There may be no better place to get into the holiday spirit than Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
That’s what 10 tour operator and travel planner readers of The Group Travel Leader discovered during a four-day familiarization trip to the area in December. Hosted by the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, this trip introduced participants to signature attractions and special holiday events in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and nearby communities.
During the trip, participants got to see some of the Myrtle Beach area’s most popular attractions, such as Broadway at the Beach, Barefoot Landing and Duplin Winery. They enjoyed tours and meals at numerous oceanfront resorts, as well as a scenic cruise aboard the Barefoot Queen. And during the evenings, they experienced the area’s holiday magic on full display at the Alabama Theatre, the Carolina Opry and Brookgreen Gardens’ Nights of a Thousand Candles.
Follow along on this itinerary to begin planning your group’s Christmastime trip to Myrtle Beach.
• Arrival in Myrtle Beach
• Dinner at Wicked Tuna
• Brookgreen Gardens
Guests traveled from throughout the East and Midwest to arrive in the Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of South Carolina coast that encompasses Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and smaller waterfront communities. After checking into their accommodations at North Myrtle Beach’s Avista Resort, which would be home for the next four nights, the group gathered in the lobby and boarded a motorcoach to begin exploring the area.
The first afternoon’s journey took them to Murrells Inlet at the southern end of the Grand Strand for a visit to Wicked Tuna. This waterfront restaurant sits on the local MarshWalk, where diners can watch fishing boats come in with the day’s catch. The group enjoyed a wonderful welcome dinner featuring craft cocktails, fresh seafood and a scenic sunset.
After dinner, the group proceeded to the beautiful Brookgreen Gardens to experience the signature holiday event Nights of a Thousand Candles. The 9,100-acre Brookgreen Gardens was founded in 1931 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington on a former rice plantation. The garden features 250-year-old oak trees, beautiful landscaping and more than 2,000 works of art and sculpture outdoors and in indoor galleries. During the holiday Nights of a Thousand Candles, more than 2,800 hand-lit flames illuminate the garden walkways, and over 1 million electric lights make the Live Oak Allee and other areas a sparkling holiday spectacle.
• Tanger Outlets
• Track Family Fun Parks
• Beach Cove Resort
• Lunch at Sea Watch Resort
• Duplin Winery
• Barefoot Landing
• Cocktails at Hook & Barrel
• Dinner at Original Benjamin’s
• Carolina Opry
The second day of the FAM began with a trip to one of two Tanger Outlet malls in the Myrtle Beach area. Attendees enjoyed a catered breakfast before the mall opened, as well as a “mini marketplace,” in which they had short appointments with representatives from various Myrtle Beach lodging, dining and attraction companies. After the marketplace, the group enjoyed shopping at the mall, followed by a trip to the Track Family Fun Park and tours of two beachfront resorts. After lunch, the FAM proceeded to Duplin Winery, one of the largest wine tasting rooms in the state, and made a stop at Barefoot Landing, a popular shopping and dining destination on the Intracoastal Waterway. Next was a sampling of gourmet appetizers and signature cocktails, and Hook and Barrel, a high-end restaurant focused on local produce and seafood. The fun continued over dinner at the Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood, followed by a performance of “The Christmas Show of the South” at the Carolina Opry.
Breakfast at Tanger Outlets
The group arrived at Tanger Outlets before stores opened and enjoyed a hot breakfast in the mall’s on-site food court. Throughout the room, representatives of Myrtle Beach area hotels, restaurants and attractions had set up exhibit booths, and the travel planner guests spent time visiting each booth to learn about group tour opportunities offered by each of the companies. After this mini-marketplace session, attendees enjoyed a short power-shopping session at the outlets, and some returned later the next day for more retail therapy.
Track Family Fun Park
The next stop for the FAM group was the Track Family Fun Park. Known for its two helix-shaped, elevated go-kart tracks, this is a popular destination for student and youth groups, as well as families traveling in Myrtle Beach. The group enjoyed playing the dozens of video and midway games at the center’s arcade and competed in a fast-paced go-kart race in new electric vehicles.
Accommodations are an important part of any trip to the beach, and this morning featured stops at two sister properties in the Myrtle Beach area. The Beach Cove Resort features a range of oceanfront suites and condos, along with three outdoor pools and a 350-foot-long lazy river. Next, the group traveled the short distance to the Sea Watch Resort, which features luxury studios and condominiums, along with 19 water features. After the tour, the group enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the resort’s dining room, complete with festive holiday decorations.
After lunch, the group traveled to the Duplin Winery at the Barefoot Landing shopping and dining complex. Founded in North Carolina in 1975, this winery specializes in sweet muscadine wines and operates an impressive 15,000-square-foot tasting room and retail shop in Myrtle Beach. The group enjoyed a sampling of 11 wines, including three varieties that Duplin produces especially for the Christmas season. Groups can also tour the on-site bottling area and enjoy live music on the Duplin patio.
Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood
An afternoon of sampling Myrtle Beach delicacies came to a fitting end at Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood, one of the area’s most famous restaurants. With space for 1,000 guests and a buffet that includes more than 170 items, the restaurant specializes in Calabash-style seafood, which is lightly breaded and fried. Along with dinner, group members got to explore the restaurant’s massive collection of model ships, as well as the holiday exhibition of gingerbread houses created by locals.
‘The Christmas Show of the South’ at the Carolina Opry
Many groups come to Myrtle Beach in December for the holiday shows at local theaters, and “The Christmas Show of the South” at the Carolina Opry is one of the best. Opened more than 35 years ago, the Carolina Opry is dedicated to showcasing local talent from around the Grand Strand area. The group enjoyed dozens of Christmas songs performed by the cast and house band of the Carolina Opry, as well as creative comedy and beautiful holiday decorations.
• Breakfast at Island Vista Resort
• Dayton House Resort
• Broadway at the Beach
• Ripley’s Aquarium
• SkyWheel Myrtle Beach
• Barefoot Queen Dinner Cruise
• Alabama Theatre
FAM guests began their third day in Myrtle Beach with breakfast at the beautiful Island Vista Resort, followed by a tour of another property, the Dayton House Resort. Then participants got some free time to explore Broadway at the Beach, a shopping and entertainment district with more than 100 stores, restaurants and attractions. They reconvened at Ripley’s Aquarium, one of the area’s anchor attractions, for lunch and a tour. Next came a visit to SkyWheel, a 200-foot-high Ferris wheel that offers unparalleled views of the coast. After returning to earth, the group traveled to the marina at Barefoot Landing to board the Barefoot Queen, a riverboat that offers scenic cruises up and down the gorgeous Intracoastal Waterway. Following dinner on board, the group departed for “The South’s Grandest Christmas Show” at the Alabama Theatre.
The group started the morning at the Island Vista Resort, a beautiful luxury property right on the waterfront. After a tour and a delicious breakfast, they made the short trip to the Dayton House Resort, a property ideally situated for student groups and others seeking value-priced accommodations for their Myrtle Beach trips.
Broadway at the Beach
Billing itself as the most popular tourist destination in the Myrtle Beach area, Broadway at the Beach is a large-scale shopping, dining and entertainment complex spread out along the banks of a 23-acre man-made lake. The group took time to explore some of the area’s 70 retail shops, as well as attractions such as WonderWorks, and to admire its 46-foot-tall Christmas tree. Broadway at the Beach is now working on an expansion that will bring an outdoor entertainment area called the Hangout.
Anchoring one end of Broadway at the Beach, Ripley’s Aquarium is a popular stop for groups touring Myrtle Beach at any time of year. The group gathered there for a boxed lunch and a tour of the 85,000-square-foot aquarium, which features hundreds of stingrays, sea turtles, exotic fish, barracudas, sharks, jellies, eels and other aquatic creatures. In addition to the animals, the group enjoyed the Festival of Trees, a holiday exhibit of 50 Christmas trees, each decorated in honor of a specific state.
SkyWheel Myrtle Beach
After seeing ocean creatures up-close, the group next got an entirely different experience: observing the sea and sand from nearly 200 feet in the air aboard the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel. This huge Ferris wheel features fully enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas that offer a smooth ride and sweeping views of the South Carolina coast.
Barefoot Queen Dinner Cruise
The beautiful scenic experiences continued after the SkyWheel with a private cruise aboard the Barefoot Queen, a 70-foot riverboat that will begin offering sightseeing and meal cruises on the Intracoastal Waterway this year. The group enjoyed food, drinks, music and dancing on board. The crew also took time to showcase the stunning private homes built on both sides of the waterway, some of which belong to celebrities and other notable Myrtle Beach residents.
‘The South’s Grandest Christmas Show’ at the Alabama Theatre
The day ended in grand style at the Alabama Theatre, where “The South’s Grandest Christmas Show” has become a favorite tradition of groups and families traveling to Myrtle Beach during the holidays. The Broadway-style musical revue features elaborate staging and special effects, along with a talented cast of singers, dancers and musicians performing a variety of Christmas songs, new and old.
• Farewell breakfast at Avista Resort
• Departure for home
The final day of the FAM ended with a leisurely breakfast in the Just Off Main restaurant at the Avista Resort in North Myrtle Beach. Travel planners chatted with the resort’s sales representatives and members of the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to begin brainstorming the return trips they would make with their groups in 2021.
For more information on this trip contact the Myrtle Beach Area CVB