Regardless of tourist trends and economic gyrations, things are always looking up – literally – in Myrtle Beach.
When the splendid, 1.2-mile oceanfront boardwalk ( www.myrtlebeachboardwalk.com) opened in 2010, visitors looking for something new to do could stroll from one end to the other, taking the ocean and coast views from elevated planking.
That was followed in 2011 by the SkyWheel, the enormous beachfront Ferris wheel ( www.skywheelusa.com) that takes you 200 feet above sea level, where you can see about 25 miles up the coast to the North Carolina border.
This year the buzz is for Encounters: UFO Experience ( www.ufoexhibition.com), an attraction at Broadway at the Beach that opened April 4 with seven galleries covering “Ancient Encounters,” “Military Involvement,” “Modern Sightings,” “White Light Experiences,” “Abduction Experience,” “Alien Travel” and “Pop Culture.”
The “White Light” chamber is billed as a two-minute simulation of alien abduction; it leads to “Abduction Experience,” set up like a UFO cockpit.
Throughout are replicas said to be based on UFO lore and theory, whether earthbound (min-mockups of Easter Island statues, pyramids, etc.) or distant (a replica of a spaceship).
In addition to replicas, there are stations with footage/testimony from people who say they’ve had encounters.
The “Pop Culture” gallery ties into radio, TV and movie treatments of the subject, with copies of items from “Close Encounters,” “Men in Black” and other releases.
Admission is pegged at $14, $10 for kids.
Encounters is in the northeast corner of the sprawling Broadway at the Beach complex. Can’t miss it: The exterior of the building has a flying saucer bursting out from its side. More precisely, it’s between the Hampton Inn and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville – the bar and grill franchised by the pop star whose first album, oddly enough, was “Down to Earth.”
The California-based firm behind the Encounters attraction – they call it the “first ever” of its type – has said Myrtle Beach was selected as the site because the Grand Strand is a proven vacation draw... and its reputation as an area for UFO sightings. They say there were 59 in 2012, notably when a mother ship allegedly docked with smaller UFOs over Myrtle Beach on Aug. 26.
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