Winter Is the Season to Explore Myrtle Beach with Fewer Visitors
Discover enchanting gardens, oceanfront dining, and Saturday night shag dancing on the Grand Strand.
The Grand Strand is a stretch of beach that travels for 60 miles, from Georgetown, South Carolina, up to the North Carolina border. The constants here are beautiful white sand beaches, all-you-can-eat buffets, and Myrtle Beach’s cultural, culinary, and natural gems. This is where beach music originated, and the old-school clubs along Main Street still cut a rug to “Under the Boardwalk.” There’s a thriving community of locals here, running independent shops and restaurants, and it turns out that this town is best in winter, when you can enjoy the natural splendor and beachy vibes with fewer visitors to contest with. Our guide to where to go and what to see this winter will show you everything The Grand Strand has to offer:
Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit
It rarely freezes in Myrtle Beach, but temperatures dip into the 40s on December nights, making it an ideal place to enjoy warm days while still appreciating the holiday season's nip in the air. The most storied holiday celebration along the Grand Strand is Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens. Nearly 3,000 hand-lit candles illuminate walkways as you take in sprawling live oaks and many of the garden's 550 sculptures in the glow of holiday lighting, to a soundtrack of live Christmas carols.
Debuting for the 2021 holiday season is Winter Wonderland at the Beach, a transformation of Downtown Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk that includes an ice skating rink and walkthrough light display with themes like "Peppermint Valley" and "Toyland." Cap the experience with a ride on the SkyWheel, an iconic attraction on the coastal skyline whose gondolas and lighting were refurbished in spring 2021. Take in the neon holiday spectacle from 187 feet above as you loop through the air.
Myrtle Beach has a deep pool of talent when it comes to dancers, singers, and performers, and they’re at their best during the holidays. Shows like Pirates Voyage shift their theme — "Captain Scrooge" replaces the usual swashbuckling villain — while the Carolina Opry fills its atrium with a soaring tree and dazzles guests with The Christmas Show of the South. Nearby, GTS Theatre hosts four holiday shows, including a Motown-themed performance and "Christmas with Elvis." Note that after their holiday extravaganzas, most theaters shutter between New Years and March, but the Alabama Theatre continues through the winter with a variety show and their Patsy Cline tribute.
Slow down to a natural pace
Myrtle Beach is named for the wax myrtle tree, an endemic, hardy shrub that grows in the dunes. The leaves have a waxy coating to help them retain water, giving the plant a distinctive, pleasant aroma. Head to one of the Grand Strand's two beachfront state parks to appreciate the natural beauty that first brought vacationers to this part of the Carolina coast.
Myrtle Beach State Park — the first in South Carolina — claims a mile of undeveloped coastline and is home to a fishing pier that draws less of a crowd than others along the coast. During winter, you'll have your pick of the 278 campsites if you want to sleep within a stroll of the breakers. Just down the coast, Huntington Beach State Park boasts three miles of pristine beach, a sparkling new nature center that opened in 2021, and the ruins of Atalaya Castle, the 1930s-era winter home of philanthropists Archer and Anna Huntington, who founded Brookgreen Gardens. Located just behind the dunes from the beach, it's a hauntingly beautiful place to explore, especially during the uncrowded winter months.
For those who enjoy a walk with a bag of clubs, Myrtle Beach may have the nation's densest concentration of professional-level golf courses. During winter, it's much easier (and affordable) to get a choice tee time at TPC Myrtle Beach (home course to Masters champion Dustin Johnson) or Pine Lakes, a Scottish-style links dating to 1927 that underwent green and bunker upgrades during summer 2021.
Of course, consistent putting makes a good golfer great, so spend the evening practicing your short game at Hawaiian Rumble Minigolf, home to a fire-spewing volcano and the annual "Masters" of putt-putt.
Fill up on seafood and Southern cuisine
While Myrtle Beach has numerous pancake houses and fried seafood buffets, there are plenty of other places to fill up and experience the unique restaurant scene. Sea Captain's House is first and foremost about the view — sitting on the lawn overlooking the Atlantic for brunch is divine— but its kitchen keeps up, with one of the Strand's best she crab soups and a hearty "seafood muddle" of scallops, clams, mussels, and shrimp with bacon and veggies over tomato broth.
Nearly at the North Carolina border in Little River, the chef-owned Parson's Table takes advantage of its dining room within a former church to serve perfectly chargrilled rib eyes and pan-seared duck. Newer to the fine dining scene is Abundance, where foie gras flambé, bone marrow escargot, and entrees like the lobster trio (a poached lobster tail with lobster ravioli and Pecorino foam) elevate the Strand's fancy date night options. Or keep it casual with another late 2021 opening, 10 Fold Biscuits, where the pillowy namesakes find perfect mates in pulled pork, local fried eggs, or whipped avocado.
Get out on the town
The Grand Strand has several shopping and entertainment complexes designed to help guests get the most out of their stay. At Barefoot Landing, you can stroll along the Intracoastal Waterway, browse dozens of clothing and specialty shops, and choose between craft beer at Crooked Hammock Brewery or elaborate boat drinks at Lucy Buffett's LuLu's. On Sunday mornings, the House of Blues hosts a gospel brunch, with soul that extends from the stage to the chicken and waffles.
Equally grand in scope, Broadway at the Beach's thrill rides, shops, and restaurants are set around a central lagoon. Grab a sushi roll and a pint at The Grumpy Monk before exploring the toy stores, boutiques, and outfitters. Nearby, the impressive Ripley's Aquarium is highlighted by the Penguin Playhouse, and over the holidays, their Festival of Trees adds to the splendor.
Less flashy but quietly charming is North Myrtle Beach’s Main Street, where unique souvenir shops and tasty seafood shacks share space with historic dance clubs. Fat Harold's Beach Club is the most impressive, especially on weekends when they host dance competitions. Dancers of all ages cut a rug together to classic tunes until the wee hours. Duck's just across the street offers the same throwback vibe, with live bands keeping the dance floor loose.
Rest your head in Myrtle Beach
During winter, stay beachfront. It may be too chilly to lounge in an oceanside lazy river all day, but for a fraction of summer prices, you wake up with a soaring view of the ocean horizon. Island Vista Resort is one of the most attractive oceanfront tower complexes, thanks to a lawn and patio that span the beachfront, plus a heated indoor pool and waterfall that stays open all year.
Slightly more chic, the subtropical environs and pool complex at the Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes feels set apart from the rest of the beachfront strip. Kick back in a hammock and catch the ocean breeze or schedule a massage at the high-end spa.
Myrtle Beach doesn’t have many B&Bs, but if you're willing to drive an extra half hour for a true escape, the Oceanfront Litchfield Inn offers a much quieter beachfront experience on Pawleys Island. It's an authentic-feeling spot, complete with a beach bar and an upscale seafood restaurant, and with weeknight wintertime rooms as low as $120, a true bargain.