What was once a barren, wind-swept barrier island known only to a handful of fishermen offers year-round fun for groups, including one of the best boardwalks in the nation.
The island emerged as a popular vacation spot after the laying of its famous three-mile boardwalk in 1910. In recent years, Ocean City’s Victorian-style boardwalk was named America’s best by The Travel Channel; National Geographic lauded it as one of the top 10 in the nation; and USA Today called it one of the nation’s best boardwalks for food.
The boardwalk, 10 miles of free beaches, bayside recreational activities and a variety of special events provide year-round amusement. Catch the OC Beach Light laser show, ride bikes on the boardwalk, take in an impromptu show by a street performer, view the beaches from the top of the Ferris wheel, ride the 1902 carousel, see professional sand sculptures or even ride horses on the shore. During the summer, you’ll find free fun on the beach every day of the week, including bonfires, movies, beach Olympics, and a concert series in downtown’s Sunset Park and on the beach.
In OC, your group can choose from more than 200 restaurants—including oceanfront and bayside— from fine-dining and boardwalk specialties to carry-out and buffets. “Maryland is for crabs,” or so says a slogan on a popular 1970s T-shirt. Mouths water for famous Maryland crab cakes or Delmarva fried chicken. For dessert, try saltwater taffy, caramel popcorn, thick creamy fudge or hot funnel cakes.
The whole city encompasses just 4.5 square miles; it feels intimate but with endless possibilities. You’ll find plenty of shopping opportunities along the boardwalk and on many side streets as well. Somerset Plaza, for example, is on the boardwalk and features shops of all kinds, plus free internet access for everyone. Factory outlet stores can be found in in West Ocean City, and galleries and bookstores are abundant in nearby Snow Hill.
As far as attractions go, must-sees include Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, where your group will relive the adventures of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, a predecessor of today’s Coast Guard. Guests also love the Aquarium Room, featuring huge saltwater tanks with an ever-changing display of sea creatures. Other museums explore maritime, African-American, Native American and 19th century heritage. Ocean City’s most popular events are the annual festivals: Springfest, Sunfest and Winterfest of Lights – and they’re free!
Venture off Ocean City’s shore for world-renowned deep-sea fishing for white/blue marlin, bigeye and yellowfish tuna and mako. Ocean City is home to the largest billfish tournament in the world, White Marlin Open, held annually in the beginning of August. Fishing isn’t the only popular water activity; choose from boating, sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding and almost any water sport.
While in OC, why not meet the neighbors? For those interested in getting lost in nature, Ocean City is only 15 minutes from Assateague Island National Seashore and State Park. The Native Americans knew it as Assateague: “the marshy place across.” Nature lovers know it as an unspoiled paradise, home to the wild horses made famous in Misty of Chincoteague. Not to mention around 260 species of birds and at least 44 species of mammals, including Sika deer, otters, foxes, muskrats and raccoons. Sightseeing and nature cruises also allow you to see all the natural wonders the area has to offer.
Ocean City is located in Worcester (pronounced “Wooster”) County, Maryland. Here, explore the arts, crafts, history and recreational opportunities along with delicious fruits and vegetables fresh from Delmarva’s famous farms. Snow Hill is a designated Arts and Entertainment District. Visit Purnell Museum, which houses arts and artifacts exclusively from Worcester County, or you can also experience 1840s life at the Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum. Grab a guide to a walking tour that will lead you to 47 homes in Berlin listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In Pocomoke City, you’ll find excellent fishing just a short way down the Pocomoke River in Pocomoke Sound. Or explore the city’s museums and the Marva Theater, a magnificent 1920s Art Deco theater that now hosts both movies and live productions. Pocomoke City’s newest attraction is the Delmarva Discovery Center, located right on the riverbank. The center features life-like exhibits on the river’s cultural and natural heritage, and explores the city’s long history as a shipbuilding center.
About eight million visitors come to Ocean City annually, with the majority during the summer months. OC offers 9,500 rooms to fit every budget and travel style, and more than 25,000 condominiums so visitors can get comfortable in a setting that feels like a home. To begin planning your group’s trip, contact the Ocean City CVB at www.ococean.com or 410-289-2800.