MYRTLE BEACH, SC - My son Noah is dancing in a glass bottom gondola almost 60 metres in the air. “Look at the tiny cars and people!” he shouts excitedly. I sneak a quick peek below and immediately wish I hadn’t. I grip the edge of my seat and think about pushing the panic button on the roof of our little cable car. But I remind myself that if children can ride it there is nothing to worry about. Right?
We circle higher towards the looming clouds on Myrtle Beach’s famous landmark appropriately called the SkyWheel.
Noah senses my fear and mischievously says, “Let’s open the door!”
Luckily, the doors and windows of the 42 individual gondolas are sealed shut via computer system and controlled below by staff. Whew!
The SkyWheel stands 20 storeys high and has more than a million red, white and blue LED lights twinkling in the night sky. By our third heart-stopping loop around I’m relaxed enough to admire the spectacular view.
In the distance, I can see the beach where we build exquisite sand castles and where salty waves kissed Noah’s face like he was being welcomed to this paradise for families.
Left: The Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach is the perfect location for a family vacation. Right: The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel is the newest attraction on the Grand Strand.
Myrtle Beach has been a family destination for decades. Its pristine beaches, amusement rides, affordable accommodation, wonderful southern-style restaurants and a multitude of affordable championship golf courses helps stretch a family’s vacation budget.
Family-friendly festivals, events, and concerts are held all summer and we explore cute souvenir shops, dine on beach food (fresh fries!) and learn about local dolphins, turtles, crabs and hurricanes from information plaques lining the $6.5 million boardwalk.
A cab driver named Smillie (yes, he is constantly smiling) tells us there are 113 golf courses and 58 mini-golf course in Myrtle Beach. Golf Digest and Golf Magazine rank 12 of the courses among America’s Top 100, Smillie says.
We opt for a mini-golf course just around the corner from our accommodation at the Breakers Resort. Captain Hook’s Adventure Golf is a journey into Never-Never-Land with pirates, crocodiles Tinker Bell and “smoking” skulls.
It’s Noah’s first time golfing and, like a true Canadian he holds his putter like a hockey stick and strikes the golf ball like a puck. Oddly enough this works well for him and he shouts, “It went over the water right into the hole on my first try!”
After Noah’s first hole in one, he’s hooked.
Back at the Breakers, Noah plays in the interactive pirate ship swimming pool complete with “Captain Hook” overlooking the fun. The Breakers is made up of six adjacent buildings each with its own swimming pool and guests have access to all of them. Next to the fairy tale pirate ship is the lazy river. Noah and I start racing each other in the river but I’m too lazy to try very hard, so I just float along as the hot sun beats down on us.
The next day, bright and early, we head out in search of dolphins — but not at an aquarium. Noah has seen TV shows and read books about dolphins, but hasn’t seen one live, so we head for Blue Wave Adventures at the Crazy Sister Marina (in Murrells Inlet, about 45 minutes from Myrtle Beach) for an eco-friendly boat tour.
Our captain, Robert, tells us that dolphins show up 95 per cent of the time when the boat goes out, even though they don’t use harmful techniques or feeding to lure them.
“We want the tour to be as natural as possible and we don’t want to disrupt the dolphins or their feeding,” he says.
Robert also says he’s seen a great white shark, stingrays, jellyfish and sea turtles on these journeys.
Left: Noah gets to play in the sugary sand that makes um the shoreline in Myrtle Beach. Right: Noah gets dressed up like an astronaut at the Myrtle Beach museum.
Our boat glides out across the ocean for about 20 minutes, then slows down. We’re breathless with anticipation, but all I can see right now is sea and sky. Suddenly, we see a few fins in the distance.
Noah shouts, “I see a dolphin face!”
Everyone rushes to the bow, cameras at the ready. Five or six dolphins swim by, their shiny gray bodies skimming the water. After entertaining us for a while, a happy dolphin waves a fin as if saying goodbye. Noah waves back.
“That was worth waiting for,” he says.
After a great day of nature, we’re ready for the opposite by evening. South Carolina’s biggest entertainment complex should do the trick!
Broadway at the Beach is a short drive from the Breakers. Our first stop is Wonderworks, an exhilarating science museum where you can lie on a bed of nails, feel what it’s like to be in a hurricane, explore a NASA spaceship, create massive bubbles, ride a virtual roller coaster and play sports.
We skip through the colourful hallways and visit each exhibit with renewed energy as we learn how to play the piano with our feet and feel what it’s like to fly in space.
All this flying makes us hungry, but that’s no problem since there are 24 great restaurants to choose from. We order some vegan sushi and enjoy it next to a massive man-made lake. All around us people shop at unique stores, go zip lining above our heads, zoom around on motor boats or take in one of the concerts and theatrical performances at Broadway on the Beach.
We check out It’s Sugar, a store jam-packed with every type of candy and chocolate you can imagine. It’s hard to decide which treats to pick.
Suddenly, Noah looks at me worriedly and asks, “Did you bring toothpaste?” I guess he was listening when I taught him that candy causes cavities. I tell him not to worry and add more candy to our cart.
Myrtle Beach is full of sweet surprises for families!
For more information on Myrtle Beach, go to www.visitmyrtlebeach.comor call 1-800-356-3016 / Porter Airlines and WestJet offer seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach, go to www.westjet.com or www.flyporter.com / Breakers Resort is Family Friendly Resort with great kids activities. It's located right on the beach and many rooms offer oceanfront balconies. Suites with full kitchens are available, 1–4 bedroom condos. Rooms have flat screen TV’s, secure safes, refrigerators and microwaves. The resort offers six indoor and outdoor oceanfront pools, two kiddie pools and five whirlpools. Don’t miss the Lazy River and Outdoor Pirate Ship Waterpark. The Breakers also offers some very affordable golf packages. More information: www.breakers.com