University City

Myrtle beach awakens from winter

Canadian-American Days Festival

March 10-18, at various locations along the Grand Strand. 800-356-3016.

Since 1961, Canadian-American Days have been the de facto launch of the area's annual tourist season.

The event has mushroomed over the decades and now includes St. Patrick's Day events and more. With Can-Am Days, stores and attractions shuttered or open for limited days/hours over the winter begin to gear up for warm-weather visitors.

Major events include:

March 14-15 celebration at Myrtle Beach Mall, 19177 N. Kings Highway. There's live entertainment starting at noon both days; the headliner is Searson, the country/Celtic sister trio from Canada.

March 16 is the start of the free-to-see Run to the Sun car show, now in its 20th year. Last year, roughly 2,500 vehicles were on display between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the site of the old Myrtle Square Mall (between North Oak Street and Kings Highway). Watch for classic, hot rod and muscle cars vehicles cruising Ocean Boulevard starting around 5 p.m.

March 16 is the free admission festival expo, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Coastal Grand Mall, with live entertainment, including the Andrew Thielen Big Band, and prize drawings.

March 17, St. Patrick's Day, brings the 9 a.m. 100-entry parade in North Myrtle Beach, followed by the festival on North Myrtle Beach's Main Street. There'll be arts/crafts, food and two states with live entertainment until 4 p.m. Details: At the other end of the beach, Irish Fest, in Valor Park at the Market Common complex, has food, beer and entertainment from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

That day and the next, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., the Dog Agility Competition in Murrells Inlet, S.C., features 200 canine events, with canines and their handlers competing in obstacle course feats. The free event staged at A Dog's Way Inn (behind T-Bones Steak House).

Travel time from Charlotte: Under four hours.

Directions: There are various routes to Myrtle Beach. Here's one way: U.S. 74 East to Wadesboro; U.S. 52 South to Florence, S.C.; U.S. 301 East to just beyond Pee Dee. Follow U.S. 76 East to Marion, then U.S. 501 East to Myrtle Beach.