Everyone can be a kid again in Myrtle Beach, where there are dozens of attractions geared toward the entire family. Best of all, local attractions know to compete with the free admission of the Atlantic Ocean, the price must be right for families on a budget. To get the maximum bang (or splash) for your buck, shop around for the best deals to the places that will interest everyone in your party. For instance, for those looking for aquatic fun, Myrtle Waves is wonderful water park for both the kids looking to ride some thrilling slides and rides and adults wanting to take a ride in the slow lane of the lazy river and wave pool. Make a day of it and rent a cabana where the family can take a break and gather for a picnic lunch. For families who prefer to take a break from the heat in an air-conditioned setting, Ripley's Aquarium is Myrtle Beach's most popular attraction, and for good reason. Visitors can tour the 85,000 square-foot facility for an up-close experience with various species of sharks, turtles, crabs, stingrays and all sorts of sea life. Located in the Broadway at the Beach complex, it's a great place for families to take a timeout from shopping and dining to get a good look at the mysteries that lie under the ocean. Regardless of what your family is looking for, you're sure to find it in Myrtle Beach.
9 Brookgreen Gardens
The beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry is in full bloom at Brookgreen Gardens, a 9,100-acre property located about 15 miles south of Myrtle Beach. Visitors can stroll through the many sculptures, fountains and flowers and take a break in the shade of giant live oak tres that pre-date the U.S. Constitution. This former rice plantation also features boat rides through the marshes and a zoo featuring alligators, birds and other creatures native to South Carolina. (843-235-6000, 800-849-1931)
8 Sea Thunder
This is a two and a half hour trip that should suit the whole family. It starts out as a leisurely ride on the scenic Intracoastal Waterway, where passengers see some of the native wildlife. Then things get really interesting as the boat, which has an engine with three times as much horsepower as a NASCAR Winston Cup car, roars out into the ocean for a top-speed tour of the coastline. (843-280-8400)
7 Captain Dick's
Boat rentals, jet ski and wave runner rentals, parasailing, saltwater marsh explorer adventures, cruisin' the beach trips, ocean sightseeing cruises, pirate adventure voyages, marina and bottom fishing, gamefish trolling and charter fishing available. Prices, dates and times vary, so call ahead for details. Reservations are recommended. (843-651-3676, 866-557-3474)
6 Myrtle Beach Boardwalk & Promenade
The downtown district has been revitalized by this new attraction, highlighted by the 190-foot SkyWheel that lights up the Myrtle Beach skyline. The largest ferris wheel on the East Coast offers scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the entire Grand Strand, but it's the area right around the SkyWheel that shines the most. A 1.2-mile wooden walkway spans the beachfront on one side and open-air cafes and shops on the other. Left abandoned when the Pavilion closed in 2006, the downtown area is back and better than ever thanks to the new Boardwalk. (843-916-2000)
5 Blue Wave Adventures
Dolphin watching, sightseeing and wildlife cruises are offered by this Murrell's Inlet company. Blue Wave's boat is the only one of its type on the East Coast � a 30 foot RAIV (Rigid Aluminum Inflatable Vessel). Call for exact dates and times. (843-651-3676)
4 Wild Water — Water and Race Theme Park
Wild Water & Wheels is home to thousands of thrills for kids of all ages - even the grown-up ones. With 16 acres featuring water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, an arcade, mini-golf, and go-cart racing. Open May through September, but daily hours can vary. (843-238-9453)
3 Family Kingdom
Two attractions in one. The amuseument park has the largest Ferris Wheel in the state, plus about 30 other fun rides. Appealing for the whole family. The water park is right on the beach and features several flumes, slides and wave pools. The amusement park is open March-September, but daily hours vary so call ahead. The water park is open from Memorial Day-Labor Day daily 10am-6pm. (843-626-3447, 843-916-0400)
2 Myrtle Waves Water Park
Cool off from the summer heat at South Carolina's largest water park, featuring more than 30 rides and water slides for the whole family. This 20-acre park features towering, twisting water slides, a massive wave pool and a children's aquatic playground that are sure to bring smiles to faces looking for some fun in the sun. (843-918-8725, 877-699-9200)
1 Ripley's Aquarium Myrtle Beach
Located within Broadway at the Beach, this aquarium houses thousands of unusual and colorful marine animals. The highlight of a visit here will be a ride on the moving sidewalk, which travels through a glass-enclosed tunnel inside the massive 750,000 gallon shark tank. Other fun exhibits include Rainbow Rock, which is home to thousands of beautiful fish from the Pacific, and the interactive Sea-For-Yourself Discovery Center. If you plan on visiting any of Ripley's other nearby attractions, purchase a combo ticket and save 10-15%. (843-916-0888, 800-734-8888)
About Terry Massey
It's no surprise that journalist Terry Massey is credited with creating the word 'stay-cation.' He considers the past 18 years in Myrtle Beach a vacation.
He and his wife Stephanie were honeymooning in Myrtle Beach, when Terry was offered a job at the local newspaper. Without hesitation, they packed a U-Haul with their belongings - including unopened wedding gifts - and moved to the beach. They now have a daughter, Riley, a golden retriever, Duff, and their roots are deeply grounded in the sand.
After 13 years at the newspaper, Terry became a freelance writer to cover all the things that brought him to the beach.
Read more about Terry Massey here.
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