Longtime locals and visitors of Myrtle Beach used to joke that you could lie down in the middle of Ocean Boulevard after Labor Day and not have to move until Memorial Day.
That's not the case these days in Myrtle Beach, which has grown into a year-round destination. With more than 14 million annual visitors to the Grand Strand, many of those are snowbirds and savvy shoppers who have found it the best time to visit. Smaller crowds, cheaper hotel rates and more year-round attractions are major draws.
Visitors come to Myrtle Beach in the offseason for the mild climate, great deals and to check out some of the great attractions that may have longer lines during the busier months. Although the warm-weather venues like amusement rides and waterparks pull the plug in the offseason, there are still plenty of attractions to keep you busy all winter. Here's a list of five Grand Strand attractions that are open year-round:
* Brookgreen Gardens: While backyard botanists may cover up their gardens in the winter time, Brookgreen Gardens lights up for all to see. In addition to daily tours of the 9,000-acre botanical sculpture garden, the oldest and largest on the East Coast, Brookgreen also opens its gates on select evenings for “Nights of a Thousand Candles.” Held Thursdays through Sundays on Dec. 4-20, this holiday celebration illuminates the scenic gardens and hosts live music and theater, caroling and Christmas displays. The regular daily schedule continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
* Golf: Some of the Grand Strand’s 100-plus golf courses shut down for offseason maintenance and upgrades during the offseason, but many stay open and slash their rates considerably, giving golfers a great opportunity to play some of the more popular layouts for a fraction of the seasonal greens fees. Wait for a sunny day and you can still walk on, or book a last-second tee time. For advanced scheduling and packages, check out MyrtleBeachGolf.com.
* Myrtle Beach Boardwalk: The 1.2-mile oceanfront walkway has revitalized the downtown district of Myrtle Beach, so much that it has created a year-round crowd on the Boardwalk and the surrounding dining, shopping and entertainment. The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel and the Second Avenue Pier are among the many attractions that are easily accessible from the Boardwalk, as well as the commercial strip along Ocean Boulevard. On warmer days, folks flock to Plyler Park for fun in the sun, and even cooler climes see increased activity along the Boardwalk.
* Ripley's Aquarium: The water and hospitality stay warm all winter at this Broadway at the Beach attraction, where thousands of species of aquatic life are on display year-round. Ripley's Aquarium features a wide array of sharks and sea life in huge tanks and realistic natural habitats to give guests an up-close underwater encounter. Pet a stingray, watch a feeding frenzy and see make-believe mermaids swim – all under one toasty roof. Ripley's Aquarium also celebrates the holidays with its annual Festival of Trees, a unique display of 50 Christmas trees decorated to represent all 50 US states.
* Theaters: Not only do Myrtle Beach's many live theaters stay open all winter; they also roll out their annual Christmas shows, which are among the most popular shows all year. The Alabama Theatre at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach presents “The South's Grandest Christmas,” The Palace Theatre features a Christmas version of its tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and Legends in Concert hosts “The Rat Pack Christmas Special,” just to name a few.