The shores of Myrtle Beach are undeniably beautiful, with soft sand and clear water stretching for some 60 miles — farther than the eye can see. It’s these endless beaches that inspired the region’s apropos moniker of the “Grand Strand.”
But here’s the thing: Myrtle Beach and its neighboring seaside communities aren’t just grand for their beaches. History, nature, culture — the reasons to plan a visit go way beyond lounging in the sand. Here’s what Myrtle Beach has tucked away, just beyond its splendid shores.
For the culture vultures: art, history, and pinball
Photo: Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum
The museums of Myrtle Beach might be the area’s most unsung resource. When you need a break from the sun, dive a little deeper into what makes this community such a vibrant one.
Start at the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum, a former beach villa dating to the 1920s that was relocated in 1975 from Myrtle Beach’s historic “Cabana Section.” Spread across 11 galleries, the museum features constantly rotating exhibits of sculptures, paintings, photography, and textile art from artists across the globe. Best part: Admission is free for all. Consider leaving a donation if you enjoy your visit.
Less than five miles away, the Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center commemorates the area’s first public school for Black students. A four-room schoolhouse salvaged from the 1932 original, the center opened as a point of local pride in 2006, thanks in large part to former students. Artifacts from the building’s prior life are spread throughout, and there’s a good chance that those same former students will be the ones greeting you and fielding questions.
Finally, make the 1.5-mile journey up to 27th Ave North and you’ll change both gears and eras. At the Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum, there aren’t any roped-off exhibits. Instead, visitors are encouraged to play the 26 pinball games on display, ranging from 1970s models to those from the present day. Once you pay your admission fee, it’s free play — no quarters required.
Tip: The Grand Strand Art Trail, encompassing 18 fine art galleries and three restaurants, runs for 60 miles from Georgetown, South Carolina, to the North Carolina border. Consider it a true art-chaser’s quest.
For nature nerds: places of beauty
Photo: Craig Zerbe/Shutterstock
There aren’t very many places across the US that have been designated a National Historic Landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and earned accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Brookgreen Gardens checks all three boxes. Located in Murrells Inlet on the grounds of a former rice plantation, this massive 9,000-acre oasis can be described as a sculpture garden, wildlife park, nature sanctuary, botanical garden, and zoo, all rolled into one.
The Huntingtons, who owned Brookgreen, had a winter home adjacent to the gardens known as Atalaya Castle, a stunning landmark within modern-day Huntington Beach State Park. (The Moorish-inspired structure takes its name from one in the town of Villena, Spain.) The state park is full of incredible salt marshes (get ready for some serious birdwatching), and there’s great “seabreeze camping” at over 100 campsites.
For the family: fun, games, and sports
Photo: Visit Myrtle Beach
The pinball museum isn’t the only place for bright lights, games, and a good time. Fun Plaza Arcade at the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is a vintage-style arcade with beloved childhood games, going strong since 1938! Shoot some timed hoops or teach the kids classics like Skee-Ball.
Myrtle Beach is also the nation’s unofficial capital of miniature golf, aka “putt putt” — there are dozens of courses with different themes across the Strand. Mt. Atlanticus Minotaur Golf is one of the longest-running and most popular. Its two separate courses, the Conch and the Minotaur, will take you and the kids on a tropical romp through the lost city of Atlantis.
Traditional golf courses — 90 of them! — are found throughout Myrtle Beach, and they’re a pretty big deal. Designed by the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer, and Fazio, the list of PGA, USGA, and LPGA events held here is a long, long one. If you can get in (you’ll need to befriend a member or stay at the right hotel), Dunes Golf and Beach Club is where you’ll want to test your swing.
For something a little easier to finagle, catch a minor league baseball game with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Tickets are less than $20 per person and often include sweet deals like discounted food and drinks — and post-game fireworks.
Want more nostalgia? The Track is one of the area’s best go-kart facilities, with two winding wooden ramps overlooking the beach. Families can ride in single or double karts before going nonstop on the arcade games and rides.
For retail therapists: souvenirs and serious deals
Photo: Visit Myrtle Beach
Named for perhaps the best way to experience Pawleys Island, the Hammock Shops sells all things classically Southern — think rope hammocks and pimento cheese (along with plenty of other great souvenirs, like handcrafted jewelry). Open since 1938, the complex also has dining options, a playground for kids, daily wine tastings, and hammock-weaving demonstrations.
In North Myrtle Beach, browse the shops at Barefoot Landing, right on the Intracoastal Waterway (so expect scenic views to boot). You’ll find everything from swim gear to artisan tea. When you’re done scouting out deals, there’s the House of Blues, the Alabama Theatre, LuLu’s Beach Arcade and Ropes Course, and plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bistros for winding down on the waterfront.
For thrill seekers: high-flying adventure
Photo: Rob Hainer/Shutterstock
The most iconic — and most luxurious — way to see the length of the Grand Strand is from the comfort of an air-conditioned glass pod. The SkyWheel swirls up to 200 feet in the air, with 360-degree views from every height. Splurge for the upgraded VIP pod and you’ll get Ferrari leather seats, a commemorative photo, and extended “flight” time.
If that’s not nearly enough of an adrenaline spike, take your glass pod and trade it for something with propellers. Helicoptering above the coast is an uncommon yet surprisingly affordable treat — for as little as $20 per person, you can fly like the birds do over the sand. Helicopter Adventures offers several distinct tours, from soaring above Pine Lakes and Broadway at the Beach to excursions all the way to Little River.
To zoom through the air solo, check out Broadway at the Beach’s zipline, Soar & Explore. It’s a 1,000-foot traverse between the two zipline towers at heights of 50 feet above the water below. Don’t leave without conquering the tropical-themed ropes course, too.
Last but certainly not least, there’s a particularly grand way to experience the Strand: parasailing. Outfitters abound, and they’ll take you out on a speedboat, strap you into your harness, and then send you soaring 500 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, catching air in your parasail. Honestly, the Strand might be even grander from above.