It’s Memorial Day weekend, and unlike most locals, you’ve failed to make getaway plans of your own so now you’re stuck here with all of the holiday traffic and Atlantic Beach bike fest.
Bless your hearts.
The good news for locals, you’re already here so you won’t have to deal with the incoming gridlock early Friday evening.
If you’re a tourist, we advise arriving several hours before dark on Friday, or better yet, early Saturday morning.
With these few simple tips, you can go about your daily business or enjoy the holiday weekend without getting trapped in traffic.
1. Enjoy Friday night at home.
Seriously, don’t go out for dinner or even the grocery store. Every road leading into the Grand Strand is clogged with tourists, or locals trying to get home from work.
This is not your night to be on the town.
2. Get an early start at the beach
Most tourists are sleeping in after all the travel and revelry on their first night in town, so you’ve got the beach to yourselves through early afternoon. Same goes for Sunday. Enjoy all the Grand Strand has to offer, just remember to …
3. Avoid Ocean Boulevard
All Ocean Boulevard traffic is one way between 29th Avenue North to 29th Avenue South beginning at 6 a.m. Friday, through 6 a.m. Monday.
Just don’t go there, it’s going to turn into a giant parking lot.
If you’re a tourist staying at a hotel in this area, make sure you’ve communicated with hotel staff about the best way to get in and out.
Also, there is no good way to get in and out.
Don’t go there unless you’re here specifically for Bike Fest.
4. Don’t get caught in the chute
If you’re headed towards North Myrtle Beach on Highway 17, don’t get caught in the right-hand lane leading into Atlantic Beach.
You can’t miss this traffic chute. There will be flashing signs and lots of traffic cones to warn you in advance.
This is where the actual bike festival takes place, and it’s the customary cruise route for bikers to pay homage.
If you want to attend the festival and watch the parade of bikes, this is where to go.
Parking is plentiful, it’s free, and despite the negativity associated with the event, the actual festival is a lot of fun.
Problems associated with bike fest typically occur during late night cruising on Ocean Boulevard, which brings us to …
5. The Loop
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, you’ve heard of the infamous “loop,” which has achieved legendary nightmare status second only to Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell.
Here’s the perennial map used by the media that’s supposed to be self-explanatory, but really, it’s about as useful as an Ikea instruction sheet for assembling the Space Station.
Set that aside for now, and click here for the city’s interactive map that lets you actually see where the horse head outline is located and access points, so you don’t get caught up in the loop.
The important thing to remember, unless you’re roving about town between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., you will never encounter the loop.
The purpose of the loop is to keep bikers moving as they cruise through downtown showing off their rides.
However, unsuspecting tourists and locals getting to and from work are often ensnared in its clutches.
We’ve stayed in town for the last four Memorial Day weekends, but have never actually witnessed or been caught up in the loop.
Legend has it, a vehicle could be stuck in crawling traffic for two hours. Considering it would take about an hour to travel that route in the height of tourism season, we tend to believe it.
If you plan on traveling at night, we would suggest taking food, water, and your cell phone charger. Just in case.
Basic tips to avoid the loop are summed up by avoiding these intersections:
29th Avenue North and Bypass 17— do not turn east on 29th Ave. North.
29th Avenue North and Kings Highway— do not turn east on 29th Ave. North.
Harrelson Boulevard and Kings Highway—All traffic will be diverted west on Kings Highway and motorist will be in the loop.
We hope everyone enjoys a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. We’ll see you on the beach early Saturday morning!