Myrtle Beach Family Vacation Guide
March 9, 2020
One of the great things about living in the South is that there are so many amazing beach towns within driving distance for a quick day or weekend trip. Obviously we have all of our beloved Charleston beaches, but it can be fun to branch out from what we’re used to! With the recent warmer weather, we needed a dose of salty ocean air, so we packed up and headed to Myrtle Beach for the weekend. It was still a little bit too cold to spend hours lounging on the sand, but luckily Myrtle Beach has plenty of other fun and exciting activities for the whole family to enjoy!
About Myrtle Beach
Featuring 60 miles of beautiful coastline, Myrtle Beach is a classic beach destination at the heart of South Carolina’s Grand Strand. The iconic Myrtle Beach SkyWheel and oceanfront boardwalk dominate most images of this coastal city, but there’s so much more to the area than suntans and swimming. In addition to its wide beaches, Myrtle Beach is home to world-class golf, lush natural wonders, family entertainment, and culinary experiences. Not to mention, there’s a sense of Southern charm and a slower way of life in Myrtle Beach that encourages you to connect with your family and enjoy the moment.
Where to Stay in Myrtle Beach
We stayed at the DoubleTree Resort at the Myrtle Beach Oceanfront, and it was the perfect hotel for a family weekend in Myrtle Beach. Located on the south end of Ocean Boulevard, the DoubleTree Resort has private beaches, lots of amenities, and is next to Myrtle Beach State Park. The hotel is slightly away from the crowded downtown area, so the beaches are more quiet and pristine, which we really enjoyed. They also had both indoor and outdoor pools, which Harper loved! Our room was lovely and spacious.
Things to Do
When we were planning our trip, Harper helped us pick out the things he wanted to do over the weekend. You never know exactly what to expect when a 9-year-old is steering the boat, but we had SO much fun with everything we did. It was a bit chilly so we couldn’t do most of the typical beach activities. Luckily, Myrtle Beach offers loads of fun indoor entertainment. Here are our favorite family-friendly Myrtle Beach activities from our trip:
Hollywood Wax Museum
There’s no shortage of things to do in Myrtle Beach, but Harper locked on to the idea of the Hollywood Wax Museum, so we headed there first thing in the morning on Friday. The main exhibit of the wax museum had tons of super-realistic sculptures that were fun to walk around and interact with. It was much larger than anticipated and had two floors of sculptures. Harper’s favorite actor, Will Smith, was there, and all of his favorite musicians, including Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift. We love how interactive it was. They provided character-specific props for fun photos and they had artists’ music playing in their respective areas. The highlight of the musuem was probably when Harper ran ahead of us and we found him lounging in a robe with the sculpture of Hugh Hefner. It was hilarious, made even more so by the fact Harper had no idea who Hugh was.
The Wax Museum also has other attractions there, like a mirror maze, which we loved. It was hysterical and totally captivated us! For a few moments, we thought we had actually gotten lost in the maze, but we figured it out and were laughing the whole time. The museum sells tickets that include all three of their attractions, and it’s such a great price for literally hours of fun!
T.I.G.E.R.S. Wild Encounters Tour at the Myrtle Beach Safari
By far, I think this was the experience we were the most excited for when we were planning our Myrtle Beach family weekend. We booked a TIGERS Wild Encounters tour at the Myrtle Beach Safari. The Myrtle Beach Safari is located on a 50-acre tropical wildlife preserve and is home to more than 200 wild animals, including over 60 big cats. The interactive tour experience gives you a chance to interact with some of the animals in the preserve, including elephants, chimpanzees, and baby tigers.
I’ve been fascinated with monkeys since I was little; I did my first ever school report on Jane Goodall. The Wild Encounters tour was my first experience being so close to a chimpanzee and I truly felt connected to the animals we met throughout the tour. The highlight for me was getting to hold a baby chimp. They were so sweet and loved to cuddle. Harper loved when the chimps played catch. He was laughing hysterically because he couldn’t believe how playful they were. We all loved feeding Bubbles the elephant. Bubbles was actually rescued by the TIGERS founder, Doc Antle, in the early 1980s after her wild herd was killed by poachers. The tour includes all of these interactive experiences, lunch, and really nice snacks. It’s an investment activity, but it’s truly worth it, and the proceeds support TIGERS and their charity.
In addition to getting this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I appreciate that Myrtle Beach Safari is committed to supporting the conservation of rare species. TIGERS actually stands for The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, and proceeds from the tours go to support the Rare Species Fund. Everyone who works there is dedicated to the safety and wellbeing of the animals. They even live on the property and establish trust with the species that live there.
To read more about what you can expect if you go on this tour, I wrote a whole blog post about our experience on the Wild Encounters tour!
Broadway at the Beach
Broadway at the Beach is an outdoor shopping and entertainment center at the heart of Myrtle Beach with tons of shops and activities. We browsed around and had fun checking out all the shops and entertainment centers. Our first stop was Wee-R-Sweetz. They had an amazing selection of handmade taffy, fudge, and candy and we enjoyed watching them make and wrap the taffy in the store. Harper was SO excited to find a magic store at Broadway at the Beach. The owner was a really skilled magician who actually invented a lot of the tricks sold in the store and helped Harper learn a few while we were there.
The other highlight from Broadway at the Beach was the Simpsons in 4D exhibit. If you didn’t already know, I’m a huge fan of The Simpsons, so when I saw that Broadway at the Beach had a Simpsons themed exhibit, I knew I wanted to go. It was such a fun time for everyone! The Simpsons in 4D is an interactive exhibit that recreates the Aztec Theater and Kwik-E-Mart down to the tiny details, and the Kwik-E-Mart actually functions as a real convenience store with prices you would expect from the gas station down the street. With the price of the ticket you also get a professional photo included!
The Alabama Theatre – ONE The Show
Founded in 1993, the Alabama Theatre is the result of country music stars ALABAMA bringing their musical talent home to the Grand Strand. We caught a performance of ONE The Show while we were in Myrtle Beach and were treated to a showcase of musical talent from all genres and eras. ONE The Show combines musical talent with comedy, visual spectacle, and extravagant costumes for a one-of-its-kind live entertainment experience.
We absolutely loved the show! Harper literally raised the roof and danced in his seat the whole time. There were a bunch of impressive musicians and dancers singing lots of contemporary songs that everyone could dance along to. My personal favorite was The Lion King songs they performed. Another favorite was I Can Only Imagine, which was really moving and powerful. At the end of the show they also had a tribute to current and former members of the military. It was touching and well done, just like the whole show. The comedian for the show was so funny that he had me in tears! I would highly recommend the Alabama Theatre, especially for families with kids. There were so many songs Harper was familiar with and it was just a great way to chill out at the end of the day.
LuLu’s Beach Arcade
Right next door to Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s in North Myrtle Beach is LuLu’s Beach Arcade. As an adult, you kind of forget how fun going to an arcade can be, but Erik and I had just as much fun as Harper here before lunch. There are tons of fun games, and Erik and I got competitive, while Harper was thrilled because he won tickets and got some prizes before we left. It wasn’t open while we were there, but next time we go back to Myrtle Beach we want to check out the ropes course for kids. According to the arcade employees, it’s a great way to let your kids burn off some energy in a fun, supervised way while you grab a drink at the restaurant next door.
Calvin Gilmore opened the Carolina Opry in 1986 and the Opry became a huge draw for tourists to the Myrtle Beach area, bringing in top-class musical performers. The award-winning show now offers 2 hours of music, comedy, and dance in a gorgeous theater. We were completely impressed by the whole show. The venue is stunning and has great acoustics to highlight the incredibly skilled musicians. One of the artists, Delvin Choice, had one of the most powerful voices I’ve ever heard and did a fun little mo-town set. He was actually on The Voice, too! In addition to the musical acts, the show also had a comedian and a magician, so it had a little bit of everything for everyone. Southern Living called the show “an entertainment phenomenon,” and that’s probably the best way to encompass the total experience!
Where to Eat
Wicked Tuna sits at the southern end of the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk on the 2nd Avenue Pier, offering great views of the ocean. Everything Wicked Tuna serves is based on the idea of “hook to plate,” bringing fresh, everyday seafood catches to Myrtle Beach diners. They own five fishing boats that go out and catch the fish, including tuna, grouper, snapper, and golden tilefish.
We got to talk with manager Adam McNabb, who told us they opened this location of Wicked Tuna in July of 2019 to offer a closer option than Murrells Inlet for the customers who were driving long distances for the amazing seafood. We loved the location, as the whole back and sides of the restaurant are large windows, so you feel like you’re right on the ocean. Adam’s favorite meal is the ocean prime with hog snapper, but he said there are also vegan dishes available upon request.
The chefs at Wicked Tuna produce a range of incredible dishes, including sushi and some delicious surf and turf options. We started with the Dragon Egg, a halved avocado stuffed with cream cheese, smoked salmon, lump and spicy crab served in a nest of tempura sweet potato flakes with spicy mayo and sweet glaze. I got the ocean prime with grouper (the fresh catch of the day). The Ocean Prime is pan-seared local catch topped with lump crab meat and lobster over a blue cheese cream sauce and paired with a side of mixed vegetables and cauliflower puree. SO delicious! They also had fun drinks like the Blood Orange Mojito – Belle Isle Blood Orange Premium Moonshine mixed with a Cannonborough Raspberry mint all-natural soda muddled with fresh mint and garnished with frozen raspberries and candied blood oranges served with a Belle Isle Premium Moonshine Floater.
If you go to Wicked Tuna, and you definitely should, you absolutely have to get the tiramisu, which is made by their in-house pastry chef Patricia. The tiramisu was voted one of the top 20 best things to eat in the state of South Carolina, and as an amateur tiramisu connoisseur, I’d have to agree!
Sea Captain’s House
This seafood restaurant was recommended to me SO many times, by locals and tourists alike! We headed to the Sea Captain’s House for lunch and I understand the hype now. Operating out of an old 1930s cottage overlooking the ocean, the Sea Captain’s House is classic seafood restaurant through and through, with a wood-paneled bar and white tablecloths on the tables. After more than 50 years in operation, Sea Captain’s House knows what they’re doing when it comes to bringing together good food, good views, and good service.
The restaurant used to be a bed and breakfast and offers wonderful views overlooking the ocean. I got the shrimp salad and loved it. It had a perfectly balanced flavor and wasn’t too heavy. Erik got pan-seared grouper and said it was the best he’s ever had. Again, the dessert is standout here. Sea Captain’s House is famous for their hummingbird cake, so we tried a slice. It was delicious!
House of Blues
Before visiting Myrtle Beach, I had no clue how much of a live entertainment hot spot it was! We had dinner at the House of Blues, which has live music accompanying your dinner. The whole space has an old-school rock and blues feel to it, with musicians’ portraits on the ceiling and folk art everywhere. It feels like the kind of local, pile-everyone-in kind of music joint, with a delicious menu of Southern-inspired dishes to fill you up.
We started with a wedge salad served with really good blue cheese and huge pieces of bacon. For dinner, Erik and I shared the two meat barbecue platter with brisket and chicken. It was great and came with lots of incredible sides, so there was plenty of food for the two of us. Also, there were really great live musicians playing while we were there, so it was a great ambiance.
Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s
Located in North Myrtle Beach at Barefoot Landing, LuLu’s is Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy’s restaurant. Jimmy was famous for his music while Lucy was famous for her cooking. She originally gained fame from her gumbo, which led to her opening restaurants. The Myrtle Beach location is so colorful and fun, with Margaritaville vibes everywhere, live music, a cool bar, and an outdoor playground for the kids. I was impressed with the great prices for some truly delicious food and drinks.
We started off with the smoked fish dip and crab dip skillet, both of which were phenomenal. Erik and I both got Key West bowls, and I got mine with blackened jumbo shrimp. I actually tried all of the different sauces you can get with it, and decided my favorite was the Mojo sauce. Of course, we ended our meal with Lucy’s famous key lime pie. She has a home in Key West, so she knows how to do it right. It was the perfect mix of sweet and tart with a great crust. In the spring and summer, LuLu’s also has dock slips for people to pull up to the restaurant in their boats.
Though I’ve got it under where to eat, Medieval Times is also a great way to spend an evening with family entertainment. If you’ve never heard of the experience that is Medieval Times, it’s a medieval-themed dinner with a knights and horses style tournament. It’s perfectly geared towards kids with fun names for the food and interactive segments. Harper ate all his food and was quiet for two hours, other than when he was cheering for our knights on the green team.
The food at Medieval Times was actually delicious! You can’t use any utensils, so they bring out a cauldron of dragon blood (tomato soup) and you dip your garlic toast in the soup. For the main meal, they have “baby dragons” (roast chicken) served with corn on the cob and potatoes. I was totally impressed with the quality of the food, even if as an adult it seemed a bit corny. Harper was all in though, and it’s something entertaining, fun, and different that’s always good if you’re traveling to Myrtle Beach with kids!