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Grand Strand a family vacation favorite

Posted August 4, 2008

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— Myrtle Beach has long been synonymous with the family vacation. Whether a frequent “Myrtle Beacher” or a first timer, you may be surprised at what you’ll encounter. Old favorites continue to evolve, and new amusements await.

There are more than 100 beautifully designed golf courses and more than 50 miniature golf courses in the area.

Golfers can play a picturesque oceanfront round or be surrounded by moss-draped oaks, among other landscapes. Elite courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones and Greg Norman are here, and the majority of the area’s courses are public.

Mini-golf aficionados can find a high seas adventure pirate-style, coming face to face with lava-gushing volcanoes or pick from numerous miniature golf themes.

Another consideration is Brookgreen Gardens, opened in 1931 as America’s first public sculpture garden. Brookgreen has the greatest number of sculptures by American artists.

Changing seasons paint fresh faces on more than 50 acres of flora. You may spot something different in the collection of 1,200-plus works of art. Historic and Lowcountry trails, creek excursions and wildlife encounters are other ways to soak in Brookgreen’s beauty.

Huntington State Park offers tours of the remains of Atalaya, the winter home built between 1930 and 1933 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, founders and designers of Brookgreen Gardens.

Evening entertainment in the Grand Strand area has long been a visitor highlight. Theaters like Carolina Opry and the Palace Theatre use creative and ever-changing shows to keep audiences coming back.

The Carolina Opry showcases the impressive dance group “All That”, finalists on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”, among other performers. The Palace Theatre, located at Broadway at the Beach, features “Le Grande Cirque,” where 50 world-renowned acrobats dazzle your visual senses.

Broadway at the Beach offers a boardwalk threading through the Caribbean, historic Charleston and even a New England fishing village.

Along the way, explore more than 100 specialty shops like Yankee Candle, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Harley Davidson and Loose Lucy’s.

Broadway attractions include MagiQuest, an interactive medieval adventure game for the whole family. Armed with your wand, you complete various quests. Best of all, if you don’t finish, the wand “remembers” where you stopped and when you return, you can resume your MagiQuest game.

An abundance of restaurants provide anything from Caribbean-inspired fare at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and Key West Grill to other international favorites like Yamato Steakhouse of Japan and Blarney Stone’s Pub and Cigar Bar.

A new twist at Broadway is Pavilion Nostalgia Park, which pays homage to the original Pavilion Amusement Park that entertained the Myrtle Beach masses for more than 50 years.

The park features classics like the famous Herschell-Spillman Carousel, teacup rides, pirate rides and the Dune Buggy. You can play midway games, eat carnival food and visit the Pavilion Museum.

Just as Nostalgia Park celebrates the past, a new Myrtle Beach theme park takes you through past and present genres of music – Hard Rock style. Hard Rock Park, which opened in May, is the world’s first rock-and-roll theme park.

The 140-acre park features different areas that represent varied genres of music, such as “Cool Country," “British Invasion,” “Born in the USA” and others. Each area features dining options, shopping spots, and of course a fun ride or two. The crown jewel of Hard Rock Park, however, just may be the 155-foot coaster, “Led Zeppelin – the Ride.”

Hard Rock is designed for families to stay together the entire time – no separate kiddy sections here. Each environment offers something for every age group.

If getting wild and crazy at the Hard Rock Park isn’t your thing, you might consider T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station, one of Myrtle Beach’s best-kept secrets. You can take part in a hands-on wildlife encounter: Petting tiger cubs, hamming for the camera with an orangutan and posing with a 900-pound tiger are just a few highlights.

You’ll come away with a heightened sense of awe for these animals and a better knowledge of how to help protect endangered species and conserve our resources. You can take part in a hands-on wildlife encounter.

Ten miles south of Myrtle Beach is the quaint fishing village of Murrells Inlet, a favorite local hangout. A 2,000-foot marsh walk provides a serene look at inlet inhabitants like egrets, waterfowl, crabs and herons. There are also antique shops and fresh local seafood.

Another 10 miles to the south is Pawley’s Island, where you can meander through more than 20 specialty shops and restaurants amid a pastoral village setting of Lowcountry cottages.

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