Imagine a sultry afternoon in South Carolina, languishing in a rocking chair on the porch of an old plantation house slowly sipping iced tea surrounded by Magnolia trees dripping with Spanish moss. This is the image that comes to mind when thinking of the laid back Southern states of America.
Made popular by films such as ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘Forest Gump’, the Southern States have a vivid history of slavery and civil war as well as an unrivalled eco system and some stunning scenery. But together with the beauty and tranquillity is another more exciting side to the area that attracts all ages looking for some Southern hospitality.
Often referred to ‘Las Vegas by the sea’, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is America’s 2nd most popular holiday destination and it is easy to see why. The city has grown alongside 60 miles of beautiful white sand beach and is now home to attractions, theatres and theme parks. With perfect summer weather and the gulf stream to warm the ocean the beach has to be the number one attraction. Known as the Grand Strand the coastal strip has a huge range of watersports including fishing, boating and surfing or you can just kick back and soak up the sun on the spotless sands.
When you are ready for a change of scene Myrtle Beach has it all and with most attractions open well into the evening you don’t have to miss a thing.
The quaintly named Barefoot Landing is a unique collection of shops and restaurants strung alongside the Intercoastal Waterway just north of Myrtle Beach. The area is laid out around a lake and has the feel of an old Southern fishing village with a selection of shops that vary from individual boutiques and gift shops to more major names in retail. When the sun goes down you can enjoy live entertainment at the Alabama Theatre where a variety of spectacular productions take place including the acclaimed ‘One – The Show’; an extravagant mix of comedy, excerpts from musicals, tribute bands and dance.
If you have grandchildren in tow then you cant beat some old fashioned fun, Family Kingdom located right by the beach is the original old time amusement park that children just can’t get enough of. Hold tight on the thrilling wooden roller coaster and enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean on South Carolinas largest ferris wheel. Just across the street is the Family Kingdom waterpark open during the summer months of May through to the end of August. Cool off in the heat of the day by drifting along the ‘lazy river; or hurtle down the water flumes with over a 100ft drop.
Another great complex consisting of part theme park, part shopping mall and part entertainment complex is Broadway at the Beach. This beautifully laid out area is huge and more than one visit is needed to do it justice. Call by during the day to browse the individual shops and boutiques and enjoy a coffee or lunch overlooking the water. Meanwhile the kids can get lost in the fantasy world of Magiquest where they can immerse themselves into a magic land to search for secret treasures, slay dragons, solve puzzles and save the day all with the wave of a magic wand!
For a complete change of pace make sure you visit the exquisite Brookgreen Gardens, home to more than 900 works of art by 300 of the greatest names in American sculpture, past and present. Follow the guide book and search them out – you will need more than one visit to find all 900! During the 18th and early 19th century, Brookgreen was one of the most successful rice plantations in the South, a crop that brought great wealth to the owners through slave labour. The slaves, mostly from West Africa had the unbearable burden of turning a swamp forest into productive rice fields, working long hours in harsh conditions. Their poignant story is told during a leisurely boat trip along the tidal creeks where it is hard to imagine such cruelty and hardship amongst the now tranquil surroundings. As well as the colourful plantation history the boat trip provides information on the varied eco systems and points out local bird and wildlife – there is usually an alligator or two basking in the sun waiting to be spotted.
One of the legacies that have survived from slavery is the varied cuisine of the Southern States. Restaurants throughout South Carolina are keen to promote their heritage through cooking and you will get the chance to try fried green tomatoes, grits, collard greens and gumbo. But probably the most widely available and delicious is the southern barbeque which is slow cooked pork shredded or ‘pulled’ off the bone and served with a variety of sauces – delicious. As the songs says “Ain’t Nothing Finer…”
Avoid peak summer months as everywhere is very crowded and the weather can be extremely hot. Spring and autumn are good times to go. But beware – hurricanes can sometimes hit during September and October.
For more information, visit American Sky.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends American Sky.