Sunscreen, umbrella, towels, bathing suit, sunglasses, flip-flops - your beach bag is brimming with all the tools you need for summer fun. While sunny days are the norm here - more than 200 annually - preparations for your coastal visit should also include a game plan for rainy days, just to play it safe. If you see those dark clouds rolling in, no need to despair. The Grand Strand is far more than a fair-weather destination, so expect to have the best rainy beach day ever.
If you're visiting with a crew, ease into your rain day with a fresh-brewed pot of coffee and a doughnut run. Now, you can get doughnuts just about anywhere, but we're talking the best rainy day options, right? Treat yourself to amazing apple fritters from Pawleys Island Bakery, dreamy red velvet, buttermilk or blueberry doughnuts from The Donut Man in Myrtle Beach or gourmet creations like the Baconator, a maple glazed wonder with generous flecks of crispy bacon, from Lulu's Donuts, also in Myrtle Beach.
If you're sans kids, settle down in a comfy chair with the newspaper or your laptop in a cozy coffee house. Here are some of the area's quaintest java joints, where friendly baristas will serve up a satisfying cuppa joe for your rain-listening pleasure:
Boardwalk Coffee House, Barefoot Landing, Myrtle Beach
Fresh Brewed Coffee House, Broadway Street, Myrtle Beach - Artsy, eclectic vibe and friendly baristas
Beach Dreams Market, North Myrtle Beach
Once you've drained that first cup of coffee, your head will be clear enough to begin planning the rest of your rainy day, so time to get busy.
Keeping kids happy despite the crummy weather is a cinch along the Grand Strand. You'll have plenty of fun, too, when you visit these attractions. Bonus: There's an educational element to each of these, so it's time and money well-spent. Just grab your umbrellas for that walk across the parking lot, then forget about the weather.
WonderWorks at Broadway at the Beach is designed to enthrall, and it does. More than 100 interactive science displays, a ropes course, laser tag and more will keep everyone mesmerized, young and not-so-young, alike. A visit here is good for at least two hours of non-stop entertainment and is guaranteed to deliver lots of vacation highlights, making it a "best" option for a rainy day. How many kids can say they lounged on a bed of nails or moved a ball using their brainwaves? Note: Noise levels can be elevated during peak visiting hours, so parents be forewarned. This is high-tech, raucous kid-play, so sit back, cover your ears and enjoy.
Gifts from the sea
Even when it's especially busy, there's an ethereal quality about Ripley's Aquarium that soothes and relaxes. You might want to head here after that visit to WonderWorks. Sit a spell in front of the Living Gallery, a breathtaking kaleidoscope of live coral, sea anemones, octopi, sharks and several species of colorful saltwater fish. Wind your way through two levels of exhibits for a hands-on experience at the touch tank, then witness live shark feedings, a mermaid show and take in brief, informative films about sea life and conservation efforts. You'll leave with a new respect for that ocean you've been swimming in.
Hatch an escape
Escape the rain - and maybe a few zombies, terrorists or serial killers - at one of Myrtle Beach's "breakout" rooms. Escape games are all the rage, offering live, interactive adventures that will make you and yours forget all about the weather. Typically, teams of two or more are shown to a room and challenged to "escape" a harried situation by solving riddles, accomplishing specified tasks and breaking codes within a time-frame, usually about an hour. Some escape adventures incorporate special effects for added excitement. Choose a game with a heightened level of intensity or pick a tamer version for a family friendly adventure. Note: If you have fewer than the maximum number of team players, other players may be assigned to your mission. Check out these local escape rooms for team-building excitement:
Myrtle Beach Room Escape: Can accommodate teams of two to 10; 60-minute time frame; adult supervision recommended for participants younger than age 13.
Breakout Myrtle Beach: Can accommodate teams of two to 10; 60-minute time frame; suitable for all ages.
Backstage Escape Games: Can accommodate up to eight people; 60-minute time frame; suitable for all ages.
If there's still an hour or so to kill after all your adventures, head to North Myrtle Beach and look for the giant volcano. Here, you'll find a thing of wonder: Molten Mountain, a mini-golf operation with an indoor course. It's a brilliant idea, not just when it rains, but for those extra hot days, too.
Shop, drop and bungee
Drizzly weather is a good time to do a little shopping - or a lot. Grab your wallet and hit the biggest indoor mall in South Carolina. Coastal Grand Mall has it all - your favorite big box stores, a wide variety of niche shops and a host of great eateries on the grounds. If kids are tagging along, there's a bustling food court as well as a bungee bounce attraction, train ride, a large arcade and a multi-screen movie theater. Pass them off to Dad and head for the dressing rooms.
It's after 5 and Mother Nature is still raining on your beach parade. Dinner is on everyone's minds as is the question of what to do afterward. You handily took care of both issues, though. As holder of tickets for either Pirates Voyage or Medieval Times, you'll be hailed a rainy day hero. Whether your party consists of just the two of you or the two of you and a brood, these venues have what it takes to not just salvage a bummy beach day, but launch it into "best vacation day ever, sunny, rainy or otherwise" status. Note: Don't miss the lively, often hilarious, pre-shows at either.
It doesn't matter whether you choose jousting over ship looting - you'll be served a hearty, tasty meal while enjoying a professionally executed, theatrical spectacle designed to dazzle, entertain and impress.
Rain might not have been in your cards, but there might be a winning hand in your immediate future.Big M Casino cruises depart from Little River and feature all your favorite Vegas-style games as well as a sumptuous buffet. This one's for "big kids" only - 21 and older - so secure the babysitter if necessary. Put on your best poker face and place your bets. You just might find a rainy beach day is your lucky day, after all.