Beachin': Myrtle Beach

Photo: Courtesy

The Great Recession may be the best thing that ever happened to Myrtle Beach, at least from a visitor’s perspective. The tough times forced out the shoddier hotels and golf courses and inspired restaurants and attractions to step up their games. The result is a remade Myrtle with fancy new attractions (including the shiny new Boardwalk and Promenade), a budding culinary scene, and reasonable rates at great golf courses. And of course, Myrtle remains a top spot for active families—you could spend an action-packed week here and never even see the water. —R. T.

Where the locals eat:
Skip the fried seafood buffets and reserve a table at Aspen Grille. Chef/owner Curry Martin, who trained at Johnson & Wales and is a former Charlottean, boasts, “If it’s in season, it’s on the menu.” Let that guide your seafood selection. But Martin also grills a mean all-natural ribeye ($38), and locals clamor for the savory Veal Aspen, veal medallions with sea scallops and shrimp in a shallot cream sauce ($29). Martin also hand-selects the outstanding wine list. 843-449-9191,

Where to drink:
The Anchor Café boasts great sunset views and an escape from the Myrtle madness. Grab a table on the veranda, order a stiff cocktail, say hi to the locals, and watch the boats come and go at the neighboring marina. 843-315-7855,

Stay Here:
Want to avoid the cheesy hotels on the beach? The upscale Marina Inn at Grande Dunes offers mainly suites and views of either the marina or the Intracoastal Waterway. Two gorgeous golf courses are on the property, and several others are nearby. Its restaurant, Waterscapes, is excellent, as is its bar (see Where to Drink). From $145 in low season, from $245 in high season. 866-460-6195,

For the Kids:
If you can’t find stuff to entertain the whole family in Myrtle Beach, you’re just not trying. To kill a day or more, head to Broadway at the Beach (it’s nicer than you remember). Kids love the carnival-style rides, but there’s also a Ripley’s Aquarium, NASCAR SpeedPark with go-kart rides for all ages, a water park, and more.

For the adults:
It’s definitely on the divey side, but Bourbon Street Bar and Grill, tucked in a tiny strip shopping center, fills up fast most nights with all ages of revelers looking for cold beer and fun live music. And it’s nonsmoking. 843-712-1083

Yes, It’s Seafood, But…
With the hip feel of an NYC lounge, Soho draws loud crowds of locals for its ultrafresh sushi and inventive rolls (sweet potato tempura, anyone?) and nonbeachy feel. 843-443-9441


Wet Petting Zoo

At Ripley’s Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach, kids will love petting the rays as they glide by. Professional “aquarists” are on hand to answer questions and keep little hands out of the rays’ mouths. You can even book a swimming session with the stingrays. 843- 916-0888,