Sweet iced tea by the pitcher, fried green tomatoes on many a menu, and a beachfront that runs for 60 miles. This isn’t Florida, my usual escape from winter.
While the sunshine state is the unofficial 11th province of Canada, I’m ready for somewhere with a different vibe and so I head down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, otherwise known as the Grand Strand. It seems that Myrtle loves their Canadians too. There is even a Can-Am Festival that coincides with March Break and celebrates Canucks with a variety of events where the Maple Leaf is proudly flying alongside the American red, white, and blue.
It was about 70-75 degrees on this trip—not warm enough to get in the ocean except for a few brave people
(yes those desperate souls are usually Canadians). But it was warm enough to remind this frozen Canadian that summer is around the corner.
The temperature was perfect for touring and walking along the beach. My balcony on the 16th floor of the brand new Anderson Ocean Club Resort faced the beautiful seashore and what a tranquil sight it was. I woke up in time to see the picturesque sunrise and watch the early morning walkers writing love notes in the hard packed sand.
The hotel has modern apartment-style suites with flat panel televisions and fully equipped kitchens. Mine sported black appliances and mahogany coloured cabinetry. The beds were super comfortable and the one bedroom unit could easily sleep 6 as the living room had both a double pullout couch and a neat Murphy bed in the wall. The bathroom meant more pampering, since when I saw the deep Jacuzzi tub I had to have a bath right away!
Later I checked out the pool area of the hotel. There were lots of options there—from an outdoor pool complete with hot tub and lazy river to a nice warm indoor pool with another hot tub. Just to get my fix of outdoor water time, I went into the hot tub one cool evening and the contrast of the hot water with the night air was very refreshing.
In the day, there was more than enough to do. Nearby Conway was celebrating Can-Am days in style. There were tours though the visitors centre given by volunteers who offered historic tales about the colourful characters who had lived there over the years.
Crafts such as glass blowing and a quilt display at the local museum added to the small town warmth. All events were free. The Trestle, a popular lunch spot was keeping the waitresses hoping as they rushed to bring specialty sandwiches and soups to hungry customers.
However, generally there is a totally different pace along the Grand Strand. When I visited a kitchen shop I listened to one of the saleswomen jokingly chastise the other one for rushing. That would never happen in TO, where I live.
But changes are on the horizon. The old fashioned side of Myrtle will now be vividly contrasted with the new; as several exciting developments are underway that are sure to attract a different type of baby boomer. Slated to open on June 2/08 is the Hard Rock Amusement Park., billed as the world’s first rock ‘n’ roll theme park.
The concept is great—the park is built around different musical “environs” with names such as “Lost in the 70’s” and British Invasion. This place will definitely appeal to those of us born between the 50’s and the 80’s— there is no doubt about it. But the designers have ingeniously included children’s areas in the all the environs so you don’t need to trek to a far off kiddyland for your kids to have a good time.
Concerts will take place in and around the park and the rides are also musically themed. There is a Led Zeppelin coaster for instance, that is timed to coincide with their mega hit “Whole Lotta Love.” How cool is that? It looked like so much fun that I wish that I had come in June, especially when I heard that the opening acts will be the Eagles and the Moody Blues.
If you love shopping as much as I do-you’ll be happy to know that in addition to some large outlet malls, there is a new complex of outdoor upscale shops, cafes and restaurants called Market Common. Rental apartment style units are on top of the stores making this an attractive place to stay.
Broadway on the Beach is one of South Carolina’s most popular hangouts and it is flourishing with anchor restaurants such as the Hard Rock Café and Key West Grill.
The pretty boardwalk that runs along a man-made lake leads to over 100 specialty shops, 20 restaurants and 15 attractions such as an IMAX 3D theatre, the impressive Ripley’s Aquarium and the Pavilion Nostalgia Park.
I soon figured out that Myrtle Beach will take many visits in order to do it justice. Happily I did have a chance to sip a margarita at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. That place was just plain fun. It’s colourful, on the water and jam packed with happy people-and the drinks are delicious.
So you’ve got plantations and fried green tomatoes for the old south feeling along with modern attractions for the kids, teens and big kids. I can’t wait to go back and spend some time trying it all out. The southern charm, cute y’alls and the mannerly men (I have never had so many men say ‘after you’ in an elevator or hold open doors) made this northern girl feel a bit more spoiled than usual.
And the brand new attractions and upscale shopping are there to satisfy my need to… well… shop constantly and party along side my kids. Myrtle Beach may very well become the 12th province.
If you visit:
Hard Rock Park: (843) 236-7625
Broadway at the Beach
Copyright 2008 by Neilia Sherman. Published April 4, 2008. All Rights Reserved.