Ocean City is a narrow strip of land with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Isle of Wight Bay to the west. This position makes it the perfect resort town, and as such it’s a bustling tourist stop between Memorial Day and Labor Day. With beaches for miles, Ocean City is a wonderful place to go to soak up some rays on those days off from school and work. Because of the boardwalk and the amusement parks, Ocean City is a top-notch spot for families to visit. When you visit, your main activities will have to do with the beach, so be prepared for sun and sand.

Early Morning: Devour Your Breakfast

Early risers will love Happy Jack Pancake House, which opens at 7 a.m. and serves a ridiculously long menu of delicious pancakes. You can get traditional favorites like blueberry and plain, or you can go hog-wild for Pigs in a Blanket (pancakes wrapped around sausage) or S’Mores pancakes. Waffles, omelets, French toast, and egg dishes are also available.

Malia’s Cafe has a delicious crab omelet and is known for having a menu full of health-conscious choices and vegetarian options. The interior is cute without being frilly, and everyone in your party is likely to find something to eat on this breakfast and brunch menu. Keep in mind, Malia’s Cafe is only open seasonally, so if you’re visiting during the shoulder season, call ahead to be sure the doors are still open.

Boardwalk
The Ocean City Boardwalk.

Late Morning: Walk the Boardwalk

The boardwalk at Ocean City is three miles long, making it a perfect morning escape for the whole family. You can choose to simply walk up and down the boardwalk, watching the street performers and looking into shops. Or, you can plan out your activities and see some of the coolest stuff here.

The boardwalk has a Ferris wheel and lots of games, which gives it a bit of a carnival theme. Kids especially love these features, so be sure to stop and play a few silly boardwalk games. Be sure to stop by some of the landmarks, too. These include the Inlet Indian and the United States Coast Guard Tower.

The Life-Saving Station Museum is located on the boardwalk. If you’re interested in learning about the history of Ocean City and the Life-Saving Service, this is a cool place to stop.

You can also get some exercise. The boardwalk allows biking and roller blading. Rent a bike or a set of blades and get rolling down the boardwalk. Be sure to pay attention to the hours you’re allowed to be using wheels, because they change based on the season. You can find out on the city’s website. However, hours for biking and rollerblading are almost always in the mornings, which is why you should hit the boardwalk in the a.m. if you intend to do it on wheels.

Noon: Halt for Lunch

The popular breakfast and lunch spot Sahara Cafe has a Grateful Dead theme. Whether or not that’s up your alley, you won’t be able to deny the food here. Lunch combos treat you to half a sandwich and half a salad, or you can fuel up with classics like the Philly Cheesesteak and the BLT. Kid options include chicken tenders and PB&J, and fries come with just about everything.

Longboard Cafe has a lot to choose from: Burgers, tacos, paninis, and salads are all available during lunch. The menu is American modern with a twist. The restaurant has things like the “Adult Grilled Cheese” which features brie and pork belly. Most plates have a few unexpected ingredients added to the traditional recipes, making Longboard Cafe an adventure to visit.

jolly roger amusement park
The Jolly Roger Amusement Park in Ocean City.

Early Afternoon: Amuse Yourself at Amusement Parks

The Ocean City amusement parks are lots of fun, especially for families. However, if you’re visiting in the off-season, these locations aren’t going to be nearly the treat they are in the summer. So, off-season visitors may want to skip the amusement parks, because the sun will be setting early anyway.

Trimper’s Rides and Amusements is located near the Ocean City boardwalk. This fun amusement park contains all the traditional favorites, like popcorn, cotton candy, and slightly ridiculous games. It’s worth a visit if you’re in Ocean City with kids, or if you’re an adult who loves nostalgia.

Most classic rides have spots at this amusement park. Bumper cars, a merry-go-round, and a haunted house are just a few of the ride options. You’ll see lots of kiddie rides, but there are more than a few family and thrill rides here, too. Keep in mind that some of the rides are outdoors and are therefore only open seasonally.

Splash Mountain is a Jolly Roger water park with a huge list of fun water rides. Extreme slides you go down in tubes give you tons of thrills, whether you’re an adult or a kid. In fact, some of these rides require you to be a certain height and weight (60 inches and at least 100 pounds) to ride, making them perfect for teens and adults. Others simply require shorter, lighter riders to don life vests. Plenty of fun things are available for small kids to do at this park, including at the Rainforest Play Area and the Lost Lagoon Family Pool.

Late Afternoon: Visit Northside Park

Northside Park is 58 acres of sports fields, green spaces, and waterfront. The playgrounds and picnic areas are perfect for families. If you love fishing, there’s a lagoon for that. One of the easiest things to do here is to simply pick a footpath and start walking, enjoying nature and exercising as you go.

Two piers offer you beautiful views of the water without the hustle and bustle you’ll experience at the pier that comes off the boardwalk. You can also play tons of sports here, whether you choose the outdoor facilities or the indoor ones. The indoor Northside Park Community Center is a saving grace on a rainy day. Head inside to enjoy the sports annex with the multi-sport arena.

life saving station
The Life Saving Station in Ocean City.

Evening: Settle Down for Dinner

Dead Freddies Island Grill is a pirate-themed restaurant perfect for families. It features a play area with a pirate ship, great for rowdy kids who have energy to spare while the adults want to sit down. The wings here are especially good, though you can also get fresh seafood and delicious salad options. Dead Freddies also features a huge “gluten friendly” (meaning gluten free) menu for those with dietary restrictions.

Though a restaurant named after a creature in a fantasy franchise might not sound romantic, the Hobbit Restaurant is one of Ocean City’s best fine dining choices. This restaurant overlooks the water with panoramic views and is known for its American cuisine and seafood. Try the daily catch or the Smoked Gouda Pierogis.

Night: Indulge in Free Family Fun

Most places you visit recommend one or two things to do at night: either catch a theatre show, or go out to clubs and bars. In Ocean City, your options are a little more diverse. The city has free family activities happening almost every night. You can, of course, put the kids to bed and head out to the bars if they’re tired and you’re not. For those looking for family activities, you’ve got a ton to choose from during peak season.

Sundaes in the Park happens every sunday in Northside Park, and features a free concert, fireworks, and, of course, ice cream. Movies on the Beach happen every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Beach Fireworks happen on Mondays and Tuesdays. Thursdays have Sunset Park Party Nights. Lots of these activities are best for families, but adults will certainly have fun attending them, too.

beach
Ocean City Beach.

Where to Stay in Ocean City

Hotels

Because Ocean City is basically a strip of land and beach, most hotels are oceanfront. During peak season, hotel rates climb, and summer sees the highest prices on hotel rooms. However, if you’re visiting Ocean City during the off-season, you can nab a pretty nice room for well under $100. Unfortunately the beach won’t be as fun in October as it is in July.

Stay in Ocean City at a sophisticated location, like the Hilton Suites Ocean City Oceanfront. This four-star property has guest rooms with balconies facing the water, giving you the chance to breathe in the sea air each morning and evening. Stay downtown in upscale accommodations by choosing the Grand Hotel and Spa or the Dunes Manor Hotel.

Affordable options in Ocean City exist, too, and many of them still put you very near the water. Consider booking at the Quality Inn Oceanfront or the Holiday Inn Oceanfront to save on your room rates without giving up that beachfront access. Other options include the Flagship Oceanfront Hotel and the Sea Bay Hotel. You can stay further from the water to save a little more, so check out the deals at the Bedtime Inn and Suites or the Comfort Suites Ocean City.

Vacation Rentals

When you take a week at the beach, consider renting a house instead of limiting yourself to a hotel room. Ocean City has lots of condos for rent on the boardwalk and near the beaches. Usually you’ll be a block or two away from the ocean, but that’s a worthy trade-off for getting to stay in a condo with several bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room.

Expect vacation rentals to be more expensive than hotel rooms because of the amount of space you get. However, prices of vacation rentals vary greatly, and if you stay a few blocks from the beach, you can see that price tag go down considerably. Book as early as you can, because these go fast during peak season.

Your Ocean City Airport Guide

If you do a search for airports near Ocean City, Maryland, chances are you’ll find Ocean City Municipal Airport. This airport is only 5 miles from Ocean City, which would make it very convenient to fly into. Unfortunately, no commercial flights go into or come out of this airport.

Salisbury–Ocean City–Wicomico Airport

The nearest airport you can fly to is Salisbury–Ocean City–Wicomico Airport (SBY) and it’s about a 40 minute drive to Ocean City from this airport. SBY is regional, which means you’re unlikely to get a direct flight in or out of this airport unless you live relatively close to Ocean City. Because the nearest major airports to Ocean City are three hours away by car, many people choose to connect to a flight that will take them to SBY from a major airport.

The only airline that serves SBY is American Airlines; finding flights is simple, because SBY connects to only two airports and operates just six flights each day. The two airports you can connect to are Charlotte (CLT) and Philadelphia (PHL). Keep in mind: PHL is within driving distance of Ocean City.

SBY Transportation

Three rental car companies are available at SBY: Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis. You can also call the Airport Shuttle and Delivery service or a local cab company to pick you up from or drop you off at the airport.

ripleys believe it or not
Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Major Airports Within Driving Distance

Four major airports are about three hours from Ocean City, and many people choose to fly into these airports for an Ocean City trip. Unfortunately, because these airports are several hours from Ocean City, you’ll have to get a little creative with your ground transportation. Renting a car is always an option. You could also head to the bus station and hop on a Greyhound.

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL): Under 2.5 Hours Away

PHL is Pennsylvania’s largest airport, with seven terminals and more than a dozen airlines landing and taking off. The airport has charging stations and ATMs throughout the terminals. Dining and shops are available for travelers, too, whether you’ve lost luggage and need to replace it or are looking to sit down for food before your flight takes off.

To get to Ocean City, consider renting a car. At PHL you can rent from: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, and National. Go to a Ground Transportation Information desk to contact your car rental company. You can find these information desks in Baggage Claim A-East, Baggage Claim B/C, and Baggage Claim D/E.

Baltimore–Washington International Airport (BWI): 2.5 hours Away

BWI sits between Baltimore and Washington DC, and more than 25 million passengers pass through the airport each year. Known for efficiency and good food and drinks, this airport usually provides a pleasant experience for those who travel through it. BWI has four concourses; it used to have five, but A and B were merged into a single concourse during renovations that happened a decade ago.

To pick up a rental car at BWI, you’ll need to take the free shuttle to the rental car station. You can catch the shuttle on the lower level terminal, and the ride is about ten minutes. At the station you’ll find Avis, Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Next Car, Payless, and Thrifty.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA): Under 3 Hours Away

This international airport is just three miles from downtown DC, so if you’re not a fan of driving through traffic you should think about flying into one of the other available options. Nonstop flights to this airport are all pretty short with a few exceptions (like LA), because most of the longer nonstop flights get routed to and from nearby Dulles. Three terminals and 10 airlines serve this airport.

The rental car desks are located in the airport in Terminal Garage A, first floor. Once you’ve made your reservation and picked up your keys, you’ll head to the second or third floor of Terminal Garage A. To get to Terminal Garage A, you can either take the Parking/Rental Car shuttle or take the 10 minute walk following the Terminal Garage A signs. Rental car companies at DCA include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Thrifty, Payless, and ZipCar.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD): 3 Hours 10 Minutes Away

Your final choice for an Ocean City trip is IAD, though this one is almost an hour further away than PHL. Dozens of airlines serve this airport, and it’s far busier than DCA, though they serve a similar metropolitan area.

Rental car options at IAD include Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty. Head to Curb 2C or 2F to catch a rental car shuttle bus. Each company has its own bus, so it’s easiest to book your car ahead of time.

The best time to visit is the most expensive time to visit, because peak season is when Ocean City thrives. This city is especially wonderful for families, and you’ll run into a lot of kids while you’re here. It might not be the best for romantic getaways, but parents can certainly take some time out to spend alone while the kids are back at the hotel. Book your Ocean City trip as early as you can, before everyone else has the same idea.