Head down South Carolina’s Grand Strand

Here, tour planning really is a day at the beach

Wedged between a strip of shops with signs boasting shark tooth necklaces for a quarter and the gently crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean sits a gift: one of the widest swaths of sugar sand on the country’s East Coast. In the distance, seagulls dip and a giant ferris wheel soars.

Welcome to the Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand, a miles-long stretch of 12 distinct communities and the ingredients for a tour by the beach as varied as private islands for horseback riding, mini golf contests and Calabash (lightly battered, fried) seafood served up with a Margaritaville vibe at Lulu’s—appropriately owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister, Lulu.

Last year, Myrtle Beach was the third most searched travel destination in the world on Google, meaning you don’t go there for a trip off the tourist radar. But there are discoveries to be had and enough new stops to keep your itinerary fresh, fun and tasty.

Learn to shag

Tour-goers will have fun snickering about the name; they’ll have even more fun learning the “slow,-quick, slow-quick-quick, slow-slow” rhythm of the six-count, eight-step dance popularized in the ’20s and ’30s that created a whole genre of sound called beach music. South and North Carolina are the only states in the country with their own state dance—and that dance is the shag you can learn Mondays and Tuesdays or by appointment from legend Judy Duke, a member of Shag Living Legends, the National Legends of Dance and the Shag Hall of Fame. Judy may not tell you what shag is, but she’ll tell you what it’s not: “Unlike the Jitterbug and Latin dancing that have a whole lot of energy and your whole body moves all over wild, shagging isn’t that way. You’re supposed to be real cool.” Arrange private group lessons with Judy amid surfboards and vintage shag photos at Fat Harold’s Beach Club.


Pick up tips on Low Country Cuisine

The demo kitchen with stadium seating at the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach will house some 70 students for a lesson in such Southern specialties like shrimp and grits, made with grits coarse or smooth, blue, red, white, yellow or “unicorn,” and always—if you’re taking these culinary experts’ advice, with grits stoneground and doses with lots of butter and extra cream and paired with fresh coastal shrimp, with herbs or without. Do volunteer to help with cooking, but know the way they flip the shrimp by just holding the handle and use of the wrists is harder than it looks on Food Network. Head there Thursdays if you can, when the outdoor BBQ shed is fired up and you can also pick up bread fresh-made by culinary students. Students also run an elegant restaurant on site.


Dock-to-Dish fish, sweet wine and a coffee roasting class

Wicked Tuna has its own fleet of fishing boats, and you can’t get more dock-to-dish than by the fresh catch is walked a few steps from the dock to the under-restaurant cleaning station, prepped and taken to chefs waiting upstairs in this group-friendly restaurant with massive deck area overlooking the boats. Put coffee and coastal wine on the trip menu, too, with a special coffee roasting demo for the group (with treats) at Croissants Bistro and Bakery and tasting, likely with life music wafting from the patio outside, at Duplin Winery, where the particularly sweet Muscadine and Scuppernong grapes make for easy drinking of bottles with names that suggest the lifestyle: Midnight Magnolia, Easy Wine, Cool Wine and Coastal Shag.

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