Visitors who love the beach but have an equal appreciation of the starry Carolina skies, or visitors who just want to take in a completely unique theater experience, should plan a rainy day trip to the Ingram Planetarium. The extensive attraction, located just outside of Sunset Beach on the mainland, is the perfect launching point for a high-flying experience that never leaves the ground. Planetarium patrons will find they can simply relax, lean back, and enjoy the incredible ensuing show in comfort, and with a rotating series of programs that change on an hourly basis, this favorite attraction is sure to be an off-the-beach day trip that Sunset Beach vacationers will want to return to again and again.
The planetarium was first envisioned by a World War II airman named Stuart Ingram who used the night sky as his navigational system while flying, and later shared his knowledge of the constellations with family and friends on warm summer evenings. This lifelong fascination led to Stuart's ultimate goal of building a planetarium, an endeavor which required the massive generosity of numerous friends, family members, and the support the local business community and citizens of Brunswick County, and which after many years of planning, finally came to fruition in May of 2002.
Today, the brick complex is more than just a planetarium theater to host informative but thoroughly engaging shows that put patrons at the heart of the action. It also features a series of exhibits which are free to the public to explore, and simply enhance the theater experience.
The Augmented Reality Exhibit is the planetarium's newest exhibit, and features an interactive display which shows young and adults visitors alike the merits of bringing ideas to life by using computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, or graphics. The Paul Dennis Science Hall is another fun discovery center within the planetarium complex, and features a wild hurricane simulator where daring participants can step inside and experience Category 1 force winds, (without being literally blown away.) There are also a number of other hands-on activities to keep little fingers busy before or after a Planetarium show, or just during an afternoon of exploring Sunset Beaches' indoor attractions.
The Planetarium Theater itself is a stunning circular venue that features rows of comfortable chairs which lean back with ease, allowing planetarium visitors to simply recline and enjoy the show. The planetarium is open year-round with seasonal hours, and features a rotating schedule of programs that are both spellbinding and educational, and introduce theater-goers to a new world located miles away, or miles above, the Carolina Coastline.
Previous planetarium shows include 45 minute to hour long presentations on astronauts, undiscovered worlds, and individual planets, and a complete list of shows can be found online. Programs change hourly, so visitors who fall in love with the planetarium experience are welcome to come back multiple times for a new and exciting experience under the ceiling-wide, circular big screen.
Besides daily family-friendly showings, the planetarium also hosts regular "music nights" at the theater, which feature psychedelic displays of lasers and lights to the music of Pink Floyd, U2, Led Zeppelin and more. There are also a number of evening lecture series or special programs that focus on different aspects of the local and national skyline. Hosted by visiting experts in the field, these fascinating sessions put the local landscape in an entirely new light for theater patrons. Visitors are encouraged to check this calendar regularly before their vacation to see what new surprises and shows pop up before their stay.
The Ingram Planetarium is open year-round, generally from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with limited Friday and Saturday hours of operation in the winter months, and extended hours on the nights that feature music laser shows. Ticket prices are around $8 for adults, $7 for seniors who are 62 or older, and $6 for children ages 2-12. Tickets are sold before each show, and visitors who are planning to take in multiple shows will have to buy individual tickets for each program, but will receive a $1.00 discount for each subsequent show. Theater-goers are not allowed in after the show has started, and are advised to show up early to purchase tickets. The Augmented Reality Exhibit and Paul Dennis Science Hall, located close to the entrance, are both free for all visitors, and will provide a fun distraction while waiting for the "performance" to begin.
The Ingram Planetarium is a popular destination for vacationers who want to spend a lazy afternoon or evening enjoying an unforgettable theater experience. Literally a star-studded venue for some of the best shows on the beach, this combination of hands-on exhibits and incredible laser displays and educational programs is sure to have Sunset Beach visitors always at the edge of their seat, and ready for more.