When it came time to come up with this week’s getaway column I stepped up to volunteer to cover Ocean City. Why write a full column all by myself when I can instead lean on my darling fiancée to provide me with material on her hometown?
The trip out to Ocean City is notorious at the best of times, but this last week it’s been in the news a lot. I’ve never cared for their dual-tracking on that bridge and I go out of my way to either be on the far right hand lane on the Westbound trip or on the Southernmost bridge when I’m heading East. Once you make it over the Bay Bridge – hopefully without too much tooth grinding – you’re on Kent Island, a perfect not-quite-halfway place to stop for lunch or dinner. We’re partial to the Harris Crab House but there’s no shortage of options.
Put down that last hush puppy and get back on the road, buddy – time’s a-wasting.
The rest of the drive is a mind-numbing stretch down Rt 50, the most exciting part of which involves a 90 degree curve in Salisbury, after which you’ll be heading East and still have fifty miles to go.
Once you’re actually in Ocean City you’ve got a plethora of options for where to stay, the only two of which I am qualified to tell you about are my future in-laws’ place and the Francis Scott Key hotel. Casa Encantador is a great place to stay but I don’t think you’re invited. The FSK is a nice place and they run a shuttle to and from the beach, so staying on the mainland isn’t a great imposition if you don’t want to get sand in your car. If you’ll be driving yourself around the FSK has the advantage of plenty of parking and a couple of pools. One’s even enclosed if you hit a spot of bad weather.
If you’re out for nothing more than time on the beach and decide to drive yourself over then I think the place to park is at the Convention Center. Parking is free and usually plentiful even in the busy times. Yes, you’ll have to hoof it two blocks east but since there’s nothing within miles to eat that isn’t crab, deep-fried, covered in cheese or a combination thereof…. well, you need to work off some calories anyway.
My darling fiancée, from whom I learned this strategy, points out that if you do this you’re going to need to bring everything you might want, including drinks: the boardwalk ends at 28th street and you’re at 41st. Lots of people are fans of Tommy’s Sub Shop and you’re going to drive past it on 29th anyway, so you might want to pick something up there on the way.
If you go that way for your beach-going, you still owe it to yourself to see the boardwalk. My boss better half has this to say about it: “For all its tacky glory, the boardwalk is worth an evening, or part of one. It was built between 1900 and 1915. The south end is where all the excitement is, really. Trimper’s Amusements has a carousel from 1902 with hand-carved animals (I think it’s one of the oldest operating in the U.S.). There are also some old school arcades in that area (Playland and Sportland) that are fun for skee ball and photo booths. Traditional eats on the south end include Alaska Stand burgers, Dough Roller pizza, Thrasher’s French fries, Fisher’s popcorn, Dolle’s salt water taffy.”
Another beach-going option is Assateage island, though there’s significantly more horse-poop. You might be just as happy to get your sun&sand on separately and come visit just for the strolling and pony-peeping, don’t skip the experience. You’ve got your choice of the State-run section or the Federal park. We’ve always opted for the NPS run area because we’ve usually got an annual park pass, but out of pocket I think the fees are the same. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding ponies to view, particularly if you look like you’re eating something.
Once you’re all beached and ponied out (is that possible?) you can opt for some mini golf. It wouldn’t be a beach town without mini-golf or thirty, so take your pick. We’re big on interference-allowed, full-contact minigolf with loser buying the crabs, but you could always just play it normally. Chicken.
Oh, did I mention crabs? It’s not a vacation in Maryland without blue crab. Well. It’s not life in this area without crabs, but that goes double on a beach vacation. There’s a plethora of choices for all you can eat joints and for the most part one is as good as the other. AYCA is for the amateurs, but if you’re not an accomplished picker it’s a better way to go. Once you get the hang of scraping out every bit of delicious crabmeat you can move to by-the-dozen.
True story: before my darling fiancée would take me out for crabs with her parents she had to see my crab-picking skill so I didn’t embarrass her by wasting crab in a by-the-dozen purchase. I passed muster, thanks to my quality training at a little hole in the wall in Baltimore, so she didn’t have to dump my ass.
I think I’ll save the rest of my suggestions for a future round two, where I’ll offer you some other ideas for less standard tourist fare. So for the moment: Have a good time and wear your sunscreen!