We are counting down the days till the end of summer. Soon, the kids will start school and we will be planning holiday dinners and longing for cuddle time under the wool blankets on the couch far away from the cold.
But until then, we are taking in as much beach and sun as we can, on this our last days of summer. With this purpose in mind we headed to spend a part of the weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was our first time in that area and we weren’t sure what to expect. Some people said it was too crowded and noisy. Other people wondered if it might be too much like the party scene like the one portrayed in the unfortunate stereotype that is Jersey Shore (the MTV show). I was looking forward to see it for myself, and to take part in my role as judge in the annual Beach Boogie and BBQ Festival.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn Oceanfront hotel as their guests. We absolutely loved this hotel and our ocean view suite. The hotel serves complimentary breakfast every morning and is right on the beach. Parking is free, as well as access to the beach. They have a fitness and business center and a wonderful pool area that appealed to both adults and kids. During the summer months they offer a free kids programs where for two hours in the morning and again in the afternoon, they take your young kids (4-13) for a series of fun activities in the pool and the beach.
The hotel also has an in-house spa, which my husband took advantage of while the kids were having their fun at the kids program and I lounged on the beach with my teen.
Our suite was spacious and bright. It had a small kitchenette which I am a huge fan of. It also had two bedrooms and one bathroom (with two showers and a bath tub). The kids’ bedroom had a full size bed as well as a bunk bed for the little ones. Our bedroom had a king size bed with an ocean view. The going rate for the hotel at the time of our visit (Labor Day weekend 2013) started at $419 a night (please note these rates are subject to change).
What we enjoyed about the hotel, beyond what I’ve already mentioned is the cleanliness, service, and upscale feel of the space. We were really impressed with the quality of the overall experience and highly recommend it, as well as will consider it for future stays.
The Myrtle Beach shoreline is about 10 miles long and we spent some time walking a good portion of it, especially at night when couples and families like to come out with flash lights in search of seas shells.
Walk in the direction of the newly constructed boardwalk – a good 2 miles from our hotel – and its starts to get a bit more crowded and noisier. Because of the distance between us and all the night (and day) activities, we got to enjoy a lot of quiet time, which we really needed.
I walked the beach one night at about midnight by myself and felt completely safe in doing so, not to mention it was an incredibly peaceful experience.
The beach is also pretty shallow. There was a lifeguard on duty who also rented out chairs and umbrellas (about $30 a day for two chairs and an umbrella on a first come, first serve basis).
The sun rises from here and we could see it clearly from our balcony. It was easy to sleep in as we tended to leave the doors open so that we could hear the sounds of the waves crashing as we slept, but I made myself get up early on our last morning and I enjoyed every moment.
We were invited to check out The Carolina Opry. I had never been to an opry before and not being a huge country music listener, I wondered if I would enjoy it. It was a cultural immersion at its best, at one point with dancers wielding wooden gun props to emphasize the theme of the country song being performed. I was fascinated as it is so different for me and found myself enjoying the country ballads and upbeat songs where the dancers lined danced or rolled out in a pick up truck.
The second part of the show was more of a variety of songs that range from favorites from Les Miserable to more soulful tunes beautifully performed by former American Idol contestant La Toya London (she’s joined the cast for the summer of 2013).
Another fun highlight were the performances by All That, a tap dancing group featured in NBC’s America’s Got Talent. High energy and fun, my kids were mesmerized by them.
The entire show was a lot of fun, more than I expected truly. The singers were strong, the music was beautifully performed, the production flawless, and the dancers and comedic skits entertaining. It was definitely very South Carolina which made it even more fun for us East Coasters. My kids never felt bored and were engaged the entire two and a half hours (with intermission).
For another true South Carolina experience you must eat at Pawley’s Raw Bar and order up a Low Country Boiler Pot. It’s a pot full of shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, corn on the cob, sausage, and red potatoes. It’s messy work, but man oh man, is it worth it. While I struggled with my massive oyster shell (Have you seen those things? They are huge!), locals went through them like nothing. It was awesome getting my kids to dig into so many local seafood favorites.
We flew Spirit Airlines to Myrtle Beach. It was a direct flight, but was delayed both times (once due to the plane hitting a bird on its way to pick us up from NY, and another due to NYC thunderstorms halting flights to the city) so it’s hard to really determine how seamless or not the experience is on a regular basis. I can say that though I like that they offer a direct flight (only 1.5 hours from NYC – if no delays), I am not a fan of the fee gouging they do with bags ($30 for check in, $35 for carry on). Spirit Airlines is known for cheaper flights, but I suppose it depends when you purchase your tickets (and if you need to pay for bags). I paid about $300 a ticket for my family of 5, plus luggage fees. I also notice that they tend to overbook their flights and were bumping people too often. It’s hard to really say based off of one experience – or two.
The Overall Experience
Our time in Myrtle Beach was really relaxing, we really enjoyed the area and how friendly everyone was to us everywhere we went. Even though it was labor day weekend, we never felt like any one place was over crowded or hectic. The beach and boardwalk were very clean and family friendly. Those looking to party can stay closer to the boardwalk and those looking for a bit more of a tranquil ambiance can stay further away, but still have easy access when they want.
A lot of money has been invested over the years to revitalize that area and it shows. When you visit, come ready for the warm weather and hot sun as well as a full dose of Southern hospitality and good seafood…and you don’t have to wait for the end of summer to enjoy it all either.
Thank you to Myrtle Beach Tourism and their partners for their hospitality and for helping us to make the most of our visit!