Hard Rock Park gets a Thumbs-Up

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Yesterday, a small contingency from the City Paper office made is way up Hwy. 17 for a special “sound check” preview of the band-new Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach (211 George Bishop Parkway). We were impressed with the handsome layout, which stretched around a central lake from the reggae-themed beach party area

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and the massive and gnarly “Led Zeppelin: The Ride” roller coaster through the “British Invasion” and “Born in the U.S.A.” areas through the “Kids Rock” games sections to the “Cool Country” spot.

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The intense Zep ride stood at 15 stories high, kicked off with a 65 m.p.h. drop, and looped around through six inversions — all to the tune of “Whole Lotta Love.” It was one the biggest attractions and it will surely become the most popular ride and a must-ride for thrill-seekers.

At a more peaceful pace, “Nights in White Satin: The Trip” was a slow-rolling, psychedelic, indoor ride set to the music of the Moody Blues, replete with 3-D glasses.

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The black-light, fluorescent painted, laser/strobe special effects were cool … it was Disneyworld's "Haunted House"-meets-Willie Wonka-meets LSD. “Eagles: Life in the Fast Lane” was a more kids-friendly, medium-sized roller coaster, set a barn-like structure (some pyrotechnic effects were in use, although they didn’t quite relate to the song or the band).

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There were plenty of amusing diversions, game rooms, and mini parks aimed at kids: a “punk pit” inflatable bounce room, a splashy Reggae River Falls jungle gym, a laid-back Shake Rattle ’n’ Roller coaster ride, a musical ice skating show called “Country on the Rocks,” and various playgrounds and arcades. Three wide-eyed mascots called the “Bear Metal Family” waved to kids along the pathways.

At 9 p.m., the “Bohemian Rhapsody Fireworks Show” dazzled the entire park from the middle of the lake with a choreographed display set to the classic Queen anthem.

Be aware: the food is surprisingly good — especially the smoked chicken, mac ’n’ cheese, and the pulled pork barbecue at the Rockabilly BBQ and the desserts at the Amp’d coffee house by the main entrance.

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Beware: the beer is terribly over-priced, unless you invest in a huge, plastic Hard Rock Park thermos (with which refills are cheaper). I paid $7.50 for a 16-ounce plastic cup of Bass Ale at the Whammy Bar at the end of the night while Murrells Inlet rock band Ten Toes Up jammed on the patio.

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Be ready: the shops and merch huts are fully stocked with funky souvenirs, T-shirts, hats, mugs, and brac-a-brac — some of which are hilarious.

Hard Rock Park opend to the public on Fri. May9, but their official, two-day Grand Opening Event features performances by The Eagles on Mon. June 2 and The Moody Blues on Tues. June 3. These will be separate ticketed events. Tickets are on sale online at www.hardrockpark.com and at the All Access Entry Plaza.

hHere's the venue's spring and summer concert line up:

Tues. May 13 — Kid Rock

Fri. May 16 —The Charlie Daniels Band’s “Volunteer Jam,” with Shooter Jennings and .38 Special

Sun. May 18, Mon. May 19, Tues. May 20 — Rockie Lynne

Fri. May 23 — George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic

Mon. June 2 — The Eagles

Tues. June 3 — The Moody Blues

Fri. July 4 — Sister Hazel

For more information, visit www.hardrockpark.com or call the office at (843) 236-ROCK (7625).

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