People react to both the beach and Christmas with the same feeling: joy. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, shows that the excitement of the holidays can mesh nicely with the relaxation of the beach.
From highly rated holiday shows to enchanting light displays, this beach destination offers several Christmas-related events groups enjoy attending. Visitors can’t help but keep smiling on a holiday tour of Myrtle Beach.
If simple carols put people in the holiday spirit, imagine the impact of professional singers belting out Christmas tunes with stunning scenery and special effects. “The South’s Grandest Christmas Show” at the Alabama Theatre features both classic carols and contemporary favorites. Performances run from November through New Year’s.
The Alabama Theatre was opened in 1993 by the musical group Alabama. The country band had worked for tips in Myrtle Beach before going on to international fame, which motivated them to choose the destination for their namesake theater. They worked closely with Gaylord Productions to create the Alabama Theatre’s most acclaimed show: “ONE The Show.”
“‘ONE’ is a high-energy show,” said Ellen Calhoun, national sales manager for the Alabama Theatre. “It goes through all types of music with dancing and elaborate costumes. It is like a Vegas show. We keep it fresh every year. About 30% to 40% of our show changes each year.”
The show offers country, gospel, Broadway, pop and rock hits interspersed with entertainers and comedians. The show celebrated its 27th anniversary in 2020.
Alabama Theatre works with groups to package its performance with dinner at one of 12 nearby restaurants.
Intricate edible castles with Christmas trees in the window seem a far cry from a traditional gingerbread house. At the Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood restaurant, these over-the-top structures make the restaurant’s annual gingerbread contest a holiday highlight.
The contest features both professionally made and locally made houses. Some professional culinary artists begin constructing their edible masterpieces in April for the November and December contest.
However, Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood stands out no matter the season.
“We are much more than a restaurant,” said Donna Rebello, marketing and group sales director for Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood. “We have one of the largest nautical collections in the Southeast. It is like a museum. These items are in every nook and cranny. We created a walking tour so that we can highlight some of our favorite items for groups that come in.”
Another unexpected treat for guests comes from watching the restaurant’s own master shipwright constructing model ships on-site. The restaurant displays his completed works, such as an 18-foot model of the Queen Elizabeth II.
Opened in 1986, the buffet restaurant serves fresh local seafood daily. The 1,000-seat restaurant was the first in the area to introduce Calabash-style cooking, which consists of lightly battered and fried seafood. The menu offers more than 170 items, and the restaurant has a raw bar, a carving station, a pasta station, an in-house bakery and a crab bar.
“We serve an incredible amount of groups,” said Rebello. “We talk to the servers and tell them this may be the only trip these travelers take all year. We are honored that groups choose us.”
Hand lighting more than 2,800 candles is an impressive feat in itself. Adding more than 1 million electric lights is an order of magnitude grander. Brookgreen Gardens’ Nights of a Thousand Candles event combines the two to bring a soft glow to the already beautiful sculpture garden.
“Live Oak Allee is a fan favorite during the event,” said Anna Lovell, group sales and marketing for Brookgreen Gardens. “It has six 300-year-old oak trees with lights all over them. It is a magical spot.”
Voted “Best Christmas Lights in South Carolina” by Travel and Leisure magazine, the light show is coupled with live entertainment, hot drinks and food options.
Brookgreen Gardens synthesizes nature, art and history across its 9,100 acres. Groups can spend a full day exploring the themed gardens with American figurative sculptures, the Lowcountry Zoo and nature trails.
A typical visit begins with a one-hour guided walking tour that discusses the site’s most famous sculptures and flora. After participants wander the gardens, groups can gather for a catered meal or dine at one of the garden’s three restaurants.
“I recommend that groups do the creek excursion boat ride in the afternoon,” said Lovell. “It is a history lesson of the rice plantations that Brookgreen Gardens once stood on. It is a one-hour pontoon river cruise through the former rice fields.”
Brookgreen Gardens was founded in 1932 by Archer and Anna Huntington. Many of the sculptures were created by Anna and her sister.
Christmas-spiced wines bring liquid holiday cheer at Duplin Winery. The Christmas Wine variety tastes of berries and spices and pairs well with the season’s culinary treats. The other favorite, Naughty and Nice, was developed as a white wine meant to pair well with Christmas dinner.
If not visiting the winery during the holiday season, groups can still enjoy a day of entertainment at the 15,000-square-foot winery. The largest wine-tasting station on Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand features events, shopping and tours.
“We’ve been in the business since 1976,” said Morgan Jackson, general manager of the Duplin Winery Family. “We grow the muscadine grape, which is native to the South. They are very fruity and make a great sweet wine.”
The Duplin Winery opened in Rose Hill, North Carolina, before coming to Myrtle Beach in 2015. The Myrtle Beach location bottles wines by hand. Guests can watch and learn how the process produces between 1,000 and 1,200 bottles a day.
During the tour, a bartender walks patrons through the flavors and history of each selection. The tour ends with a tasting of at least 10 wines and comes with gourmet crackers, some cheese dip and a complementary wine glass.
The experience continues in the retail area, which sells upscale accessories, home decor, wine and food. Guests can sample their way through the stores with free bites of homemade fudge and tastes of frozen wine slushies.
“We have just had the best time,” said Jackson. “A lot of people say it is a place where you feel like kicking back and relaxing. We have live music on the patio every day.”