Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Things To Do
Terry’s Top 10: Best things to do in December on the Grand Strand

The Grand Strand has always been about fun in the sun, but the area used to fold up shop in the cold. The wintertime turned Myrtle Beach into a ghost town until spring arrived.

But time (and perhaps global warming ) has changed all that. Myrtle Beach has become more of a year-round town and the month of December is now onw to remember.

To keep you and your crew entertained during the holiday season, here are my top 10 things to do on the Grand Strand this December that doesn't involve hibernation:

10) Sometimes the best way to find holiday cheer is to play it by ear, and that's how Carolina Improv Comedy is playing it at the Uptown Theater in Myrtle Beach. “The 12 Improv Shows of Christmas” puts a humorous and spontaneous spin on the season with scenarios we all can relate to during the holidays. With tickets priced between $8 and $10 and a new show every night, see as many as your funny bone can handle. Laughter is the best way to cope and warm up the otherwise cold winter weather.

9) If you've never made it down to Huntington Beach State Park to tour Atalaya, Saturday, Dec. 5 is the day to do it. If you've been to the Spanish castle before, you should see it during the Atalaya Holiday Celebration. The castle is fully decorated for Christmas and is perfect for those into home and gardens or just the holidays. There will be decorating craft projects for children and cookies and other goodies for sale from Grandma's Kitchen. It's like stepping into the Christmas issue of Southern Living.

8) While you're on the south end of the Strand, kill two holiday birds with one stone by visiting Brookgreen Gardens, located right across Highway 17 from Huntington Beach State Park, and its annual Nights of a Thousand Candles celebration. The Gardens themselves, featuring beautiful sculptures in a natural lowcountry setting, are breath-taking any time of year but particularly when decorated for Christmas. And when the sun goes down and the candles are lit, it's awesome. Check it out Dec. 3-18.

7) The greatest story ever told has been told so many times that it can lose its true meaning, but few can recreate the scene the way Trinity United Methodist Church in North Myrtle Beach does with its annual Living Nativity display. Volunteer actors brave the cold weather and pose for photos to give visitors a feel for the real deal and children can pet and feed the goats and sheep and ride the donkeys and camel. Cookies, hot cocoa and cider are available at the Dec. 12 event from 2 to 4 p.m.

6) The clock officially strikes the Christmas holidays in Myrtle Beach on Dec. 12 at the Christmas Towne Tree-Lighting Ceremony at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center from 2 to 6:30 p.m. The annual event features live music and entertainment, Christmas games and activities for the children and even photos with the jolly, old fat man himself. Once the sun goes down, the giant Christmas tree will be lit outside the facility. It's always a great way and day to get the holiday season started.

5) The Springmaid Beach 24th Annual Arts & Crafts Festival has become one of the top events in the area, featuring more than 200 vendors offering a wide range of fares. From traditional arts and crafts to gifts and gourmet foods, you'll find it all under one roof at Springmaid Beach Convention Center. Why stand in line at the local malls when you can find some original ideas for gift-giving under one big roof and in tents along the oceanfront? The show runs Dec. 3-5 with free parking and admission.

4) To turn the cold winter weather into a warm holiday vibe, there's nothing better than attending some of the various professional theater performances on the Strand. The Palace Theatre's “Christmas on Ice” blends signing, dancing, skating and comedy into one big holiday celebration, the Carolina Opry keeps locals and visitors coming back for more for its annual Christmas special and the Alabama Theater “The South's Grandest Christmas Show” offer a big dose of the holiday spirit for the whole family.

3) Ripley's Aquarium becomes more of an evergreen terrarium this time of year, featuring its annual festival of trees to go along with its variety of sharks and stingrays. The Broadway at the Beach attraction presents 50 Christmas trees, each uniquley decorated to represent the 50 American states. Of course, the 20-foot South Carolina tree is the centerpiece and children can learn while the play with a fun and challenging scavanger hunt. The exhibit runs through Dec. 31 and is free with regular admission.

2) Myrtle Beach's annual holiday parade has moved from the downtown area to Broadway at the Beach in recent years and it's been a refreshing change. While the Strip is better suited for the Sun Fun parade, Broadway provides more parking and nearby shopping that better suits the holiday season. Classic cars and floats, local groups and celebrities and even ol' Saint Nick himself are part of the parade that starts near the visitors center on the west side of the complex. It starts at 11 a.m. on Dec. 4.

1) If you really want to get into the holiday spirit, trying giving it instead of receiving it. Anonymously send a few bucks to that family down the street that is struggling to get by. Drop off presents at the Toys for Tots box or any of the other campaigns that makes Christmas special for needy children. Volunteer to serve Christmas dinner to the homeless through local churches and charities. It's not a Christmas myth. No gift you receive this holiday season can make you feel the same way as the ones you give.