Long-time, repeat visitors to the Myrtle Beach area will undoubtedly agree that, as much as they may or may not like it, things change along the Grand Strand from year to year – the addition of a new hotel or condo complex, the changeover of a restaurant, or removal or commencement of an attraction. But one thing that has remained constant for the past twenty-six years has been the Barefoot Landing.
Originally the Barefoot Traders, this unique Intracoastal Waterway-based complex of shops, restaurants, and attractions received a re-build and was re-opened in 1988 as the Barefoot Landing. And while it’s true that it has also undergone some changes within its individual establishments, it continues on as one of THE tourist hot spots in the North Myrtle Beach vicinity. Why? Because The Landing has it all! Boutiques, restaurants, attractions, rides, nightclubs, and wildlife, all comprise a one-stop shop of fun.
Want a dining experience that’s ON the water as opposed to alongside it? Try dinner aboard the Barefoot Princess Riverboat which will take you on a cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway while you dine on the melt-in-your-mouth prime rib. Having trouble locating a special, one-of-a-kind gift to take home? Well, THIS is the place to find it, with a distinctive selection of shops that you won’t find anywhere else. In the mood for some nightlife? Take in a show at the Alabama Theatre or live music at the House of Blues. And if wildlife is your thing, then you’ve definitely come to the right place. Built alongside existing marshland, the water surrounding Barefoot Landing is rife with egrets and herons, as well as fish, turtles and, yes – even local alligators. You’re bound to see something lurking in the waters as you cross over one of three footbridges that connect both sides of the landing. But if you don’t, you’re not out of luck because Barefoot Landing also boasts Alligator Adventure – one of the largest reptile zoos in the world.
As the name suggests, this attraction primarily hosts reptiles with exhibits of every variety of alligator, crocodile, and caiman known to man. There are even albino gators on display, along with the whopping, jaw-dropping King of Crocs dubbed Utan, weighing in at 2000 pounds. Tortoises, lizards, snakes and komodo dragons help to complete the reptilian aspect of the zoo. But the fur and feather loving visitors need not fret because the Alligator Adventure also contains kangaroos, lemurs, marmosets, wolves, and a selection of gorgeous tropical birds – none of which pose the danger as the gators. Just how much danger, you might ask? Catch one of the daily live alligator feedings to see (and hear) for yourself, as the big boys of this park literally leap out of the water for chunks of raw chicken during feeding time. The sheer power of their jaws slamming shut should be enough to make you wide-eyed for the remainder of the day.
Still intrigued and want to get even closer? That can be arranged if you make your way over to the handling and lecture area, where afterwards you can touch a young gator and have your picture taken while performing the daring deed.
With park prices set at $21.99 for adults and $16.99 for children, it’s not a bad deal for a day of educational fun, especially since the park offers your 2nd day for free should you decide to return. If you’re worried about a steamy hot forecast, Alligator Adventure has thought of that as well, with enormous fans set up along the walkways to help keep the air circulating and the customers cool.
In the mood for something potentially as dangerous as gators but perhaps a little more cuddly? Then mosey over to the T.I.G.E.R.S. exhibit just over the center footbridge. This is a fundraising effort that assists with animal conservation via the RARE SPECIES FUND.
With majestic adult tigers featured on one side of the free exhibit and spirited young cubs on the other, you won’t know which way to look first, nor will you know which to choose should you opt to pose for a photo (the fundraising portion of the exhibit). You even have the choice of cuddling up with a young ape if you’d prefer, or adding him into the mix alongside a playful cub. Though photo sessions are a bit pricey, the money goes to the animals so it’s a worthwhile cause. There are plenty of coupon booklets available throughout the Myrtle Beach area that offer discounts on your photo, which in turn offers a $40.00 discount on a 3-hour safari-style tour of the actual T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station, located on 50 acres of property approximately 17 miles south of the Barefoot Landing.
In addition to tigers and several other big cats, the park proudly houses elephants, chimpanzees, wolves, and other endangered species, and offers an interactive experience for visitors unlike anywhere else. It would be a roarin’ shame to miss it if you’re in the Myrtle Beach area.