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By: Jesse Henson
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is one of the most popular vacation spots in the world. It has an international reputation for its many attractions, water parks, theme restaurants, shopping complexes and festivals. It has also garnered a reputation for its cultural events as well. Myrtle Beach is also known world-wide for its golf courses, but few know that it is also a prime location for miniature golf.

Located in North Myrtle Beach, the Hawaiian Rumble is a top destination for mini-golf lovers; in fact it hosts several mini-golf tournaments and is home to the U.S. ProMiniGolf Association. The holes are centered around a volcanic mountain that rumbles and spews out fire about every 20 minutes. The play is as challenging as any mini- golf course and you should plan on having loads of fun.

For those hot and humid days when nothing else will do, there is Myrtle Waves is a 20 acre water park that is the largest facility of its kind in both the Carolinas with over 30 rides and attractions. Children will be delightfully impressed with the Turbo Twisters, which is a ten-story tall jaw-dropping ride. For the little ones, there is and the 18 inches deep Tadpool that includes a Dipper Slide and Magic Mushroom water fountain. Ricochet Rapids, Snake Mountain and Pipeline Plunge water slides offer the ultimate heart-stopping adrenalin-pumping water slides in Myrtle Beach.

Barefoot Landing is a combination of natural beauty of unadulterated family fun. The site of this shopping dining and entertainment complex is the natural habitat for waterfowl, colorful fish, animals, birds and plant. It is one of the most visited venues in South Carolina. Alligator Adventure is an alligator park and reptile research center. This institute, which border Barefoot Landing, is on 12.5 acres of land and is one of the largest reptile facilities in existence. Besides being a habitat for alligator and crocodiles, it is also the domicile of frogs, snakes, tortoises, lizards and many colorful and exotic birds. With more than a dozen restaurants to choose from, you can dine in a casual setting or elect for a more formal dining.

Within an hour's drive of Myrtle Beach is Bald Head Island. This hidden gem is well worth the trip. The island is comprised of 12,000 acres of beach, marsh and maritime forest preserves. Approximately 10,000 miles of the land is undisturbed. The neighborhoods are intimate and blend seamlessly into the striking natural environment. The slow pace of the island, which does not have vehicle traffic, makes it a perfect romantic or family get-away. Vacationers and residents navigate the island by bike, golf carts or on foot.

The island has a seaside golf course and 14 miles of pristine snow-like sandy beaches. You can go kayaking or take in a panoramic view of the island from Old Baldy, which is South Carolina's oldest lighthouse. A good place to learn a little something about the history of the Myrtle Beach area is the Horry County Museum. It is free and open to the general public. Featured exhibits include two of the most beautiful, and at the same time most feared, creatures on the face of the earth - the American Alligator and American Black Bear. There are also displays on Birds of Prey, Native Americans and the areas Natural History. The museum also houses relics recovered from the CSS Pee Dee, which was a 150-foot confederate wooden gunboat that was blown up to prevent capture by the Union Navy. The recovered artifacts include three cannons - two Confederate Rifled Brooks and a captured Union Dahlgren.

Another excellent place to gain an appreciation for the costal environments and the local aquatic and wildlife is the Bellefield Nature Center. Located at the head of the Hobcaw Barony reserve, the center has a saltwater touch tank and numerous aquariums and terrariums. It also has displays on the Hobcaw's storied past and educational audiovisual material history and videotape. The admission is free.

Behind the Bellefield Nature Center you can step back 200 years into a very unique view of the lowcountry. Hobcaw Barony is situated on 17,500 acres of marshes, pine forests, river lands and immaculate beaches. Located on the grounds is 13,000 square foot winter mansion of the Wall Street baron Bernard Baruch. He purchased the land, consisting of 11 plantations, in 1905. Baruch entertained the likes of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on this property. Other features include Friendfield, a 19th century slave village (active until 1952) and the Bellefield Plantation. There is also a nature and history museum, which has numerous exhibits and videos.

Brookgreen Gardens is the home of the first sculpture garden to open to the American public; the faculty includes a 9000 acre wildlife refuge and park. There are over 1200 sculptures representing the efforts of 350 artists. This non-profit museum has a global reputation for its magnificent ponds and flora displays. The general public can access over 300 acres of and in excess of 1200 species of vibrant exotic plants.

The North Myrtle Beach Grand Prix is a family entertainment speed park with a NASCAR racing circuit theme. There is an impressive variety of vehicles, including Jeeps, Corvettes, Grand Prix, and mini Ferraris, which offer the ultimate thrill and high-performance excitement on a maneuvering that can be rode on an array of tracks. You'll need to be a licensed driver for the more challenging tracks; but, don't despair, people of all age ranges will find more than their share of fun and excitement.
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