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Tried & true things to do in Myrtle Beach area

With the annual influx of new stores, restaurants and hotels, it's nice to know that some things in Myrtle Beach never change. Even as the city continues to grow its borders

and works to revitalize its family-friendly image, there are some long-standing forms of entertainment that remain intact. Here's a look at five of our favorite tried and true things to do:

A day at the beach.

Nothing says "Myrtle Beach" quite like the beach itself. There are so many great places to enjoy it, from Pawleys Island to Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., it's impossible to sort them out.

But if you're in for a slightly different beach experience, you can try the strips located inside the area's two state parks.

Myrtle Beach State Park has a milelong stretch of beach accompanied by walking trails and a maritime forest. This angler-friendly beach allows surf fishing and is divided in half by a fishing pier. While the northern end includes a small boardwalk, picnic facilities and a playground, the southern side is more of a natural habitat, which features large dunes and less clutter.

The secluded Huntington Beach State Park features 3 miles of pristine beaches as well as some extraordinary salt marshes and access to historic Atalaya. This Spanish-styled castle - the winter home of scholar Archer M. Huntington and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington - offers a great retreat for those who prefer not to stay on the sand.

Where | Myrtle Beach State Park is just south of Myrtle Beach on Kings Highway; Huntington Beach State Park is a bit farther south, just beyond Murrells Inlet on U.S. 17 near Brookgreen Gardens.

Pricing | MB: $4 for adults (16 and older), $2.50 for senior citizens (65 and older), $1.50 for children 6-15, ages 5 and younger free. Huntington: Ages 16 and older: $5, ages 6-15: $3, ages 5 and younger free. S.C. residents ages 65 and older and S.C. disabled residents, $3.25

Hours | Both open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Contact info | MB: 238-5325 or myrtlebeachstatepark.net; Huntington: 237-4440 or huntingtonbeachsc.org

Fun factor | The beach truly is what you make of it. Spending a day on the sand can be a glorious experience full of as much or as little fun as you'd like.

Golf the Grand Strand.

Summer is a perfect time to enjoy the weather and grab some better prices on one of the area's favorite pastimes.

With around 100 area courses to choose from - many of which have received national acclaim - you shouldn't have any trouble finding a place to play. Seven local spots were named among Golf Digest's 2009-10 "Top 100 Public Courses You Can Play" list including Heritage Club, The Dunes Golf and Beach Club, Tidewater Plantation and Golf, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, The Grande Dunes Resort Course and Barefoot Resort's Fazio and Dye Club courses.

And if just playing isn't enough, there are plenty of events to compete in, including weekly scrambles, fundraisers and tournaments and two amateur tours based in the area.

Where | Courses stretch for 60 to 70 miles up the coast.

Pricing | Expect to spend between $50-$75 per round on average, with prices ranging as low as $30 per round in the offseason at some courses and as high as $200 in the spring at others.

Hours | Call for tee times, as course hours vary. Those looking for an after-hours experience can try Tupelo Bay Executive Golf Course, 1800 U.S. 17 S., Garden City. The back nine is illuminated and stays open until 11 p.m.

Contact info | Visit www.myrtlebeachonline.com for details on all area golf events, course information and online tee-time booking.

Fun factor | For many folks, this is THE reason to visit. With many restaurants, nightclubs and stores catering specifically to the golf crowd, there's few places better to be if you're searching for a golfer's paradise.

Get wet.

In the heat, there's nothing like a dip in the water to cool you off. When you add in the excitement of rushing down a huge water slide or splashing in the wave pool, a visit to one of the area's water parks is the perfect summer retreat.

Now in its 20th season, the south side's Wild Water and Wheels offers 24 water slides, multiple pools, a kiddie lagoon and a lazy river. In addition, the park has plenty of dry land fun to go around, including go-carts, bumper boats, kiddie rides and miniature golf.

Family Kingdom Water Park makes the most of its oceanfront location by cramming multiple speed slides, water flumes, a children's area and a lazy river into a fun-filled, yet compact area. "We don't have a wave pool, but we have a real wave pool right out in the Atlantic Ocean," General Manager Donny Sipes said.

A bit farther from the beach, Myrtle Waves boasts its 30 attractions on 20 acres, calling itself South Carolina's largest water park. Its rides include the speedy Turbo Twisters, the serpentine Snake Mountain and the ever-popular Arooba Tooba, which shoots riders around an enormous bowl before funneling them to the pool below. The park also offers a wave pool, kids areas, cabanas and more.

Where | WWW: 910 U.S. 17 S., Surfside Beach; FK: 300 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach; MW: 3000 10th Ave. N., Myrtle Beach

Pricing | WWW: Daily pass, $29.25 ($3 OFF online); FK: All-day pass $18.95 plus tax, combo pass $33; MW: Regular admission is $32.99, $24.99 for kids and $29.99 for seniors (online tickets $2 OFF)

Hours | WWW: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m through Aug.15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m through Aug. 29, open weekend through Sept. 6; FK: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Aug. 14, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Aug. 30. MW: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Aug. 15, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Aug. 22, open weekends through Sept. 12.

Contact info | WWW: wild-water.com; FK: 626-3447 or familykingdomfun.com; MW: 918-8725 or myrtlewaves.com

Fun factor | A perfect combination of relaxing and exciting, there's a lot to like about these parks. However, no evening hours, seasonal availability, the prospect of large crowds and waiting to ride can turn some folks off.

Catch a baseball game.

Anyone who's been out to see the Myrtle Beach Pelicans play knows that a night at BB&T Coastal Field is as much about entertaining the masses as it is about baseball.

Upcoming promotions such as Bark in the Park (July 16), Belly Buster Night (July 29) and the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo (Aug. 7) are a great addition to the Carolina League action, which offers a nightly chance to catch up-and-coming major league talent.

The park's weekly promotions range from family-friendly - Kids Eat Free Mondays, Webkinz Wednesdays and Free Stuff Fridays - to more adult-oriented events such as the ever-popular Thirsty Thursdays during which fans can get $1 beers from 6 to 8 p.m.

Regardless of what's going on, the park's promotional staff ensures there's something for everyone.

"We always have to stay true to the fact that we are family entertainment," says Maggie Neil, director of promotions. "So regardless of what we do, there's a barometer of if there's kids in the ball park, is this going to be OK or not. We stick to that, because they are the majority of our fans and the ones that support us through the season."

Where | BB&T Coastal Field, 1251 21st Ave. N.

Pricing | Tickets are $7-$11 for general seating.

Hours | Most games begin at 7:05 p.m., with Sunday starts at 6:05 p.m.

Contact info | 918-6000, 877-918-TIXX or visit myrtlebeachpelicans.com.

Fun factor | There's nothing like sporting events for bringing folks together. A night at the ballpark is equally good with some friends or for bringing out the kids.

Get a great deal.

With a retail-space-per-capita figure that ranks among the top shopping locales in the world, Myrtle Beach has long been recognized as a destination for spending some cash. But these days, no one wants to spend without knowing they are getting a deal.

Tanger Outlets offers good prices on extra inventory from national chains.

The renovated U.S. 501 location features a slate of stores such as Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren and Levi Strauss factory stores, while the U.S. 17 location features Adidas and Aeropostale.

Where | U.S. 501: 4635 Factory Stores Blvd. (near Carolina Forest Boulevard); U.S. 17: 10835 Kings Road (near S.C. 22)

Hours | Both locations, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

Contact info | U.S. 501: 236-5100; U.S. 17: 449-0491 or tangeroutlet.com

Fun factor | There's nothing like the rush of "retail therapy," but a day full of shopping always ends bittersweet once you realize how much you've just spent.

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