Spring Break: Easter is Early This Year and Myrtle Beach, S.C. is Welcoming Visitors with Warm Beaches and Fun

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Spring has sprung and Easter is just hours away, but in many places throughout the U. S. and Canada, it still feels like winter. For those shivering in the cold -- and others who just need a break -- there's still time to hop in the car or catch a flight to Myrtle Beach where it won't cost an arm and leg to have a warm and wonderful vacation.

Spring is one of the best times of the year in this sunny South Carolina vacation spot. Easily accessible by car from most major cities in the Northeast and Midwest, Myrtle Beach is also conveniently (and affordably) accessible by air. No- frills airlines like Spirit and Myrtle Beach Direct fly in several times each day, as do the big boys like USAir.

Overall, Myrtle Beach has 60 miles of pristine beach along the Atlantic Ocean and more than 100 golf courses, making it an ideal playground for both children and adults. In fact, there's so much to do that the entire area has been dubbed "The Grand Strand."

This spring one of the best vacation values is being offered by Sands Resorts, a collection of six fun-filled oceanfront locations that deliver an incredible number of on-site activities. There are restaurants of all types, indoor and outdoor pools, an on-site water park, a kid's club and a concierge service that will even arrange for tickets to local shows or tee times at local golf courses.

For the "stay and play" kind of person, this is the perfect place. Families can park the entire vacation entourage at Sands and never have to leave. Eat at a different restaurant each night, soak in a different spa, or float in a different pool. And right at your doorstep, there's the vast Atlantic Ocean with a pristine beach to match.

Through March 29, Sands Resorts is offering an Easter Vacation special for just over $300 that includes 4 nights of accommodations with daily breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children. And, for those that just can't bear to leave home without the family dog, check out Sands' dog-friendly package. For just $50.00 per dog per stay, Fido gets a bag of treats and dog bowls, plus a designated walking area is available for daily exercise (Sands even supplies waste bags). More information is available at http://www.sandsfido.com or call (800) 386-1872.

Those who do decide to leave the Sands, can visit Family Kingdom Amusement Park. This enchanting seaside amusement park has the biggest Ferris Wheel in South Carolina and its seats offer spectacular views of the beach and ocean -- particularly at sunset.

Once there were seaside amusement parks in virtually every beachfront resort town from Maine to Florida, but today there are fewer than twenty oceanside parks along the entire East Coast. Family Kingdom has been going strong for more than 40 years.

Family Kingdom is a modern amusement park in every important sense. But it still delivers the nostalgic charm and character of historic seaside carnivals with all their charismatic ambiance.

After years of quietly serving Myrtle Beach visitors, Family Kingdom is finally getting some well-deserved accolades. Popular on-line travel site Trip Advisor recently named Family Kingdom the "#5 Amusement Park" in the country (outside Orlando). Its massive, wooden roller coaster, the Swamp Fox, is legendary throughout the South. And there are more than thirty other rides and attractions as well as midway games, family entertainment and traditional park temptations such as funnel cakes, cotton candy and corndogs.

Unlike theme parks, admission to Family Kingdom is free. This budget-friendly policy enables families to stroll the midway affordably, buying tickets by the ride. Ride enthusiasts can save even more by purchasing an all-day wristband that allows for unlimited rides for around $23 -- about a third of the price paid for just the admission to a theme park. In these days of high gas prices and tight family budgets, that's great news.

Sports-minded families can find great bargains off the beach at several golf resorts that dot the Grand Strand. In addition to golf, these places often have tennis courts, bike trails and pools, and they are just a few minutes drive from the beach.

For those who choose this route, it's best to pick a place that's outside the center of Myrtle Beach to discover a different atmosphere and experience a different pace during.

On the northern end of the Grand Strand, visitors can find Sea Trail in Sunset Beach, N.C. This 2000-acre resort has three championship courses and is known for its easygoing southern style. Golf amenities include practice greens, a lighted driving range, a Custom Clubs Store and a PGA-sanctioned Golf Learning Center, Sea Trail also offers a Village Activity Center with indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools, and a licensed massage therapist. Accommodations are in beautiful, Carolina-style villas that feature panoramic views of the golf courses and lakes. Learn more about Sea Trail online to http://www.seatrail.com or call 888-675-9237.

A few miles south of Sea Trail, is the Village at the Glens which is offering an Easter Golf Package. For just $121.75 per person, per night, guests will receive a three-night stay in a two-bedroom condo, free range balls, and four rounds of golf (a.m. or p.m.) at Glen Dornoch, Heather Glen, Possum Trot, and Shaftesbury Glen, the Glens Group's four award-winning championship courses. Accommodations are in charming Scottish-themed villas and townhomes that overlook the spectacular Heather Glen Golf Links. More information is available at http://www.glensgolfvacations.com

To experience the Carolina Lowcountry visit Pawleys Plantation on the southern tip of the Grand Strand. This place drips with Southern charm and its resident head chef is a master at whipping up gourmet meals (in fact, he was recently named "Grand Champion" at an American Culinary Federation competition).

At Pawleys Plantation, you'll be enchanted by surrounding that include massive 200-year-old moss-draped live oaks, awesome egret and heron rookeries, and glorious multi-colored salt marshes. On-site amenities include golf, tennis, swimming, and a fitness center, and the resort is perfect for strolling hand-in-hand or riding a bicycle built for two. At its heart is a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course that is ranked among the top 50 in the state of South Carolina where nearly 400 golf courses can be found. Golf enthusiasts looking to launch into spring like Tiger Woods should check out the on-site Phil Ritson-Mel Sole golf School (one of the Top 25 in the U.S.) which is headquartered there. Accommodations are casually elegant villas built in the Lowcountry style. Go online to http://www.pawleysplantation.com to learn more about Pawleys Plantation or call 800-367-9959.

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Jamie Wilburn

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