Sponsored by Visit Myrtle Beach
It’s been a rough year and you probably need a getaway?
A time to disconnect from the constant Zoom lessons and meetings, the redecorating of the house for the umpteenth time, the never ending baking and the checking off the calendar to the end of this 2020/21 disaster.
You long to reconnect to something, anyone or anything outside the walls of your own house.
Christmas is looking a little too much the same this year, another day spent indoors isolated from everyone except your little bubble. How can you break free from it to enjoy a little Christmas treat, in a safe way?
For us, it’s been to head to the beach and away from the crowds. The only way we’ve been taking breaks this year. It’s been the little sparks of joy we’ve needed to make it through another long stretch of isolation.
Christmas Vacation at Myrtle Beach
We’re bringing the Christmas spirit in a little early with a three-day Myrtle Beach vacation in partnership with Visit Myrtle Beach.
We enjoyed it so much we put up our Christmas tree when we returned….before Thanksgiving! It was seeing that Motown show spirit that did it (see down below).
The Myrtle Beach area is beautiful even in winter. You welcome in the sun as it beats down on your skin warming it up against the fresh air.
If this were the sweltering humidity of the summer, you’d be racing to seek shelter from it. The water is still and calm and the beach entertainment is little more than the seagulls pitter pattering through the shallows.
It would be weird if you found yourself within 6 feet of someone else. There is just no need.
We did a lot of outdoor Myrtle Beach attractions and whenever we found ourselves inside, strict COVID guidelines were adhered to with masks, social distancing and sanitation. I felt very safe.
Discover all the fun Christmas experiences on offer in Myrtle Beach here.
Day 1: Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach
Your first day in Myrtle Beach will be a gentle easing into beach serenity. Arrive early so you can soak it up.
Lunch at Rip Tydz Oceanfront Grill & Rooftop Bar
No matter what the temperature is outside, the views from Rip Tyds will warm you up. Choose from the inside dining with floor to ceiling windows, or if the weather is delicious, the amazing roof top bar!
The food and serving sizes will satisfy you.
Our Picks: blackened shrimp cobb salad or the OMG burger: two patties piled high topped with Applewood Smoked Bacon, cheddar cheese and crispy onion straws.
During these times we recommend outside seating. It’s quite warm with the sun directly shining on you.
Walk it off on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk
A good Myrtle Beach trip is about balance, especially during the holiday season.
Step outside Rip Tydz right on to the boardwalk and head south. A 1.2-mile walkway will take you down to the 2nd Avenue Pier with beachside views all the way.
Ramp it up by walking along the beach on the way back. We were even able to strip down to t-shirts. It was glorious.
Take a ride on the SkyWheel for views from above and stop in at the Gay Dolphin Gift Shop for some Christmas shopping. It’s been a tradition since 1946. It’s the oldest, largest, and most unique gift shop in Myrtle Beach.
Let me know if you get lost in there. I had just gotten off the phone to Kalyra with a frantic “where are you call?” when I walked past the T-Shirt with the slogan, “I got lost in the Gay Dolphin.”
Check in: Hilton Royale Palms Condominiums
If you’re looking for Myrtle Beach condos, you will love the expansive views from your Hilton Royale Palms condominium’s balcony.
Whether you’re looking out over the serene wide ocean or forested expanse of the greater Myrtle Beach, the soft pastel pinks of the sky quietly slinking off to sleep will entrance you.
We have more information on this property at the bottom of this post. It’s fantastic and about 20-minutes north of main Myrtle Beach, away from the crowds.
The great news about a winter vacation to Myrtle Beach is that the sun sets early so you can enjoy the splendor of it and still have time for Christmas shopping.
Holiday Shopping at Barefoot Landing
Barefoot Landing is a unique shopping, dining, and entertainment district located in a picturesque setting along the Intra-coastal waterway in North Myrtle Beach. It’s similar to the older Broadway at the Beach further south.
This is a good spot to do your holiday shopping with specialty shops (think crystals, candles and ice cream), including a store dedicated to Christmas, The Christmas Mouse.
Purple Lovers will be over the moon with the PURPLEologist store, an entire store dedicated to the color Purple. I hope it rains when you walk on in.
When you get tired you have two options:
1. The Crooked Hammock Brewery
Serving from a small tiki bar and mini caravan in a tree filled backyard, The Crooked Hammock Brewery is ready to serve you a pint of local craft brew and a signature giant pretzel plus sausage and crab cake sandwiches.
The backyard also comes with corn hole, bocce ball and of course hammocks. BONUS for families – it’s located right next to the playground.
They are currently building a permanent brewery here with indoor seating and a restaurant. .
2. Wine Tasting at Duplin Winery
We decided to stop into Duplin Winery for some holiday wine tasting. This is the point where Mom’s may want to contemplate ducking away and leaving Dad with the kids at the playground.
Due to COVID, kids weren’t allowed in the tasting room so I went in on my own for 30-minutes of bliss.
I thoroughly enjoyed learning the story behind Duplin Winery while I sipped on a wide range of red and white wines from this North Carolina winery founded in 1976 by two brothers.
Duplin Winery mostly produces sweet wine, but did have one drier white wine at 1.2% sweetness. We progressed trough the samplings to 13% sweetness. As a dry white drinker, small samples were more than adequate for me and allowed me to walk out enjoying what I drank.
I loved the several Christmas wines we were able to sample. Grab a bottle for your seasonal celebrations.
My favorite had to be the deliciously dangerous wine slushy called, Jolly Juice. And how could I not have fallen in love with Sweet Caroline, including the label drawn by an Oregon artist depicting what Sweet Caroline should look like.
What do you think? Does it look like me?
Tastings cost $10 for 10 samples, crackers and cheese, excellent service, and a glass of wine of your favorite after it. A great deal and way to spend time.
There is also great Christmas shopping and home décor here in between the various tasting rooms and a lovely outside seating area.
Day 2: Waccamaw River and Conway
On this day in Myrtle Beach, we are going to head inland for serenity and charming historical towns.
Sunrise over the Beach
Hello Sunrise over the beach.
There is no better way to start a day on your Myrtle Beach trip then watching the sun rise. The East Coast will not let you down.
You could even stay on your balcony wrapped in a blanked with a steaming cup of coffee if you can’t make it down the few floors for the front row views.
French Inspired breakfast: Croissants Bistro & Bakery
Chocolate croissant anyone? Pair it with the best coffee in Myrtle Beach (local tip – confirmed by us).
Not too far from your hotel is Croissants Bistro and Bakery, owned by Heidi Vukov, SC Restaurateur of the Year and SC Chef Ambassador.
Try the breakfast pancakes, cinnamon bun minis, traditional sausage and eggs, a more modern avocado and eggs on toast, or their infamous Bananas Foster French Toast.
It’s all the fuel you need before you set off on the day’s great adventure.
Kayak the Waccamaw River
All holiday vacations need an equal dash of shopping, spiced warm wine, croissants, and heart elevation in the great outdoors.
Don’t worry, nothing too extreme, just a gentle paddling to suit the slower winter tempo.
It was one of the gentlest kayaking paddles we’ve done; the first half I barely had to lift the oar. The moderately moving Waccamaw River took us downstream past bald cypress, their leaves recently stripped with the changing of the seasons.
We met all manner of birds: turkey vultures, Anhingas, and kingfishers. Turtles lay sunning on logs all the way along the two-hour paddle. By the end of it, our eyes had relaxed enough to spot them ourselves.
Our guide Robert’s skillfully trained eyes spotted a ribbon like green tree snake. After some time of peering and kayak maneuvering, I was able to spy it slithering its way along the vines.
And the highlight of any swamp kayak adventure, paddling past an alligator – its eyes and snout peaking above the waterline until the moment he realized we were just too darn scary to look at any longer and soundlessly he slunk underneath the tannish colored water of this black river.
It was the most peaceful and serene way to spend the morning, especially during this time of social distanced travel.
There was not another soul in sight, just us and our guides, respectfully keeping their distance but teaching us so much about the ecosystem of this region as we went by.
In this time of chaos and uncertainty when you don’t know each morning when you wake what on earth this year is going to deliver to us today, this was the perfect therapy needed to escape to a moment in time where none of that chaos exists.
Just let me sit here silently listening to the bird’s call and connecting to the perfection of Mother Nature.
Roam Historical Conway
Ease yourself gently back into civilization with a stop in at the historical town of Conway near where you depart from your Kayak trip.
Conway, with its oak-lined streets and historical buildings is one of the oldest towns in South Carolina.
Pick up a map from the visitor center to do a self-guided tour of the many buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. My favorite was the City Hall, beautifully decorated for Christmas.
Enjoy a stroll along the 1.5-mile boardwalk beside to the Waccamaw River and under dripping Spanish moss.
There are several places to choose for lunch. For those wanting contemporary flair, try Rivertown Bistro. For something a little more low-key at a very affordable price that involves craft brew, the Crafty Rooster Bar & Grill was recommended to us by Robert as a local hangout.
We hung out with a pint of NY Haze of Mind IPA, a Bison burger and a bowl of Chicken Bog, which he informed us was a South Carolina dish of chicken and rice and sausage, like jambalaya that you’ll find down in Louisiana.
Don’t leave Conway without stopping into The Trestle Bakery – here you’ll find a delicious array of cakes and pastries. The donuts we picked up for the girls were stuffed with custard and layered with chocolate.
My quick taste test will tell you there were some of the best donuts I’ve ever snuck a bite of. Melt in your mouth goodness at a super cheap price.
Head back to the hotel for a rest
Head back to your Myrtle Beach vacation condos for a rest: stroll along the beach, relax in the hot tub, swim in the pool, sit on your deck, admire the view, and continue that slow-paced Carolina style. Regather your energy for tonight’s enjoyment!
Quick dinner: River City Cafe
We try to experience different Myrtle Beach restaurants when we return to areas we’ve visited before. The burgers at River City Cafe are voted best of the beach year after year.
Whatever your preference you’ll find it here. I throw it back to Australian style with a ring of pineapple. If only they had beetroot to add to it.
It’s the prefect quick and easy meal before a Carolina Opry Show. River City Cafe has 7 locations around Myrtle Beach with one not too far from the Hilton and your night’s entertainment.
Head to the Carolina Opry Christmas Show
Take your protective bubble inside with masks and six foot seating separation. I was impressed to see this was possible in today’s environment.
Whenever we travel, we like to fit in live music somehow, even if it’s just a busker in the park. Music is the universal language of the soul. It lifts us ups, gives us hope, and allows us to dream of being the storytellers of our own lives.
Music is what has pulled me through this year the most. So we enjoyed The Carolina Opry Christmas Special. A two hour performance of your favorite Christmas songs, stunning costumes, Christmas decorations, and a really funny comedian.
The Carolina Opry is one of the top Myrtle Beach attractions and was the first show to open in Myrtle Beach and the only show in the area for 7 years.
Founder Calvin Gilmore opened the theater in 1986 with the idea of a unheard of variety show. It’s now in its 35th season, longer than any show in Broadway history.
Day 3: Murrell’s Inlet and Huntington Beach State Park
Today is about learning, family connection, and discovering one of the best beaches in South Carolina away from the crowds.
Breakfast: Red Velvet Waffle Love
Don’t forget to rise with the sun again before heading out to Johnny D’s Waffles and Bakery, infamous for waffles ranging in flavor from Red Velvet to Cinnaroll and coconut banana.
Our kids love the red velvet waffles (a local’s fave) and I enjoyed a hearty beef brisket skillet and Craig pancakes, eggs and sausages!
Discover the awe at WonderWorks
Out of all the science museums we’ve visited around the world, WonderWorks has to be one of our favorites.
It’s quirky, fun, and filled with interactive exhibitions that help you learn and become amazed with the world around us.
We’ve visited here before, and it was high on the girl’s list to return to for our Myrtle Beach Christmas vacation.
Sadly, the ropes course and zipline were closed due to COVID, but we had fun playing laser tag, riding a 6D simulated roller coaster through the Great Wall of China, feeling the wind power of a hurricane, cracking codes, and creating art with our dance moves.
Game of Min-Golf: It’s the Myrtle Beach Way
Christmas holidays back in Australia always involved our family heading out for a game of mini golf. Myrtle Beach IS the place to keep that tradition alive!
It has to be the mini-golfing capital of the world (and good for regular golfers too). You’ll find the most elaborately themed courses from pirate adventures to jungle safaris filled with waterfalls, lagoons, spooky caves, and pirate ships. It really is one of the most popular things to do in Myrtle Beach with kids.
We had a game at Captain Hook’s Adventure, putting our balls through the dangerous skull cave on the quest to rescue Tinkerbell.
I’m not sure how well we succeeded with that but we did celebrate our hole-in-ones and helped each other overcome our terrible shots.
Lunch in Murrell’s Inlet Marsh Walk
The MarshWalk, located in the heart of the historic fishing village of Murrells Inlet is a ½ mile wooden boardwalk along a natural saltwater estuary.
It’s a beautiful serene area with wonderful waterfront dining and live music.
We love this area south of Myrtle Beach. We enjoyed an early bird lunch special of salmon in the warm sun at J Peter’s Grill & Bar. We also previously ate at Wicked Tuna, a fantastic restaurant for fresh seafood and beautiful views.
Across the road is the spectacular Brookgreen Gardens, another of the top things to see in Myrtle Beach and a sculpture garden and wildlife preserve.
If you have time, I recommend taking a walk through the botanical gardens to see the largest and most comprehensive collection of American figurative sculpture in the country, and the most divine oak trees.
We skipped it this time as we’ve previously visited, which you can read about in our post on things to do in Myrtle Beach with kids.
Huntington Beach State Park
Are you ready to walk onto powdery white sand of the sweeping isolated Huntington Beach?
This is the beach your exhaling wows are reserved for. I’m ready to pack the tent and return here for a summer Myrtle beach vacation. It’s pristine and beautiful, and when we visited, almost absent of people.
Most of them were on the boardwalk, binoculars in hand and smiling at the vast array of birds flying around. It’s considered by many to be the best birding spot in South Carolina – anytime of year.
There’s an easy 2km return trail here, The Sandpiper Pond Nature Trail that goes through the scrub forest beside a lake with some glimpses out over the beach. It ends at the viewing deck on a pond that attracts egrets and herons.
A short boardwalk goes over the salt marshes for a closer look at this ecosystem that makes up a lot of the Carolina coastline.
You can also visit the remains of Atalaya, a vast 1930s Moorish-style castle which was the home of renowned sculptures, the Huntington’s, who once owned the land. It’s a well-known landmark of South Carolina.
Dinner at Travinia Italian Kitchen in Market Common
We LOVED the Market Common area, which is a unique and modern outdoor lifestyle and shopping hub just south of Myrtle Beach in an urban village community.
You can do more Christmas shopping here if time allows. Or return the next day as we did before driving back home to Raleigh.
Dinner at Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar was one of our favorite places to eat in Myrtle Beach on this Christmas vacation.
It’s a contemporary Modern American Italian choice incorporating fresh regional ingredients, a gluten free menu and an impressive collection of carefully-chosen wines and an atmosphere of comfort and style.
A live musician was playing a fantastic set of old and new tunes, the food was delicious and well-priced, and my $5 glass of chianti was delicious.
We were disappointed we had to skip out on dessert, but we had more Myrtle Beach activities to get to.
Motown Christmas Tribute at GTS Theater
Are you ready to put some pep in your Christmas step?
Head to the GTS Theater for the Motor City Musical Christmas Spirit.
Motown is putting the groove in Christmas and I’m not sure I want to experience it any other way but this again. It had me mentally adding “Motown Christmas album” to my vinyl wish list.
The Motown Tribute special takes on a musical journey through the Motown music of the 60s and 70s that broke down barriers and built a bridge between cultures.
They played many of my favorites from Diana Ross and the Supreme’s, the Temptations, the Jackson Five and Stevie Wonder. In between these classics were sprinkled a few classic Christmas tunes.
A Capella version of O Holy Night was spell biding and probably the best I have ever heard.
It was a low-key performance in a low key theater where the emphasis was on music and the groove it puts into your soul.
What a beautiful way to wrap up our holiday vacation in Myrtle Beach.
Stay at The Royale Palms and Hilton Myrtle Beach Resorts
It’s within easy walking distance to amenities and driving distance to most of the top Myrtle Beach attractions and the prefect accommodation for your family beach vacation.
The condos are huge with separate bedrooms, kitchen and living room area – and laundry facilities. We had a private balcony with sweeping views over the beach and forest behind it.
When you stay in these Myrtle Beach vacation condo rentals you get access to all resort facilities which includes three pools and a hot tub.
I loved the big pool area located right on the beach, giving you the best of both worlds and a little beach privacy.