Talk to longtime Myrtle Beach residents and they will tell you about the days when the town would roll up the sidewalks after Labor Day. You could lie down in the middle of Ocean Boulevard in the middle of September and not have to worry about being hit, they say.
But that was back before Myrtle Beach became a year-round tourism destination, or at least a popular destination for nine months of the year. The so-called “shoulder seasons” of spring and fall have grown broader in recent years as more and more businesses manage to maintain a full-calendar schedule.
But there are some Grand Strand businesses that are specifically geared toward the summer crowds and require outdoor activities not suited for the winter months. If you are planning a trip to Myrtle Beach during the offseason, be sure to check and see which attractions and restaurants are still operating and which ones call it a season early. Here's a list of some of the Grand Strand's most popular venues that close up shop:
* Amusement Parks/Waterparks: It doesn't take long after Labor Day for these aquatic playgrounds to pull the plug. In fact, Wild Water & Wheels in Surfside Beach and Family Kingdom's Splashes Waterpark in downtown Myrtle Beach have already closed for the season. Myrtle Waves remains open until mid-September but only on the weekends. Ocean Drive Amusement Park in North Myrtle Beach is closed for the year and Family Kingdom Amusement Park stays open on the weekends until the end of the month.
* Beach Bars/Restaurants: During the peak summer months, there are more than 500,000 people on the Grand Strand and 1,700 restaurants to serve them. So when that half-million dwindles down to a few thousand visitors and full-time residents in the winter, it only makes sense that some of those eateries close their doors during the offseason. That's especially true of some beach bars, including hotel-operated tiki bars and stand-alone operations. Hot spots such as Bandito's and Beach Bummz Cafe stay open year-round but sit outside at your own risk.
* Farmers/Flea Markets: This one almost goes without saying because of the lack of fresh local produce during the winter months, but some vendors also sell non-perishable goods that are immune to the cold weather, like honey, homemade jams and cheeses. However, the major markets at Market Common and downtown Myrtle Beach cease operations in December, January and February. Some open-air flea markets also shut down over winter although they do stay open for the Christmas shopping rush, weather permitting. Check each individual outlet for offseason schedules.
* Golf Courses: The Grand Strand boasts more than 100 golf courses, but that number goes down considerably during the winter months. Although some private and semi-private courses stay open for limited play, many schedule course maintenance and shut down after the autumn golf rush. In addition to Myrtle Beach's more famous regular-sized golf courses, its many putt-putt courses also call it quits when the weather gets cold, but you can always spot a few brave souls playing on a sunny day.
* Watersports Outfitters: Nothing is more fun than parasailing high over the Atlantic Ocean … unless it's January. The cold winter weather shuts down many watersports activities for those who didn't pack a wet suit. Renting jet skis and riding Banana Boats, and even angling from some fishing piers, is not an option during the winter months. In fact, the ocean waters remain pretty chili until May, something to keep in mind before you sign up for a fun day on the water.
(photo courtesy: Myrtle Waves Water Park)