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A Sensory-Friendly Holiday Season in Myrtle Beach

  By  Leslie Perkins
2022 Winter Wonderland at the beach lights on the boardwalk

The Holidays are for Everyone

As we approach the magical seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, one can't help but feel the warm embrace of joy and anticipation. These holidays hold the promise of creating new and exciting memories that will be cherished for years to come. For families with members on the autism spectrum, there can be unique challenges that add a layer of complexity to these special moments. However, with some thoughtful planning and consideration, we can make sure that everyone enjoys the happiness of these festive moments to the fullest!

Thanksgiving and Christmas are not just ordinary days; they are opportunities for families to reunite, come together, and engage with one another. Preparing meals together, laughing with one another, and sharing in the pure joy of catching up on life's adventures. However, it's important to acknowledge that they can also be tiring, even for those who don't have autism. To help maximize enjoyment for everyone during the holidays, consider these invaluable tips:

  1. If you find yourself traveling to an unfamiliar destination, it's highly advisable to plan your arrival a day or even two in advance of the gathering you're attending. This approach can significantly enhance your overall travel experience, ensuring that you're well-prepared and at ease when the time for the gathering arrives. 

  2. To help your child feel more connected and excited about the upcoming holiday, have a chat with them about who you'll be visiting. Additionally, get them involved in getting ready for the holiday, like decorating or packing, so they can be a part of the fun and preparations. This way, they'll feel like an important part of the holiday experience.

  3. When you get to the host's place, it's a good idea to check if there's a calm and quiet spot where your child can take a break if things get too noisy. It can be helpful to take breaks during events that are especially loud. It is important to create a comfortable space for your child when needed to ensure that they can still enjoy the gathering while managing sensory needs effectively.

  4. It's a good idea to bring along toys or gadgets that your child finds comforting when you're heading out. These can be a real source of reassurance and entertainment for them, helping them feel more relaxed and at ease during the outing. These items provide a sense of familiarity and security, making the experience more enjoyable for both you and your child. So, don't forget to pack those comforting toys or devices before you leave home for added peace of mind.

  5. Recognize that your child might not be able to handle staying at a party for a really long time, especially if there are lots of things that stress them out. It's important to have an open and honest conversation with the host before the event and let them know that you might not be able to stay for the entire duration of the party. This way, you can manage expectations and ensure that your child's well-being is prioritized, making the gathering more enjoyable for everyone involved. It's about finding the right balance between participating in the festivities and considering your child's needs and comfort.

  6. If you or your child have dietary restrictions, like needing gluten-free or dairy-free options, it's important to communicate this to your host in advance. Alternatively, you can bring a meal tailored to your child's preferences and needs, ensuring they have their favorite foods to enjoy during the gathering.

If you're fortunate to be spending Christmas in Myrtle Beach, you're in for a treat because there are some fantastic events that provide a quieter and more laid-back atmosphere. This means you can enjoy the holiday without all the hustle and bustle, taking your time to savor the moments and the charm of the beachside festivities.

Sensory Friendly Christmas Party

December 2, 11:00am, Crown Reef's Indoor Waterpark

Join us for a fun time with Santa as we swim at Crown Reef Beach Resort and Waterpark, play, and have lunch together! You'll need to sign up in advance for this event, and please note that there are limited spots available. The cost is $5 for each adult and $3 for each child. Make sure to register by November 25, 2023! Don’t forget to bring towels, goggles, and any additional items your child might need.

Birthday Bowling Bash

December 10, 11:00 am, Myrtle Beach Bowl

Join us for a family-friendly bowling experience at Myrtle Beach Bowl! We'll keep the music soft, the lights bright, and there'll be plenty of space to have a great time. Each game costs just $1, shoe rentals are also $1, and we have tasty snacks like hotdogs, chicken nuggets, or grilled cheese at discounted prices. If you have a December birthday, we'll have a special celebration at 11:45 am with a group Happy Birthday song and cupcakes, courtesy of Kroger's Carolina Forest. Your birthday child will have a blast celebrating with friends!

Please note that parents or caregivers must be present and stay with their kids throughout the event.

Winter Wonderland at The Beach

December 1-3, 6:00 pm, Myrtle Beach Boardwalk

Get ready for the Winter Wonderland at The Beach event! It starts on Black Friday and goes all the way until New Year's Day in 2024. The Winter Wonderland lights will be shining every night from 6 to 9 p.m. Plus, mark your calendars for the Winter Wonderland Festival happening from December 1st to December 3rd in Plyler Park, right by the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and SkyWheel, right by the oceanfront. It's going to be a blast!

Festival of Trees

November 10-December 31, Ripley’s Aquarium

Ripley's Aquarium off ers a special discount for CAN card holders. And when you visit the Ripley's Festival of Trees exhibit, you'll be in for a real treat as they proudly celebrate the rich heritage and diversity of the United States. Ripley’s has gone all out to create a festive atmosphere, adding warmth and sparkle everywhere you look. The trees are beautifully themed, adorned with decorations and ornaments that represent each of the 55 states and territories. Be sure to check out the 18-foot South Carolina tree featuring seashells, magnolias, golf balls, and nods to Coastal, Clemson, and USC. You'll also get to marvel at other fantastic trees, like Louisiana's Mardi Gras tree with masks and beads or a Las Vegas-style tree complete with a feather headdress. And for some extra fun, challenge yourself with a scavenger hunt to test your knowledge about each state's tree.

The SkyWheel

The Skywheel is an absolutely wonderful and relaxing adventure, and it treats you to some truly amazing views of the dazzling holiday lights lining the boardwalk. What's even better is that if you have an ATC card, you'll be able to enjoy the special benefi t of moving right to the front of the line. This is especially helpful for those on the spectrum that fi nd waiting in long lines to be a challenge. If your child ever feels a bit anxious or uncomfortable, The Skywheel provides access to an emergency exit by simply pushing a button.

Sensory Friendly Movie: Migration

December 23, 10:00 am, Grand 14 Movie Theater, Market Common

Don't forget to bring your ATC card because at Grand 14 Movie Theater in Market Common, you'll get in for free! The lights will be on, the sound will be low, and you're welcome to move around. Doors open at 9:30 am, and the movie kicks off at 10:00 am. Plus, all drinks and snacks are just $1. It's a fantastic family event that everyone can enjoy together!

Whatever you decide to do during your holidays at Myrtle Beach, you are sure to find one that meets your needs. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the holidays at The Beach - Season's Beachings!

Leslie Perkins

Leslie Perkins grew up outside of Raleigh, North Carolina but has lived in Myrtle Beach since 2016. She graduated from East Carolina University in 2012 with a B.A. in Public Relations and Communication. Leslie is an active realtor, mother of three, autism advocate, and adoption advocate. She enjoys exploring the Low Country with her kids, walking her golden retriever, and sipping a great cup of coffee on her front porch.