Ocean City: More Maryland shore for less

 
LA Times | Travel
 

Last year, when escalating gas prices put a crimp in some vacationers' plans, AOL Travel named Ocean City, Md. one of the Top 10 \"East Coast Family Vacations under $250.\" This season, with the tight economy, Ocean City officials are taking extra steps to ensure that the throngs still want to co...


By Donna Owens // 05.19.09
 

Last year, when escalating gas prices put a crimp in some vacationers' plans, AOL Travel named Ocean City, Md. one of the Top 10 "East Coast Family Vacations under $250." This season, with the tight economy, Ocean City officials are taking extra steps to ensure that the throngs still want to come.

"There'll be the free movie nights on the beach again, ice cream sundaes at the park and beach bonfires," Mayor Rick Meehan says. And getting to these activities is affordable: Parking at the West Ocean City Park and Ride is free, and the shuttle into town is just a buck; trams and buses are about $2 round-trip.

The town even has a hunky, new mascot - a blond, tanned lifeguard named Rodney (he's actually an actor) who's promoting O.C.'s charms and helping tourists snag deals. Rodney will appear in television commercials and on billboards, and will make appearances around town. Visitors who ask for the so-called "Rodney Rate" can get discounts at participating area hotels, restaurants and town attractions.

Things to do

BOARDWALK

At Trimper Amusements (South First Street and the Boards, trimpersrides.com), founded in the 1800s, one can ride a pig, lion or ostrich on the antique menagerie carousel or swoosh through the air on the Ferris wheel, which sparkles with lights at night. And how's this for a recession buster: Single tickets for rides are 50 cents each.

PARKS

The town is home to a host of public spaces with nature trails, playgrounds and spots to say, shoot hoops or play a round of golf. Golf Digest has rated the town's Eagle's Landing course one of the top public facilities in the country. To watch a gorgeous sunset, pack a picnic basket and head to the aptly named Sunset Park at the south end of town.

FISHING & SPORTS

Ocean City, known as the White Marlin Capital of the World, also boasts bountiful waters for fishing, and no license is needed. Fishing enthusiasts can visit four public fishing piers. The beaches also have more than a dozen volleyball courts set up for anyone who wants to play. Public tennis courts can be reserved all summer (410-250-0125, ococean.com).

BIRDING

Besides 10 miles of clean beaches, dolphin- and whale-watching off the coast, Ocean City's back bays are great for bird-watching, yielding sightings of herons, pelicans and egrets, to name a few species.

SHOPPING

Ocean City Factory Outlets, in West Ocean City, is a discount shopper's paradise with stores ranging from Bass (shoes) to Calvin Klein (apparel), and offering houseware shops and eateries. A free shuttle service runs all day from various hotels (410-213-7898, ocfactoryoutlets.com).

SPECIAL EVENTS

Family movie nights on the beach at 27th Street will begin at 7:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays (June 29-Aug. 14), weather permitting. Free 8 p.m. concerts on the beach (North Division Street) will run Wednesdays July 15-Sept. 2. The stage will be set up just steps from the boardwalk. Bring your beach chairs and blankets.

IF YOU GO

WHERE Ocean City is about 230 miles south of New York City.

STAY With hundreds of hotels, motels and condos, it can be mind- boggling to pick lodging. Midweek rates are generally less expensive than weekend rates - you'll also find bayside hotels to be less costly than oceanfront. Some hotels are offering meal vouchers and other incentives. Research deals at ocvisitor.com/promotions.asp

EAT Many other establishments offer meal deals, including early-bird discounts. If you can dine early, say between 5 and 6 p.m., you may save. Longtime boardwalk favorites that won't break the bank for beachgoers include:

Fisher's Popcorn, The sweetest caramel corn, perfect for a snack (200 S. Boardwalk, 410-289-5638, fisherspopcorn.com).

Dolle's Candyland, Pastel-hued saltwater taffy in a variety of mouthwatering flavors (500 S. Boardwalk, 410- 289-6000, dolles.com).

Thrasher's, Sample French fries doused with vinegar for less than $5 (401 S. Atlantic Ave., 410-289-7232).

The Alaska Stand

Grab a $2 burger, cheesedog or funnel cake at this landmark (Ninth Street on the Boardwalk, 410-289-7305, thealaskastand.com).

Information

Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau (ococean.com) and Department of Tourism (ocvisitor.com).