“This year has been a very exciting year for us,” said Kimberly Mills, public information officer for the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, in what could be an understatement.
The Myrtle Beach, S.C., area, already a major East Coast tourist destination with numerous hotels, resorts, golf courses, restaurants, theaters and attractions along its more than 60 miles of sandy beach, is seeing an explosion of new developments.
“We have a lot to talk about,” said Sandy Haines, group sales manager for the CVB.
Take a walk
It began last spring with the opening of the $7 million, 1.2-mile Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, which has already garnered honors from National Geographic, and Travel and Leisure as one of the best boardwalks in the United States.
The Boardwalk and Promenade, which is a center point of the revitalization of Myrtle Beach’s downtown, has three distinct sections, including one lined with shops and restaurants, and provides convenient access to the beach for groups.
“A lot of groups don’t want to walk on the beach,” said Haines. “This way, it puts them on the boardwalk, which is on the beach, but they don’t have to get on the sand. And there is neat shopping and restaurants.”
“The big news this year, which is right on the boardwalk, is the new SkyWheel,” said Mills.
Set to open Memorial Day weekend, the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel will be nearly 200 feet tall and contain 42 enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas.
“It is the first enclosed gondola observation wheel in the United States,” said Christ Trout, the SkyWheel’s general manager.
Each gondola can hold four to five adults or up to eight children. Rides will last from nine to 12 minutes, and each person will get to make five to six revolutions.
“It will be a spectacular view,” said Trout. “It’s very flat here, and when you get 200 feet in the air, you can see a long, long way. The coastline here in Myrtle Beach is unique in a sense: It has a deep curve to it. You will see a lot of beach line.”
“The SkyWheel is not a scary ride,” said Haines. “It will be a beautiful, scenic ride.”
“It will have a cool light show at night,” said Mills. “It will really change the whole coastline and the look of the skyline. You will not be able to miss it, it’s so big.”
The SkyWheel is being built in conjunction with a Jimmy Buffett’s Landshark Bar and Grill, which will have an observation deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
“People can enjoy a nice view of the ocean and have lunch before going on the wheel,” said Mills.
Ahoy, me mateys
A major addition to the Myrtle Beach entertainment scene will be “Pirates Voyage,” a total remake of Dolly Parton’s former “Dixie Stampede” show that is scheduled to open June 3.
“It’s an $11 million transition,” said Chris Butler, group sales manager for the show. “We are changing everything from the trees outside to the face of the building to the inside.”
The interactive show, like “Dixie Stampede,” pits two sides of the audience against one another in interactive competitions. However, instead of the Civil War, the battle is between pirates in the Sapphire and Crimson camps.
“There will be a 750,000-gallon indoor lagoon that is 15 feet deep,” said Butler. “It will feature three pirate ships: two 30-foot galleons and a 44-foot sunken wreck. There will be more than two-dozen acrobats, aerialists, divers, dancers and singers.
“There will be a lot of new illusions and lighting effects and things that have never been done before.”
Parton and Mark Brymer have written all new music for the show.
“We are going to have the one and only; it should be a big sell for this area,” said Haines.
“Pirates Voyage” is in the north end of Myrtle Beach next to the Carolina Opry.
A wonderful addition
WonderWorks, the innovative science center billed as “an amusement park for the mind,” opened in early April at Broadway at the Beach.
There are more than 100 hands-on exhibits for all ages located in the distinctive 10-story building that was constructed to look upside down. Visitors can experience hurricane-force winds, pilot a simulated jet plane, lie on a bed of 3,500 nails or design and ride a 360-degree virtual roller coaster.
The Myrtle Beach WonderWorks, which joins similar sites in Orlando, Fla.; Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; and Panama City Beach, Fla., has a 200-seat indoor/outdoor cafe and two outdoor adventures that opened earlier.
The outdoor adventures are the first and only zip line in the Myrtle Beach area and the only zip line over water on the East Coast — it soars 50 feet above Lake Broadway — and a pirate-themed ropes course that extends 40 feet into the air.
On the move
After 15 years in the Surfside Beach area, “Legends in Concert” moved to Broadway at the Beach, where it renovated a commercial building next to Planet Hollywood.
The $1 million renovation included a projected stage with 600 seats on three sides, with no seat more than 50 feet from the stage.
It reopened in March with an initial lineup of performers who impersonate Parton, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Little Richard and the Blues Brothers.
“They are doing some great packaging with Planet Hollywood,” said Haines. “They will do a ’50s-themed dinner.”
A new theater, Celebration Music Theatre, is occupying the space vacated by “Legends in Concert.”
“They will have some tribute shows, which will be their signature, but they will also be bringing in Broadway shows,” said Haines, “ such as ‘Greater Tuna,’ ‘All Shook Up’ and ‘Hairspray.’”
Meanwhile, the Palace Theatre, also located at Broadway at the Beach, has added a new show to its lineup, along with new additions to its returning shows.
The all-new “Hooray for Hollywood” takes an innovative look at some of the great movie musicals of the past 50 years, from “Singin’ in the Rain” to Disney’s “The Lion King.”
Clips from the movies will be shown in the Palace’s 2,600-seat main auditorium, followed by singers and dancers re-creating the songs live on stage.
Two of the Palace’s most popular shows return with updates. “The Magical Spirit of Ireland,” which will be performed in the newly renovated, intimate 140-seat King’s Suite Showroom, will add the Celtic Ladies to its casts for the 2011 season.
“Le Grand Cirque” returns with new acts, costumes, lighting and music.
The Palace Theater’s touring Broadway lineup for this year includes “The Secret Garden,” “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” “Ruthless: The Musical” and “Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical.”
More gates, more plates
It’s also going to get easier to get to Myrtle Beach.
“The airport is making a major expansion,” said Mills. “We are bursting at the seams right now. They are adding additional gates, and the terminal is undergoing a major expansion. It should be completed next year.”
The $130 million expansion of the terminal at the Myrtle Beach International Airport will increase the number of gates from seven to 12.
Groups have several new dining options in Myrtle Beach. Two new restaurants that opened in December are Nacho Hippo Cantina Maximo, which offers Carolinas food with international influences, and Mykonos, a casual dining restaurant with Greek and Mediterranean cuisine and live entertainment.
Several new dining venues are scheduled to open at Broadway at the Beach, including Capriz, Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery, Carlos ’n Charlie’s Restaurant, Good Time Charlie’s, Baja Bistro and Froyoz.
Myrtle Beach Area
Convention and Visitors Bureau
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