The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel is the tallest Ferris wheel on the East Coast of the United States rising 187 feet into the air. The SkyWheel is located in the Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade, a popular tourist destination on the South Carolina coast.
Overlooking a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel is a great way to see the local area as it stands 200 feet above sea level. The SkyWheel is a one-of-a-kind observation wheel without any others quite like it in the U.S.
Equipped with air-conditioned gondolas and a million LED lights, the SkyWheel is similar in design to a Ferris wheel located on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
History of the Ferris wheel
Ferris wheels are also know as observation wheels or big wheels and they were invented by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Since 1893, similar types of structures have been called Ferris wheels after the inventor’s name.
A Ferris wheel generally consists of a large wheel-like structure with gondolas or capsules designed to hold passengers. The wheel is turned on an axis and the passenger cars are kept upright either by gravity or by special electric motors.
The original 1893 Ferris wheel stood 264 ft (80 meter) high and was the tallest structure at the Columbian Exposition. Since that time, taller Ferris wheels have been built in various places of the world. The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel at 187 ft above the ground and 200 ft above sea level is currently the tallest Ferris wheel on the East Coast.
The ten tallest Ferris wheels in the world ever built are:
- Singapore Flyer – Located in the city of Singapore, this Ferris wheel was completed in 2008 and stands 541 ft (165 meter) high.
- Star of Nanchang – Located in the city of Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, China, the Star of Nanchang was built in 2006 and is 525 ft (160 meter) high.
- London Eye – Built in 2000, this wheel is 443 ft (135 meter) tall and is located in South Bank, Lambeth, London.
- Suzhou Ferris Wheel – In Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China. Built in 2009, the Suzhou wheel is 394 ft (120 meter) high. Closed in September 2009.
- The Southern Star – Built in 2008, the Southern Star is located in Waterfront City, Melbourne, Australia and it stands at 394 ft (120 meter).
- Tianjin Eye – In Chihai Bridge, Tiajin, China, the Tianjin Eye is 394 ft (120 meter) and was built in 2008.
- Changsha Ferris Wheel – Stands 394 ft (120 meter) tall in Changsha, Hunan Province, China. Built in 2004.
- Zhengzhou Ferris Wheel – Stands 394 ft (120 meter) tall at the Century Amusement Park, Henan, China. Built in 2003.
- Sky Dream Fukuoka – Built in 2002, the Sky Dream stands 394 ft (120 meter) high and is located in Evergreen Marinoa, Fukuoka, Kyūshū, Japan.
- Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel – Standing 384 ft (117 meter) high, this Ferris wheel was built in 2001 and is located in Kasai Rinkai Park, Tokyo, Honshū, Japan.
SkyWheel is second tallest in U.S.
The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel is 12 shorter than the tallest U.S. Ferris wheel located at the Texas State Fair in Dallas. The largest Ferris Wheel ever built in the U.S. was the original wheel from 1893.
Although the popularity of Ferris wheels had waned giving way to the more exciting roller coasters, they are making a comeback around the world. Some massive projects are currently in the works including the 682 ft (208 meter) Beijing Great Wheel that started in 2007 and was due to open in 2008, but is now in receivership.
Another project that appears delayed is the 608 ft (185 meter) Great Dubai Wheel at Dubailand, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Las Vegas may soon host the nation’s largest Ferris wheel with the announcement in August, 2011 of a 550 ft observation wheel project. The wheel will be located right on the Las Vegas Strip and the whole project will cost about $500 million.
Due to be completed in just 18 months, the Las Vegas observation wheel will be second only to the Singapore Flyer in height.
Ferris wheels are great for the family
Although roller coasters are generally the stars at major American amusement parks, Ferris wheels are considered superior rides for the entire family. For this reason, the rides are very popular in Asia, where amusement parks are geared more toward family-oriented rides.
The SkyWheel provides air-conditioned comfort but also quite a lot of excitement as it takes the gondolas some 200 feet above sea level for sensational views of the local area.
When the $12 million SkyWheel project opened, it helped boost business along the boardwalk where things had been slowing down since 2006 when the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park shut down. The new observation wheel brought back some excitement to the boardwalk along with that amusement park feel.
In addition, the SkyWheel together with the new Jimmy Buffett’s LandShark Bar & Grill generated 150 new jobs.
Music and lights
While riding on the SkyWheel’s gondolas, you can enjoy a selection of music that consists of beach tunes and rock favorites mixed to create a true boardwalk feel.
The 42 glass-enclosed gondolas are illuminated at night with a spectacular light show featuring a million LED lights. The special VIP Flight gondola features leather seats and a glass floor.
The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel is made of 400,000 pounds of steel with more than 1000 yards of concrete used for the foundation. More than 800 bolts and pins keep the wheel and gondolas together and the whole structure took six months to build.
Visiting Myrtle Beach and the SkyWheel
Myrtle Beach is a great place to enjoy the sun, sand and blue Atlantic Ocean waters. The 1.2 mile long Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade runs from 14th Avenue to the 2nd Avenue pier and features a great variety of food and shopping choices. The crown jewel of the boardwalk is the SkyWheel that can be seen from quite a distance because of its great height.
In the summer, the warm weather combined with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream attract visitors from far and wide who come to enjoy the local white sand beaches. In addition to marine sports, the area offers great dining, exciting nightlife including live entertainment at the Carolina Opry & Alabama Theatre, water parks, cultural activities and more.
During the summer, there are many local festivals and events held in Myrtle Beach, so this is one of the most popular times to visit.
You can purchase flights on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel on location or in advance. Tickets can be purchased online from the SkyWheel website (http://www.skywheelusa.com/tickets/).
The ride is open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., and the address is 1110 N. Ocean Boulevard, oceanfront beside Plyler Park, near Mr. Joe White Avenue.
A flight ticket costs $12 for adults and $8 for children from 3 to 11 years old. Children under 3 are free although a ticket is still required. Seniors over 65 get a $2 discount off the full adult price at the location (not available online). Active military also receive an onsite discount of $2 (must show valid military ID), but this can’t be combined with other discounts (not available online).
The VIP Gondola is designed for special occasions and must be reserved in advance. The gondola is a step above the other gondolas with glass floors, leather seats, ice buckets and other perks. The VIP flight is a great way to celebrate special events like graduations, birthdays, marriages, engagements and anniversaries.
A group reservation for the VIP Gondola costs $50 per person/per flight and includes a front of line escort, double flight, SkyWheel t-shirt and VIP Lanyard.
For more information, or to reserve the VIP option, you can call 843-839-9200. The Myrtle Beach Skywheel also offers opportunities for other group and corporate events. The entire observation wheel can be reserved for parties or other large celebrations.
Myrtle Beach details
Generally the best time of the year to visit Myrtle Beach is between March and October when the weather is inviting. Millions of tourists come to the area every summer, so you may want to choose a time off peak season to avoid crowds.
The culture is Southern with plenty of hospitality and the area has boomed since the 1990s with the development of golf courses, condos and other facilities for visitors. The boardwalk and promenade were reopened in 2010 with new attractions like the SkyWheel.
The area’s famed beaches can be found right along the downtown skyline and at Myrtle Beach State Park where you can also find a fishing pier. Other popular spots for visitors include Ripley’s Aquarium, the Carolina Opry, Tanger Outlets, Market Common and the Family Kingdom amusement park, where the SkyWheel is located. Popular dining locations include the NASCAR Sports Grill and Greg Norman’s Australian Grill.