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Sunday, March 12, 2006

GETTING THERE: The two discount airlines that provided nonstop flights to Myrtle Beach -- Hooters Air from Baltimore and Spirit Airlines from Reagan National -- have suspended the service indefinitely, and airfares have skyrocketed. United offers daily nonstop service (flight time is about 90 minutes) from Washington Dulles; round-trip weekend fares are typically about $365, although sales for weekday travel sometimes drop it to $220. US Airways offers Saturday and Sunday nonstop service from Reagan National, with fares of about $270 round trip. Several airlines offer connecting service, but fares are no cheaper, and the routing is time-consuming.

Amtrak trains get you to the terminal in Florence, S.C. (in about eight hours), with fares starting at $108 round trip (add $202 each way for roomette); buses connect there for the 65-mile drive to Myrtle Beach.

Greyhound offers bus service from both Washington and Baltimore, an eight- to 12-hour ride, for $127 round trip.

If you drive (about eight hours), I-95 south into South Carolina is the most direct route; from I-95, Route 501 south brings you to the center of Myrtle Beach.

GETTING AROUND: Rental cars and taxis are available at Myrtle Beach International Airport; some hotels run shuttle service. There is local bus transportation, "the Lymo" (843-488-0865, http://www.golymo.com/ ), but it won't get you to most golf courses.

GOLF PACKAGES: The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce says there are 47,000 hotel and motel rooms in the area, and many of them offer golf packages.

The Crown Reef (2913 S. Ocean Blvd, 877-435-9125, http://www.crownreef.com/ ) offers seven golf packages. The standard package runs around $86 daily per person double. It includes breakfast and greens fees but not golf cart fees. At the Breakers Resort (21st Avenue and North Ocean Boulevard, 800-952-4507, http://www.breakers.com/sph ), a four-night package for two people in a room with a side-balcony view of the ocean runs $333 per person, including breakfast and greens fees but no cart.

WHERE TO EAT: There are many choices here, from fast food (lots) to the white tablecloth variety (some) to chains (Hooters has four locations). There are many sports bars as well; we had a pretty good steak at the Liberty Tap Room (4651 N. Kings Hwy., 843-839-4677) for about $25. On the upper end, the Library (1212 N. Kings Hwy., 843-448-4527) sports an extensive wine list and a full dinner price of about $70, and Thoroughbreds , in what is called Restaurant Row (9706 N. Kings Hwy., 843-497-2636) has a big steak dinner for a tab of $60 or so.

GOLF: You can set up your own tee times through a system that links about 100 courses: Tee Time Central, 800-882-0684, http://www.mbn.com/ .

WHAT ELSE TO DO:

· Shopping. There is lots of this up and down Kings Highway, much of the discount variety. The Broadway at the Beach complex (Route 17 Bypass between 21st and 29th avenues, 800-386-4662, http://www.broadwayatthebeach.com/ ) has more than 50 shops. Tanger Outlets ( http://www.tangeroutlet.com/ ) has two locations. Myrtle Beach also has Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World (10177 N. Kings Hwy., 843-361-4800, http://www.basspro.com/ ), and there are two Martin's PGA Tour Superstores (Route 17 Bypass at 29th Avenue and 2310 Hwy. 17 S. in North Myrtle Beach, http://www.martinspgatoursuperstore.com/ ).

· Shows. There are several theaters, which see some touring Broadway shows, individual stars and homegrown productions. Among them: Alabama Theatre at Barefoot Landing (800-342-2262, http://www.alabama-theatre.com/ ); Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede dinner and show (Routes 17 and 17 Bypass, 800-433-4401, http://www.dixiestampede.com/ ); Carolina Opry (Routes 17 and 17 Bypass, 843-913-4444, http://www.cgp.net/ ); Palace Theater at Broadway at the Beach (Route 17 Bypass and 21st Avenue North, 800-905-4228, http://www.palacetheatremyrtlebeach.com/ ); Medieval Times (off Route 501 at the Intracoastal Waterway, 888-935-6878, http://www.medievaltimes.com/castleSC/home.htm ).

· Sports. The Myrtle Beach Pelicans (843-918-6002, http://www.myrtlebeachpelicans.com/ ), the Atlanta Braves' Single A affiliate, play at their park at 21st Avenue North and Central Parkway; game-day tickets are $4.50 to $9. Deep-sea fishing, parasailing and other water sports can be found in Murrells Inlet at the south end of the Strand. Camping and pier fishing are available at Myrtle Beach State Park (4401 S. Kings Hwy., 843-238-5325, http://www.discoversouthcarolina.com/stateparks/Parkdetail.Asp?Pid=795 ), also at the south end; park admission $4.

· Rides and attractions . The Family Kingdom Amusement Park (843-626-3447, http://www.family-kingdom.com/ ) and affiliated Oceanfront Waterpark (843-916-0400), both open in spring and summer, are at Third Avenue and Ocean Boulevard. The seaside Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park (843-913-5200, http://www.mbpavilion.com/ ), at Ninth Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, is also a seasonal attraction. Across the street are Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum and Ripley's Haunted Adventure , which operates seasonally. Ripley's Aquarium (843-916-0888) is in Broadway at the Beach. The Myrtle Beach Speedway (843-236-0500, http://www.myrtlebeachspeedway.com/ ) features professional and amateur racing on Saturday nights, April 8 through Sept. 15.

INFORMATION: For a free copy of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce's "Stay & Play," an extensive guide to the area and its attractions, call 800-496-8250 or go to http://www.myrtlebeachinfo.com/ . Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday (800-845-4653, http://www.golfholiday.com/ ) puts out a free vacation planner as well. More information on Myrtle Beach is available from Myrtle Beach Live , http://www.myrtlebeachlive.com/ , and MyrtleBeach.com , http://www.myrtlebeach.com/ .

-- Tom Wilkinson and Margaret Roth


© 2006 The Washington Post Company


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