I recently spent a week of vacation time in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I hadn’t been there in a really, really long time. (Almost 15 years, I think?) When I was growing up, we didn’t really take many beach trips. Living in Pennsylvania, traveling somewhere beyond the Jersey Shore or Ocean City, Maryland was a pretty big deal—at least it was for our family.
For me, my memories of Myrtle Beach centered around first love, good times with friends I rarely got to see more than once a year, shenanigans with my sister and brother, a sense of being somewhere far, far away from PA (at least it seemed that way to me at the time, though now that’s kind of laughable), and a lot of incredible memories that resonate with me even to this day.
Going back to Myrtle Beach came with a sense of nostalgia and a curiosity of how I would now view it as an adult traveling with a family of my own. We met up with my sister and her family, so that was the real impetus for us making the trip there. It was vacation time for all of us (even though I had to work, but that’s a minor detail). Despite the fact that we visit each other often, my sister’s family and my own had never actually vacationed somewhere together that didn’t include one of our respective homes.
Throughout the week, there were some things that reminded my why Myrtle Beach is such a popular family beach vacation destination. There were also some things that reminded me why it is not a personal favorite.
Let’s start with the positive.
3 Things I Love About Myrtle Beach
1. Myrtle Beach centers around the family vacation experience.
From the hotels, motels, condos and vacation rentals to the shopping, restaurants, beach shops, shows and the many varied local attractions, Myrtle Beach exudes family-friendliness.
The resort we stayed at caters to families as is evident from the indoor and outdoor lazy rivers, multiple pools, on-site waterpark, on-site miniature golf and a beachfront location. Though it was by far not the best value for our dollar, it was easy to see why families would choose this type of accommodation over some of the others.
I can honestly say that this resort had not changed that much in the 15 years that transpired from my first stay there until my most recent one, despite a supposed renovation that had occurred (I really couldn’t tell….). The hotel itself seemed dated and run down, though the rooms were more modern than before. So I guess that’s where the actual renovations happened. We had no real issue with our room and neither did my sister’s family when it came to what we were expecting. It was clean enough. The staff was friendly enough. It was comfortable and provided what we needed.
I know how much Myrtle Beach has to offer when it comes to things to do. (That’s also one of the things I take with issue with, actually. But more on that later.) You can find entertainment of every type from the shops and restaurants at Broadway at the Beach to dinner shows like Medieval Times not to mention all of the Ripley’s museums and attractions, the famed Sky Wheel, WonderWorks, attractions and amusement parks ad nauseam.
But you know what? Even with all of those options, we rarely ever had to leave the hotel to be entertained. Our collective two-year-old and six-year-old children were perfectly pleased with five days of pool time, beach time and lazy river time spent with each other. We all met up in each other’s rooms for dinner or coffee or just to step out onto the balcony and take in the ocean views. We walked down the block for ice cream and played a round of miniature golf right across the street.
And that was really, really nice.
2. Myrtle Beach offers a variety of things to see and do rain or shine.
With some beach locations, if you get a string of rainy days your vacation becomes a literal wash out. Your beach plans are ruined. You’re stuck in your room for days on end playing cards waiting for the sun to shine again. (Or I guess in this day and age, it’s more likely that everyone is face deep in their phone or tablet.)
Myrtle Beach is not one of those places. You could come here and never step foot on the beach and still be completely entertained. When you’re vacationing with family—especially one with a variety of age groups and interests—that can be a major benefit. Plus, it’s always good to have options when you’re traveling with kids and/or teenagers. You just never know when you’ll need a good distraction. Am I right?
Some of my previous trips to Myrtle Beach were during my teenage years when I was completely happy to visit one of the many Wings Beachwear shops and pick up a tacky surf necklace, cruise the main strip with my friends feeling wild and free (and thinking I was cool, ha) and just going about vacation life and doing what teenagers do. They were some of the best times of my life and I look back upon them fondly, vividly remembering the emotions and feelings of that time in my life, almost like they just happened yesterday. It really made a lasting impression on me.
I still think it would hold true today, though I don’t have any teenagers in my family right now to validate that. (Ask me again in about 10 years.) I think there’s enough to do in Myrtle Beach to please even the moodiest and pickiest of that age group, along with the rest of us.
The same holds true with the older generation of travelers and family members on vacation in Myrtle Beach. With entertaining shows, plenty of shopping and a lot of good dining options, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to finding ways to go out on the town, have fun and spend time together.
3. Myrtle Beach showcases a coastal beauty and beach vibe all its own.
Myrtle Beach itself is not the most stunningly beautiful beach I’ve ever been to. It’s not even close. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t coastal beauty to be found and enjoyed. It for sure has an established atmosphere all its own that many families flock to year after year.
For me, the beauty was found in the natural elements, though they were more limited here than in other beach vacation destinations I’ve been to. The pastel coastal palette at sunset is always pleasing, as is the grandeur and expanse of the blue Atlantic from a vantage point high above the crowds and commercialization. The sparkle and reflection of the water as the waves ebb and flow, the colorful umbrellas dotting the neutral shades of sandy shoreline, and the shadows of the clouds over the Atlantic Ocean on a sunny day are some of my favorite sights to behold here.
Building sandcastles, collecting seashells, spotting sea glass, and hunting for sharks’ teeth are quintessential joys of any beach vacation. We did all of those things and more, and found great pleasure in them.
The kids had endless adventures in the sand, sun and surf. I can only hope that their memories of Myrtle Beach are as pleasant as mine were in my younger days. Just as I didn’t really recognize the negative aspects of a busy beach destination when I was young, I’m sure they were completely oblivious to them as well.
Speaking of the negative, there are some distinctive things about such a popular and well-known beach destination that I am not a big fan of. These are more personal preferences, really, but I think you’d tend to find a lot of people who would agree with me on these.
And yes, some of the very things I mentioned above as things I love about Myrtle Beach lend themselves toward the very same things I do not love about Myrtle Beach.
3 Things I Don’t Love About Myrtle Beach
1. Myrtle Beach is too crowded during the summer season.
My personal preference for a beach vacation is a deserted beach where I can bask in the coastal beauty without distraction. No people; no problem. I don’t like crowds in most situations, but especially not during my cherished beach vacations. I want it all to myself. I don’t want to share the sun, the sand or the water if I don’t have to.
This was the first time I vacationed in Myrtle Beach during the prime summer season AND over a holiday week. It was the week during the July 4th holiday. It was crowded…very crowded.
And you know what comes along with too many crowds: more trash, more annoyances, and more people issues to deal with. It’s a very big distraction for me on a vacation and not a welcome one.
Though fireworks are illegal on the beach and elsewhere in Myrtle Beach proper, the rules are lax on the Fourth of July holiday, apparently. Everybody and their brother were lighting them off at very close range that evening on the beachfront of our hotel. At first it was entertaining, but then as the night went on it became dangerous as people became more reckless. It was a windy evening on a very crowded beach, so the conditions only made it worse. When one of the fireworks blew over after it was lit and rocketed toward a lady near us, grazing her foot, we decided to call it a night. I think that was well before 10pm. It wasn’t until after midnight that the police intervened, but it should have been sooner.
Another crowd-related problem was with the outdoor pool. If you didn’t get there early in the morning, you could forget about finding a lounge chair—or any chair to use, let alone a place for tour belongings. Don’t even think about getting a coveted shaded table and chair if you weren’t there before 8am. Not going to happen! And once they were taken, they were taken for good; not too many, if any, ever opened up from that point on.
The lazy river had similar issues where crowd-control was a bit of an issue, particularly for the little ones. It got a little wild and crazy in there at times and wasn’t as enjoyable as the lesser crowded times. Don’t worry about my two-year-old, as you plow into him with your inner tube in total oblivion and with zero regard to those around you. Really, he’s fine…
Another annoyance that compounded the crowd issue was the beach umbrella situation. If you weren’t renting one from the hotel, you were a second-class beach goer with no access to a front row beach spot if you preferred to bring your own. You were promptly reminded to move your umbrella behind those who were paying for theirs. Seriously?
There were a host of other things that were crowd-related, but I think you get the picture. Way too many people inevitably leads to way too many problems.
2. Myrtle Beach is over-commercialized.
While it is wonderful to have the many options of the previously-mentioned host of things to do, to me a beach vacation should be about the beach and all of the elements of the beach that I love: pristine sands, sparkling clear water, and a sense of secluded coastal paradise. That is really not true of Myrtle Beach. It’s not about the beach in and of itself. If it was, you’d be a bit disappointed.
It is about the all the things you can do while you’re vacationing here at the beach. That works for a lot of families, and I’m not judging. I can see why that’s attractive. But if I’m paying good money to experience a quintessential beach vacation, then I prefer to have a lot of natural, untouched coastal beauty over too many hotels, shops, amusements and attractions.
What else comes with over-commercialization? Problems with the water. News stories of people contracting illnesses from the alleged poor water quality is not what I want to have to worry about on vacation. Does that make me want to go swimming in the water much, if at all? No. Do I feel confident that my kid is going to be safe and remain healthy knowing that there’s local controversy over that issue? Nope.
3. It’s hard to slow down here sometimes and really “be on vacation”.
I have a certain idea of what a vacation should be, and some people would disagree with me. That’s fine. I get it. Everybody’s different and vacations are a very personal thing.
Personally, a beach vacation conjures up images of slowing down, getting away from it all, refocusing on the simpler things in life, and lots of R-N-R.
Can one really do that in a place where there is so much going on all the time? Possibly. Is it easy to do? Not really. The temptation to go out and do as much as you can while you’re here can impede the whole vacation process. Isn’t life hectic enough? Aren’t we always trying to fit too many things into not enough hours in a day?
I think Myrtle Beach can easily become like that for vacationers if you get wrapped up in all of the many things to do here. Maybe some people find that part of a vacation relaxing, but I sure don’t. There are a lot of pulls in a lot of directions, and before you know it your whole vacation is over-booked and filled with places to go and things to do.
But that’s the big draw to Myrtle Beach, isn’t it?
Did I have an enjoyable family beach vacation in Myrtle Beach despite the issues? Yes. Would I go back again? Maybe. Did the kids have a blast ? Absolutely.
We came away with a few good stories of our misadventures along the way, some inside jokes that we’ll laugh about for years to come, and memories that will last us a lifetime.