As we near the start of a new Myrtle Beach tourism season, more and more people have been asking about the new attractions, restaurants, shops and places popping up around the Grand Strand.
Though it can be tough to pin down everything that’s gone on across the area — Myrtle Beach is an ever-changing landscape of new and interesting businesses — here’s a quick round up of what’s new for 2014 and 10 things we think you should know before hitting the beach this spring:
1. A Bigger, better Myrtle Beach Boardwalk
What’s become one of the hottest spots in Myrtle Beach since opening in 2010, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk seems to be getting better and better every year.
As the season wound down in 2013, construction was completed on a project to extend the 1.2-mile promenade an extra block north.
This additional 425 feet means the boardwalk now stretches from 1st Avenue North all the way to 15th Avenue North, ending in front of Bandito’s Restaurant & Cantina, a large oceanfront spot known for its large patio, Mexican food, live music and gorgeous views.
And length isn’t the only thing that’s been added since last season.
Also new for 2014 is a new drink spot called Hurricane’s Daiquiri Bar & Grill, a casual restaurant on the back of Shark Attack mini golf called the Hammerhead Grill and the opening of more businesses in a small stretch of shops that includes 8th Avenue Tiki Bar, NY Pizza, Sweet Frog yogurt shop and 5-Star Internet Cafe.
With a huge new patio on the back of Sharkey’s Bar, a permanent stage in Plyler Park and slight tweaks to some of the other storefronts, nearly every business along the boardwalk has stepped up its game to give Myrtle Beach visitors a better experience as they stroll through downtown.
2. New additions at Broadway at the Beach?
Myrtle Beach’s most popular shopping/entertainment area, Broadway at the Beach, is set to reach new heights this year with a number of new additions when it comes to the amusement park-like rides offered there.
The complex’s Pavilion Nostalgia Park has added a new ride called the Rocket Flyer, a 180-foot tall tower which lifts and spins riders into the sky. Other new rides include the Speed XXL — a Skyscraper-like ride near the visitor’s center — the Freak-Out and the Giant Slide, a dry slide that stands 65 feet tall and is 180 feet long.
Other additions planned for the complex this year include, Rooster Bar & Grill, which will replace KISS Coffeehouse and open this summer, Vividells a women’s clothing and accessories shop, Designer Sunglasses eyewear shop, So Unique embroidery gift shop, Kryptonite Character Stores and Coastal Carolina Winery.
3. Beach tents bans
If you’re the type that likes to bring an entire beach house worth of stuff to the beach and set up under a huge canopy on the sand all day, it appears your days are numbered here in Myrtle Beach.
One of the hottest topics of discussion for locals this offseason has been the movement by a number of municipalities to ban beach tents along the Grand Strand’s sandy shores.
After much back and forth between officials in the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, these devices have been forbidden throughout the summer months and it appears that a county-wide ban will follow later this month.
And just to make sure they’re not discriminating against only tent users, the City of Myrtle Beach also recently passed an ordinance on beach chairs, awarding regulation of rented chairs to franchises, making it so that Myrtle Beach hotels can no longer offer free or rented chairs and umbrella to their guests.
4. New rides at Family Kingdom
After adding four new rides to its collection of more than 30 rides in 2013, Family Kingdom Amusement Park didn’t need to do more to draw in fans this spring.
However, when a number of the rides from the defunct Freestyle Music Park went on sale, park officials couldn’t resist the chance to pick up two slightly used rides from just a few miles across town.
Magic Bikes and Jump Around Dunebuggies, two interactive family rides that were just the right size to squeeze into Family Kingdom’s 13-acre park, were purchased this winter and installed in time for the park to open in April.
Visitors who missed a chance to check out this long-running amusement park last season will also want to check out the rides introduced in 2013 including the Twist ‘N’ Shout, a wild-mouse-style steel roller coaster, the Flight School kiddie airplanes, the Frog Hopper bouncy ride and the Kite Flyer, where riders lie down with feet dangling to create a flying sensation.
5. Myrtle Beach restaurants openings & closings
Just like every season along the Grand Strand, a number of Myrtle Beach restaurants have come and gone this offseason.
Though its tough to count all the casualties, among the closures were notable places such as Tommy Bahama’s at The Market Common, Gem City Pizza in downtown Myrtle Beach, Nibil’s Restaurant in Myrtle Beach, Smitty’s Pine Island Pub near Coastal Grand Mall.
Other restaurant closings included Backfinz in Murrells Inlet, Great American Steak & Buffet in Myrtle Beach, JD’s Steakhouse & Pasta in Pawley’s Island, Mama Rue’s Blues Garden in Pawleys Island, Fuego Mexican Grill & Cantina in Murrells Inlet, Explore Asian Bistro near Tanger Outlets on U.S. 501., and Donato’s Pizza in Garden City.
But never fear foodies, there’s a number of great new Myrtle Beach restaurants ready to step up serve you in 2014.
There are plenty of new additions worth checking out including options like Angus Steakhouse & Seafood, a cowboy-themed steakhouse filled with interesting decor and taxidermy, Co. Sushi, a popular Charleston sushi spot opening at The Market Common, and La Festa, an Italian restaurant which will take over the former Cagney’s Old Place building.
There’s also breakfast spots like Johnny D’s Waffles & Bakery, which moved into the former Nibil’s slot along Kings Highway and a number of other new concepts including Fire & Smoke Gastropub, Smokin’ Hot Grill & BBQ, Masala Zone international cuisine and Flaming Asian Bistro.
6. What’s on tap at Myrtle Beach bars
While we’re on the subject of food and beverages, it would be silly to neglect all the new Myrtle Beach bars that have cropped up for 2014.
In Myrtle Beach, places such as Atlas Tap House craft brew bar, Coastal Wine Boutique wine shop and tasting room, Hurricane’s Daiquiri Bar, the golf-themed Tee’d Off Bar & Grill and Ole Shillelagh sports bar (formerly Murphy’s Law) are all worth a try.
Around the Grand Strand you can check out spots like Crooked Floor Tavern across from the Murrells Inlet Marhswalk, Red Neck Yacht Club in Little River or Tee Box Tavern in Socastee.
Another interesting twist is that Myrtle Beach’s own New South Brewery, located on Campbell Street near downtown Myrtle Beach, can now serve pints of beer thanks to a tasting law passed last summer in South Carolina.
This means the popular attraction — named one of TripAdvisor’s top brewery tours in the U.S. in 2013 — can now host draft pours of its entire slate of brews every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in addition to offering tasting tours twice a week.
7. North Myrtle Beach adds sports, shopping
Sport tourism has become a major buzz term along the Grand Strand, and the newly-opened North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex is a great sign that the north end wants to be part of this trend.
The park has already hosted baseball and softball tournaments and the IQA Quidditch World Cup in its first month and has big plans to bring even more events to this state-of-the-art facility complete with a 27-acre lake, six baseball-softball fields, eight soccer-football-lacrosse fields, an amphitheater, three playgrounds, a one-acre dog park and picnic shelters.
With room for the 80-acre Champions Crossing shopping center nearby, this park and its surrounding area are sure to be a hub for North Myrtle Beach visitors in the years to come.
Also coming to North Myrtle Beach in 2014 is the Coastal North Town Center shopping center, located on U.S. 17 Business on the former Robber’s Roost golf course site.
The 368,000-square-foot shopping center, which is set to open this fall, will have between 30-40 businesses and will be home to the area’s first Publix Food Market and Hobby Lobby.
8. Wax Museum leads crop of new attractions
Among the new attractions expected to open this season is the Hollywood Wax Museum, located at the corner of U.S. 17 Bypass and 21st Avenue North where the NASCAR Cafe once stood.
While it’s not likely to will be ready this spring, officials have said construction is on track and the new Myrtle Beach attraction should open in early summer.
The wax museum, which also has locations in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Branson, Mo., and Hollywood, will feature between 80 and 100 wax figures of movie stars, athletes and other celebrities. (See more details here).
Other new attractions include the new “SWARM” exhibit at Ripley’s Aquarium, added exhibits at Encounters: UFO Experience, a new water park at Crown Reef Resort and a new ride at the Slingshot thrill ride in downtown Myrtle Beach.
9. More changes at the airport
The Myrtle Beach International Airport spent more than $118 million to complete its new 274,000-square-foot terminal over the past few years and since that facility opened last April, there has continued to be steady change to the landscape surrounding the area’s largest travel hub.
Work is ongoing on the first phase of a two-phase project to overhaul the airport’s parking areas and about 575 parking spaces will be added to the credit card lot this spring. The project, which will airport officials hope will be complete by Memorial Day, includes new sidewalks, entrances and exits along Harrelson Boulevard and will cost $2.1 million.
Also being built along Harrleson Boulevard — which was extended through to Kings Highway in 2012 — are a pair new beachwear stores and a liquor store that will stand at the intersection where the road meets Kings Highway and are scheduled to open this spring.
And if you happen to be a fan of the Whispering Pines Golf Club, which sits across from the airport, you’ll probably want to go ahead and play that while you can, as there’s talk that the City of Myrtle Beach — which owns the course — will likely close or change the course in the near future.
10. Construction projects to avoid
According to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Myrtle Beach is now one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S.
While this is surely a testament to how popular the area has become as a vacation destination, it’s also raised concerns for some about whether the area’s infrastructure can handle the growth.
Here’s a look at a few local construction projects you may want to be aware of this spring that serve as signs of the area’s continued growth:
• Back Gate Interchange: Anyone who’s visited Myrtle Beach over the past several years has likely run across the ongoing construction project where U.S. 17 Bypass meets S.C. 707 and Farrow Parkway.
This massive $120+ million project, which is designed to help alleviate congestion near the entrance of The Market Common area, has been under construction since 2011. While traffic tends to flow better through the area these days than it did this time last year, the real good news is that the entire interchange should be done by the end of the summer — it’s believed to be on track for an August 2014 completion.
• Restaurant Row: Those driving through the Restaurant Row area of town or heading to North Myrtle Beach via U.S. 17 may want to account for a few extra minutes to deal with traffic slowdowns near Lake Arrowhead Road (The Galleria Shopping Center) as contractors are still busy installing a 36-inch sewer main in the area. It’s expected to complete later this month, but the $2.9 million project to replace a 30-year-old line may tie things up for spring visitors.
• U.S. 501 Widening: Originally slated for summer 2013, crews are now working on widening U.S. 501 northbound to three lanes between Waccamaw Pines Road — where the Tanger Outlets are located — and Gardner Lacy Road in the Carolina Forest area. While the $4-5 million project is expected to alleviate traffic in one of the most congested exit corridors of the Grand Strand when complete, it has caused some significant back up for those wanting to leav etown at times this spring.
• North Myrtle Beach Outfall Project: Throughout the winter, crews have been working to install an 84-inch pipe in North Myrtle Beach that will connect to an ocean outfall structure being constructed underground in the heart of downtown NMB. The structure will begin at the “Horseshoe,” the area where Main Street and Ocean Boulevard meet, and travel about 1,200 feet offshore where stormwater collected from the stormwater basin will be released.
Work is currently winding down on the $9.5 million project, with construction on the land side set to be done by April 25, but you may want to avoid beachgoing in that area this spring as it will continue on the beach side through May.
New in 2013
In case you missed it…
Didn’t get a chance to make it to the beach last season? Here’s a look at some of the new Myrtle Beach attractions for 2013 that you may have missed (Click any listing for more info):
- Shark Attack Adventure Golf mini golf course
- I Love Sugar candy store
- Stage Left Theatre Company at The Market Common
- Encounters: UFO Experience alien exhibit
- North Myrtle Beach Museum historical museum
- Carolina Comedy Club at Broadway at the Beach
- Big Laughs Theatre comedic hypnosis show
- Sam Snead’s Oak Grill & Tavern restaurant in Carolina Forest
- Chuck & Duck’s sports bar at Broadway at the Beach
- The Wicked Tuna restaurant in Murrells Inlet
- Myrtle Manor gift shop and trailer park tour