.m. - 9 p.m. Jan. 2 and 3.

MYRTLE BEACH — 2020 has been a drag, to say the least, and everyone is ready to kiss it goodbye and dive headfirst into 2021.

Just like everything this year, though, New Year’s Eve plans will have to be a bit different.

There’ll be no popping champagne at big parties with family and friends to watch the New York City ball drop at midnight, but that doesn’t mean Dec. 31 has to be boring and depressing.

Study upon study shows that being out in nature helps improve sour moods, stress levels and overall mental health, so what better way to safely celebrate the end of this insane year but than to spend it outside?

The forecast for New Year’s Eve is mid-60s with a bit of cloud cover and a chance of rain, so grab your raincoat and take a trip to one of these beautiful places around Myrtle Beach to ring in the new year safely.

Myrtle Beach State Park

If you want a quick day trip with some picturesque and calming scenery, Myrtle Beach State Park is a great bet.

One of 16 state parks in South Carolina, the park and has two trails — Sculptured Oak Trail and Yaupon Trail — that are rated “easy” and perfect for anyone looking to take in some local scenery.

The Sculptured Oak Trail allows visitors to “experience what the woodlands of the Grand Strand used to look like” according to the park’s website, with a forest of oaks, wax myrtles, hollies, poplars and magnolias lining the trail.

Both trails lead out to the beach via boardwalk, and from the beach visitors can walk to a fishing pier. For anyone who wants to fish from the pier, it costs $8 for ages 16 and up to fish with their own rod, and $25 per rod plus another $25 refundable deposit. Rod rental includes a daily fishing pass.

There are campsites available for reservation at Myrtle Beach State Park for those wishing to stay overnight on New Year’s Eve, but alcohol is not allowed on park grounds. To reserve a campsite, visit this link.

New Year’s Eve hours at Myrtle Beach State Park are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission is $8 for adults, $5 for ages 65 & older, $4 for children ages 6-15 and free for children 5 and younger.

Vereen Memorial Gardens

Just a quick 30 minute drive away from Myrtle Beach in Little River is Vereen Memorial Gardens.

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With multiple hiking trails and wooden boardwalks, and a gazebo that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway, these gardens are a beautiful way to spend time in nature. The trails are set up in a loop, and together make up about 3 miles perfect for a walk, jog or bike ride. Dogs are allowed, too, so feel free to bring Fido along for the ride.

Equipped with several picnic spots, visitors can pack their own lunches not only to avoid going to restaurants, but to allow for a full day of scenery without leaving the gardens for food.

Best of all, there is no admission cost to experience the more than 100 acres of forest and saltwater marsh Vereen Memorial Gardens has to offer.

Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen is known for its beautiful botanical gardens, sculpture exhibit and Lowcountry Zoo, but during the holiday season, it comes to life in a whole different way.

Nights of a Thousand Candles is exactly what it sounds like — thousands of lights and candles glow around the gardens for visitors to explore, accompanied by several dining options, live entertainment and more.

Tickets are already sold out for this celebration through Dec. 31, and normally it only goes through the end of the year. Due to such high demand, though, Brookgreen has extended the Nights of a Thousand Candles into Jan. 2-3.

The gardens open at 4 p.m. for Nights of a Thousand Candles and close at 9 p.m. Membership tickets are $20 for adults and $12 for children, and non-membership tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children. These tickets are non-refundable, and can only be bought online due to capacity limits.

Atalaya photo NYE.jpg

At Huntington Beach State Park, Atalaya, the historic winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, is open for tours 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

Huntington Beach State Park

Over in Murrells Inlet is another beautiful state park, Huntington Beach.

History lovers will be pleased to know that they can see Atalaya, the historical winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. The Huntington’s left the state park and its adjacent Brookgreen Gardens as their legacy, and the Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival is held on park grounds every year to honor their appreciation for the arts.

In total, there are three trails — all ranked “easy” — for visitors to explore, and all with a great combination of beachfront and forest for visitors to explore. Wildlife exists fruitfully, and the freshwater lake is a great place for visitors to see an alligator or mink, if they are lucky.

If you are into birding, Huntington Beach has been long considered one of the best spots to bird in South Carolina. Over 300 species have been seen on park grounds, and just because it is winter doesn’t mean there won’t be any birds to spot. Bald Eagles actually breed in the middle of the winter, so you’re sure to see one or two flying around the park.

Huntington Beach State Park admission is the same as Myrtle Beach State Park’s: $8 for adults, $5 for ages 65 & older, $4 for children ages 6-15 and free for children 5 and younger. Atalaya will be open on New Year's Eve from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Follow Demi Lawrence on Twitter @DemiNLawrence.

Demi Lawrence is a reporter who graduated from Ball State University. Before joining The Post and Courier, she was an intern at The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana and Indianapolis Monthly.

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