The number of people heading to the beach for the Memorial Day holiday this month – the “unofficial” start of summer – is expected to be up, thanks to lower gas prices and an improving economy.
And while the tides and sands may stay the same, wherever you land along the South Carolina coast – Myrtle Beach, Charleston or one of the islands – you can expect lots of new things to enjoy this summer, from restaurants and shopping to concerts and exhibits.
We’ve pulled together a list of some of the latest draws.
Charleston area beaches
Consistently rated as one of the world’s top travel destinations, Charleston and its nearby beaches – Kiawah, Folly, Isle of Palms and Wild Dunes among them – never stop expanding the options for vacationers. If your Lowcountry beach trip includes a side trip to Charleston, you’ll find plenty to entertain.
FOOD AND DRINK
Make no mistake: Charleston is home to some of the best restaurants in the Southeast, and even the nation. Some two dozen new restaurants have either opened since the new year or plan to open this spring and summer.
492 opened at 492 King St., with a progressive/contemporary American menu.
Barony Tavern opened at 68 Wentworth St., featuring steaks and seafood.
Chick’s Fry House opening soon at 1011 King St., serving Southern fried favorites.
Screen Door opening soon at 1271 Folly Rd., James Island, serving pizzas, salads, burgers, seafood and meat dishes.
Breizh Pan Crepes, opening soon at 39 George St., serving crepes, omelets, salads and pastries.
Generalisimo, expected to open this summer at 565 King St., offering French-Mexican cuisine and a tequila lounge. If you’re lucky, you might catch Whitney Sudler-Smith of Bravo TV’s “Southern Charm” reality series in the house. He is a part-owner of the restaurant.
The Westendorff, expected to open this summer at 114 St. Philip St., serving brunch, comfort foods and classics using local ingredients.
Parlor Deluxe, expected to open this summer at 207A St. Philip St., offering soda shop-style hotdogs, tots, waffles and ice cream.
Shark Shallows opens this weekend at the popular South Carolina Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf downtown. It allows visitors the chance to touch bonnethead sharks, cownose rays and southern stingrays. The 20,000-gallon touch tank overlooks the Charleston Harbor from the Riverside Terrace. And, here’s something worth noting: Sunday, moms receive free admission with a paying guest or child in honor of Mother’s Day.
The Cigar Factory opens this summer at 701 East Bay St. with a variety of retail, restaurant and office spaces.
Lily Rain opens soon at 1239 Belk Drive, Mount Pleasant, in Towne Centre. The popular Houston-based lifestyle retail boutique will sell clothing, accessories home goods and gifts, including specialty products such as handmade throws, charm bracelets, graphic pillows. This will be the store’s fifth national location.
Marriott’s Grand Bohemian Hotel Charleston opens in July at Wentworth and Meeting streets downtown. The boutique hotel will feature 50 rooms with a rooftop restaurant and terrace.
The Spectator Hotel opens in June at 67 State St., one block from the Charleston City Market, between the French Quarter and Market Street districts. It will have 41 guest rooms.
Georgetown/Pawleys Island/Murrells Inlet/Garden City
Just because you’re escaping the hubbub of nearby Myrtle Beach doesn’t mean you’re left with skimpy entertainment options in the Georgetown area. Here are some of the new things you’ll find there this summer.
The Island Deli in Pawleys Island has become a new restaurant, Rustic Table, offering gourmet comfort food.
Georgetown’s Lands End seafood restaurant has reopened as Chacon’s, offering fresh and local seafood and seating 250 people, with fine dining in the main dining room and a more casual experience in the sunroom and on the deck.
The Hammock Shops Village in Pawleys Island has gotten a facelift, including a playground and a new restaurant opening to replace Nosh.
Cool Summer Evenings returns at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, but with more activities and entertainment this year. Happening Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in June through August, the evening events include concerts, kids programs, boat rides and dinner.
In downtown Georgetown, enjoy the Rockin’ on the River outdoor concert series on Thursdays, May through August, at Francis Marion Park on Front Street. While here, stroll the historic riverfront and check out Georgetown’s beautiful historic homes.
Hilton Head Island
In just the past two years, more than $400 million has been invested in redevelopment projects on Hilton Head Island. Here are some things to look out for there.
Poseidon, at 38 Shelter Cove Lane, is one of the island’s newest hotspots, with a waterfront location, rooftop bar and a menu with foods representing every coastline of the United States.
Shelter Cove Towne Centre is a new $74 million waterfront development with shops, dining, rooftop bar and more. It’s attached to the new Shelter Cove Community Park that will be home to summer concerts in the Pavilion and other special events.
The Sea Pines Resort has upgraded with a $62 million investment. It features the Sea Pines Beach Club with rooftop bar, the Plantation Club with new restaurant Live Oak, and the new Harbour Town Club House and restaurant overlooking the Harbour Town Golf Links.
Teeming with year-round activities and well-known for both family friendliness and fun of a wilder sort, Myrtle Beach attracts more than 16 million visitors a year and is one of the state’s and the nation’s fastest-growing areas. Whether you’re a regular visitor with family and friends or plan to make your first trip, look for these new features in the area this summer.
EAT AND DRINK
Duplin Winery wine tasting station opens soon at 4650 Hwy. 17 South, North Myrtle Beach.
Nacho Hippo plans to open a new location at 850 North Beach Blvd., North Myrtle Beach.
Tupelo Honey Cafe recently opened at 3042 Howard Ave., Myrtle Beach, in the Market Common shopping district. It is the Asheville-based chain’s first beach location and its largest restaurant.
The owners of the Dead Dog Saloon, have at 4079 Hwy. 17 Business, has purchased the lot next door on Murrells Inlet’s Marshwalk with plans to open a new restaurant there. Work will take place over the next several months.
The inaugural three-day outdoor Carolina Country Music Fest kicks off June 4 with Sam Hunt performing. The long-weekend lineup includes Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, Big & Rich, Hunter Hayes and Rascal Flatts. Find tickets and more information at www.CarolinaCountryMusicFest.com.
The Myrtle Beach Sports Center opened in March, with eight basketball courts, 16 volleyball courts, a café, an entertainment zone and seating capacity for 1,500 to 2,000 spectators.
Baby sea dragons – rarely found in captivity – were introduced at Ripley’s Aquarium in March.
The interactive Dinosaurs exhibit at Broadway at the Beach opened this spring, featuring 25 moving, roaring animatronic dinosaurs – some of them even life-sized. Exhibition programs include a fossil hunt, Dino Movie Room and a T-Rex Fun House. Tickets are $14.95 for adults and $9.95 for kids. For more information, visit www.dinosaursmb.com.
The Ocean 22 oceanfront hotel by Hilton Grand Vacations Club opens in July, becoming the first new lodging establishment to be built in Myrtle Beach since 2009.
The Sun News contributed.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.