MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Myrtle Beach, this year celebrating the 75th anniversary of its incorporation, is the heart of South Carolina’s $16.5 billion tourism industry. There’s shopping and nine live entertainment theaters with almost 12,000 seats. But there’s a lot to do for free. Here are five suggestions:
1 THE BEACH: This is the reason people come to Myrtle Beach. In South Carolina, the beaches are public, and there are regular access points. Some areas have lifeguards and some have umbrellas and chairs for rent, but all you really need is a beach blanket and a cool drink. The shore is lined with high-rise hotels and condominiums, and it’s just a short walk to grab a burger along busy Ocean Boulevard.
2 THE BOARDWALK: The boardwalk runs along Myrtle Beach’s oceanfront business district. Just over a mile in length, it was completed three years ago at a cost of more than $6 million. It’s a great place to wander along the shore without getting your feet sandy or to just sit and watch people enjoy their summer escape. At sunset you can watch the oceanfront SkyWheel, the tallest Ferris wheel in the eastern United States, spin lazily, illuminated by a million LED lights. The boardwalk is being extended another block and Mayor John Rhodes has said he would like the city to eventually build the world’s longest, running 4.6 miles along the shore.
3 FREE CONCERTS, KIDS’ STUFF: Summer means a lot of free entertainment. In Plyler Park, just off the boardwalk, the Hot Summer Nights series of free concerts and other events run now until Aug. 31. On Mondays there are free kids’ carnivals, with concerts from reggae to rock and country to Dixieland other nights of the week. Every Wednesday there are fireworks over the ocean. Across town, at the Broadway at the Beach entertainment complex, there are free fireworks every Tuesday and most Fridays. North Myrtle Beach holds four free concerts on Friday evenings in McLean Park, while there are other concerts by the lake at Myrtle Beach’s Grand Park. As part of the Myrtle Beach birthday celebration, an oceanfront air show is set for June 28-30.
4 ART MUSEUM: If you want to get out of the sun for a bit, stop by the Franklin Burroughs-Simeon Chapin Art Museum. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Located on the south end of Myrtle Beach, part of the structure is an almost 90-year-old beach house moved to its present location about 30 years ago. The museum has 10 galleries and an art studio for workshops. The museum also hosts “Animation B.C. (Before Computers),” an exhibit focusing on the development of animation in the 20th century. It features original production art including Mickey Mouse and Dora the Explorer. Also this summer, the museum features an exhibit with 45 works of golf art – more than appropriate in an area with 102 golf courses.
5 CONWAY AND THE RIVERWALK: Conway, located 15 miles inland from Myrtle Beach, is the old tobacco town dating to the early 1700s that millions simply drive past rushing to the shore. But you may want to stop. The historic district includes almost three dozen National Register of Historic Places sites. The city’s scenic River Walk connects to the business district and runs along the gently flowing Waccamaw River, a great place to cool off on a sultry South Carolina afternoon. Conway, on the first Thursday of the month from June through November, hosts Alive After Five events as varied as a community gospel sing and a classic car show to an ice cream social.