Stroll: Fall is a great time to visit the Grand Strand: Lodging costs plunge and it’s often warmer than the calendar might lead you to believe. The best place to sample the salty sea breezes is right downtown, on the 1.2-mile Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade (www.myrtlebeachdowntown.com) that extends from the 2nd Avenue pier to 14th Avenue. It’s made of nearly 800,000 feet of lumber, and gives you an unobstructed view of the beach, the surf and the distant horizon. On its interior side, what were once the backs of buildings facing Ocean Boulevard have sprouted storefronts of shops, bars and eateries. The boardwalk is also where you you’ll find the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel (www.myrtlebeachskywheel.com); take a ride 200 feet above sea level in enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas.
Shop: New at sprawling Broadway at the Beach (www.broadwayatthebeach.com)? Paula Deen, guru of Southern food, recently opened her own store, with accessories, cookware, apparel, recipe mixes, food and more; shoppers there, by the way, occasionally have the opportunity to speak directly with Deen via Skype. Also opened in 2015: Country Roads Bar & Grill (besides a full menu, there’s live country or Southern rock bands). Earthbound Trading Company offers women’s clothing, footwear, home decor, and hand-crafted ethnic and nature-related items. Marbles: The Brain Store stocks board games and gadgets designed to educate and entertain. The complex has more than 100 shops and more than 20 eateries –and live jellyfish: Throughout the summer, Ripley’s Aquarium (www.ripleyaquariums.com/myrtlebeach) drew huge crowds with its new, 5,000-square-foot “Planet Jellies” wing with more than 10 interactive displays and tanks. Now you can see view the creatures with off-season elbow room.
To the north, new tenants at Barefoot Landing (www.bflanding.com) include an Earthbound, a Best Gift Idea Ever store (you make personalized gift in a variety of ways), the Stuffed Animal Store, Carolina Hat Company and high-end Tara Grinna Swimwear. On the edge of the complex, Duplin Winery (www.duplinwinery.com) – based across the border in Rose Hill, N.C. – has opened a bottling facility with three tasting stations and demo areas.
If you’re a shopping-and-suds person, be aware that joining the stores and restaurants south of downtown at Market Common (www.marketcommonmb.com) is The Brass Tap. The upscale craft-beer bar and restaurant opens in November with roughly 70 beers on tap; the focus will be on regional brews. Also, mark your calendar for Oct. 17: Adjacent Valor Park is the site of the 6th annual Myrtle Beach Wine Festival.
Hike: Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park are popular ocean-side areas (use the “Park finder” link at www.southcarolinaparks.com), but let’s consider pathways less-traveled. Vereen Memorial Historical Gardens, to the north in Little River (www.scgreatoutdoors.com/park-vereengardens.html), is a free-admission park you can access from U.S. 17. Unusual scenery is a prime offering: There are boardwalks over salt marshes and small islands, and a gazebo that overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway. Its 115 quiet acres also hold coastal forest as well as the cemetery of the Vereen family, which owned the land when George Washington spent the night at their plantation in 1791.
In Murrells Inlet, Brookgreen Gardens (www.brookgreen.org) is best-known for statuary and floral displays, but check out the Trail Beyond the Garden Wall, a half-mile ramble that takes you to a viewing platform and to a medieval-style labyrinth made of shell and natural grass that overlooks a tributary of the Waccamaw River. Pair it with the half-mile Lowcountry Trail that’s linked to it. The latter goes past archaeological sites from plantation days – the overseers’ house, the smoke house and slave quarters.
This summer, in a Grand Strand restaurant wrap-up for The Charlotte Observer, Grand Strand foodie/journalist Becky Billingsleynoted the area’s increasing culinary diversity. Among her recommendations: ART Burger Sushi Bar (www.artsushibar.com). For seafood at the beach, consider the fresh-from-the-fryer, all-you-can-eat buffet at Captain George’s, across from Broadway at the Beach on U.S. 17 Bypass (www.captaingeorges.com).
Raise a glass to the Grumpy Monk (www.grumpymonkmyrtlebeach.com), across from the Tanger Outlet Center on U.S. 501, for its wide array of craft beer choices, many of which are on tap.
If you long for a touch of endless summer, it’s hard to top Duck’s Night Club (www.ducksatoceandrive.com) – or Fat Harold’s Beach Club (www.fatharolds.com), where there are free shag lessons on Tuesdays. Both on Main Street in North Myrtle Beach.