2018 Update: The answer is to “Is the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel worth the price of admission” is yes, yes, and once again yes!
Since it’s opening, we’ve ridden it several times and it never fails to delight! Here’s a quick list of things I love:
- The gondolas are climate controlled, so no worries about feeling hot or cold.
- The gondolas are large so you can move around during your ride to catch a view from both sides.
- Riding the SkyWheel at night is a totally different and worthwhile experience than riding at night.
- There’s an intercom system in each gondola that radios down to someone on the ground, should you have an issue like a toddler who has to go potty NOW. When you press the call button and indicate that you need to get off the wheel, they’ll do exactly that as quickly as possible. I’ve been in line when someone called and saw the whole thing executed with impressive speed. So if you’ve got a nervous flyer in your family who isn’t sure if he’ll cope with the height well, just consider the call button the last little kick of persuasion you need.
- People sometimes do sweet things at the SkyWheel. Check out this video!
Admission is $14 or adults and $9 for children ages 3-11. Children under age 3 are free!
If you’re interested in a VIP gondola ride, that’s $50 per adult and $35 for children.
Enjoy your “flight!”
Update, May 18, 2013 – Before reading on, let me admit that when I wrote my original review, I was a *little* grumpy about some bumps we had that day. I had the opportunity to ride the SkyWheel again recently and it really is a great attraction.
In my opinion, the views are spectacular, the gondolas are climate controlled and very comfortable, and the price is reasonable. I love the intercom system should you find yourself in a panic or with a toddler that has to use the potty. I’m also a fan of how slow-moving and secure the gondolas feel.
If given the opportunity to ride again tomorrow, I would. Now back to my originally written post.
May 24, 2011 – I’m the first to admit that when new attractions come to Myrtle Beach, I have my feelers out to determine if it’s a tourist trap or something truly cool. Yesterday, my family and I got to visit the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel and ate at the LandShark Bar & Grill, located on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.
The SkyWheel stands an impressive 200 feet high in the air, making it the largest ferris wheel east of the Mississippi River and second tallest in the United States. Just for reference, I did some research and learned that the ferris wheel at Family Kingdom Amusement Park is about 100 feet in diameter, making it, approximately 110 feet high. The SkyWheel is much taller.
So let’s talk about our family’s experience. Last Thursday, it opened to a small group. The next day, Friday, May 20, 2011, it was ready for the public. The first 100 people in line got to ride for free and there was a big ribbon cutting ceremony.
This morning our family arrived at approximately 11 a.m., expecting the wheel to have opened an hour earlier, as they said they would on Facebook in answer to my question. We were quite disappointed when we walked up to be told we could pre-buy tickets for their noon opening. Whaaaa…??? In their defense, immediately after my “But you said on Facebook that you’d be opening at 10 a.m.” semi-hissy, they posted on their Facebook page that they’d be opening at noon from now on. Hopefully no one else will have this same experience.
The delay in plans messed us up two-fold.
1) There was an issue in the parking lot at the corner of Mr. Joe White Avenue and Whithers Alley. There are several lots in that alley. We saw two that were $5 for four hours. We pulled into the one closest to the wheel and only after parking were we told it was $10 for three hours. I questioned the attendant, “Why are you twice the price for less time than your buddy next door?” He said, “We’re closer.” I said, “Yes, by about twenty feet.” Didn’t matter, though. Suffice it to say, pay attention to the terms of parking lots in this area. With our SkyWheel ride delayed by an hour, we were under the gun to get through the line, ride, and have time for lunch at the LandShark.
2) We also incurred another $27 in costs for drinks at the Boardwalk Coffee House because walking on the boardwalk made the kiddies hot.
When we returned, there was quite a long line, all of people already holding tickets. When the attraction opened, the line snakes between the gift shop and restaurant. What’s very cool is that there are flat screen TVs broadcasting a trivia game, which helps with keeping everyone entertained while waiting. The downside is that there are no fans and not a big amount of shade. The way the buildings are situated, there is little opportunity for an ocean breeze so you’re just sort of stuck there in the sun and heat. I know they’re just starting up, so hopefully this area will be improved as the heat rises and crowds increase.
We waited in line for approximately thirty minutes. While standing on the deck, ready to be loaded onto our gondola, we had the chance to chat with the attendant – ironically the same one I fussed at a bit earlier. *blush* He was very nice and professional, sharing some nifty features about the wheel and gondolas. Here are the highlights.
There are 42 gondolas in total. The VIP gondola has leather seats, a glass bottom, includes extra revolutions, and permits alcohol consumption while on the ride. All units have adjustable air conditioning and you can move about your gondola. You’re just not permitted to remain standing.
Six people can fit, and unrelated parties will not be placed together. The most impressive feature, in my opinion, is the call button in each gondola. Imagine your claustrophobia kicking in or your toddler having to use the potty. Press the red button on the ceiling and you’ll immediately be in contact with a member of the staff who can help. If need be, they’ll get you right off. I saw it happen while waiting in line and it really does work.
I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the rules and regulations to ride the SkyWheel. My favorite indicates that “undisciplined people” are unable to board. God help my children on any given day. It could be touch and go.
When I asked for the reason for the delayed opening, I was told that the maintenance checks took longer than anticipated. I appreciate the fact that they were putting safety above income. And I also understand that this past weekend was probably somewhat of a soft opening in anticipation of the Memorial Day weekend visitors arriving in just a few days.
Our ride included four full revolutions. The first two were interrupted with the loading of our fellow passengers and the last two were uninterrupted. As anticipated, their views were spectacular. I’m not easily impressed and I couldn’t stop myself from looking in all directions while nearing and at the top.
To the west, we could see the roof of WonderWorks, the Palace Theatre, and the water tower near the Myrtle Beach Speedway. Two times during our ride, foolish teenagers (I assume – because only teenagers are brave enough! LOL) rode the slingshot, directly across the street. To the north, east, and south you could look at the beach and Atlantic ocean as far as your eyes could see. I was hoping to spy a few dolphins, but even in their absence, it was just gorgeous. In our gondola were four children and two adults and we varied up our seating arrangement three times to take advantage of all views.
For those afraid of heights and who deal with issues while in small spaces, the gondola felt very secure and didn’t rock much. The ride is smooth and slow. There was no feeling in the pit of your stomach as you ascended or descended. As we all sat across from each other, there was inches of space between our knees and because there is glass all around you, I never felt closed-in.
Our total ride time was approximately 18 minutes and as it came to an end, we all remarked how it was just long enough. Entering and exiting the gondola felt secure. The cars come to a complete stop that isn’t rushed and the platforms are sturdy and steps are small.
So the burning questions I’m getting as I mention to people we rode this weekend are, “Was it cool?” and “Was it worth it?” Emphatically I am answering YES to both. Due to the price, I’m not sure I’ll be quick to re-ride. Though I am looking forward to seeing the wheel at night for the LED light show.
A little later that afternoon, I got the chance to talk to a member of the ticket sales team and asked her if there was a season or annual pass available. She said there was not, but something they’re considering for the future.
Despite there seeming to be some glitches as this new attraction starts up, I’m optimistic that it will be one that is with us for quite some time. It’s in walking distance to many of the Grand Strand’s most popular hotels. The price isn’t staggering. And it’s genuinely a novel experience. My only advice is if you’re planning to ride just as the attraction opens, give them a call to make sure of the start time.
Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, I want to wish you the very best this season and in years to come. We’ll be back…hopefully while using some kind of locals’ discount.
Want to read more? Check out the latest on the Myrtle Beach for Families blog.