The coastal Carolinas region boasts after-hours entertainment

December 20, 2017

While the group-friendly coastal communities of North Carolina and South Carolina are popular for an abundance of sunshine-filled pursuits during the day, they are also jam-packed with entertaining opportunities after hours.

From lively boardwalk action and ghost tours to bowling, pub crawls and dining on seafood, following are some wonderful ideas for planners interested in adding a bit of fun to the itinerary when the day’s business is finished.

North Carolina

The Wilmington area comprises the riverfront convention district and three island beaches: Wrightsville, Kure and Carolina.

The Courtyard by Marriott Carolina Beach Oceanfront and the Hampton Inn & Suites Carolina Beach Oceanfront are located just steps away from the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Both properties can customize an after-hours reception poolside, and according to Connie Nelson, communications/PR director for the Wilmington and Beaches CVB, groups based there on Thursday nights from late May until the end of August can check out a free concert followed by fireworks along the Boardwalk, where they will also find great bars and restaurants.  

In Wilmington, there are two nighttime group tours that explore the city’s storied past—Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington, a 90-minute outing featuring haunted homes and burial grounds, and a 2.5-hour Haunted Pub Crawl, during which groups can bond over pints and ghostly tales.

A popular way to explore historic downtown New Bern, which is home to breweries and a speakeasy, is via a scavenger hunt created by the New Bern-Craven County Convention & Visitor Center.

“We can tailor the scavenger hunt based on the group’s needs, or convert the hunt into a pub crawl,” said Caroline S. Smith, sales and communications assistant for the New Bern-Craven County Convention & Visitor Center.

Also in New Bern is Bear Towne Escape Room, an interactive game that gives teams an hour to solve puzzles and riddles and find clues in order to break out of a themed room.

“This is a great experience since it not only gets groups working together, but also thinking creatively and outside the box,” Smith said. “Each room holds just six participants, so larger groups would need to be broken up.”

The Crystal Coast is home to Cape Carteret-based MacDaddy’s Entertainment Center, which according to Carol Lohr, executive director for the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority, is the largest arcade in the area.

“Meeting attendees are going to enjoy striking the pins from the 24 lanes at MacDaddy’s,” she said. “Another group activity we offer is the Beaufort Ghost Walk. Let the spirits guide you through the third-oldest town in North Carolina.”     

Groups can also enjoy evening harbor tours aboard the Beaufort-based Crystal Coast Lady cruise vessel, topped off by a drink at The Brown Pelican, which features live music.

In Nags Head, N.C., groups can venture out for a sunset climb at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which is home to the tallest sand dune on the East Coast.

“Leave your loafers at the base of the big natural sand box and spend the next hour or two feeling like a kid again as you run or roll up and down 426 acres of beachy mountains on the Outer Banks,” said Aaron Tuell, public relations manager for the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

At dusk, he added, groups can gather at the top of the dune to watch one of North Carolina’s most celebrated sunsets below the horizon of Roanoke Sound.

Another Outer Banks evening activity is ghost crab hunting in Kill Devil Hills. Tuell said a local outfitter leads groups, armed with flashlights and butterfly nets, to the beach to chase an army of translucent sand crabs across the moonlit shore.

“Your group will get to know each other better between laughter and shrieks,” he said. “The crabs are harmless but super quick to pop in and out of their silver dollar-sized holes in the sand.”

South Carolina

The anchor of Myrtle Beach’s meetings infrastructure, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center (MBCC), is situated within minutes of Broadway at the Beach, a happening hot spot where attendees can find after-hours activities ranging from restaurants and theaters to ziplining and an aquarium.   

The MBCC also hosts fun after-hours events, including the “World’s Largest 19th Hole” for the annual World Amateur golf tournament, which welcomes more than 3,000 players to Myrtle Beach’s championship golf courses.  

“The gathering includes a golf expo, special guests, fun and games, live entertainment and complimentary food and drinks from restaurants along the Grand Strand,” said Tiffany Andrews, MBCC’s sales and marketing administrator. “Seeing our facility be transformed, providing everything an attendee would do during a typical evening out, is just amazing.”

The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is another must-visit place for nightlife, where group opportunities include taking a spin on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, among other thrill rides, and dining on fresh seafood at RipTydz Oceanfront Grille & Rooftop Bar.

“The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is the perfect spot for groups looking for a great happy hour or for a night out with a taste of the ‘beach life,’” said Julie Ellis, public relations/communications manager for Visit Myrtle Beach.

Also in Myrtle Beach, live after-hours entertainment can be found at The Carolina Opry Theater and Alabama Theatre.

Hilton Head Island’s newest hot spot for groups is Skull Creek Dockside, a restaurant that offers amazing waterfront views and a laid-back vibe, according to Charlie Clark, vice president of communications at the Hilton Head Island VCB.

“It’s the perfect spot for that first night icebreaker gathering,” he said.  

Hilton Head is also home to the Jazz Corner, a notable southeastern jazz club and restaurant that hosts a talented lineup of musicians.

“You don’t have to be a super jazz fan to enjoy it; there is something for everyone,” Clark said. “The food doesn’t take a backseat to the music either.” 

Groups that would prefer an authentic regional meal can try Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks and order the Lowcountry boil, which includes corn, sausage, potatoes and steamed peel-and-eat shrimp.

“Leading up to the main feast, the chef will bring out recently harvested local steamed oysters, talk about what it takes to cultivate them to perfection, and offer shucking lessons for all,” Clark said.   

Nighttime opportunities in Charleston include taking in a show or hosting a private gathering at the Charleston Music Hall,  as well as visiting The Alley, a reclaimed warehouse that features eight lanes of retro bowling, a 40-foot bar made from recycled bowling lane wood, a 150-seat restaurant and a 1,900-square-foot mezzanine that accommodates private events. Groups can also book a Charleston Ghost and Graveyard Walking Tour with Bulldog Tours.

“While the church steeple skyline inspired the Holy City nickname, the amount of earth dedicated to graveyards has earned Charleston a very different distinction—haunted,” said Doug Warner, director of media relations for the Charleston Area CVB. “Even if you don’t believe in the spectral afterlife, tales of the city’s most notorious characters and mysterious tombstones will entertain you.”  


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Carolyn Blackburn