I was recently selected by Vacation Myrtle Beach to review a 3 night, 4 day stay at the Caravelle Resort, the Ripley's Aquarium and the SkyWheel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They let me invite a few family members so we could enjoy the experience as a family. Neither me nor my husband have been on a vacation within the last ten years. The primary reason for that is lack of financial resources. Every time we've tried to save money for any reason, something always came up. Cost of healthcare, household appliance breakdowns and car repairs are usually the main culprits. And, for some reason, expenses always pop up one after another. We were thrilled to accept their offer and invite a few of our close family members to accompany us on our vacation.
About Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach is a beautiful city and vacation resort on South Carolina's Atlantic coast. It got its name from the wax myrtle trees common to the area. The area is commonly referred to as the "Grand Strand," as it's comprised of a 60-mile string of beaches that runs from Little River, SC to Georgetown, SC. You can find arcades, souvenir stands and restaurants spread along the lively beachfront boardwalk. The SkyWheel, one of the country's tallest Ferris wheels, and the Family Kingdom amusement park can also be found along the boardwalk. Whether you enjoy spending time on the beach, shopping, eating, visiting attractions, golfing and attending theatres and shows, there's something for everyone to enjoy in this family-friendly city on America's east coast. The stats prove it. The population of Myrtle Beach is around 30,000 in their "off season," which is typically from October to April, and can reach over 350,000 during the summer months. Myrtle Beach hosts over 15 million visitors each calendar year!
Other facts about Myrtle Beach
Oceanfront lots were only $25 in 1905. Now, oceanfront lots can run well over $1 Million in some areas. Yikes!
Sports Illustrated Magazine was founded at the Pine Lakes International Country Club in Myrtle Beach in 1953.
The Myrtle Beach area is home to over 1,500 restaurants that serve up everything from Calabash style seafood (lightly breaded and fried, and typically served buffet style) and low country cuisine to fresh sushi and ethic offerings.
Myrtle Beach is the mini golf capital of the world. With more mini golf courses per square mile than anywhere else, as well as being the home of the U.S. Pro Mini Golf Association's Masters' Tournament, Myrtle Beach earns the title. The courses are whimsical and fanciful and just plain fun, with crazy themes and outlandish holes. If you ever visit, be sure to set aside some time to play a few games!
Shag, the official state dance of South Carolina, originally hails from the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach. It’s rumored that the “shag” evolved from locals in the 1940’s attempting to do the “jitterbug” but had a little too much to drink and it turned into a slower version with a bit more flare!
The Caravelle Resort
The Caravelle Resort is a 3-star hotel located on North Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach. We stayed in a lovely oceanfront room on the twelfth floor. The staff members at the Caravelle were welcoming and helpful when we arrived to check-in. They were able to confirm our accommodations and provide us with our parking passes and room keys within ten minutes. We set down our luggage and stepped out on the balcony immediately after we made it to our room. We arrived to the city in the late evening, as we live ten hours away and had to spend most of the day driving, but we still appreciated the ocean view. We saw a few people walking on the beach with flashlights. My sister and I decided to take a walk on the beach while everyone else called it a night.
The aquarium was my personal favorite attraction we visited during our vacation. Ripley's Aquarium offers fun experiences like the Stingray Experience (swim with the stingrays!), Sleep with the Sharks (snooze while they swim overhead!) and themed birthday parties (mermaids, pirates and sharks!). Affordable tickets and annual passes are available. My favorite exhibits at the aquarium were Ray Bay, Dangerous Reef, Living Gallery and Planet Jellies.
Stingrays are gentle creatures who spend most of their lives buried in the sand out of the view of predators and divers. At the shallow end of their tank, you have the opportunity to touch and get up close and personal with these beautiful animals. I'm almost thirty years old and was still excited by the fact we could pet and feed them. Feeding them costs only $3. I've touched stingrays before but have never fed them, so I bought a couple of cups of fish so we all could have the opportunity to feed them. I'm glad I did, because it made it so much easier to pet them. My family and I really enjoyed it. Take a look!
The Dangerous Reef exhibit was another favorite of mine. I love sharks so I was eager to visit them after we spent time with the stingrays. The Dangerous Reef is filled with thousands of fish of every shape and size. It's their largest and most popular exhibit. You can travel leisurely on a moving 340-foot long glidepath, as you wind your way through the acrylic tunnel and come face to face with snappers, tarpons, grunts, squirrelfish, a green sea turtle, giant stingrays, sawfish and sharks. We got some amazing close-up photos of all of the sea life, including the one below of an awesome sandtiger shark, while we explored the tunnel!
The Living Gallery features a beautiful collection of delicate undersea life, including a Pacific Giant Octopus, sea anemones, living corals, jellies and weedy sea dragons.
Coral reefs are a vibrant underwater oasis which provides protection to all types of marine life. Some of the “plants” that flow back and forth in the currents are not plants at all. They're actually animals! View many of these plant-like animals that depend on the sun for nutrition such as the giant clam, hammer corals, and brain corals to name a few.
I love seahorses so I couldn't help but take a handful of photos. We had a brilliant view of the vibrant and playful seahorses!
Planet Jellies is a new exhibit in the Ripley's Aquarium. They highlight various species, including moon jellies, Atlantic sea nettles, Japanese sea nettles, spotted lagoon jellies and upside down jellies. They had an area in Planet Jellies where you could touch moon jellies! They instruct you to give them a gentle touch while avoiding their tentacles. My husband wasn't too keen on touching one, as he's been stung by a jellyfish before and still harbors some hard feelings, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to touch a jellyfish. It was awesome! The upside down umbrella-shaped part of a jelly is a mass of transparent jelly-like matter known as mesoglea, which forms the hydrostatic skeleton of the animal. Touching the moon jellies felt exactly like touching jello. The upside down jellies were extremely fascinating! They're very peaceful and social creatures, and they're rarely found alone. They flip upside-down and lay on the ocean floor next to their buddies! They lay upside down to expose its algae to the sun, allowing it to photosynthesize, which is how they get their food. They prefer to lay in shallow areas, which gives them stronger sun exposure, so be sure and watch your step if you're ever in mangrove swamps or sea grass beds. You don’t want to disturb an upside-down jelly!
SkyWheel Myrtle Beach
SkyWheel Myrtle Beach was the first observation wheel of its kind in the United States when it opened on May 20, 2011. It's located on the oceanfront boardwalk in the heart of Myrtle Beach. It's one of the tallest Ferris wheels in the United States, towering at nearly 200 feet, and has 42 climate controlled and fully enclosed gondolas. The SkyWheel is open all year long so you can see and enjoy the sights any time of year. Don't pass up the opportunity to get a breathtaking and unforgettable daytime or evening view of the high-rise hotel skyline and sky-blue Atlantic waters. I was able to get some great photos of the city and ocean from the top of the wheel.
Seeing the sights
When we weren't on the beach or visiting local attractions, we were spending time in the city and trying the seafood. We loved the view of the Grand Strand, including the beach and nearby attractions. There were plenty of things to do, most of which can be easily accessed by foot or bicycle. The night we arrived, it was fairly late so we picked up an extra large pizza from Hungry Howie's. They have a location where I grew up and I always loved their flavored crust so I knew it'd make a great late night dinner. We ate at the Santa Maria Restaurant, the Caravelle Resort's in-house restaurant, for breakfast and dinner the next evening, as Vacation Myrtle Beach was kind enough to give us a resort credit to spend during our stay. Their breakfast buffet was delicious and their dinner entrees were just as tasty. We also ate at TGI Friday's and Captain Benjamin's Calabash Seafood Buffet while we were there.
Plan your visit!
Vacation Myrtle Beach offers some of the best deals for resorts, restaurants and attractions so be sure to visit their website when you plan your trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They offer all types of discounts, including military discounts. You'll also be able to find plenty of coupons. While the attractions we visited are reasonably priced, it never hurts to save a few extra bucks. Especially if you plan on buying souvenirs! Caravelle Resort's social media: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram Vacation Myrtle Beach on social media: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat