Road Trip: Ocean City, MD
August 30th, 2022 is “National Beach Day” — a day to celebrate our nation’s sandy shores and reflect on the importance of keeping these beautiful public spaces clean. Simply visiting the beach with your children when they’re young will foster a love of nature and a healthy respect for preservation. Located 6.5 hours down the shoreline, Ocean City, Maryland is a paradise of playgrounds and putt-putt—fun for the whole family. Here’s everything you need to know.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of oceanfront accommodations — even last minute in high season. Staying toward the boardwalk end will give you the closest proximity to walkable entertainment.
- The Grand on 20th Street: You won’t have to cross any roads to get right onto the boardwalk. If it’s a rainy monsoon August day, you won’t miss a beat with the indoor pool and onsite game room, complete with pool tables, air hockey, and arcade favorites. The pizza restaurant and ice cream parlor onsite don’t hurt either.
- Holiday Inn 17th Street: Recently renovated, the Holiday Inn ups its pool game with fountains, a lazy river, and children’s play area featuring shipwreck and whale structures. There’s also an indoor pool. Every room is a suite with a fully-equipped kitchenette, separate living room, dining area, and complimentary laundry.
- The Residence Inn on the Bay at 62nd Street: This one’s not on the boardwalk, but it’s worth considering for the beautiful bayside sunsets. Voted 2020 Hotel of the Year by Coastal Style Magazine, the accommodations are spacious and the lobby enthralls kids with the second-largest saltwater fish tank in Ocean City. Drop by the tiki bar for outdoor swimming, BBQing, dining, and kid-friendly entertainment.
Where To Eat
On the boardwalk, you’ll want to sample local staples: Dolle’s saltwater taffy, Thrasher’s fries, Fractured Prune donuts, King’s funnel cakes, and Dumser’s Dairyland ice cream. If the lines are jammed up, try another location down the boardwalk, as foot traffic can be random.
If you’ve been to one Ocean City eatery, you’ve been to them all, as many establishments are owned by the same proprietors. You can count on kids menus, playgrounds, Jimmy Buffet, and tchotchkes adorning the walls pretty much everywhere you go.
- Alley Oops: Mini bowling and all the best arcade games await at Alleyoops. Photo opps include giant tiki statues and muscley surfer sharks. The crab-topped chicken is a solid choice — and be sure to check out the live sharks swimming in their tank in the center of the dining room. Order the “Shark Juice” and get a free shark toy for the kids.
- Fish Tales: This is where the locals gather around the bar. The wooden pirate-themed play area provides all the nooks and crannies kids need to feel like they’re on an adventure, while the food is served up on frisbees. While you snack on your conch appetizer, the kids can change it up from the usual burger and tenders to fish sticks.
- Dead Freddies: Look up on your way in to see a pirate resting lazily in his hammock and keep your eyes open for sharks, ye land lubber! Get a photo taken with Captain Jack Sparrow out back while your kids play on the double-decker plastic pirate ship. The crab soup (the same you’ll find at De Lazy Lizard) is out of this world.
- Ropewalk: This tourist favorite can be difficult to get into at dinner hour, so it’s best visited at lunch time. You may feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you note the Ronald Reagan statue, Ronald Reagan beer, and sandwich named “the Gipper.” You’ll find more beer options here than the standard Land Shark, while the kids play ring toss and corn hole games or scale the playground. The crab egg rolls, fried pickle chips, seared ahi tuna, and crab artichoke dip on the appetizer menu may be all you need, but there’s also Bayou Steam Pots, Caribbean Grouper, and Filet Mignon.
- De Lazy Lizard: Inviting you to “get lazy,” this bayside tiki-umbrellaed restaurant is the perfect place to dip your toes in the sand and watch the sunset with a fancy cocktail. The kids receive free frisbees and lizard toys, while adult beverages are served in souvenir tiki cups. Loaded nachos, tacos, salads, and burgers are the main fare.
- Belly Buster’s: Sometimes you just need a greasy grinder you can sink your teeth into. Belly Buster’s is a cantankerous local favorite where you can grab a meatball bomber or a French Dip and eat until your heart’s content back in your hotel room when you’re tired of dining out.
What To Do
It’s hard to miss the amusement park rides, though they can be an expensive way to while away the time. Many of the Jolly Roger at the Pier rides are rickety and old, though the Ferris wheel is worth a whirl for the bird’s eye view.
- Beach Day: Ocean City sand is deep and soft. There are plenty of life guards up and down the beach, but you’ll want a USCG-approved life vest for the kids due to how rough the waves can be. A rip current can carry your child away rather quickly if you don’t have a hand on them. Little ones will likely be more than content to climb on the whale and dinosaur bone beach playgrounds or build sandcastles on the beach, while your older daring tweens will find the crashing surf a true thrill! Many places along the boardwalk have boogie boards for rent or sale.
- Mini Golf: Old Pro Golf and Nick’s Golf are the two main proprietors of Ocean City mini golf. Their well-maintained courses are uniquely themed with dinosaurs, medieval castles, pirates, sea creatures, and safari animals. The courses tend to get busy after lunch, so go early if you want to take your time and soak it all up.
- OC Life Saving Museum: You can’t miss the stark white lighthouse building at the very end of the boardwalk. Stop at the front desk to pick up a scavenger hunt for the kids; it’ll keep them busy and once completed, they can pick out a free shark tooth. The aquarium section contains horseshoe and spider crabs, sea horses, eels, and a few fish, which put on quite a show at feeding time. Exhibits chronicle Ocean City’s fishing, surfing, and carnival history, with an upstairs playroom for the kids. The air conditioning makes it a welcome place to escape the heat for a few hours. There’s also a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum on the boardwalk.
- Bike Rental: Before noon, bikes are allowed on the boardwalk and there’s no better place to find one than Dandy Don’s. In addition to adult and child sized bikes, he’s got tandem bikes for the whole family (although these bikes work best if everyone actually pedals), as well as classic car beach cruisers for two with Bluetooth sound systems.
- Assateague Island: Thirty minutes from Ocean City proper you’ll find an island of wild horses — one of the few places in the United States you can see them roam free. he visitor’s center has a movie about the ponies, a touch tank, air conditioning, and bathrooms, so it’s worth a stop on your way in. At the National Seashore, you’ll find three hiking trails: one on a marshland boardwalk, one along the sand dunes, and one through an old growth forest. Bring a can of bug spray to keep the black flies away. While sightings aren’t guaranteed, you’re likely to spot the horses hanging out close to the roads and around the parking lots. You may also consider camping right on the island, renting kayaks, or taking an ecotour by boat from Ocean City.
How To Get Around
Driving isn’t too overwhelming, as the city’s very well planned out with divided lanes of traffic and sensibly timed lights. There are large public lots at the end of the boardwalk where you’ll find ample parking spaces. Some of the mini-golf spots or popular restaurants can reason to consider alternatives to driving. Truly the best-kept secret of Ocean City is the BUS! Ride all day for just $3 per person. You’ll need exact cash on hand, but the buses are clean and run up and down the main strip every 10 minutes. You can even track the bus with the Transloc Rider App.
We hope you enjoyed the virtual tour of Ocean City, MD. When you’re back in town, there’s always fun and festivities at the Shine Studio. Stop in and tell us about your trip!