If you’re looking for ocean waves, the scent of funnel cake and saltwater taffy, all while trying to find the very best tourist t-shirt, let us be your guide. Seeped in classic American culture, Ocean City, Maryland is the perfect spot for a quintessential beach boardwalk experience. Full of family fun (even in the shoulder season), history and sunshine, here’s why you need to explore this iconic east coast city.
What to Do
“There’s something for everyone,” says Hyatt Place general manager Andrew Friedman—and, it's true! During the summer months (which sees 300,000 people on an average weekend), visitors can enjoy the 26th Street Movies on the Beach series, concerts, surfing contests, family beach Olympics and festivals galore. If you want to skip the crowds, the fall and the holiday season offer plenty of fun too, like the Sunfest—an art festival with music, food and vendors, the Great Pumpkin Race, Halloween Beach Maze, Light-Up Downtown Winter Festival and, of course, fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
No matter what the season, a stroll down the boardwalk is a must: You’ll find all the classic traditions. Play skee ball and ride coasters at the Jolly Roger, wait in line for Thrasher's famous fries, get ice cream at Dumser’s Dairyland and stock up on saltwater taffy at Dolle’s. There’s also the beach—a 10-mile pristine stretch of sand. Don't forget to stop by Malibu’s for the scoop on where to ride the best waves or to sign up for surf lessons. Or, rent bikes and explore in half the time.
At the far end of the boardwalk near the inlet is the Life-Saving Museum, perfect if you want to get away from the crowds and the beat the heat. You’ll learn about the history of the Life-Saving Service, which later became the U.S. Coast Guard, and the history of Ocean City itself, with artifacts and images from Native American tribes, founding families and equipment used by service members in the 19th-Century. There are a few “please touch” placards, a kids’ room upstairs and fish tanks filled with local species. They offer a Little Learners Program from Jan. to May, there's a daily aquarium feeding and free programs during the summer months and paranormal investigations in Oct.!
Where to Eat
Besides the classic boardwalk food, make every effort to stop by iconic Fractured Prune Donuts, an Ocean City institution since 1976, as well as Franco's, for New York-style pizza. For a change of pace, make your way towards the bay side of town. Fish Tales is at the top of this writer's list; there’s an impressive playground for kids, sandy outdoor seating and a varied menu: be sure to try the Ahi tuna tacos and the Maryland crab soup. Head's up: Fish Tales is a hotspot. Be prepared for a significant wait—there was still a line out the door in September. For lovely bay views try BLU Crabhouse & Raw Bar. There’s plenty of outdoor seating and an ambitious menu that includes classic seaside cuisine like crab cakes (fried or boiled), all-you-can-eat crab and of course, oysters on the half shell.
Where to Stay
Hyatt Place is a great pick for families. It opened its doors in the fall of 2018; there are 105 rooms (56 of them are oceanfront), an indoor and outdoor pool, a buffet breakfast serving cage-free eggs, all-natural bacon, steel-cut oats, fruit, pastries and other kid-friendly food. In the summer and shoulder seasons, you'll find make-your-own sundaes on Fridays, and in the summer there's face painting, children’s entertainers and Mermaid Mondays.
Other amenities include high chairs, coloring books for kids, a 24/7 restaurant (menu items include a chicken and brie club, New England cobb salad and a Beyond Meat burger) a marketplace with sweets and snacks, and if you happen to forget something at home, you can ask the front desk for a variety of items including a flat or curling iron, a white noise machine, water wings and pool noodles.
Each room boasts an ocean view and a cozy corner sofa, and if you want more space for the kids, opt to book one of the 863 square-foot one-room suites that come equipped with a king bed, sleeper sofa and kitchenette. The hotel offers free parking, is located on the quiet end of the boardwalk and is located directly above Franco’s, an iconic pizza restaurant that’s been serving New York-style pies for 30 years. Click here to check rates and book a room.
How to Get There
You can fly directly to Salisbury, MD (SBY), which is a 30-minute drive from Ocean City, or you can opt to fly into Baltimore, D.C. or Philadelphia and drive as each city is just at or under a three-hour drive.
This trip was paid for by Hyatt but all opinions here belong to the writer.—