With its chrome bar stools, glittery vinyl booths, and cursive neon sign, Lulu's Cafe is the picture of Happy Days perfection. But the 24-hour café, which opened in February, breaks the mold in the best ways: upgraded childhood favorites (grilled Brie-and-apple sandwiches, house-made potato chips, and four kinds of PB&J), a 75-seat patio, and a full bar. 1903 N. Ocean Blvd., 843/712-1890, Brie sandwich $7.
Like many local beach institutions, the Fun Plaza arcade got a face-lift this year, with a fresh coat of paint and new games to keep up with the growing crowds. What hasn't changed? Owner Jimmy Waldorf's stash of 25 Skee-Ball lanes, vintage baseball pitch-and-bat games, and a black-and-white photo booth. 902 N. Ocean Blvd., 843/448-5141, games from 25¢.
Rooms at the Inn
Just opened last month, the 60-room Aqua Beach Inn pays homage to Myrtle Beach's mid-century beginnings. In the lobby, a series of 1950s and '60s photos taken by town legend Jack Thompson set up the nostalgic theme, and turquoise accents carry the retro note through to the rooms. The hotel's real appeal, however, lies in its timeless creature comforts. Each room includes a kitchenette and its own private ocean-view balcony. 1301 Withers Dr., aquabeachinn.com, doubles from $69.
The View From Here
Even the best day at the beach can leave you craving a break from the sunburned masses. The 187-foot-tall SkyWheel offers 10 minutes of air-conditioned bliss—not to mention, on a clear day, a view of North Carolina on one side and dolphins cresting in the Atlantic on the other. The ride, which opened in May, has 42 glass-enclosed gondolas, each of which holds six passengers. N. Ocean Blvd. at 12th Ave. N., themyrtlebeachskywheel.com, adults $12, children $8.
There's a lot more to the Boardwalk Coffee House than above-average brew—although the java-joint veterans who opened the place take great pride in their lattes. The newcomer is fast becoming a neighborhood hub, with a party room upstairs for business meetings and baby showers, and a rotating selection of works by homegrown artists throughout. 104 9th Ave. N., boardwalkcoffeehouse.com, latte $3.75.
Since 1948, locals have relied on the Oceanfront Bar & Grill for foolproof family meals (think fish tacos and sweet-potato fries). Today, they count on it for a more precious commodity: elbow room. A recent expansion gave the restaurant the largest open-air dining area on the boardwalk—-plus an ideal outdoor stage for acoustic music sets in the summer. 100 9th Ave. N., oceanfrontgrill.com, fish tacos $8.
Area fishermen have long made the tackle shop on the 2nd Avenue Pier a sort of seaside water cooler, but the landmark is now luring a broader clientele, thanks to the new Pier House Restaurant. The split-level spot caters to distinct crowds: seafood fans in the downstairs dining room (which serves dishes such as crab wontons and pan-seared grouper creole) and sunset-seekers in the upper deck's Pier View bar, with its wraparound patio and casual snacks. 110 N. Ocean Blvd., secondavenuepier.com, crab wontons $9.
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