An all-American seaside destination, Myrtle Beach maintains a long tradition of hosting the annual summer vacation for all types of travelers and their families. It’s a history as lengthy as the umbrella-studded Grand Strand, the 60 miles of beach that put this spot on the map.

What that reputation obscures, though, is that Myrtle Beach also makes for a great winter vacation. Mild temperatures, peaceful beaches, tons of entertainment options, and a jam-packed holiday festival calendar make this South Carolina destination — a quick two-hour flight from Chicago or Boston — a no-brainer for your next winter getaway. Once temperatures cool, here’s what’s in store at “The Beach.”

Holiday festival scene

Myrtle Beach: Even in winter, there’s no better place to be

Night of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens. Photo: Visit Myrtle Beach

A major new festival is transforming the holiday season in Myrtle Beach: Winter Wonderland at The Beach. The Beach is going all out for the huge inaugural event — November 26, 2021 through January 2, 2022 — holiday spirit taking over the sand for 37 straight days.

Here’s how to join in. Head to the ice skating rink just off the beach, where you can show off your skating skills (or grasp the rails and try your best!). After a few spins on the ice, lead the kids through the dazzling walk-through holiday lights experience — some of which is beach-themed, of course — and then to the nearby Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, an all-lit-up mile of holiday joy.

Beyond the glittering extravaganza of Winter Wonderland at the The Beach are Myrtle Beach’s tried-and-true festive traditions. See the lively parades that take place along the Grand Strand, from North Myrtle Beach down to Surfside Beach, where there’s a beautiful tree-lighting ceremony too. North Myrtle Beach is also home to the Great Christmas Light Show, an entire holiday-themed park — picture a two-mile drive-through light show with two million lights and 500 displays, as well as train rides and the chance to meet Santa.

More fantastic lights can be found at the Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens, when one of the country’s best public gardens glows with 2,800+ hand-lit candles and thousands of fairy lights. Or take in the gorgeous colors and decorations at the Festival of Trees at Ripley’s Aquarium. Instead of flying reindeer, expect frolicking penguins.

Beaches and beyond

Photo: Visit Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach is famous for its incredible 1.2-mile oceanfront boardwalk. At this most magical time of year, the boardwalk is decorated with tons of twinkling lights, and the window displays are just about as jolly as can be. Get the family together, grab some warm mugs of cocoa, and stroll along the iconic promenade that’s served as the town’s hub since the 1930s. There are more than 80 beachfront businesses that’ll happily share their views (and snacks and souvenirs) with visitors.

While the city streets get all gussied up, the beaches stay quiet and peaceful in the cooler winter months, perfect for long walks and beach games with the family or Fido. But here’s a pro tip: To mix it up, spend an afternoon at Myrtle Beach State Park, set right on the Grand Strand. Hike along forested trails, stretch out on the white sand, and end your visit high above the Atlantic waves on the fishing pier. Sea bass and speckled trout are fair winter game, if you’ve brought your gear (and have a license)!

Good eats

Photo: Visit Myrtle Beach

It’s the time of year when diets go out the window, but whenever you’re in Myrtle Beach, that’s how it ought to be anyway. You’ll never go away hungry here — this is the “seafood capital of the South,” after all — but the holidays kick local menus up yet another notch. (And, admittedly, up another notch on the belt.)

Look for special holiday offerings, like the Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve at Hook & Barrel or the classic Thanksgiving menu — hickory-smoked ham, oven-smoked turkey, all the fixings — at The Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro. Seriously large appetites might want to consider the Thanksgiving Day buffet at Chestnut Hill, going all out with dishes like grilled quail, sweet potato souffle, and seafood Florentine.

For classic Lowcountry fare like shrimp & grits, lobster tail, and fried green tomatoes all season long, scope out spots such as Sea Captain’s House, where every bite comes with excellent oceanfront views, no matter the season.

World-class entertainment and shows

Broadway at the Beach. Photo: Visit Myrtle Beach

South Carolina enjoys relatively mild winters, but if temperatures do drop enough to drive you indoors, there’s a long, long list of things to do in Myrtle Beach for you and the kids. Cozy up to the likes of Lady Gaga, Sylvester Stallone, and Dolly Parton at the Hollywood Wax Museum. Hang out with seahorses, sharks, and stingrays at Ripley’s Aquarium. Or let the kids tackle the science experiments at WonderWorks and the trampolines and bouncy obstacle courses of Big Air.

Myrtle Beach also has fantastic live entertainment throughout the year — we’re talking world-class theatre, music, and comedy. But over the holidays, things take an impressively festive turn. Not to mention, it’s easier to get tickets!

  • The Carolina Opry Christmas Special is set to open its 36th season, lining up talent from The Voice and America’s Got Talent.
  • Another unmissable musical extravaganza is The South’s Grandest Christmas Show at the Alabama Theatre, which features traditional classics and other holiday favorites.
  • Tributes to the greats line up at the Legends in Concert Christmas Show at Broadway at the Beach, with incredible singers paying homage to everyone from Aretha to Elvis.

These shows run from November through the end of January, so there’s plenty of time to catch Myrtle Beach’s holiday spirit. What are you waiting for?