was a tremendous vacation… though different in many ways from
others. And those differences were created by more than just what
options a location provides.
adjusted our travel based on a hurricane, and planned activities
as that storm raged outside our windows.
visited new places and familiar hangouts, but never really developed
a list of things to do for either… and certainly not a list that
featured what would be considered the expected attractions.
return home featured a stop to visit Jay and Justin, along with
a swing through Rhode Island. And in bringing all of these travels
to the Backpack, it was decided to have a bit of fog descend on
the tour diary… instead of sharing all of the final moments, we
moved along into the sunset with some snippets from the final
legs of driving.
we have the traditional “Best of…” column. Having shared thoughts
about Disney, Orlando, and Florida on several occasions before
(and… since we kept a really low profile in Orlando on this trip),
I decided to go with a focus only on the area around Myrtle Beach.
thought to kick things off… Myrtle Beach is a very strange place.
strange as in the first fifteen (or more) definitions you might
think of if asked. It isn’t strange as in different, unfamiliar,
weird, and so on. Instead… the entire area presents a fantastic
combination of touristy design, unique and regional flavor, and
a comfortable atmosphere. It’s a combination other places have
attempted, but I’ve never truly seen smoothly accomplished before.
(At least not on this level.)
a touchstone concept… anyone that travels with picky eaters has
an understanding of what I mean by comfortable atmosphere.
considering a place for a meal, there are certain menu items that
immediately check off boxes. There are many times when an uneventful
dining experience is far more important and satisfying that experimenting
with the unknown. In such a scenario, the national chain or fast
food offering or place with chicken fingers on the menu displayed
in the window is the likely dinner stop instead of unique regional
cuisine with unfamiliar descriptions.
that idea, shift the subject, and consider the possible resulting
can struggle when looking to ease between touristy and regional.
It’s usually one or the other that dominates. And even if successfully
offering both, the results almost never come together comfortably.
Savannah, Georgia. (Go read about it in “A
Tale of Two City”)
found plenty of touristy in Savanah.
found amazing unique and regional flavor.
never really found a place merging both. We never really found
a comfortable atmosphere.
Beach was a brilliant combination of everything. From what we
saw, it worked. Big tourism driven elements to create attention
and provide for the marketing. Local and regional offerings that
added plenty of opportunities to enjoy the things you would never
find at home. And plenty of places—at virtually every corner—where
you could refocus on the basics, recharge yourself, and just kind
of smile without having to think too hard or work at it.
difficulty for us (and this piece) was created by combining our
length of stay and travel plans. We were only staying less than
a handful of days, and had ourselves on a budget. We had decided
we would like to avoid three fast food meals a day, and in turn
look at ways to snack lightly and share meals if it meant creating
an opportunity for a single better meal stop. We weren’t looking
to visit multiple major attractions.
get to it…
were your favorite things?
The simple answers… finding a Big Dogs store, enjoying a Legends
show, and having a nice lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack during a hurricane.
The more detailed answers…
really enjoyed the pool area at the Crown Reef. They have a lazy-river-style
segment that was fun. (Didn’t love their tubes for it… but the
river itself flowed along nicely, especially for one set up at
a hotel.) The connections to the beach area worked out pretty
well, and we spent a bit of time walking in the sand and along
the water. And our room provided a great view of the ocean.
the years, I have become a very big supporter of the Legends
in Concert group. Never had a bad experience
with any of their shows, and usually find myself thrilled by a
few aspects from every cast I’ve seen and/or met. We’ll cover
a bit more a few questions from now (and in the South Carolina
portion of the travel diary). For this answer, I want to point
out location, and that Legends is also near Broadway
at the Beach. That would be home to the Joe’s
Crab Shack we visited, along with some other incredible shopping
and entertainment options we simply didn’t have the time (or good
weather) to see. And that is part of the attraction that has us
wanting to get back there.
This is going to be one of the most difficult sets of questions
I’ve attempted. We simply didn’t spend enough time in Myrtle Beach
to build a lot of variety. The storm extended that stay, but basically
closed things down. And, we absolutely want to go back.
understood, I can easily say that Legends in Concert,
the lazy river at our hotel resort, and the shopping were my favorite
parts of this visit.
were you most impressed by?
I’m cheating… everything.
did not expect to leave Myrtle Beach with such a strong desire
to get back there again. That impressed me.
Legends really impressed me. We’ve been to a few of their
shows, but never in this theater. This place is design wonderfully
for them, and everything about it from the moment we parked was
easy and fun. From the photo opportunities before the show to
everything taking place during and after, I really enjoyed it.
place to eat (overall)?
On our second day, we stopped at the Carolina
Roadhouse. A friend that travels to the area
often recommended it. Nice place. Design was cool. The hush puppies
were really good. Menu had several interesting options on it.
Carolina Roadhouse was good. I really enjoyed Joe’s
place to eat (inexpensive)?
Tough one, because our meal at the Carolina Roadhouse was good,
but I don’t think it falls into inexpensive territory. Joe’s Crab
Shack was good, and we actually turned our leftovers into a second
meal later in the hotel room, but I’m not sure that works either.
Our other dinner was not something either of us would recommend.
stayed pretty simple. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for example. I like
Krispy Kreme, but I don’t think it’s worthy of naming the best
place to eat inexpensively. There was plenty around, and I’m sure
we would have found something had we been looking for it, but
nothing really fits in this category from this trip.
Here we go with the troubles. I’ve got nothing. Other than leftovers,
we never had any stepdown meals. And that was by design.
I mean is that this was designed as a low-budget trip. And, Myrtle
Beach needed to be a budgeted stop on that trip. That’s one of
the reasons we went with small snacks and one larger meal on many
days throughout our travels. And by that, a good summary would
be trading the cost of several fast food meals for a single good
meal each day.
day two, we slept late. We decided to simply have something small
to hold us over for a bigger meal later (which was Carolina Roadhouse).
consolidated our meals, had snacks occasionally, and as a result,
I don’t have an answer for this question.
Looking back on it, and considering my notes, the amount of driving
had to drive several miles, and along some interesting twists
and turns, from our hotel to the restaurant recommended to us
on the first night. Shouldn’t surprise anyone that the factory
outlets weren’t on the beach, but it was a few miles from our
resort to the Big Dog store. And it was a few miles to the Legends
in Concert Theater and Boardwalk at the Beach.
made jokes about some funny geographical oddities in the world
before when it comes to driving. Our house in Connecticut had
the amazing peculiarity of being a 35-minute drive away from anything.
The Crown Reef in Myrtle Beach? Let’s say fifteen minutes from
everything. (Which, thanks to the stunning efficiency of the elevators,
also just so happens to be the amount of time it takes to get
from your room to the pool area. Anyway… here’s a funny story…)
few moments ago, I mentioned that a friend had told us about the
Carolina Roadhouse. Terry talked to him about it before we left.
Neither of us ever wrote it down. While looking around early on
day two, we couldn’t decide between a couple of options, and Terry
remembered the place our friend mentioned. We called him to confirm
the name. According to the GPS, we were only about two and a half
miles away… but it involved twists and turns, what seemed to be
main roads and back roads, red lights and stop signs, and… overall
it never seemed like we were on a direct route to it. Took about
that’s exactly how all of the driving felt around Myrtle Beach.
There was never a “drive straight, turn right at the light, look
for it on the left” moment. It was main roads followed by turns
into neighborhoods followed by one-way streets with medians when
you wanted to make a turn. GPS says five minutes… count on every
light being red. Fifteen. GPS says twenty minutes… the god of
stoplights is granting you favor and a parking space is opening
up for you immediately next to the front door. Fifteen.
to the main point though, there was never any simple driving.
Never any “that’s so close, let’s walk it” moments. And it always
felt like every ride involved two or three more turns than it
cast featured Brooks & Dunn, Adele, Bruno Mars, The Blues
Brothers and Elvis. They all did a nice job. (J.C. Brando—Adele—is
was easy to find, nicely designed, and everyone there took great
care of us. Friendly group.
know, I never thought of this before, so I found it interesting
the drive into the Myrtle Beach area from main highways like 95
is longer than you would think. Felt that way when we arrived…
felt that way plus more when we left.
for a place located on the water—and one that often seems to get
noted when predicting the path of each and every hurricane—Myrtle
Beach handles water either really well or not so hot at all. (And
I don’t know which.)
Hermine was, I believe, Tropical Storm Hermine by the time it
had swept into Georgia and began its run toward and past us in
South Carolina. But the roads weren’t just flooded, in sections
they were deep (and flowing) rivers of water.
yet, the very next day, when we left most of the excess water
wasn’t really visible. Roads were fine. Landscaping seemed to
have drained out with almost no puddles.
the concept that potentially explains why they may be brilliant.
Compare places like Syracuse and Atlanta when it comes to snow,
and most people will tell you they’d rather drive in Syracuse
during a snow storm. The drivers seem more used to it, and the
local authorities have better equipment to address clearing it
and cleaning up.
the storm, the water was impressive. We were happy to be on a
higher floor because of the water in the road, and deliberately
parked on an upper level of the resort garage. Almost felt like
Atlanta during a blizzard at that moment. But once the storm ended,
soon enough the water wasn’t an obstacle.
reasons for stopping in Myrtle Beach basically were: we wanted
to break up the drive to Florida, Myrtle Beach was one of a handful
of options we liked, and a Legends show was something
we both trusted from past experiences. Beyond that, while I’ve
always wanted to visit, there was nothing specific that I expected
or wanted. It was an open book for me.
we kind of bounced around, we got to do several things (shopping,
meals, a show and enjoy the water a bit) but I don’t think we
got to dig around enough to find those unplanned moments that
would apply to this question.
I had to recommend something that a person had to do, regardless
of expense, I would say…
Explore and enjoy. We went to see a Legends in Concert
show, and had some meals at places I would definitely return to.
they are not the only options. There are dinner shows. And check
out the Broadway at the Beach area to see just one example of
what entertainment, shopping and dining options are around.
The Crown Reef was fine. I would stay there again. Bed, balcony
with an ocean view, pools and the lazy river, and a kitchenette
in the room. It was everything we wanted.
it was a great on the beach for the least amount of money option,
and not the very best on the beach option, if you understand what
I mean. There were plenty of moments when we laughed about things
and discussed staying at a better hotel next time.
was great. I would recommend seeing a show with them, and do so
no matter who is in the cast. They always offer a terrific show
and are always worth it.
I had to recommend something but expense did matter (so go cheaper),
I would say…
Enjoy the water… either at the beach or the hotel pool.
(How long have you been using the same questions for our trips?
I don’t like them. Sorry, not trying to be a pain. But they need
to be updated a bit.)
I’ve got nothing.
stay was short, the budget was set, and the storm interrupted
a lot of options.
that impressed me the most…
On one side of things… none. Everything was good… can’t wait for
a chance to go back… but no one person made a positive and lasting
yet… everyone at Legends in Concert.
staff were friendly and helpful. The cast was fantastic, and several
performers were around for pictures before the show. Very much
The people at Legends were great. Enjoyed everyone we
interacted with there.
dinner recommendation wasn’t that hot, but the people checking
us in at the Crown Reef were nice and tried to be helpful.
I’m really glad we included…
Joe’s Crab Shack… but not for Joe’s Crab Shack.
up—important note—Joe’s was really good. We had a delicious meal
with good service, plus the leftovers were perfect as another
meal in our hotel room while we played cards and enjoyed the delights
associated with a passing hurricane. (Fine… yes… a passing tropical
storm.) Joe’s was wonderful… eat at Joe’s.
reason I’m glad we included it involves the location and not the
meal. Joe’s Crab Shack is a part of the Myrtle Beach area called
Broadway at the Beach. Having decided to give it a try for lunch
as the storm was beginning to arrive and travel was still possible,
we drove over. Joe’s isn’t along the outer edge of the property
and doesn’t have an amazingly visible signage from the parking
lot, so we made a few passes around. That meant we saw several
of the places that are involved… restaurants, shops and entertainment…
and got a decent feel for the size of the place and setting.
we went to Joe’s, we have a really good feeling about what we
missed around it. In fact, I have a great answer for the next
I wish we had more time with the water. Pool, lazy river, and
the beach. (And I’m saying that here because of my answer for
the next question.)
I wish we had done…
Broadway at the Beach.
tourist attraction of the highest order, including such notable
(and not too unique) names as Ripley’s, Margaritaville, WonderWorks,
and plenty of others (right up to, drum roll please, Joe’s Crab
you need to look beyond that. This is not your standardized tourist
destination, polished beyond regional flare with nothing unique
to offer. Head over to the Broadway at the Beach web site and
look around. This is a pretty special collection of things to
do, see and taste. I really don’t know of any other location that
offers such an interesting combination of weird and brilliant
and familiar and unusual. You even have the Myrtle Beach Pelicans
baseball team playing nearby.
over to it (both for our evening at Legends and lunch
at Joe’s) gave us an introduction to what it offered, and it is
a significant part of why we are looking forward to a return.
The big thing is we needed more time, and a bit of better luck
with the weather.
storm shut down Broadway at the Beach on our third day. I cannot
wait to spend some time there on a future visit.
more time would result in more beach time.
from this experience…
More than twenty years ago, I worked at a hotel on the Atlantic
Ocean in Westerly, Rhode Island. Without going deeply into stories
about that, I can tell you that there is an amazingly different
atmosphere that comes along with a vacation built around a water
view. And that atmosphere throws A LOT of people off. They don’t
it’s amazing to say that, but think about it for a second. If
I send you to Las Vegas, you have an idea of what’s coming. Same
with Orlando. You can picture casinos and theme parks and Disney
and more. Simple.
so simple with a beach. You would think it is… sun screen and
towels, enjoying the sand and the waves. It’s not.
were stunned that the rooms in that hotel didn’t have a television
or refrigerator. And while that was twenty years ago, with a fridge
far more common today, it also means that technology hadn’t provided
a need for WiFi access yet. But these folks were still ticked
off, even after being told there was no television in the room,
when they arrived to find no television in their room. (Crashing
waves and phenomenal view outside? Lovely. Where’s the television?)
people don’t know how to appreciate a great beach when they are
placed on a great beach. They look for entertainment to be provided,
and, technology has advanced since then in ways tremendously shortening
brings us to the suggestion… MYRTLE BEACH… ATLANTIC OCEAN… HOTEL
POOLS AND LAZY RIVERS! There is most definitely a specific concept
to be appreciated. Enjoy the water. Appreciate the waves and sights
and sounds. The rest is frosting on the cake.
I’ll go with my standard big thing from this trip, head out to
see Legends in Concert.
I do agree with Bob about learning to slow down, appreciate the
world passing by, and get some sand between your toes.
this will be set up as a best of column, but you should always
warn people about the bad, so here is something I think we need
Here’s something different… postcards.
had a horrible time finding postcards around Myrtle Beach.
family enjoys sending postcards. We always have. In fact, many
trips of mine have involved heading to local post office branches
for stamps. During this trip, we wanted to get a few postcards
to send out, and since we hadn’t been there before we figured
Myrtle Beach was a great spot to highlight. It became a quest.
asked at the gift shop of our hotel and was met with a look that
quite possibly indicated the person had never heard of postcards
before. After speaking to two other people, and asking multiple
times at the front desk, turns out… none. (But no one could say
looked around a bit… albeit slightly, since we didn’t make many
stops… on the first night. Then I looked specifically… because
we were in shops, and shopping centers, and themed stores… during
the second day. I deliberately stopped for no other reason than
I spotted the places that always carry postcards… gift shops and
markets and drug stores and others where you would expect them,
while asking staff member after staff member… on the third day.
never found any. Ended up sending them from Orlando a few days
bonus for this question… parking. I have never before, and doubt
I will again, need to specifically adjust a parking spot based
on the threat of rising tides. You know… water. But having navigated
flooded streets thanks to Hurricane Hermine, we never considered
anything but driving to the second floor of the hotel’s parking
structure to park our car. And, over days two, three and four,
we observed the water on roads, beaches, and more. It became a
topic of conversation.
suppose the general idea is simply this – always be aware of higher
ground, figuratively and literally.
There’s a Jimmy Buffet song… “Trying to reason with hurricane
season”. Just the name of the song sums it up. If the storm hadn’t
been around, we likely would have left a day earlier anyway and
not seen any more than we did. But, it definitely was… forgive
me… a cloud overhead.