Myrtle Beach: Hidden Gems

The Good Cafe, Myrtle Beach
Check out the album covers on the wall behind the husband and youngest daughter. Photo by Corrina Lawson

There are obvious attractions for a vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The beautiful beach, of course; the ocean boardwalk with everything in the way of food, arcades, and attractions you could want in a boardwalk; the Myrtle Beach Skywheel with a glorious view of the ocean and town; Broadway at the Beach with its numerous stores, restaurants, and attractions; and even outlet shopping.

But if a vacation is long enough, I like to find places beyond that, hidden gems that are known mostly by locals or, because they’re not right on the beach, are not always easy to discover.

We found two this summer, one an activity, one a restaurant, that we’ll definitely be visiting again when we’re next in Myrtle Beach.

The restaurant: The Good Day Cafe.

The activity: The Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum.

We found the Good Day Cafe through the CAN (Champion Autism Network) of Myrtle Beach. To quote their purpose:

Champion Autism Network, Inc. (CAN) is a nonprofit autism awareness organization based in Surfside Beach, South Carolina. CAN was founded in 2012 by Becky Large, a business professional and mother of a child on the spectrum. CAN’s goal is to raise autism awareness, reduce criticism and judgment and help families with children on the autism spectrum develop a network of like-minded people and supports, locally and beyond.

Our mission is to raise autism awareness, hold sensory/autism friendly events and inspire action to support people with autism and their families.

Good Cafe, Myrtle Beach
Every sandwich comes with some chips and fresh salad. Photo by Corrina Lawson (Note: I forgot to take a photo before I ate most of my sandwich because it was so good.)

What that means is CAN is a terrific resource for neuro-atypical kids and adults in Myrtle Beach and the surrounding areas. A CAN card and a list of participating businesses can be picked up at the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce or requested via phone or email.

Among the restaurants in their network is the Good Day Cafe, where we had the best lunch of our stay.

The Good Cafe
Tables at the Good Cafe make for awesome reading material. Photo by Corrina Lawson

They employ folks on the spectrum, have gluten-free wraps and vegetarian selections, as well as more traditional fare. The service was quick and fast, the servers wonderful with our family, and the decor is worth the trip alone. The walls and tables are decorated with classic album covers, and we all had fun picking out our favorites. Plus, before you leave, the kids are given a Sharpie and asked to write a message on the bathroom walls. (There are some wonderful and inspirational quotes on those bedroom walls.)

The Good Cafe
More of the album covers on the walls. Photo by Corrina Lawson

One note: it’s only open during lunch hours, so double check the schedule before heading over. It’s a few blocks from the beach proper but well worth it.

Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum
Time to work those paddles! Image copyright Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum

The Pinball Museum is also about a mile from the beach. It’s not much to look at from the outside, being located in an old bank building. But inside, it has the familiar bells and whistles of pinball. I found it accidentally while googling for local comic and collectible stores. When it appeared on the first page, I was immediately intrigued, as my teenage twins had a blast at a similar-style arcade in Asbury Park, New Jersey, a couple of years ago.

The museum has 12 pinball machines from various eras, starting with the 1970s. My favorite, perhaps predictably, was one from that era, an Elton John/Mr. Fantastic machine with the old style numbers. The rarest one there, however, was the Dominos Pizza machine (complete with Noid) that was never in public circulation but was built for use by Dominos employees at their corporate headquarters.

Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum
Image copyright Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum

Other machines included Star Trek, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Chicago, and Wheel of Fortune, among others. Some have some serious bells and whistles, with hidden balls, quests, etc., and some are the simpler, old-style machines.

Admission is $12 per person for an hour’s worth of play. That may seem high but those of us who’ve seen our kids pile of quarters disappear at regular arcades know that’s a bargain. Plus, they can play for an hour straight, and, since the museum is a non-profit, the money goes to a good cause. They’re not open all the time–we played during a three-hour window on a Thursday–so be sure to check the hours before you drop by.

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