With beach and golf weather on hiatus for at least three months or so, it might seem like there isn't much to do around the Grand Strand in December that isn't holiday related. While many theaters and attractions do offer holiday shows, events and programs that are fun, season-appropriate and shouldn't be missed, there are other ways to pass the dreary days of December, too.
We've done some digging and compiled a list of 10 different things you can do across the Strand, whether you go as a couple, with family or with a group of friends. Each option offers something different that all age groups can enjoy.
CATCH A HOLIDAY SHOW
This one is an obvious choice. There are just too many award-winning theaters in Myrtle Beach to pass up, especially around the holidays when the venues go all out for Christmas to impress their audiences.
There's arguably no quicker way to get into the spirit than to check out one of the many shows these great places have to offer.
The South's Grandest Christmas Show | Alabama Theatre, Barefoot Landing off U.S. 17 in North Myrtle Beach. 7:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays through Dec. 23. $39.45, $43.80 and $49.25 ages 17 and older; $19.95 ages 4-16. Call 272-1111 or visit www.alabama-theatre.com.
The Carolina Opry Christmas Special | The Carolina Opry, northern junction of U.S. 17 Bypass and Business, Myrtle Beach. 1 or 7 p.m. through Dec. 20. $39.95, $45.95 and $54.95 ages 17 and older; $26 ages 3-16. Call 913-8888 or visit www.thecarolinaopry.com.
Christmas at Dixie Stampede | Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction, northern junction of U.S. 17 Bypass and Business in Myrtle Beach. 4, 6 or 8 p.m. through Dec. 23. $46.40 and $51.93 ages 12 and older; $24.30 and $29.83 ages 4-11. Call 497-9700 or visit www.dixiestampede.com.
Christmas on Ice | Palace Theatre, Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach. 8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. Wednesdays and 2 p.m. Thursdays through Dec. 23. $37.57, $42.95 or $48.32 for ages 13 and older in the evenings; $32.20 for matinees; $10.70 for ages 3-12 for all shows.
Also, "Nuncrackers - The Nunsense Christmas Musical," 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Tuesdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 23. $32.20. Call 448-0588 or visit www.palacemb.com.
Dino's TV Christmas Special | 2001 Entertainment Complex's Starlight Room, 920 Lake Arrowhead Road, north of Myrtle Beach. 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 21. $29 show only, $39 with Italian meal or $49 with dinner at the Original Benjamin's. Call 234-2229 or visit www.dinostvvarietyshow.com.
DIVE INTO LOCAL DRAMA
There are a bevy of local troupes that put on plays year-round, so you should take time this December to catch one or two of them. There's something for everyone: drama, choir concerts, ballet, band concerts, dance shows and more. Not only will you be entertained, you'll be supporting local troupes and groups as well.
Nutcracker Fair | Coastal Youth Ballet Theatre of Murrells Inlet, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at Myrtle Beach's Valor Memorial Garden, beside The Market Common. Besides about 50 vendors attending, activities include live entertainment, a holiday fashion show and a children's play area with a petting zoo, face painting and inflatables. Admission is free. Proceeds will benefit the theater's education, scholarship, performance and outreach programs of Coastal Youth Ballet Theatre. 651-2006 or www.thenutcrackerfair.com, and www.coastalyouthballettheatre.org.
Christmas with the Jazz Greats by the Carolina Master Chorale | 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 198 Longs Ave., Conway; 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach; 4 p.m. Dec. 12 at Calabash Presbyterian Church, 8820 Old Georgetown Road, Sunset Beach, N.C. $15 advance adults, $20 at door ($15 seniors), and $5 students with ID. 444-5774 or www.carolinamasterchorale.com.
Two Christ Choral Classics | Saint-Saens "Christmas Oratorio" and Part I (Christmas portion) of Handel's "Messiah" by the Long Bay Symphony Chamber Orchestra, with choirs from First Presbyterian and First United Methodist churches of Myrtle Beach; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, North Myrtle Beach; 4 p.m. Dec. 5 at First Presbyterian Church sanctuary, North Kings Highway campus, Myrtle Beach. $15. 448-8379 or www.longbaysymphony.com.
Coastal Carolina University | CCU Symphonic Band and Chamber and Concert Choirs in 11th annual Holiday Concert, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church of Myrtle Beach, 3810 Robert M. Grissom Parkway, free, no ticket required; CCU Dance Company "A Christmas to Remember," 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3-4, in Black Box Theatre, $3, free with ticket for ages 10 and younger; Gospel Choir Seasonal Concert by the CCU Inspirational Ambassadors, 4:30 p.m. Dec. 4, in Wheelwright Auditorium, free with ticket.
Details at 349-2502 or www.coastal.edu/culturalarts.
The Santaland Diaries | Atlantic Stage, for mature audiences; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14-18 and 3 p.m. Dec. 19 at the 79th Avenue Theatre, Coastal Carolina University Myrtle Beach Education Center at U.S. 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach; $20 general, $15 seniors and educators, and $10 students, including Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members. 877-287-8587 or atlanticstage.com.
Holiday on Main Street | "Tis the Season" by Theatre of the Republic; 8 p.m. Dec. 8-11 and Dec. 15-18, and 3 p.m. Dec. 11-12 and Dec. 18-19 at Main Street Theatre, 337 Main St., Conway; $18 advance, $22 at door, or $16.50 each for groups of 15 or more. 448-0821 or www.theatreoftherepublic.com.
WATCH A CHRISTMAS PARADE - IN PERSON
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV doesn't count. Cities and towns up and down the Grand Strand are planning their own Christmas parades, and it's a great way to get out into the community and get into the holiday spirit. Many families build their own floats to compete in best decorated float contests, and it's always a treat to see the fruits of their labor. And if you want to make a day of it, some towns have theirs in the morning (Shallotte, N.C.), others in the afternoon (Oak Island, N.C.), others in the evening (Aynor and North Myrtle Beach). With some skillful time management, you could catch all three.
Intracoastal Christmas Regatta | 5 p.m. Saturday, from Little River south to 13th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach; also, donate a new, unwrapped toy to Yachts for Tots.
Shallotte | Dec. 4, 10 a.m.
Oak Island | Dec. 4, 2 p.m., Oak Island Drive from Town Hall on 46th Street to McGlamery Street
Aynor | Dec. 4, 6 p.m.
North Myrtle Beach | Dec. 4, 5:30 p.m. on Main Street
Murrells Inlet | Dec. 5, 3 p.m., Wilcox Avenue, starts down U.S. 17 Business; tree lighting afterward at Morse Park Landing.
Conway | Dec. 11, 10 a.m.-noon, 16th Avenue and Main Street, starts down Main Street to Third Avenue and Laurel Street, to Fourth Avenue, down Fourth Avenue to Wright Boulevard.
Myrtle Beach | Dec. 11, 2 p.m. down Ocean Boulevard
Surfside Beach | Dec. 11, 2-5 p.m., 10th Avenue South to 16th Avenue North
The Market Common's tree-lighting ceremony | 5:30 p.m. today at Myrtle Beach's Valor Memorial Garden, with a celebration of the "Memories of Christmas" as told by Mrs. Claus, and performances by the Coastal Youth Ballet Theatre of Murrells Inlet and the Palace Theatre's "Christmas on Ice." Details at 839-3500 or www.marketcommonmb.com.
SPEND SOME TIME IN CONWAY
Although it's small, the city of Conway makes up for it with big events, not just in December, but year-round. From Thursdays' Conway Crawl to Saturday Art Walks, there is usually something to do downtown. Here are two you shouldn't miss this December.
Conway Art Walk | Held the first Saturday of each month, art walks feature local artists and musicians out on the streets of downtown Conway from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Peruse all the art galleries and shops along the avenues.
Conway's Rivertown Christmas | Downtown Conway's annual Rivertown Christmas celebration is 6-8 p.m. Thursday with the Conway Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Santa's arrival at Conway City Hall. The festivities continue 6-8 p.m. Thursdays through Dec. 23, as downtown merchants stay open late, and Santa will greet visitors at the Black Water Market. On Dec. 9, 16 and 23, downtown horse-carriage rides will depart Laurel Street and Fourth Avenue. Free admission.
Details at 248-6260 or conwaymainstreet.com.
FESTIVAL OF TREES
Ripley's Aquarium, at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, has its 10th annual Festival of Trees through Dec. 31. More than 50 decorated trees, covering all 50 states and U.S. territories, are spread throughout the building. A 20-foot-tall, red, white and blue tree is in the outside plaza, and the S.C. tree tops off at 18 feet, with magnolias, golf balls, sea-shell wreaths and stars, and representation of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers.
Also, pick up the Ripley's Holiday Tree Scavenger Hunt, a tree trivia game, with which guests can enlighten themselves with tidbits about the Green Mountain State, Buckeye State, Old Dominion and others.
The festival is free with admission: $19.99 ages 12 and older, $9.99 ages 6-11 and $3.99 ages 2-5. Aquarium opens at 9 a.m. daily. Details at 916-0888 or www.ripleysaquarium.com.
GO ICE SKATING
OK, maybe not on real ice, but it's close. The Market Common Valor Park in Myrtle Beach will set up a plastic ice rink from Dec. 18-Jan. 2, and if you've lived on the Strand your whole life, it'll be the closest you'll ever get to an ice pond. Plus, with the weather like it is here, chances are it might actually be a nice day for a skate, and you don't have to worry about falling down on the ice. The price is reasonable at $7 for an all-day pass, so you could even take a break from the skating and peruse the eateries and shops at The Market Common, or even catch an afternoon movie before heading back to the rink for an evening skate.
NIGHTS OF A THOUSAND CANDLES
While Brookgreen Gardens is beautiful and breathtaking year-round, when the garden staff decks out the place with lights and candles, the gardens take on a whole new charm that embodies the holidays. Groups sing carols, there's hot chocolate and cider available, and you can take your time and stroll through the park to take in its new decor.
Brookgreen Gardens' annual wonderland of lights and candles is 3-10 p.m. Dec. 3-4, 10-11 and 16-18. Tickets are $15 for ages 13 and older, $6 for ages 4-12.
Also, Brookgreen has two holiday exhibits, "Signs of the Season in Flora and Fauna" and "Signs of the Season in Art and History," on display in the Rainey Sculpture Pavilion through Jan. 2, both free with admission. Details at 235-6000 or www.brookgreen.org.
SIGNATURE SLEIGH EXHIBIT
The third annual "Signature Sleigh" project will comprise four sleighs going on display over the next week across The Market Common, an effort with the Horry County Arts & Cultural Council and the city of Myrtle Beach.
Artists decorate life-size replicas of 1800s Russian sleighs in different themes, and after Christmas, their auction benefits community arts efforts. Sponsors for the sleighs, which become popular picture-taking spots, include Rolling Thunder, the Historic Broadway Business Association and Coastal Uncorked with ACC.
Get more details at 467-6742, and be sure to peruse the exhibit. There's plenty to do at The Market Common, so don't waste the trip. Catch a movie, a bite to eat, and get some Christmas shopping done while you're there.
Although the need for volunteers is year-round, the plight of the needy especially comes to light during the holiday season. Spending a day helping out the less fortunate can be fulfilling, and you might even have fun and/or meet some new people. If you don't have the time to contribute to a group in need, take a few hours this month to ask about helping ring a bell for the Salvation Army Red Kettle effort or collect clothing, household items and/or nonperishable food items to donate to a local shelter or church group. While you're at it, you could even adopt a child or a family to buy presents or a holiday meal for. They'll be grateful, and it will make you feel good, too. If nothing else, take an hour and give the gift of life - donate a couple of pints of blood.
Here are a few places that need volunteers, just to get you started.
The Salvation Army of Horry County, based in Conway | 488-2769 or www.volunteermatch.org.
American Red Cross Coastal South Carolina Chapter of Myrtle Beach | 477-0020 or www.coastalscarc.org.
Community Kitchen | 1411 Mr. Joe White Ave., Myrtle Beach, 444-9383 or www.communitykitchenmb.org.
Habitat for Humanity of Horry County | 1519 Executive Ave., Myrtle Beach, 916-8815 or www.habitatmb.org.
SHOP POST-CHRISTMAS SALES
After spending the past month shopping for others, the end of December is the perfect time to shop just for you. Take all those gift cards and all that cash you got for Christmas, and put it to good use. Take advantage of great post-Christmas sales. Retailers will be slashing prices, so maybe that sweater or gadget that you couldn't get earlier because you were buying for everyone else will now be within your budget. Check online and in the newspaper for coupons, too, and you might save even more.
Reach CAROLINE EVANS at 626-0305 or STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.