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Fun for the Whole Family Awaits at Grand Strand Attractions

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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You've chosen the Myrtle Beach area for your family vacation - smart thinking. Not only do you have miles of shoreline on which to play, but a host of amusements and attractions to appeal to every age, taste and budget. Because there's so much to see and do, planning activities to engage your entire brood is a cinch. Call ahead to check hours of operation as some attractions are only open seasonally.


Upside-down and all around, WonderWorks is an interactive playground where learning is fun.

Ahoy, mateys! Take to the high seas for some family playtime aboard a pirate ship. Blackbeard's Pirate Cruise at Fantasy Harbor and Pirate Adventures in Murrells Inlet both offer interactive sailing fun. Under the expert tutelage of a capable captain and crew, kids use clues to search for sunken treasure, witness sword fights and use water cannons to battle rogue pirate ships. Arrive early so there's plenty of time to transform your kids into salty buccaneers; reservations are recommended. At least one parent must be in tow, but it's all good - you'll get a kick out of these excursions, each lasting about 1½ to 2 hours in calm waters.

Adventure in the Grand Strand isn't limited to the sand and sea. Take to the skies on a zipline, ropes course or canopy trail for aerial family thrills. Soar & Explore at WonderWorks. If your kids have a need for speed, hit the tracks at Broadway Grand Prix for racing adventures for all ages, from tots to teens to adults.


Another way to enjoy spectacular ocean views is on the SkyWheel, an observation wheel that reaches heights of 200 feet above sea level.

For nearly half a century, Family Kingdom has been putting smiles on faces, old and young alike. The area's only seaside amusement park is set on 13 acres and features 37 rides for all ages, including the Swamp Fox, a classic wooden coaster, and an old timey ferris wheel offering panoramic views of the ocean. It's also one of the few remaining admission-free amusement parks in the nation, so enjoy the savings and treat everyone to ice cream.

Another way to enjoy spectacular ocean views is on the SkyWheel, an observation wheel that reaches heights of 200 feet above sea level. You can't miss it, rising from the midst of the Myrtle Beach boardwalk and promenade. And the gondolas are climate-controlled for maximum comfort, which makes any time of year the right time for your family to take flight.

The Pavilion at Broadway at the Beach is home to several beloved amusement rides from the original Pavilion Amusement Park, once located across from the boardwalk downtown. You don't have to be a kid to relish a ride on a frog, cat, camel, tiger, horse or bird, part of the menagerie appointing the 1912 Herschell-Spillman carousel. There are more daring rides for thrill-seekers, an arcade and even midway-style games for the full carnival effect. And don't miss the 1900s hand-carved German Baden Band Organ, a marvel worth the trip alone.

Of course, the Grand Strand is teeming with bowling alleys and arcades. You can get the best of both at fun zones like 810 Billiards and Bowling where, in addition to bowling and arcade fun, your family can enjoy bocce ball, table tennis, shuffleboard and other favorite games. Three locations – Market Common, North Myrtle Beach and Conway – mean there’s fun to be had wherever you are along the Grand Strand. For more fun and games, check out the Fun Warehouse for go-cart action, a state-of-the-art arcade, laser tag, soft play, inflatables, rollers skating, rollerball mini-bowling, and a full-service café for all-day entertainment.

The Grand Strand is as serious about miniature golf as it is about its world-class courses. After all, you're visiting the home of the U.S. ProMiniGolf Tour Masters, played each fall at one of the nation's top mini golf courses, Hawaiian Rumble in North Myrtle Beach. More than 50 whimsical, themed courses line the Grand Strand, so no matter where you're staying, a family putt putt tournament is at your fingertips.

Water Parks

Slide into family fun at one of the Grand Strand's waterparks.

It's no surprise that Myrtle Beach is home to the state's biggest water park, Myrtle Waves. With 1.2 million gallons of water sluicing through 22 slides and other water attractions, this park is the perfect place to beat the heat. Chute for thrills down super slides like Turbo Twister, Riptide Rocket and Snake Mountain. There are plenty of kid-size slides, pools and rides, too. Reserve a cabana and take a beach break without sacrificing water fun.

Family Kingdom's Splashes Oceanfront Water Park is the place for water slide fun with a beach view. Whether you prefer a race down a speed slide or a leisurely drift on the lazy river, there's a speed to suit every member of your family.

Shark Park 843 in North Myrtle Beach is the newest hotspot for adventurous water sports and fun with its state-of-the-art cable system for wake boarding, knee boarding, water skiing, wake skating and foil boarding. It also boasts one of the largest floating obstacle playgrounds on the East Coast outfitted with slides, climbing towers and more. There is something for all skill and age levels.

Educational and Historical

Meet sea life face to face at Ripley's Aquarium.

There's a lot to learn in the upside-down "top secret laboratory" called WonderWorks. Located at Broadway at the Beach, this 50,000-square-foot monstrosity might look wonky on the outside, but inside you'll find a multi-level maze of educational, entertaining exhibits and amusements. Six "Wonder Zones" feature interactive displays that will keep the kids busy for hours. A glow-in-the-dark ropes course and laser tag arena will engage your older munchkins. Bring ear plugs if the constant roar of delighted children unnerves you. Note: There's an outdoor bar at the exit for overwhelmed adults.

Get up close and personal with sharks, stingrays and more at Ripley's Aquarium, another Broadway at the Beach attraction. Kids will learn about conservation as well as the habitats and life cycles of thousands of sea creatures. Plan to linger at Ray Bay, where you can watch divers feed the fish or catch a musical mermaid show.

Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet is more than just pretty plants. It's an outdoor classroom where the whole family can explore art, history, nature and conservation. Learn about seasonal blooms, visit the wildlife zoo and take a history lesson on a boat ride. The young and young at heart will be filled with wonder in the butterfly house. And don't miss Brookgreen's famous sculpture garden featuring more than 1,200 stunning works by more than 300 artists. If you can't see it all in a single visit, come back anytime during the week. Your tickets are good for seven days from the date of purchase.

Chomp, chomp! Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach is the place to come face to face - safely - with alligators and exotic wildlife. Birds, monkeys, tortoises, gray wolves, African cats and kangaroos make for a zoo adventure your family won't soon forget. Each ticket comes with a pass for one return visit valid for seven days from the date of purchase.

Explore the mysteries of local waterways with a kayak ecotour guided by Black River Outdoors. Meander through cool cypress swamps and salt marshes where you’ll see an abundance of wildlife, bask in the area’s natural beauty and learn about the area's amazing eco-system.

Shows and Other Entertainment

Dinner and live action adventures at Pirates Voyage chase away the rainy day blues.

Myrtle Beach hits the pinnacle of the family "dinner and show" concept with two offerings that thrill and delight. An indoor lagoon is the setting for the swashbuckling drama of Pirates Voyage in Myrtle Beach, a dinner and show spectacular for the whole family. Enjoy a hearty dinner, then cheer your favorite buccaneers on to high-seas victory as they battle for treasure and perform various feats of daring-do. Or witness the finer points of jousting, falconry and horsemanship at Medieval Times, located in Fantasy Harbor on the Intracoastal Waterway. A four-course dinner starts this live-action show featuring kings, knights, damsels and other medieval characters.

Ripley's offers a host of entertainment options on the strip in Myrtle Beach. Get ready to rock and roll - literally - in Ripley's 5-D Moving Theater, a state-of-the-art motion simulator with mind-blowing digital effects. Non-moving seats are available for youngsters who don't meet the 43-inch height requirement. Ogle the quirky, kooky exhibits of Ripley's Believe It or Not! and get spooked at Ripley's Haunted Adventure, a live-action creep show that's sure to elicit plenty of screams - not appropriate for the little ones, but good scary fun for teens and adults. Getting lost is loads of fun in Ripley's Marvelous Mirror Maze, though you'll want to hold hands with your tots for this one. But never fear. Twice an hour, search parties are dispatched to round up any stragglers.

The stage is a diamond, and as for special effects, how about eye-popping fly balls, daring base stealing and thrilling home runs, topped off with a festive fireworks display? Welcome to Pelicans Ballpark, home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the area's minor league baseball team. Families fill the stands on game nights throughout the baseball season and settle in for fun, food and, of course, exciting game play by the "birds." Join locals as they cheer on their team in a time-honored American - and Myrtle Beach - pastime.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.