Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is known as America's favorite place to take a family beach vacation in the summertime, but the Grand Strand may be one of the best-kept secrets during the autumn months. The temperatures are cool, the crowds are thin, and the parties get started as the Myrtle Beach area holds countless celebrations to mark the end of the peak tourist season.
Fall festivals span the 60-mile stretch of Carolina coastline known as the Grand Strand, celebrating everything from food and drinks to arts and crafts and other cultural activities. Perhaps the highlight of the fall lineup is the Oct. 6-7 Myrtle Beach Seafood Festival, which will be held at the Burroughs & Chapin Pavilion Place in the heart of downtown.
Guests at Bay View on the Boardwalk can take a short stroll down the beach, Ocean Boulevard or the famous Myrtle Beach Boardwalk to find some of the freshest seafood on the Strand. More than a dozen restaurants, vendors, caterers and civic groups will serve classic seafood favorites by the seashore while popular beach bands provide the music for shagging. Other activities include a kids’ zone, a car show and a cornhole tournament.
If you can't make it for the Second Annual Myrtle Beach Seafood Festival, be sure to check out these fall shindigs:
* Myrtle Beach Mustang Week (Sept. 4-10): The fall is prime time to cruise Ocean Boulevard in a classic muscle car, and many Mustang owners do just that for this annual ritual. Moving the date to fall is sure to draw a big crowd for a car show, cruise-ins and more events to honor Ford's famous model.
* Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival (Sept. 22-24): The Spanish-style castle that overlooks the ocean at Huntington Beach State Park serves as a scenic setting for this annual arts and crafts fair. While you are there, be sure to check out the beautiful wetlands and woodlands at the Murrells Inlet park.
* St. John's Greek Festival (Sept. 28-Oct. 1): St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church hosts this celebration of Grecian culture, including authentic food, music, dancing and shopping. The arts and crafts vendors have expanded to include an indoor flea market, and beer and wine are available to wash down that gyro.
* Irish Italian International Festival (Sept. 30): Talk about cultural diversity, this annual event blends two distinctly different national cultures into one cool festival on Main Street in North Myrtle Beach. Enjoy food, beverages and music inspired by both countries, as well as a kids’ area and a spaghetti-eating competition.
* Myrtle Beach Bike Week Fall Rally (Oct. 2-8): Many motorcycle enthusiasts prefer this smaller sister event to the more popular MBBW Spring Rally, primarily because the lighter crowds and milder climate provide the perfect conditions for riding around the Grand Strand. Organized rides are held on designated traffic loops or simply go exploring on the open road.
* Art in the Park (Oct. 7-8): Chapin Park in downtown Myrtle Beach hosts this popular arts and crafts festival that welcomes dozens of top vendors and hundreds of shoppers. Let the little ones burn off some energy in the playground while you browse for one-of-a-kind items.
* Little River Shrimp Fest (Oct. 14-15): The sleepy little fishing village of Little River wakes up for this two-day festival on the waterfront. In addition to a wide range of shrimp dishes, this event features live music and dancing in the streets, along with other vendors and activities.
* Taste of the Town (Oct. 17): Imagine dining out at more than 50 different restaurants at once. That culinary dream can be a reality at this annual fundraiser for St. Andrew Catholic School. Held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, Taste of the Town allows patrons to sample some award-winning dishes.
Of course, there’s always a party going on along the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, and the oceanfront Bay View on the Boardwalk resort offers you and your crew direct access to the beach and events year-round.