Free ways to have fun across the Grand Strand are not as infrequent as one might think.
Music, movies and fireworks make up some of the abundant options to make memories and enjoy quality time with family or friends, or in solo mode.
With a few weeks of summer left before the big back-to-school rush, and probably more dog days of summer in store for extra fun in the sun, check out this sampling of 10 ways for recreation and entertainment without spending a penny on admission.
HIT THE BEACH
Head out early to find parking at public beach accesses in places such as North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and Garden City Beach, to avoid the need to feed a parking meter.
The Pavilion parking garage in Myrtle Beach also is open and out of the sun.
Pack a lunch so you won't be tempted to spend any money buying snacks or eating out. Diving into waves and sunbathing don't require purchases, and sometimes volleyball nets are set up for activity and entertainment.
Or you can bring your own activities, like bocce ball, a Frisbee, football, or a ball and glove for game of catch.
Don't forget the surfboards or boogie boards, either, for some time well spent on the waves.
TAKE A WALK
Select from various scenery and history on the Riverwalk in Conway, along the Waccamaw; the boardwalk in Myrtle Beach; the Marsh Walk in Murrells Inlet and on Front Street in downtown Georgetown, along the Sampit River.
TAKE A SPIN
Granted, the terrain is flat for the most part, but the Grand Strand provides some great turf to cover on two tires.
Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, for example, is scenic, and it includes a bike lane in each direction between 6th and 27th avenues South.
Follow Ocean Boulevard seven miles south from the Holiday Inn in Surfside Beach as it turns into Waccamaw Drive through Garden City Beach into Murrells Inlet.
The four miles of U.S. 17 Business in Murrells Inlet include bike lanes each way, too, leading to an off-road path as part of the Bike the Neck trail in northeast Georgetown County ( www.biketheneck.org) into Litchfield Beach.
The city of Conway has marked three share-the-road trails of 4.3, 7.4 and 25.4 miles, and all of the trails at Vereen Memorial Gardens in Little River are open to bicyclists.
This one is only for folks who can control that urge to splurge. Places to walk around and window shop and/or people watch are aplenty along the Strand.
Sites include Tanger Outlet Centers in U.S. 501 near Carolina Forest and at U.S. 17 and S.C. 22 near Briarcliffe Acres; as well as Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach; Broadway at the Beach and Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach; shops in Litchfield Beach, Pawleys Island and downtown Conway; and the Coastal Grand, Myrtle Beach and Inlet Square malls.
TAKE IN A MOVIE
Inside | On a sunny or rainy day:
For families and children, at the Grand 14 Cinema, The Market Common, off Farrow Parkway in Myrtle Beach, all at 10 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: "Megamind" Aug. 2-4, "Yogi Bear" Aug. 9-11 and "Legend of the Guardians" Aug. 16-18. Details at 315-2991 or www.marketcommonevents.com.
For seniors and adults, in Myrtle Beach's Base Recreation Center, on Gabreski Lane, close to Farrow Parkway and the Horry-Georgetown Technical College Grand Strand campus, all at 3 p.m. Fridays: "The Green Hornet" today, "Little Fockers" Aug. 5, "Just Go With It" Aug. 12 and "The Family That Preys" Aug. 19. Details at 918-2380.
Outside in a park | Bring a chair or blanket, and hope for good weather:
The Market Common's "Movies Under the Stars" | 9 p.m. Wednesdays in August in Myrtle Beach's Valor Memorial Garden, on Farrow Parkway: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Wednesday, "Back to the Future" Aug. 10, "Grease" Aug. 17, "Ghostbusters" Aug. 24 and "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" Aug. 31. Details at 839-3500 or www.marketcommonmb.com.
North Myrtle Beach Parks and Recreation's "Movies at McLean Park," 93 Oak Drive, starting 15 minutes after sunset -"Tangled" at about 8:20 p.m. Aug. 12, "Gnomeo & Juliet" 7:45 p.m. Sept. 9 and "Rango" at 7:15 p.m. Oct. 14. Details at 280-5570, ext. 1, or parks.nmb.us.
The city of Conway's "2011 Summer Movies" in Riverfront Park, downtown on Elm Street, all starting at dusk or about 8:30 p.m.: "Jaws" Aug. 5, "Toy Story 3" Aug. 20 and "Grease" Sept. 10. Details at 248-1740 or www.conwayparksandrecreation.com.
FIREWORKS | Through August
Barefoot Landing, on U.S. 17 in North Myrtle Beach, 10:15 p.m. Mondays, as part of "SummerFest!" Details at 272-8349 or www.bflanding.com.
Broadway at the Beach, over the lake, at 10 p.m. Tuesdays. Details at 444-3200 or www.broadwayatthebeach.com.
Myrtle Beach's Plyler Park, by the Second Avenue Pier at North Ocean Boulevard, near the city boardwalk, at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays, part of the Oceanfront Merchants Association's "Hot Summer Nights." Details at 997-6695 or www.myrtlebeachdowntown.com.
Stretch your legs and your mind by strolling through some of the area's art exhibits, which include photography, paintings and sculptures. All these galleries offer free admission and eye-opening experiences for the young and old alike.
"Babar's World Tour: Original Paintings and Sketches by Laurent de Brunhoff," through Sept. 4 and "The Collectors' Vision: Southern Folk Art from the Collection of Ann and Ted Oliver," through Oct. 2, at the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum, 3100 S. Ocean Blvd., across from Springmaid Beach Pier. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Details at 238-2510 or www.myrtlebeachartmuseum.org.
"Pastel Summer" | paintings by Mary Margaret Brigman of Mount Pleasant, Dian Hammett and Lu Hook, both of Georgetown, and Kathy Tice Phillips of Greensboro, N.C. through Aug. 27 at the Rice Museum Prevost Gallery, 633 Front St., Georgetown. Open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon-4 p.m. Sundays. Details at 546-7423 or www.ricemuseum.org.
"Dionaea Muscipula: The Work of Theresa Hackett," through Aug. 26 at Coastal Carolina University's Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery, in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, in Conway. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Fridays. Details at 349-6454 or www.coastal.edu/bryanartgallery.
If art isn't your thing, there are other museums that might tickle your fancy. There's living history to be had for adults and children, and a museum that's just for the kids.
Horry County Museum, 438 Main Street, Conway. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, and the L.W. Paul Living History Farm, 2279 Harris Shortcut Road, off U.S. 701, north of Conway, open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; free. 915-5320, 365-3596 or www.horrycountymuseum.org.
Children's Museum of South Carolina "Fun Friday" community night series" 5-7 p.m. Aug. 19 and Sept. 16, at 2501 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. Details at 946-9469 or www.cmsckids.org.
Summer and music go together like the ocean and sand, and the Strand embraces this fact with free concerts all summer long at multiple locations. Don't let the summer slip by without checking out at least one of these free shows.
Oceanfront Merchants Association's "Hot Summer Nights" 8 p.m.-midnight Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through Sept. 3 at Myrtle Beach's Plyler Park, North Ocean Boulevard and Mr. Joe White Avenue, near the city boardwalk: Humble Vibez on Saturday; Tru Sol on Aug. 2, 16 and 30; Backfire on Thursday; The Delta Saints on Aug. 6; Ten Toes Up on Aug. 9 and 23; Fireshot on Aug. 11; Mystic Vibrations on Aug. 13; Bullfrog on Aug. 18; Bibis Ellison on Aug. 20; Tammy's Tangent on Aug. 25; Josh Brannon Band on Aug. 27; Eastbound on Sept. 1; the Scoot Pittman Band on Sept. 3. Also, bands from Dino Capone's School of Rock of Myrtle Beach play 8:30-9 p.m. Mondays through August as part of the Kids Carnival 7-10 p.m. Details at 997-6695 or www.myrtlebeachdowntown.com.
The Market Common in Myrtle Beach "Music in the Streets" 6-9 p.m. Fridays through August: pianist Grenoldo Frazier and Mike O'Donnell on Aug. 5, Dino Capone's School of Rock and My Buddy Todd on Aug. 12, Frazier on Aug. 19, and the Alan Bibey and Arlin Strader duos on Aug. 26. Details at 839-3500 or www.marketcommonmb.com.
"Surfside Beach Sunday Serenades," in the gazebo at Veterans Memorial in Surfside Beach, at Surfside and North Oak drives, 3-5:15 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 4 with three local acoustic performers for 45 minutes each. Details at 450-7281.
Ground Zero and Downtown Ministries, both of Myrtle Beach, present Christian artists in concert at 6 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 4 at the Myrtle Beach boardwalk, at Ninth Avenue North: 33 Miles on Sunday, Chris August on Aug. 7, Living Anthem on Aug. 14, Addison Road on Aug. 21, Petra on Aug. 28, and KJ-52, Remedy Drive and ProTown BMX on Sept. 4. Details at 497-0580, www.sundaycelebrationsmb.com or www.groundzeromb.com.
Two North Myrtle Beach series at McLean Park, 93 Oak Drive: "Music on Main" 6:30-8:30 p.m. first Thursday monthly with Jim Quick & Coastline on Aug. 4 and Too Much Sylvia on Sept. 1. "Sounds of Summer" 7-9 p.m. third Friday monthly, with the Andrew Thielen Big Band on Aug. 19 and Fantastic Shakers Beach Music on Sept. 16. Details at 280-5570, ext. 1, or parks.nmb.us.
WATCH A SUNRISE
Scoot to your favorite spot, whether along the ocean, at a park, or over a body of water, and watch twilight turn into a sparkle of sunshine on the east horizon or look west at dusk and watch the sky turn pastel pink, red, orange and yellow for sundown. Either way, the setting stays lovely and breathtaking year round, no matter what the season, and provides moments of rest and relaxation before you get busy trying out all the free things there are to do along the Grand Strand.