If you’re looking for a top spot for a family beach vacation, why not park yourself on a patch of sand at Myrtle Beach? Located in the northeast corner of South Carolina, the resort town is centered on the 60-mile crescent-shaped stretch of Atlantic beaches known as South Carolina’s Grand Strand. Myrtle Beach anchors the action, hosting more than 16 million visitors per year.

While most families visit Myrtle Beach in summer, the spring and fall offer moderate temperatures and are increasingly popular. No matter when you visit, glitzy amusements, as well as a host of lesser known adventure and nature-related options, ensure the whims and wishes of your clan will be covered.

The beach reigns supreme for fun in the sun at Myrtle Beach. Image by James Willamor / CC BY-SA 2.0

Water sports

Surrounded by the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterway and with thousands of pools in between, water reigns as Myrtle Beach’s star attraction. Myriad hotel options located mere steps from the beach mean you’re perfectly positioned to flip off your flops and dive in.

Classic family water activities include boogie boarding on pitch perfect waves, building sandcastles at low tide or cruising around your hotel’s lazy river (the slow-flowing pools usually found in water parks are a popular addition to many hotels in Myrtle Beach).

When your crew is ready to really get drenched, water parks offer age-appropriate splashing for everyone from the tiniest water enthusiast to the consummate daredevil. Myrtle Waves (myrtlewaves.com) lays claim as South Carolina’s largest, with 20 acres of slides, rides, pools and even a 700-gallon volcano that spews water over squealing guests. Parents will appreciate the vigilant army of lifeguards that ensures everyone stays safe.

For open-water adventures, set sail for Downwind Watersports (downwindsailsmyrtlebeach.com), located on the beach. With an impeccable safety record and a highly trained staff, they offer parasailing, jet ski rentals, banana boat rides and Hobie Cat sailing lessons. Ages 16 and up with a driver’s license can take a spin on a jet ski, while parasailing is available to those who are at least 44in tall.

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is among the latest water-sport crazes to land in the Myrtle Beach area. Run by experienced local surfing enthusiasts, Carolina Paddle Company (carolinapaddlecompany.com) offers SUP lessons, tours and rentals on the Waccamaw River. The river provides a nice change of pace and scenery to the beach, and even toddlers can go along for the ride. Traditional surfing lessons are also on offer.

Day or night, the boardwalk is the nostalgic heart of Myrtle Beach. Image by James Willamor / CC BY-SA 2.0

Myrtle Beach boardwalk

For decades, great family memories have been made in Myrtle Beach’s nostalgic heart. Stroll the city’s 1.2-mile boardwalk, which features shops and restaurants at its north end and a meandering path through the dunes to the south. Be sure to stop in for hotdogs at Peaches Corner (peaches-corner.com), a local symbol of summer for more than 75 years. Assuming no one’s afraid of heights, take a whirl on the 187-foot Myrtle Beach SkyWheel (myrtlebeachskywheel.com), or simple admire it from terra firma below. Its dazzling light show defines the local beachscape each evening.

Miniature golf

Known around the world for its golf courses, Myrtle Beach is also the self-proclaimed ‘Miniature Golf Capital of the World’. With over 50 courses, there seems to be one on almost every corner, each catering to the family in search of some friendly competition. Each year they up their own stakes, adding increasingly enticing giant volcanoes, fire-breathing dragons and lush tropical landscaping. Tickets at most courses allow readmission for the whole day; consider visiting one near where you’re staying so you can play more than once.

Adventure Falls Miniature Golf, one of Myrtle Beach's many elaborate mini golf courses. Image by Andrew Kuchling / CC BY 2.0

Broadway at the Beach

An ever-evolving entertainment complex, Broadway at the Beach serves as Myrtle Beach’s hub for over-the-top fun. Besides several large attractions, there are amusement rides, a miniature golf course (yep, another one) and a movie theater. When planning your time and budget, these are a few of Broadway’s larger attractions to consider:

Ripley’s Aquarium Compact in size yet with a host of offerings, Ripley’s Aquarium attracts visitors of many ages and interests. Highlights include a moving sidewalk through a shark-filled tunnel, frequent diving and mermaid shows and the chance to touch stingrays in Ray Bay.

MagiQuest MagiQuest, an interactive scavenger hunt, is particularly suited to families with young children. With a ‘magic’ wand, questers interact with pixies, wizards and goblins to decide their adventure, unravel mysteries and reach new realms. The wands can be taken home and reused at any of 16 MagiQuest locations across the US.

Wonderworks, at Broadway on the Beach. Image by Forsaken Fotos / CC BY 2.0

WonderWorks The first question visitors to WonderWorks are likely to ask is, ‘Why is that house upside down?’ Playful and curious types will uncover the answer to this puzzle and more through exploring the six zones of this ‘museum of the mind.’ An indoor ropes course and a 6D theater presentation are included with admission. Soar and Explore, an outdoor ropes course and zip line that traverses Broadway’s lake, and Lazer-Tag are available for an extra fee. Plan to spend at least three or four hours here to take full advantage of the experience. Tickets are good until closing, so you can take a break and return later.

Get back to nature

The Myrtle Beach area is home to two of South Carolina’s beachfront state parks, Myrtle Beach State Park (southcarolinaparks.com/myrtlebeach) and Huntington Beach State Park (southcarolinaparks.com/huntingtonbeach) in Murrells Inlet. Both offer overnight camping facilities and activities on kid-friendly subjects, such as loggerhead sea turtles, alligators and even SpongeBob SquarePants!

Exploitation of animals disguised as conservation efforts happens all too frequently in large tourist areas. The clear exception to this is the Lowcountry Zoo (brookgreen.org/zoo), located in Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. Here, the animals were either raised in captivity or have sustained an injury that prevents them from surviving in the wild. Featured animals include local snakes, alligators, river otters and birds of prey. Daily educational programs for all ages are included with admission to Brookgreen Gardens.

Be wowed by fireworks most nights of the week. Image by Dan J / CC BY 2.0

Family-friendly nightlife

Even parents will agree that it’s worth missing bedtime for a night out in Myrtle Beach. Family dinner shows such as Dolly Parton's Pirates Voyage (piratesvoyage.com) and Medieval Times (medievaltimes.com/myrtlebeach) make for memorable occasions. But some of our favorite evening activities are possible for the price of ice cream cones. Check the fireworks schedule, as shows are put on in different locations most evenings of the week. Stroll the boardwalk or around Broadway at the Beach. Just aim to stock your senses with enough beachy atmosphere to last until next year.

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