It might be hard to believe, but there are some locals who havent yet stepped foot on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, even though it was completed more than two years ago.
I used to be one of them.
The minute I strolled onto the boardwalk at the 10th Avenue entrance, I regretted not having gone sooner.
I visited the boardwalk three different times, once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once at night. While the scene was different each time, the overall mood and ambience remained the same. And people of all ages were enjoying themselves no matter the time of day.
I visited the boardwalk in the day to try to beat the heat. In July, I should have known better. It was already hot at 8 a.m., but the breeze coming right off the ocean was delightful.
I started at 10th Avenue, walked up to 14th and gazed up at the SkyWheel, then walked back down to 2nd Avenue Pier and back again. I passed the closed shops that would later be selling funnel cakes and souvenirs and approached the SkyWheel. A funny feeling came over me. After I had turned around and headed down toward 2nd Avenue South, past all the hotels and in between the dunes on one side and the beautiful landscaping on the other, I realized that I felt like I was on vacation in a place Ive lived for nearly nine years.
It was a glorious feeling.
Even at 8 a.m., there was plenty of activity up and down the boardwalk. There were runners, cyclists, couples taking an early-morning stroll, and early-rising families already in their swimsuits ready to claim a spot on the beach. A few folks were already enjoying the water.
Lifeguards were setting up beach umbrellas and gearing up for the long day. City employees worked both ends of the walk, picking up any trash missed the night before and ensuring the entire stretch of the boardwalk was spotless. And it was.
The south end of the boardwalk is perfect for a morning stroll. It winds in between the sand dunes and some hotels fronted by pretty flowers and benches.
As you head toward the SkyWheel and 14th Avenue Pier, bars, shops, arcades and restaurants replace the hotels bordering the walk. At 8 a.m., all these places are closed and quiet, making it a peaceful, somewhat nostalgic scene.
It doesnt take long for that peaceful scene to change into one of lots of activity.
As the tourists wake up, so do the businesses, and the peaceful boardwalk becomes the center of activity in Myrtle Beach.
After a morning spent on the beach and taking on the waves, people head to one of the beachfront restaurants for lunch and leisure. I strolled the boardwalk around 2 or 3 p.m., and all the outdoor seating at the boardwalk eateries was full of families and folks eating, drinking, talking and enjoying the views.
The boardwalk itself wasnt full of walkers; people were either still out on the beach or at restaurants. The SkyWheel was surprisingly empty for the time of day.
Most of the action happens around Plyler Park and the two piers (2nd Avenue and 14th Avenue).
The center of the boardwalk, right around 10th Avenue North, is where the Pavilion used to sit, and nostalgia took hold as I gazed out over the open field that now is home only to a new zipline. A lone sign detailing the history of the Pavilion didnt seem enough for what was an icon of downtown Myrtle Beach for decades.
Speaking of downtown staples, I cant leave out Peaches Corner, just a block or two north of the boardwalk, or the Ripleys Believe it or Not attraction.
A parking garage is conveniently located just a few blocks north of these two places, and it costs $6-$10. I recommend just paying $10 to park all day, because there is plenty to keep you occupied, and the boardwalk will get you wherever you need to go.
As the sun starts to set, the action doesnt. I returned to the boardwalk between 7 and 8 p.m. expecting a scene similar to the early-morning scene.
Boy, was I wrong.
Folks were still out and about in full force, both on the beach and splashing it up at their hotel pools. As dinnertime ended, the nightlife got going, and there was live entertainment at Plyler Park and at 2nd Avenue Pier.
Families were even still out on the beach, playing games and wading in the water. I even noticed a couple of beach volleyball games and some college-age students playing cornhole.
Depending on which day you are downtown, there are tons of stuff going on as part of the citys Hot Summer Nights program, which lasts until Sept. 29. Heres a quick rundown:
Sunday: Whacker Barrel drum display 7-10 p.m.
Monday: kids carnival with face painters, stilt walkers and live entertainment
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday: Live concert series featuring various local bands and musicians
Friday: Dixieland on the Boardwalk, featuring a strolling Dixieland band
The best part: All these events are free.
The night I was there, I spotted all sorts of people walking about, taking pictures, staring out at the ocean and enjoying the atmosphere. There were couples, bachelors, groups of friends of all ages, families, runners, skateboarders, people with dogs, women with strollers, seniors you name it, I saw it.
The boardwalk was perfect for all of these people. Its family-friendly while not excluding young, single folks. Its stroller- and wheelchair-friendly too, so no one is ever left out. The sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate slow walkers, runners, families and others.
The long and short of it? The boardwalk has quickly become a must-see and must-do part of a visit to Myrtle Beach.
It took me more than two years to visit it for the first time, but my next visit will probably be within the next two weeks.