Why this South Carolina beach town is the place to be this winter
When it comes to beach towns in America, Myrtle Beach is one of the most well-known out there and for good reason. Not only does this South Carolina hot spot have 60 miles of sandy shores, but also an incredible array of restaurants, attractions and budget-friendly accommodations. The best part is that the fun doesn’t end when winter begins—you can still take advantage of outdoor activities in relatively warm temperatures and check out all the indoor things you might have missed while baking in the sun.
Nonstop flights are not only available to Myrtle Beach from more than 25 cities in winter, but also the prices tend to be even more affordable. Hotel rates can be as much as 75% less than peak summer prices for the same sunrise and beach views.
With fewer crowds in winter, you can experience Myrtle Beach like a local and get to know it in a different view, particularly during the holidays. Read on to see our picks on how best to do so.
Celebrate the season
Get into the holiday spirit by attending some of the most beloved local events taking place through December. The boardwalk gets a little brighter with Winter Wonderland at The Beach (Nov. 24-Jan. 1, 2024), a lights display featuring both classic and beach-themed scenes from 5 to 9 p.m. The Winter Wonderland Family Fun Festival kicks off the holiday season with additional entertainment Dec. 1-3.
You’ll automatically get admission to Ripley’s Festival of Trees (Nov. 10-Dec. 31) when buying a ticket to Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach. Here, you’ll walk among 55 trees bedazzled with trinkets representing each state and U.S. territory (think: beads and masks for Louisiana, a feather headdress for Nevada and seashells for South Carolina).
Hop in the car and head to The Great Christmas Light Show (Nov. 20-Dec. 30) at the North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex. By the numbers, there are more than 500 light displays, some as high as 55 feet and altogether totaling over two million lights. At the end, you can park the car and head over to Santa’s Village for a chance to meet the big man himself.
Drive over to Brookgreen Gardens for Nights of a Thousand Candles (Thursdays-Sundays, Nov. 25-Dec. 31). Stroll the paths of this botanical garden from 4 to 9 p.m. as they’re illuminated by millions of sparkling lights and more than 2,700 hand-lit candles.
Eat, drink and be merry
When there are fewer crowds, there’s less wait time for a table, so it’s easy to check out places that are normally packed in the summertime. For nearly 30 years, Croissants Bistro & Bakery has been a staple in the community serving brunch fans menu items like Bananas Foster French toast, daily quiche as well as shrimp and grits and, of course, croissants. At Blueberry’s Grill, which has two locations in Myrtle Beach cooking American cuisine, the menu changes seasonally; working with local farmers, the restaurant also rotates in two new dishes every six weeks to cater to ingredients with short growing seasons.
Other popular local spots include Big Mike’s Soul Food, whose Southern comfort food is known for their “meat ‘n’ three” plates like fried chicken or pork chops and homemade sides like collard greens, fried okra and candied yams. For fresh seafood, your options are limitless and include Bimini’s Oyster Bar, Inlet Prohibition Company, Wicked Tuna, RipTydz Oceanfront Grill & Rooftop Bar and Sea Captain’s House.
Wash it all down with some adult beverages at nearby vineyards and craft breweries. Open on Saturdays and Wednesdays (10 a.m.- 5p.m.), La Belle Amie Vineyard is located on a former tobacco plantation in Little River and offers cellar tours, tastings of its Twisted Sisters brand wines plus year-round music festivals. Known primarily for its muscadine wines, Duplin Winery is right off U.S. Highway 17 South; for $15 per person, you can sample at least 10 preselected wines and choose one for a full serving.
Family- and pet-friendly, Tidal Creek Brewhouse is in The Market Common, a shopping and entertainment complex near the beach. Not only does the brewery have a core lineup of beers, but it also offers a weekly small batch for people to try new libations. While there, round your tab up to the nearest dollar as the brewery donates the change to local non-profits in the community.
Myrtle Beach is no stranger to brand name storefronts and designer outlets at places like Coastal Grand Mall, Barefoot Landing and Tanger Outlet Center. In addition to well-known companies, there are also local businesses worth checking out for souvenirs and holiday shopping.
Built to look like a playful gingerbread house with candy canes sculptures at the entrance and on the roof, as well as a life-sized gingerbread family outside, Gretel’s Candy House is every dentist’s worst nightmare. (In turn, you will be a hero to your children for taking them to a place with wall-to-wall sweet treats.)
Commemorate your trip with an ornament of Santa building a sandcastle or various other coastal scenes with a visit to the Christmas Mouse. Be spoiled for choice at Myrtle Beach’s oldest and largest gift shop, the four-story Gay Dolphin Gift Cove. Open since 1946, today the store includes seashells and home décor, opportunities to have shark teeth turned into jewelry and photo opportunities with life-sized figures of Elvis and pirates.
Learn local history
The land on which Brookgreen Gardens now sits used to be part of four separate plantations: Brookgreen, Lauren Hill, Oaks and Springfield. You can walk the Lowcountry Trail, which crosses the hillside overlooking Mainfield, a restored rice field of the former Brookgreen Plantation. Along the trail, there are interpretive panels, listening stations and four stainless steel figures representing plantation life for enslaved people. Learn what happened after emancipation by visiting Freewoods Farm, a 40-acre living museum showing life on a small African-American family farm as it was from 1865-1900.
Huntington Beach State Park is a 3,500-acre beachfront oasis that’s known as one of the best places in South Carolina to see birds, but its historic attraction lies in Atalaya Castle. This Moorish-style National Historic Landmark consists of 30 rooms, a courtyard and a 40-foot-tall water tower. Archer Huntington built the castle in the early 1930s as a winter refuge for his tuberculosis-stricken artist wife, Anna Hyatt; on part of the estate, he also built a public sculpture garden to display Anna’s work.
For a broader sense of the history of the region, head to the Horry County Museum. Located in the 1905 Burroughs School, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, the free museum showcases old farming tools, household items and clothing as well as photographs. The museum opened the L.W. Paul Living History Farm in 2009 on 17 acres to recreate life on a one-horse family farm from 1900-1955. Free guided tours of the farm are available.
Be active day or night
Bring your little ones to EdVenture Myrtle Beach, a hands-on children’s museum with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Interactive exhibits include a real-life cockpit, a flight simulator and a child-size, 1960s-themed house where kids can watch the first moon landing.
Families with children of all ages may enjoy Broadway at the Beach, a massive entertainment complex that includes kid-friendly attractions, restaurants and nightlife. One crowd favorite here is Legends in Concert, where you’ll find rotating tribute acts that include the Blues Brothers, Barry White, Michael Jackson and Elvis.
Located on the Intracoastal Waterway in North Myrtle Beach, Barefoot Landing is set up like a village with shopping, dining and entertainment options. Here’s where you’ll find live shows at Alabama Theatre or live music at House of Blues. Along with hosting all sorts of musical acts, the House of Blues also hosts a weekly murder mystery dinner on Saturdays and a gospel brunch each Sunday. Even in the dead of winter, there's always something going in Myrtle Beach.