Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tips for Packing Efficiently

The purpose of vacationing is to get away from the pressures of the daily routine in favor of relaxation and rejuvenation. If escaping from tension is the goal, why start your vacation with a stressful packing frenzy? In order to minimize the hassle of packing, follow these tips to make gathering the essentials and organizing your suitcase a breeze.

Make a packing list. Before you get to work, sit down and write a list of the necessities. Be sure to consider each item carefully; you want to avoid the vacation curse of overpacking. If you have to sit on your suitcase to zip it shut, throw your back out when you lift it, or dig elbow-deep to find what you need, you are causing yourself unnecessary inconvenience. Remember, this is a vacation and not a permanent move, so only the absolute essentials should make the list.

Conserve space. Don't pack several suitcases when one will do. Using space wisely allows you to fit everything you need without having to haul around several bags. Rather than folding your clothes, lay back the sleeves and roll them (this also prevents creasing). Stuff socks and underwear inside your shoes. Instead of bulky containers and bags, slide toiletries into Ziplocks, which will also prevent disaster in case of spills. Additionally, call ahead to your hotel and ask if they supply soap, shampoo, hair dryers, etc.- anything already provided means extra room and a lighter suitcase.

Think small. When reviewing each item on your list, try to think of a way to make it smaller. Shampoos and lotions can be purchased or poured into travel-sized bottles.  If you need medicine, place a few pills into Ziplock bags instead of bringing the whole container. A small bottle of wrinkle spray is lighter and more space efficient than an iron. Pick clothes that coordinate so that outfits can be mixed and matched instead of packing an outfit for each day. Be creative!

Minimize beach supplies. Rather than buying beach toys and boogie boards before you leave, consider purchasing them upon arrival. Local beachwear stores and Wal-Marts typically sell beach supplies for a cheap price and are more likely to have a wider selection. When you've finished your vacation, the beach toys probably won't be of any use at home. Consider giving them away before you leave. If you are bringing a beach cooler, let that double as an extra suitcase on the way down to make the car less crowded.

Above all, don't allow yourself to become overly anxious about forgetting something. Most everything you need can be purchased upon arrival. While you're organizing and planning ahead, remember to mark the Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center on your map! Once you get here, we'll provide you with all the discounted tickets and information you need to arrange your perfect vacation.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Your Guide to Grand Strand Beaches

When you come to the coast to spend your vacation days lying on the shore and splashing in the ocean, there is one thing you need to remember: all beaches are not created equal. Sure, they all have the same basic elements of sea, sand and sun, but each beach is famous for its own special reasons. Instead of heading straight for the closest stretch of coast, take a moment to learn about each area and discover which is the perfect fit for you.

Boasting 6 miles of sandy shores, North Myrtle Beach is home to Cherry Grove, Ocean Drive, Crescent Beach and Windy Hill. Spend your day soaking up the sun and digging for shells or let North Myrtle Beach Horseback riding take you for an excursion along the coast. However you choose to spend your beach day, be sure to take a time out and visit The Hippo, the largest inflatable waterslide in the world! Located between 1st and 2nd Avenues South, this three-story waterslide only charges $3 per ride or $20 for an all-day wrist band.

Myrtle Beach
If you want to be in the heart of the action, Myrtle Beach is the place to go. Not only can you enjoy beautiful beaches, but the famous new boardwalk is just a few steps away. Stretching from 14th Avenue North to 2nd Avenue North, the boardwalk is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions the whole family will love. It's the ideal place to people watch and make new friends! If you’re a surfer looking for a great place to catch a wave, make your way to Springmaid pier on the southern end of Ocean  Boulevard or to 64th Avenue North.

Myrtle Beach State Park:
Nestled among a sea-side forest, Myrtle Beach State Park offers an alternative to the bustling Grand Strand beaches. This isolated area also boasts nature trails, fishing areas, and classes to learn more about the area, wildlife, and ocean-life! Admission costs $3 for adults (16+)- children and seniors (65+) are free!

Surfside Beach

Known as the family beach of the Grand Strand, Surfside separates itself from the noise and bustle of Myrtle Beach without feeling isolated. This beautiful area is the perfect place to build sandcastles and boogie board with the kids. Bring a cooler to enjoy an oceanside picnic or sit on the balcony of the famous River City Café and munch on juicy burgers while taking in the panoramic view.
A locals’ secret and high school hang-out! Well south of the Myrtle Beach city limits, this area has fewer high-rise hotels and advertisements, giving it a small beach-town feel. Unlike some of the busier areas along the Grand Strand, parking is free! And fisherman should know- the Garden City Pier is a fishing hot spot.

Murrells Inlet
If a low-country atmosphere is what you seek, Murrells Inlet is your final destination. This area does not boast your typical sand-and-surf beach. Instead, you’ll find incredible views of the marshes and waterways as you walk along the famous boardwalk known as The Marshwalk. Don’t forget your gear, as this area offers excellent fishing. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a kayak and explore the area, looking for wildlife and little islands just offshore. At the end of your adventure, take advantage of one of the dozens of nearby restaurants- after all, Murrells Inlet is the Seafood Capital of the Coast!

For beautifully preserved beaches, nature exploration and a touch of history, visit Huntington Beach State Park. Once you’ve gotten your fill of the ocean, there are dozens of areas for you to explore. Look for alligators in the park’s fresh water lagoons and salt marshes, journey down the coastline on the 26 mile bike trail, or take a tour of the Spanish-styled Atalaya Castle, former winter home of local arts pioneer Anna Hyatt Huntington. Huntington Beach State Park charges an entry fee of $5 for adults (13+) and $3 for children (6-12).

Once you’ve selected your perfect beach, click here to learn about parking in each of these areas. As you’re heading into town, remember to stop at the Official MyrtleBeach Welcome Center in Aynor, South Carolina for additional area information and to purchase discounted tickets to area attractions!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Premier Partner Highlight: The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel

While vacationing in Myrtle Beach this summer, be sure to visit the new boardwalk. While strolling along, enjoying the sea breeze and eclectic shops, you'll notice a dramatic change to the city skyline- a ferris wheel rising 187 feet above the Atlantic.

The SkyWheel has quickly become one of the most popular attractions on the Grand Strand since its opening in May 2011. Renowned as the largest observation wheel in the United States, it offers visitors the opportunity to soar to new heights and experience Myrtle Beach as never before!
To begin their adventure, groups of 2 to 6 (don't worry- smaller groups will not be expected to combine with strangers) board one of the SkyWheel's 42 climate-controlled gondolas. Each gondola is completely enclosed with non-reflective and UV protected glass, making guests feel comfortable and safe while also giving a 360 degree, unobstructed view. The glass is also camera friendly so riders can capture their experience in clear pictures.

As the attendants load each gondola, guests slowly climb higher and higher until they reach the spine-tingling maximum height. Once at the top, they thrill at sweeping views of the city and beaches along the Grand Strand- a sight that, until recently, only the birds could enjoy! The SkyWheel makes 3 complete revolutions, allowing riders 10-12 minutes to take in the panoramic landscape and snap pictures to their hearts' content.

The SkyWheel also features 1 VIP Gondola that takes the flight experience to a whole new level. VIP guests skip the line and are ushered into a specialty compartment with leather seats and, the best part, a glass-bottomed floor (not for the faint of heart)! The ride is twice as long, completing six revolutions. At the end, the VIP riders are given souvenir SkyWheel t-shirts and lanyards.

This over-the-top ferris wheel even has a special feature for passersby to enjoy! Each night, the SkyWheel illuminates the coastline with a show generated by their state-of-the-art computer system. Over 1 million LED lights set into the side of the wheel swirl in a rainbow of colors and designs.This presents the ideal backdrop for an iconic Myrtle Beach vacation picture!
No Myrtle Beach vacation is complete without this once-in-a-lifetime experience! For additional attraction information and discounted tickets, stop by the Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center in Aynor, South Carolina.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why It's Time to Give Your Brain a Vacation

In the past several years, trends have shown that less than half of Americans go on vacation.Why? Some feel they would be unable to get away from work while others fear the workload that would be waiting on their desk when they return. Many say they simply can't afford it. But with the research and studies that have been showing up in the media lately, the better question to ask yourself might be "Can I afford not to?"

A recent article written by Karen Leland of the Huffington Post, entitled How Vacations Help the Brain asserts that vacations are a necessity for mental health. She explains that breaks are necessary in order for our brain to perform at its highest capacity because stress hormones cause the deterioration of higher brain function. On the other hand, activity in the intelligence centers of the brain increases after experiencing extended periods of rest.

So how does all of this scientific jargon apply to our lives? CNN Health's article Why Your Brain Needs Vacations by Elizabeth Landau has the answer. Landau contends that taking a vacation actually makes us better employees! The break allows your brain to relax and revitalize so that you can return to your job enthusiastic and ready to conquer problems. She also explains that by detaching yourself from the mundane tasks of everyday life, you can gain a new perspective on your job that will enable you to become a better worker. Her suggestion to the American public is that "when you go on these vacations and experience the feeling...of being mindfully involved in your own life, [you will] find a way to bring that back to [your] workday."

The reward of vacationing is much higher than the cost. This year, allow your brain to have the much needed rest it craves. The Grand Strand is the perfect place to unwind and the Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center can give you all the information and discounts you need for a relaxing vacation.Your brain will thank you...and your boss will, too!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Best Shopping in Myrtle Beach

Attention shoppers! If you're searching for the latest in fashion and great deals, look no further! Myrtle Beach is home to dozens of the best shopping venues in South Carolina. From malls and outlets to boutiques and flea markets, you're sure to find the perfect shopping oasis. Sit back, relax and allow us to guide you to the best retail therapy the Grand Strand has to offer.

1.) The Tanger Outlets are a Myrtle Beach shopping hot-spot. Because of their popularity, they have two separate Myrtle Beach locations. Tanger Outlets North is set just off of Bypass 17 while Tanger Outlets South is located on Highway 501. They may share the same name, but each outlet center carries its own unique set of vendors so be sure to visit them both! Each location is famous for over-the-top sales and discounts.

Coastal Grand Mall
2.) Myrtle Beach is home to the second largest shopping mall in South Carolina: the Coastal Grand. Built in 2004, this mall houses over 170 stores including Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, American Eagle, Brookstone and Abercrombie & Fitch. Their anchor stores include Dillard, JC Penney, Belk and Sears. In addition to the mall food courts, you'll find dozens of restaurants just outside the shopping complex.

3.) Settled around a picturesque 23 acre lake, Broadway at the Beach is home to dozens of unique shops that showcase local culture and  arts- a great place for vacation souvenirs! After a long day of shopping, be sure to dine at one of their many delectable restaurants, including Jimmy Buffet's Margartiaville, Liberty Steakhouse, and Yamatos.

4.) The largest open air flea market on the Grand Strand is located in Surfside Beach. At Hudson's Surfside Flea Market, you'll find 70,000 square feet filled with 400 vendor tables to browse. Their wide variety of commodities include purses, jewelry, kitchenwares, sunglasses, cell phone accessories and much more. Locals have named it the best flea market on the beach, and we're sure you'll love it as much as we do!

The Market Common

5.) The Market Common in Myrtle Beach feels like its own little town with quaint shops, town homes, a movie theater, restaurants, parks, and even a grocery store. Popular vendors include Barnes & Noble, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Anthropologie and White House Black Market. The Market Common is the perfect shopping retreat for a beautiful day!

6.) Beat the heat by shopping at the indoor, climate controlled Myrtle Beach Flea Market. Boasting some of the lowest prices on the Grand Strand, this 80,000 square foot market features discount name brand shoes, golf clubs, jewelry, airbrush artists, beachwear, antiques and more. With their large number of varied vendors, this is shopping the whole family will enjoy!

7.) If you're heading to the North Myrtle Beach area, be sure to shop at Barefoot Landing. Over 100 specialty shops line their boardwalk, featuring regional apparel, shoe, jewelry, and gift boutiques. You'll work up a good appetite with all that shopping- make sure to eat at the Flying Fish, Johnny Rockets, House of Blues, or one of their other spectacular restaurants.

8.) The Hammock Shops are your stop for true Southern charm and low-country art. Founded in 1938 and set in a blooming park with moss-draped oaks, 20 shops feature the best of local craftmanship- including the famous Pawleys's Island rope hammock.

When you're packing to head to the Grand Strand, remember leave room for the souvenirs and great shopping finds that will be filling your suitcase on the return trip! Be sure to stop by the Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center for additional area information and discounts. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Family Road Trip Games

As you back out of the driveway to hit the road toward your vacation destination, your kids are energized with excitement and anticipation- for about 20 minutes. Before you know it, the complaining begins. “Are we there yet?” “I’m SO bored.” “How much longer?” But fear not, harried parents! We’ve compiled a list of road trip games that will keep your kids entertained, thereby helping you maintain your sanity.
License Plate Search: The classic family road trip competition! The object of the game is to find a license plate from every state. The player who gets the most states wins!  Download a great plate checklist here.

Fortunately, Unfortunately: In some families, it’s better to avoid competition to keep the peace. Try a silly game! “Fortunately, Unfortunately” is a great way to get everybody laughing. One person starts off with a Fortunately phrase (ie. “Fortunately, mom packed us a lot of snacks!”). The next person has to counter with an Unfortunately phrase (ie. “Unfortunately, Timmy ate them all while you weren’t looking…"). Continue building the story.

Word Searches and Word Scrambles: Desperate for some quiet time? Pull out the word games! They provide hours of entertainment and a little bit of brain stimulation. Hundreds of games are available in stores and on the web, but we found our favorites here.

Who Can Find It?: This game puts a fun twist on the classic “I Spy.” The person who is “it” thinks of a random person or object, not something they currently see (ie. a woman with a blue skirt or a green mini-van). The first person to locate the subject is the winner and thinks of the next item.

Draw and Fold: Unleash your hidden artistic talents! Holding a piece of paper vertically, fold it into fourths. The first person to take a turn will draw a head and shoulders in the top box. When finished, fold the paper back to hide the drawing and pass it to the next person. Artist #2 will draw the chest and upper arms, fold it, and pass it to the next person. Artist #3 draws the waist, hands and upper legs. Artist #4 draws the lower legs and feet. Finally, unfold the paper to see the crazy creation. Be imaginative! Originality makes for hilarious drawings. Find a template here.

Window Drawing: Before you head out, grab some window markers from your local craft store (be sure they’re the washable kind!). These specialty pens provide hours of entertainment. Play hangman and tic-tac-toe or draw a silly picture for passing cars to enjoy. Don’t forget to bring a cotton cloth to use as an eraser.

ABC Memory: Another tried-and-true classic. The first person begins by saying, “I’m going to Myrtle Beach and I’m bringing an alligator” (or anything that starts with the letter A). The next person repeats the first person’s statement but adds an item beginning with the letter B: “I’m going to Myrtle Beach and I’m bringing an alligator and a boogie-board.” Keep taking turns. If someone can’t remember one of the letters, they’re out! See if you can get all the way to the letter Z.

 20 Questions: This game has been entertaining families for years. Player 1 thinks of a noun (animal, person, object- anything!). The other players ask up to 20 questions that will give them clues as to what noun the player is thinking of. Player 1 is only allowed to respond with "yes", "no" or "sometimes." If no one has guessed the object after 20 questions, Player 1 is the winner! Otherwise, the person who guesses correctly takes a turn coming up with a new noun.
Remember, the joy is in the journey, not just in the destination. Look at the long drive as an opportunity to spend quality time with your family. These bonding moments are the ones you’ll treasure forever. But, when that moment does come that you need a break from the car, be sure to visit The Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center in Aynor. You’ll find clean bathrooms, snacks, and all the Myrtle Beach information you’ll need to create the perfect family vacation!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Avoiding Myrtle Beach Traffic

Each year, nearly 15 million visitors from across the country flock to the beautiful beaches of the Grand Strand. With such a high volume of tourists coming in, traffic gets heavy.  We know it’s frustrating to be stuck in a jam. You’ve been driving for hours, anxious to start your vacation! Although traffic coming into Myrtle Beach is difficult to avoid, we have a few tips to make your trip a little easier.

1.) If you're coming from the north on I-95, downtown Florence is a high congestion area that we recommend bypassing. As an alternative, get on 38 at exit 181B, just a few miles past South of the Border. 38 will eventually become 501. Click here for a map.

2.) For those traveling from the south on I-95, go beyond Florence to exit 170. This will put you on North Willston Road (Hwy 327). Follow this road to East Palmetto Street (note: this stretch of road is also highways 301 and 76), which turns into 501 after Marion. To see a map, click here.

3.) If you're heading to south Myrtle Beach or Surfside, avoid taking 501 all the way into Myrtle Beach (it’s the best known route and therefore subject to traffic jams). Instead, take 501 to Hwy 544 and you’ll be cruising to the coast! Click here for a map.

4.) Carolina Bays Parkway (Hwy 31), running from North Myrtle Beach to Surfside, offers another way to avoid 501 congestion. Just after Aynor, take the Conway Bypass (also known as 22 or Veterans Hwy) to Carolina Bays Parkway. You can then ride Carolina Bays all the way to Grissom Parkway or to 544 depending on your final destination. To see a map, click here.

5.) If you're traveling on 501, elude some heavy traffic by taking El Bethel Road in Conway. Next, make a left on 378, which leads you back around to 501 South. Using this route, you will completely bypass busy downtown Conway. Click here for a map.

6.) For those of you traveling from or through Charlotte, be sure to avoid the Monroe area. Take I-485 to Hwy 218 East to save some time. (For full directions from Charlotte, click here. For a map, click here.)

7.) A brand new road,  Harrelson Blvd, was recently built in Myrtle Beach to assist with airport traffic. Harrelson acts as a fast connection between Bypass 17 and Business 17- a great alternative to 501 or 544. Be sure to take advantage of this quick route! Click here to view a map.

8.) The two main roads in Myrtle Beach include Business 17 and Bypass 17, both of which have heavy traffic in the summertime. When driving through central Myrtle Beach we reccommend taking Grissom Parkway instead. Grissom runs from 62nd Avenue North to Harrelson Boulevard (near the airport). You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration. Click here for a map.

These simple tips will help you have a smooth trip, avoiding the worst of the beach traffic. We do, however, have one final piece of advice. When you reach Aynor, remember to take a break and stretch your legs at The Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center. After providing you with additional driving tips, area information and discounted tickets we’ll send you back on the road ready for your perfect beach vacation!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Days and Giveaways

The Official Myrtle Beach Welcome Center is giving vacationers the chance to win amazing Weekly, Monthly and Grand Prize Giveaways this summer season!

Conveniently located off Highway 501 in Aynor, South Carolina, stop in for a chance 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 June's Winners!

Weekly Winners:

Ms. Williams, Calabash, NC
Mr. & Mrs. Chriscoe, Rockingham, NC
Mr. & Mrs. Morrison, Goldsboro, NC
Ms. Robertson, Piedmont, SC

Monthly Winner:

R. Howard and T. Leseaur, Fayetteville, NC