Late December and early January are the holiday season for more reasons than one for sports fans. Yes, there's Christmas and New Year's, but it's also the college bowl season. It's a fortnight of non-stop fun and football, if you know where to go.
The Grand Strand is filled with sports bars and cafes that are perfect places for fans to gather and root for their team. Whether you are cheering for the Clemson Tigers or the South Carolina Gamecocks, or for any of the schools fortunate enough to earn a bowl invitation, you are sure to run into others who couldn't make the trip to the game.
From the no-name bowls where the smaller schools play to the big one in the Big D, be sure to join in the fun and festivities along with fellow wayward fans. Here is a list of the top five places where you can catch the bowl games and join in the action:
* Broadway Louie's: This Broadway at the Beach megaplex is a sports bar and game arcade all in one. It's a great place to catch the bowl games because of the abundance of big screen TVs and the fun-loving crowds. Its popularity makes it a safe bet that you will run into fellow fans of the same school, and you might even make a few friends to hang out and cheer with over some cold beers and hot wings. The arcade features the latest in technology video games and old-school carnival games, and billiards tables are located upstairs. But the real fans flock to the sports bar and root for their teams. If you prefer a more low-key environment, Chuck and Ducks Sports Bar is two doors down.
* Bumstead's Pub: This English-style pub is located in the heart of the downtown district, just a couple of blocks away from the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk Promenade. A second location in Surfside Beach is an equally great place to enjoy rare draft beers and catch the college bowl games. A huge hangout for Clemson and South Carolina fans (the menu even has a special sandwich named the Tiger and the Gamecock), this place will be kicking during their respective bowl games, but there's always a nice crowd and good times going down at Bumstead's. Private booths with their own TV and controls allow fans to choose the game they want to watch.
* Handley's Pub: This Carolina Forest sports bar features an English theme, but there are more fans of American football than what we call soccer. That's specifically true of the college crowd, which packs the house on fall Saturdays through the holiday bowl season. Nearby Coastal Carolina University has enjoyed some recent football success and will be competing in the FCS Playoffs, which will be aired at Handley's. But fans of all colleges tend to congregate at this spacious pub, which features lots of TVs, billiards tables and an outdoor patio deck.
* King Street Grille: Located in Market Common, this Charleston-based regional chain attracts a slightly more upscale crowd than your typical wings-and-beer watering hole. The front section features an open-air patio and bar with lots of table and barstool seating and plenty of TVs. The dining area also features flat-screen TVs from virtually every angle. The neighborhood draws an eclectic crowd that includes college-aged kids as well as adults. The food is outstanding and the servers wear the jerseys of their favorite teams so you can strike up easy sports conversation with the staff.
* Pine Lakes Tavern: Formerly known as the popular sports bar Droopy's, the new management has given this place a modern makeover and an improved food lineup, but with the same focus on sports. The remodeled bar features lots of stool and table seating surrounded by big-screen TVs, and the outdoor patio also has TVs so you can watch the game while getting some fresh air and enjoying the view of Pine Lake. Billed as a gastropub, PLT offers a unique menu and daily specials that go way beyond the traditional sports-bar lineup. Pool tables and ping-pong are located in the game room.
(Photo Courtesy: bumsteadspub.com)