Keeping the kids entertained during the summer months can be challenging, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Fortunately, there are quite a few kid-friendly activities going on in Myrtle Beach this summer, and many of them are free (or cheap).
“Living in a vacation destination is both a blessing and a curse,” said Melissa Byers, local mother of two and founder of the website Myrtle Beach for Families ( http://www.myrtlebeachforfamilies.com/). “We’ve got endless options for entertainment, but much of it is expensive. That’s why our family relies on free, or almost free, things to do throughout the summer.”
For example, every night during the summer months, Barefoot Landing has free entertainment as part of its annual Summerfest celebration. Entertainment varies nightly, but may include Nick Pike of America’s Got Talent doing juggling, riding a unicycle and comedy; Nigel and Ally’s Traveling Dance Party; kids’ karaoke; clowns; magicians; stilt walkers; face painting; fireworks; and more.
Although Summerfest is Barefoot Landing’s signature summer event, they also offer other free seasonal entertainment (e.g., a Halloween Kids’ Fun Day and a lighting ceremony at Christmas).
“Family is so important,” said Kim Kelley, marketing director at Barefoot Landing. “We offer free or affordable family-friendly entertainment because we want people to be able to have a good time without spending a fortune.”
In addition to Summerfest, here’s just a sample of what’s free and cheap for kids this summer:
Waccamaw Lanes is participating in a national Kids Bowl Free program that will allow kids (ages 15 and under) to bowl two free games per day (there is a fee for shoe rental).
To sign your child up, go to http://www.kidsbowlfree.com/. Click on South Carolina, then click on Waccamaw Lanes. Fill out the form and they will email the bowling passes to you each week. For a one-time payment of $24.95, up to four family members can also bowl two games per person per day.
Free roller skating
Fun Warehouse in Myrtle Beach is participating in a national Kids Skate Free program for kids ages 10 and under. Each week, your kids will get passes that they can use to skate for free (skate rental is $2).
To get the free passes, go to http://kidsskatefree.com/. Choose South Carolina, then choose Fun Warehouse. Fill out the form and they will email the passes to you each week (there’s a limit of four kids per email address). The passes are good on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Free kid-friendly shows
Broadway at the Beach is offering free family-friendly shows and other activities every night this summer as part of its annual Coca Cola Summer Nights Entertainment Series.
Activities include an interactive musical entertainment show, an interactive comedy juggling show, a three-man Hillbilly street percussion show, musical performances, living statues, and face painting. Go to http://www.broadwayatthebeach.com/eventscalendar.aspx for the schedule. Shows will be held at various locations throughout the complex (locations may vary nightly, so you may need to stop by the information center to find a specific show).
A model train exhibit is on display at Myrtle Beach mall 4-7 p.m. Mondays, noon-4 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays, assembled and maintained by the Grand Strand Model Railroaders Club. The location is three doors from Bass Pro Shops inside the mall at U.S. 17 and S.C. 22, near Briarcliffe Acres. Call 293-4386 or visit www.gsmrrc.org. Admission is free and donations are optional.
Free kids’ carnival
Every Monday night through Aug. 25 from 7 to 10 p.m., there’s a free kids’ carnival in Plyler Park with inflatables, face painting, stilt walkers, street entertainers, music and more.
Free or cheap carousel rides
All summer long, Barefoot Landing is offering free carousel rides on Saturdays as part of its annual Summerfest. The price during the rest of the week is just $2.
Free and cheap movies (indoor)
Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse will allow kids to see 10 movies throughout the summer for $5 (on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m.). To see all 10 movies for $5, you’ll need to buy a punch card in advance at the box office or online (you can buy one for yourself, too).
If you don’t want to see all 10, you can pick and choose for $1 per person per movie. To see the schedule or to buy a punch card, go to http://www.cinemark.com/summer-movie-clubhouse.
Grand 14 Cinema at The Market Common is showing free kids’ movies every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. (there’s a different movie each week). You can also buy popcorn and drinks for $1 each until 10:20 a.m. Go to http://www.stonetheatres.com/#/summer-movie-magic-grand-14/4584033968 for the schedule.
Frank Theatres’ CineBowl & Grille, at Inlet Square mall at U.S. 17 Business and U.S. 17 Bypass in Murrells Inlet, is hosting a Summer Movie Series through Aug. 14 on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. Movies on the lineup include “How To Train Your Dragon,” “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Megamind,” “Despicable Me 2” and “Despicable Me 2.” Admission is $1. Call 651-9400 or visit www.franktheatres.com.
Free movies (outdoor)
On most Fridays throughout the summer, The Market Common is showing free movies in Valor Park. The movies will start around 9 p.m. Bring a blanket or a chair. Popcorn, ice cream, soda, and water will be available for purchase. Go to http://www.myrtlebeachonthecheap.com/2014/06/free-movies-valor-park/ for the schedule.
On select Fridays throughout the summer, Conway Parks, Recreation, & Tourism is showing free movies in Riverfront Park. The movies will start at dusk. Bring a blanket or a chair. Popcorn, drinks, and snacks will be available for purchase. Go to http://www.conwayparksandrecreation.com/moviesinthepark.html for the schedule.
The Town of Surfside Beach is showing free “Movies After Dark” in Martin Field every Thursday through Aug. 14. The movies will start at 9 p.m. Bring a blanket or a chair. Concessions will be available for you to purchase snacks. Go to http://www.surfsidebeach.org/events/movies_after_dark_2014_flyer.pdf for the schedule.
McLean Park in North Myrtle Beach is showing “Free Birds” on July 11 and “Despicable Me 2” on Aug. 8. Admission is free and the movies start about 15 minutes after sunset. Bring blankets and chairs. Visit parks.nmb.us for more information.
Free summer reading program
Kids in grades 1-6 who read any eight books this summer and record them in their Barnes and Noble Reading Journal can get a free book. You can pick up a Reading Journal at Barnes & Noble or download one at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/summer-reading/379003570.
Once completed, the Reading Journal can be exchanged at Barnes & Noble for a free book (your child can choose from a limited selection of children’s books). The deadline is Sept. 2.
For more kid-friendly activities in Myrtle Beach, check out this list of Free and Cheap Kids’ Activities, most of which are available year-round. http://www.myrtlebeachonthecheap.com/2014/05/free-cheap-kids-activities-myrtle-beach/.
JULIE HENRY is a freelance writer, editor and project manager. She owns and operates Myrtle Beach on the Cheap: http://www.myrtlebeachonthecheap.com/.