If you have someone in your family that is autistic or has sensory issues, then you know they need additional support when traveling or going out to restaurants or entertainment venues. Many with autism and their families find Myrtle Beach and nearby Surfside Beach an enjoyable and supportive destination.
In fact, families have shared that their children who are autistic or have sensory issues find the rhythm of the waves on the beach calming and soothing. The sensory aspects of the sand and the waves bring a level of comfort and fun.
What's more, Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach are certified autism-friendly through the Champion Autism Network (CAN). Surfside Beach first received this designation in 2006, making it one of the longest-running certified autism-friendly destinations in the country.
Through this certification, many attractions, hotels, restaurants, local residents, and the Myrtle Beach International Airport offer:
- sensory friendly experiences,
- autism-aware and specially trained staff,
- preferred entrances at attractions, and
- travel discounts.
To navigate the area's autism-friendly offerings, CAN offers cards for families to show at participating restaurants and attractions, discretely notifying them that a family with autism is on the site. These cards can be requested through CAN ahead of time or picked up at the two visitors centers operated by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau (located at MYR and downtown Myrtle Beach on Oak Street) at the or the Town Hall of Surfside Beach. The CAN cards through the are available to local residents as well as out-of-town visitors at no charge. Learn more about the CAN cards on their website.
The Myrtle Beach Area Visitors Center in downtown Myrtle Beach also offers wristbands with a GPS tracker for children who may wander off, giving families peace of mind when visiting the beach and other attractions through Project Lifesaver. These wristbands are available for free to out-of-town visitors but must be returned before departing the area.
When flying, the Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) offers a Quiet Room for families who need a space to decompress and relax after a flight.
Autism-Friendly RESTAURANTS, ATTRACTIONS & MORE
Dining out can often be a concern for many families with special needs; however, Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach offer several restaurants that are autism-friendly certified such as Johnny D’s Waffles and Bakery.
There are also quite a few attractions that offer sensory-friendly experiences and inclusive environments for the entire family. Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach offers guests the option of noise-canceling headphones and monthly sensory mornings. At WonderWorks, families can attend special sensory days where the music is lowered, and exhibits have limited stimulation to accommodate children with special needs.
Savannah’s Playground located in Myrtle Beach's Market Common is the Southeast’s first enabling playground with all ADA-approved playground equipment. This playground is designed for children of all abilities and offers a music park, interactive playground, early childhood playground, school-age playground, picnic area, challenge ropes, ziplining, and more across three acres. Market Common also offers shops, restaurants and entertainment for the entire family to enjoy.
Several hotels and resorts, like the Crown Reef Beach Resort and Waterpark or the Landmark Oceanfront Resort, offer autism-friendly amenities such as CAN-certified hotel staff, curbside check-in or check-out, and rooms in quiet, private locations. For an extensive list of lodging options, check out the Visit Myrtle Beach website.
CAN also hosts several events each year in the Myrtle Beach area that are sensory friendly. Check out CAN’s Facebook page for more information on their upcoming events.
Eileen Lamb and her family also traveled to Myrtle Beach in 2021 and she shared highlights from her experiences on her blog The Autism Cafe. Within the blog, she writes, "They have Certified Autism Supportive restaurants all over Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach. It basically means that waiters and staff are trained in what to expect with some autistic customers. You won’t be judged if your kiddo is having a meltdown or is making a mess or needs some accommodation."