Friday, September 28, 2012

Living History: Plantation Tours in South Carolina

While we're famous for our coastline, South Carolina offers so much more than just beautiful beaches! We have a dramatic history that spans through centuries and played a major role in America's biggest moments.  When you visit the area, you have the opportunity to step back in time and experience what South Carolina was like hundreds of years ago.  The state has dozens of Plantations that are open to the public for tour and many of them are within a 2 hour drive of Myrtle Beach!  Here are a few of our favorites:

Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet

Hundreds of years ago, what is now Brookgreen Gardens was divided into 4 rice plantations known as The Oaks, Springfield, Laurel Hill and Brookgreen (owned by the largest American slaveholder).  While little remains of these plantations, a few relics have survived the passage of time including the Alston family cemetery.  Governor Joseph Alston was the proprietor of The Oaks Plantation with his wife, Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr.  Gov. Alston and his child are buried here with a memorial to Theodosia, who was lost at sea and reportedly haunts the Grand Strand looking for her father.  While strolling along the trail, you'll also see the former sight of the plantation house, the slave village and the foundation of the spring house.  One of the Laurel Hill rice mills also remains.  The rest of the property was transformed by the Huntington's into America's first public sculpture garden during the early 1930s.  Visitors enjoy beautiful moss-draped oaks in perfectly manicured gardens, elegant sculptures, a small zoo, butterfly house and even boat tours on the Waccamaw River.

Hopsewee Plantation in Georgetown

Built several decades before the Revolutionary War, Hopsewee Plantation was owned by Thomas Lynch, Sr. and his wife, Elizabeth Alston of Brookgreen Plantation.  This prominent family played a large role in the history of the United States.  James Lynch, Sr worked with Benjamin Franklin as an adviser to General Washington while his son, Thomas Lynch, Jr., was the 52nd signer of the Declaration of Independence.  The house, decorated with 18th and 19th century style furnishings, sits on the Santee River surrounded by incredible low-country scenery and has been preserved rather than restored. Visitors can take a guided tour of the house, walk along the many nature trails, participate in a sweetgrass basket weaving class and experience an English style tea service with Southern influence at the River Oak Cottage.

Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant

Dating back to the late 1600s, Boone Hall prides itself on being one of the oldest working plantations in the United States and has been featured in films such as North and South and The Notebook.  The property is named for its first proprietor, John Boone, one of the first settlers of the Colony.  The entrance to the plantation will take your breath away as you drive down the famous Avenue of Oaks, which was planted from 1743 - 1843 and spans almost a mile.  While the plantation's original house has been lost, the property boasts a Colonial Revival plantation house that was built in the 1930s.  The grounds also feature 9 original slave cabins dating back to around 1800, a cotton gin house dating back to 1853 and a smoke house from 1750.  Though no longer growing cotton, Boone Hall produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and offers U-Pick fields (in season) to their guests. Visitors can also take a tour of the Plantation House and Slave Quarters by guides in period clothing, coach tours, garden tours and enjoy the butterfly pavilion. 

Drayton Hall in Charleston

Drayton Hall, built in 1738 and owned by 7 generations of the Drayton family, is a living piece of history.  The original Plantation House has been meticulously preserved to bring visitors a most accurate depiction of life in18th and 19th century America.  The house has withstood the American Revolution, in which it was used as a staging ground for both Colonial and British troops, the Civil War, the great Charleston earthquake of 1886 and many hurricanes!  Visitors take a guided tour of the Plantation house, learn about the Drayton family and their slaves (the Bowens), explore the grounds and visit the nation's oldest documented African-American cemetery that is still in use today.

Magnolia Plantation in Charleston

Magnolia Plantation was founded in the 1670s by the Drayton family.  This beautiful property is famous as the oldest public gardens in America, having opened for tours in the 1870s.  Areas of the garden date back 325 years and visitors enjoy gorgeous camellias, daffodils, azaleas and dozens of other species.  The current plantation home is the third to grace the site since it was founded. The core of the structure dates back to the pre-revolutionary war and guided tours of the home, which feature Drayton family heirlooms and artifacts, depict what life was like hundreds of years ago.  Guests can also tour slave quarters that date back to the 1850s, take a tram tour of the property, enjoy a boat tour along the Ashley River and visit the small zoo that features wildlife native to the area.

To learn more about these incredible plantations and the many others South Carolina has to offer, click here. And remember to stop at the Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center to receive additional area information and discounts on hotel stays and other Grand Strand attractions!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Summer Days and Giveaways

This season, The Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center is offering visitors the chance to win amazing WeeklyMonthly and Grand Prize Giveaways!

Conveniently located off Highway 501 in Aynor, South Carolina, stop in and register to win...

Weekly Giveaway: 3 Day, 2 Night Mini-Vacation in Beautiful Myrtle Beach
Monthly Giveaway: 50” Flat Screen TV

Grand-Prize Giveaway: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee –Drawn November 2012

Congratulations to our September Winners!

Ms. Rowe, winner of the 50" flat screen TV

Weekly Winners:

Mr. & Mrs. Chapman, Medina, OH
Mr. & Mrs. Perry, Lexington, OH
Mr. & Mrs. Shamblin, Front Royal, VA
Mr. & Mrs. Lewis, Richmond, VA

Monthly Winner:
Ms. Rowe from Farmland, OH

Friday, September 21, 2012

Premier Partner Highlight: Rioz

One of the many delights of being on vacation is eating out instead of spending hours in the kitchen. For just this reason, Myrtle Beach has hundreds of amazing restaurants to keep your stomachs full and happy.  But there's one restaurant that will get you fuller than any other while providing a dining atmosphere unlike any you've ever experienced: Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse!

When you step into the restaurant, you'll find yourself in a beautiful dining area with rich, dark woods accentuated with a warm red and gold color scheme. The lights are kept on a low-lit setting, creating a homey and inviting atmosphere that's ideal for a romantic date or a big family gathering.

Once you're seated, your server will get your drink and direct you to the salad bar - which is so much more than just salad! While you do have a wide array of your favorite lettuces and toppings to make your perfect salad, you'll also find many other delectable offerings including shrimp, fresh sushi, black beans and rice. And this is only the beginning...

Once you return to your table with your salad bar plate piled high, the real feast begins! Servers, called Gauchos, bring large skewers of meat to be cut right at your table. You'll feast on 15 different meats slow-cooked over hot coals including beef, chicken, pork and lamb.  Each cut brings its own special flavors, whether it's seasoned with parmesan, sea salt, garlic or even wrapped in bacon!  To be sure you're being served exactly what you want, you'll receive a coaster that has a red and a green side.  When flipped to green, the Gauchos will provide you with a cut of their meat.  When red, they will pass you by.  As if all of this weren't enough, they will also continue to provide your table with their famous fresh grilled pineapple, cheese bread, fried bananas, polenta and mashed potatoes. (Note: Rioz also provides a salad bar only option.)

While it's going to be difficult, be sure to save room for dessert! Rioz has a wide variety of divine choices such as Brazilian flan, turtle cheesecake, creme brule, white & dark chocolate mousse cake, papaya cream and more.

Finally, we can't forget about the offerings from the bar.  Enjoy your favorite cocktail, imported beers or try a specialty Brazilian drink, including Brazil's national cocktail called Caipirinha or refreshing Brazilian Lemonade.

Rioz is sure to provide you with a dining experience you'll always remember! On your drive in, remember to stop by the Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center to receive additional information and Rioz coupons!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tips for Saving Money on Vacation Part II: Driving

With the prices of airfare climbing and the additions of extra fees, many people can't afford to fly their entire family to a vacation destination. So what's the alternative? A road trip! This is a great option for families who live within a day's drive of Myrtle Beach, but it also presents some cost concerns of its own. We have a few tips that can help get you on vacation and save a few dollars in the process!

What's one of the biggest expenses with driving? Gas. While we can't do anything to change the prices, we can help you get a little more bang for your buck. Here's what to do:

1.) Take it easy on your car! It's best to avoid accelerating and decelerating too quickly. If you keep some distance from the car ahead of you, you won't have to hit the brakes too often, thereby losing inertia. This may seem too insignificant to make a difference, but you'd be surprised; this simple trick can help increase fuel efficiency by 10% - 30%! If you have an iPhone or Android, the My MPG app can help you know when you're wasting gas.

2.) While we're all eager to arrive at our vacation destination, remember that slow and steady wins the race. 55 mph is going to be your sweet spot. For every 5 mph you drive over 55, you lose an additional 10% fuel efficiency.

3.) Be sure to use your GPS or map out your route before you hit the road. The shortest route won't necessarily be the most fuel efficient if you're going to hit stop-and-go traffic. And getting lost certainly won't save you any gas dollars, either. AAA has a great online Travel Planner you'll want to take advantage of- it will even let you know how to avoid construction delays!

4.) Lose that extra weight! The temptation to over-pack is strong, but try to resist. The heavier your car is, the more gas you're going to burn. And while we're on the subject of suitcases, try to use your trunk as opposed to the luggage rack. This will help reduce the drag on your car and increase fuel efficiency.

5.) When you see a gas station with low prices, go ahead and fill up, even if you're tank is still half full. On the other hand, if you're almost out of gas and surrounded by stations with high prices, fill up just enough to get you to a cheaper place.  Many truck stop chains (i.e. Flying J, Travel Centers of America and Loves) tend to have lower prices. If you have a Sam's or Costco membership, be sure to take advantage of those gas discounts. And once again for you lucky iPhone and Android owners, there's an app to help you out here, too!  The GasBuddy app directs you to the area's lowest prices by entering in the city or zipcode.

6.) If you own more than one vehicle, drive the one that gets better gas mileage if possible. It may not have as much leg room, but your wallet will be a lot happier!

Now that you're armed with advice and tips, let the road trip begin! To save a little extra money, be sure to stop by the Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center on your way into town for discounts on attraction tickets and hotel stays. Stay tuned for more tips on great vacation savings!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Summer Days and Giveaways

This season, The Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center is offering visitors the chance to win amazing WeeklyMonthly and Grand Prize Giveaways!

Conveniently located off Highway 501 in Aynor, South Carolina, stop in and register to win...

Weekly Giveaway: 3 Day, 2 Night Mini-Vacation in Beautiful Myrtle Beach
Monthly Giveaway: 50” Flat Screen TV

Grand-Prize Giveaway: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee –Drawn November 2012

Congratulations to our August Winners!

Mr. & Mrs. Wright, winners of the 50" Flat Screen TV,
with their beautiful granddaughter.

Weekly Winners:

Mr. & Mrs. Neal, Rochester, NY
Mr. & Mrs. Mouser, Lexington, SC
Mr. & Mrs. Garrett, Grovetown, GA
Mr. & Mrs. Spillman, Lucasville, OH
Mr. & Mrs. Ward, Piketon, OH

Monthly Winner:
Mr. & Mrs. Wright, Gaffney, SC