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Reasons to Return to Myrtle Beach

The rich heritage of family-based businesses in historic low country regions along South Carolina’s coast imbues Myrtle Beach with a unique culture that captures the hearts of millions of tourists each year. Even if you have been visiting Myrtle Beach your whole life, there are always new highlights emerging, from the latest exhibits or shows, to the fantastic restaurant you never knew existed. Next time you pass through the Palmetto State, make sure to check out these favorite attractions, both new and old.

Headline Attractions 

It is no wonder that travelers continue to flock to Ripley’s Aquarium, as the exhibits have become increasingly interactive. Groups can visit the Discovery Center and hold a horseshoe crab, one of the world’s rare living fossils, or stop by Planet Jellies to stroke the umbrella-shaped bells of Moon Jellyfish.

In Friendship Flats, one of the aquarium’s more recent expansions, visitors can don a dive suit and pet stingrays face-to-face, from playful cownose rays to spotted eagle rays like the character in “Finding Nemo.” Other activities include mermaid shows, afternoon teas and glass-bottom boat adventures, during which guests ride over the Dangerous Reef for an even more intimate view of sharks, stingrays and sea turtles.

With 350 acres of shops, restaurants and nightlife, Broadway at the Beach has something for everyone. During the summer, live music and entertainment fill the warm nights, with fireworks every Tuesday and Friday. The Hollywood Wax Museum, Dragon’s Lair Fantasy Golf and WonderWorks Zipline are just a few of the many diversions here.

New businesses are continuously opening at the development. In front of the new Paula Deen store, a sign entreats passersby to “Put Some South in Your Mouth.” Spices, sweet potato butter and make-at-home dog treat kits are among her bestsellers.

Another local favorite is the “brain store,” Marbles, which opened last year and offers an array of puzzles, riddle books and critical-thinking games. Also coming soon to Broadway is the Backstage Escape Game, which will challenge players to crack codes and solve clues as a team in under 60 minutes. 

In 2011, Myrtle Beach’s Skywheel premiered as the second-largest Ferris wheel in North America. While driving through the city, it is hard to miss its white arc rising over buildings by the beach, especially at night when it lights up the Oceanfront Boardwalk. The enclosed, air-conditioned gondolas, which hold up to six people, offer a respite from the heat as they take visitors 187 feet above the Atlantic for a stunning view.

VIP tickets provide access to gondolas with glass bottoms and leather seats, with complimentary souvenir bags. The site is also known as one of Myrtle Beach’s most popular proposal locations; one engagement here went viral in 2014, when a man used several hundred tea candles on the beach below to propose to his high school sweetheart.

Exploring the Surroundings

The three-deck Barefoot Princess riverboat carries passengers down the Intracoastal Waterway for a scenic, narrated tour accompanied by dining, drinks and live music. After enjoying a delicious meal on the lower level, guests can head upstairs to the dance floor, or venture out on the observation deck to scan the riverbank for alligators, ospreys and kingfishers.

Guides point out notable landmarks along the way, including Jimmy Buffett’s mansion. When guests return to shore, the pictures taken at the beginning of the cruise are already prepared in mounted frames as a souvenir.

Founded in 1931 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington as America’s first public sculpture garden, Brookgreen Gardens is a 9,100-acre National Historic Landmark that holds more than 1,400 sculptures, including many of Anna Huntington’s original works. In addition to the lush walking trails and extraordinary art, Brookgreen contains various activities for kids as well, such as a labyrinth, a butterfly habitat and a native wildlife zoo.

Featured until September, “Nature Connects” presents Lego art from acclaimed artist and children’s author Sean Kenney, who used nearly half a million Lego bricks to construct the 12 nature sculptures on display.

Out of Brookgreen’s numerous festivals and events, Nights of a Thousand Candles features more than 5,500 hand-lit candles, and shimmering lights turn the gardens into a breathtaking night landscape. The event is in December, but volunteers begin setting up the elaborate display as early as August.

The dirt road leading to Hopsewee Plantation seems to transport visitors to another time as it winds through ancient live oaks and eventually reveals the 270-year-old homestead. Originally owned by American Revolution leader Thomas Lynch, this beautiful preservation once served as one of the biggest rice plantations in the state.

The current owners reside in the manor and graciously open their historic home for tours each day. Lunch is also available in the Tearoom next door, which offers a full “Southern Tea” in a gorgeous glass-walled room overlooking the estate.