It might be hard to believe, but there are some locals who haven’t yet stepped foot on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, even though it was completed more than two years ago.
I used to be one of them.
The minute I strolled onto the boardwalk at the 10th Avenue entrance, I instantly regretted not having gone sooner.
I visited the boardwalk three different times, once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once at night. While the scene was different each time, the overall mood and ambiance remained the same, and people of all ages were enjoying themselves no matter the time of day.
And just as important, no matter what time I was there or what stretch of the boardwalk I was on, there were city employees to be seen cleaning up litter and landscaping; I spotted no trash bigger than a spent cigarette butt (which was a disappointing sight considering the city has provided cigarette disposals at nearly every beach access point).
The main reason I visited the boardwalk in the morning was to try and beat the heat. In July, I should have known better. It was already hot at 8 a.m. , but the breeze coming right off the ocean was delightful.
I started at 10th Avenue, walked up to 14th and gazed up at the SkyWheel, then walked back down to 2nd Avenue Pier and back again. As I walked past the closed shops that normally would be selling funnel cakes and souvenirs and approached the SkyWheel, a funny feeling came over me. I didn’t figure out what it was until I had turned around and headed down toward 2nd Avenue South, past all the hotels and in between the dunes on one side and the beautiful landscaping on the other.
I realized that I felt like I was on vacation in a place I’ve lived for nearly nine years.
It was a glorious feeling.
Even at 8 a.m., there was plenty of activity up and down the boardwalk. There were runners, cyclists, couples taking an early morning stroll, and early rising families already in their swimsuits ready to claim a spot on the beach. I could even spot a few folks already enjoying the water.
Lifeguards were setting up beach umbrellas and gearing up for the long day ahead. City employees worked both ends of the walk, picking up any trash missed the night before and ensuring the entire stretch of the boardwalk was spotless (which it was).
The south end of the boardwalk is perfect for a morning stroll. It winds in between the sand dunes and some hotels, which are fronted by pretty flowers and benches.
As you head toward the SkyWheel and 14th Avenue Pier, bars, shops, arcades and restaurants replace the hotels bordering the walk. At 8 a.m., all these places are closed and quiet, making it a peaceful, somewhat nostalgic scene.
It doesn’t take long for that peaceful scene to change into one of lots of activity.
As the tourists wake up, so do the businesses, and that’s when the peaceful boardwalk becomes the center of activity in Myrtle Beach.
After a morning spent on the beach and taking on the waves, people head over to one of the beachfront restaurants for lunch and leisure. I visited the boardwalk for my afternoon stroll around 2 or 3 p.m., and all the outdoor seating at the boardwalk eateries was full of families and folks eating, drinking, talking and enjoying the views.
The boardwalk itself wasn’t full of walkers; people were either still out on the beach or restaurant patrons. The SkyWheel was surprisingly empty for the time of day.
Most of the action happens around Plyler Park and the two piers (2nd Avenue and 14th Avenue). The center of the boardwalk, right around 10th Avenue North, is where the Pavilion used to sit, and nostalgia took hold as I gazed out over the open field that now is only home to a new zipline. A lone sign detailing the history of the Pavilion didn’t seem enough for what was an icon of downtown Myrtle Beach for decades.
Speaking of downtown staples I can’t leave out Peaches Corner, which is just a block or two north of the boardwalk, or the Ripley’s Believe it or Not attraction.
A parking garage is conveniently located just a few blocks north of these two places, and it costs $6-$10 to park there per day, depending on how long you plan to spend in the area. If you get there early enough, I recommend just paying $10 to park all day, because there is plenty to keep you occupied, and the boardwalk will get you wherever you need to go.
As the sun starts to set, the action doesn’t. I returned to the boardwalk between 7 and 8 p.m. expecting a scene similar to the early morning scene.
Boy, was I wrong.
Folks were still out and about in full force, both on the beach and splashing it up at their hotel pools. As dinner time ended, the nightlife scene gets going, and there was live entertainment at Plyler Park and at 2nd Avenue Pier.
Families were still out on the beach, playing games and wading in the water. I even noticed a couple of beach volleyball games and some college-age students playing cornhole.
Depending on which day you are spending downtown, there is tons of stuff going on as part of the city’s Hot Summer Nights program, which lasts until Sept. 29. Here’s a quick rundown:
• Sunday | Whacker Barrel drum display from 7-10 p.m.
• Monday | Kids carnival with face painters, stilt walkers and live entertainment
• Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday | Live concert series featuring various local bands and musicians
• Wednesday | Fireworks
• Friday | Dixieland on the Boardwalk, featuring a strolling Dixieland band.
The best part: All these events are free.
The night I was there, I spotted all sorts of people walking about, taking pictures, staring out at the ocean and enjoying the atmosphere. There were couples; bachelors; groups of friends of all ages; families; runners; skateboarders; people with dogs; women with strollers; seniors; you name it, I saw it.
The boardwalk was perfect for all of these people. It’s family friendly while not excluding young, single folks. It’s stroller- and wheelchair-friendly too, so no one is ever left out. The sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate slow walkers, runners, families and others.
And aspiring photographers or camera-happy tourists have a bevy of scenes to shoot. (I even snapped a few photos with my iPhone: You can view them if you follow Kicks! on Twitter and Instagram @MBKicks).
I’m not the only one who is now in love with the boardwalk. Travel and Leisure Magazine named it the second-best boardwalk in the United States among a list of 11, which included Coney Island, N.Y., Hollywood, Fla., and Santa Cruz, Calif.
And it made National Geographic’s Top 10 U.S. Boardwalks list, coming in at No. 3 below Atlantic City, N.J., and Coney Island, but above Ocean City, Md., Venice Beach, Calif., and Sandwich Boardwalk in Massachusetts.
The long and short of it is the boardwalk has quickly become a must-see and must-do part of a visit to Myrtle Beach, for tourists and locals alike. It took me more than two years to visit it for the first time, but my next visit will probably be within the next two weeks.
Reach CAROLINE EVANS at 626-0244. Follow Kicks! on Twitter @MBKicks.