The South Carolina Beach That Should Top Your Spring Go List
If you’ve always pegged Myrtle Beach for a summer hot spot, well, you’re not wrong—but you’re also not entirely right. Spring can be just as epic along the 100-kilometre stretch of South Carolina’s coast, and arguably even more so.
For starters, you’ll have practically everything summer’s famous for there—the seemingly endless shoreline (aka the Grand Strand), the old-timey boardwalk, the alfresco food scene, the award-winning golf courses, the glorious nature and the copious entertainment—minus the crowds. Plus optimal weather: Spring days are typically sunny and 20-something degrees celcius.
Then there’s everything that's happening in Myrtle Beach this spring, from the opening of the only current East Coast installation by world-renowned light artist Bruce Munro (reason enough visit, as anyone who’s ever experienced his work knows) to the 60th anniversary of Can-Am Days in mid-March, when you'll find a week's worth of Canadian-specific discounts and fun throughout the area.
Spring is also when many of the direct seasonal flights kick back in—but not so much the high-season room rates. Put otherwise: Hotel deals abound. For more about why Myrtle Beach should top your spring break list—whether you’re going as a family, a couple or a solo traveller—read on.
Bruce Munro at Brookgreen: Southern Light
Lush, sprawling and drop-dead gorgeous, Murrell Inlet's Brookgreen Gardens would be a must-see under any circumstances: It's among the very few U.S. institutions to make the ranks of the American Alliance of Museums, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the National Register of Historic Places.
And the gardens are pure magic in spring, when the foxglove, heliotrope, snapdragon, daffodils, azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom (among so many others). But spring 2020 is bringing a double-dose of magic, thanks to Bruce Munro's Southern Light.
If you haven’t yet experienced this artist’s work in person, you’ve likely seen it on TV, online or in print: His ethereal, large-scale light installations everywhere from Uluru in Australia's Red Centre to Paso Robles along California's Central Coast have launched him to global stardom. But you won't want to miss what happens when he lights up the beloved Brookgreen as of early April (through September 2020). Playing with the idea that a formal garden is really a series of interconnected outdoor chambers, he’s created seven exhibits for the “garden rooms” at Brookgreen.
Among the most notable: his largest-ever fibre optic firefly installation along the centuries-old, moss-draped Live Oak Allée; the 1448 illuminated bees he's installed in the old bell tower; and the chorus of frogs (complete with 2000 illuminated eyes) that will serenade you in alto, soprano and tenor frog song from the wild swampland next to the gardens.
Also worth catching at Brookgreen this spring: the Gullah Geechee Program series (a look at the unique southeastern coastal community that retains strong cultural ties to Africa); the Earth Day Family Festival Party for the Planet (think music, crafts and other kid-friendly garden activities) and Fireflies in Congaree National Park (a Brookgreen-sponsored outing to this annual gathering, when fireflies find mates through synchronized flashing).
Huntington Beach State Park
Just down the coast from Myrtle Beach, this 3,500-acre beachfront oasis awaits, complete with legendary bird watching, surf fishing, kayaking and—if you’re up for a night under the stars—spring camping (the fabulous onsite campground recently expanded).
And this spring will see the addition of a new nature center, where you’ll find—among other draws—a birding area and live animal exhibit.
To see more animals, head to the park’s freshwater lake, where alligator sightings are common—and even the occasional mink (!) sighting isn’t unheard of.
Then again, there’s some fascinating human history in the park, too, as you’ll find on a docent-led or self-guided audio tour of Atalaya—the private Moorish residence turned National Historic Landmark where sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington used to winter with her husband, the philanthropist and scholar, Archer Huntington.
The Carolina Opry Theater
One of the original live entertainment icons of Myrtle Beach, the Carolina Opry Theater—which has been touted everywhere from The New York Times to NBC Nightly News—is celebrating the big 3-5 in 2020. And the award-winning resident director and producer, Calvin Gilmore, is shaking things up in honour of the anniversary.
To be clear: These shows are never not fun. Picture high-energy music, dance and comedy starring an ever-shifting lineup of bold-faced names—most recently, everyone from singer Delvin Choice (of The Voice fame) to hip-hop cloggers All That! (of America’s Got Talent fame).
But the 35th anniversary season is going to bring some amazing surprise cameos to the theatre, as well as a wide-ranging lineup of celebrity concerts: Travis Tritt, Gladys Knight and everyone in between.
Of course, the Carolina Opry Theater is only one of the reasons that Myrtle Beach has garnered a rep for live music—and live country music in particular. Another? The Carolina Country Music Fest, which returns for its sixth year in late spring (June 4-7) with an all-star lineup (Darius Rucker, Luke Combs, Eric Church and so many more).
Then again, if you know where to look, Myrtle Beach serves up great live music any given night. In fact, on six of those nights each week—when the Bounty Hunters are in the hose—the Bowery is a good place to start. (Now celebrating 75 years, this local institution has long been known for its house bands: Alabama, for example, served in that capacity for most of the ‘70s).
Between its swim-with-the-stingrays programs and night-under-the-sharks family sleepovers, this beach-adjacent aquarium is already known for its immersive marine experiences. But it’s now debuting a game-changer: The largest expansion in the aquarium’s history, the 5,500-square-foot African penguin habitat comes with—among other fabulous features—a 360-degree crawl tunnel for the littles.
But the aquarium’s second new enhancement is arguably even more groundbreaking: Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach is now the first Certified Autism Center in the state. This international designation signals that—among other things—the staff has completed sensitivity, awareness and safety training—and the aquarium has designed specialized programs for guests with autism and other sensory issues.
The New Brew Trail
Of course, as in any proper beach town, you’ve always been able to find good spots to knock back a few cold ones here. But Myrtle Beach is now home to a growing number of craft brewpubs that are only enhancing the vacation vibes.
As of spring 2020, Barefoot Landing will have a kid- and pet-friendly backyard beer garden thanks to the new Crooked Hammock Brewery, complete with fire pits, bocce courts, corn hole, a playground and naturally, hammocks. (Beyond the craft beer, menu highlights include the giant Bavarian pretzels and jalapeno and cheddar cornbread).
Another kid- and pet-friendly brewery coming to town this spring: The Tidal Creek Brewhouse at Myrtle Beach’s Market Common, where you’ll find fresh, seasonal Lowcountry comfort food in an indoor-outdoor space that also hosts events and activities.
And not too long thereafter, the Grand Strand Brewing Company will be opening on with its own variety of handmade beers—to be served in a taproom.
Not to be outdone, the local spirits scene is livening up, too: The Twelve 33 Distillery (a reference to December 1933, when Prohibition ended) has just debuted with house-made—and mostly Carolina-sourced—spirits, which range from silver rum to spicy vodka. The distillery also houses a 1930s-era speakeasy, for maximal hideout vibes. But then again, when you’ve already escaped to a stretch as chill as Myrtle Beach, frankly, every place feels like a hideout.