Weekend's 2005 Beach Guide
Friday, May 20, 2005
This is not your grandparents' Ocean City; it's more like your teenagers'. With all those arcades and carnival rides, water slides and mini-golf parks with grandiose themes, plus the constant odor of pizza and fried dough and caramel popcorn in the air, it's like an overgrown playground. Even the exhibits at the Ripley's Believe It or Not! on the Boardwalk Pier, which must have been far more astonishing in the days before the Internet and cable television, has a mix of seriously grisly, silly and almost quaintly old-fashioned oddities that seem targeted at the 13-year-old mind. (Of course, there are all those bars with suggestive names, but that just proves the point: The jokes are juvenile, even if the IDs aren't.) The biggest under-21 clubs in the area are the twin H20's on Worcester Street below the Boardwalk.
The whole town sometimes seems as if it's divided by age: The retirees, the golfers and the fishing pals get out early, when the boardwalk's quiet, and reappear in the evening for cocktails and the early-bird buffets. The little kids and their pails show up midmorning and after lunch and a nap. Early afternoon, the girls are shopping and the boys are skateboarding. By 5, the bayside bars are full of the legal-agers and thirty-somethings-by-courtesy; by 9 the music's at full volume; by 11 it's time for ribs. And maybe it's just one of those things about getting older, but, boy, those college kids look younger all the time. The good news is, OC has begun to pick up on all the trendy restaurant traffic Rehoboth brings in, so there are a few places you can get a good meal without feeling either too old or too young.
The official souvenir of Ocean City is the puerile T-shirt slogan. Just wander the boardwalk and you'll see more rude, silly and obnoxious chest billboards than you ever imagined. If 'board and 'blade are more your style, check out the new and supersize K-Coast surf shop at 34th and Coastal Highway (410-524-8500); it will not only have a cafe in it (opening June 15), it'll be a reincarnation of the old OC favorite Mad Hatters. Talk about surf and turf. . . . After years of hearing that the best music on the Delmarva shore is in Dewey Beach, the ever-expanding Seacrets complex added the 700-seat (loosely speaking) Marley Hall (49th and the Bay; 410-524-4900); the main bar has its own DJ. . . . For family fun, the Delmarva Shorebirds , Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, are at home in Perdue Stadium at routes 50 and 13 east side of Salisbury (410-219-3112). Or cool off on the ice at the Carousel Hotel skating rink (118th Street and Coastal Highway; 410-524-1000). . . . Into "Revelations"? Check out the angel atop the gazebo at Fager's Island (60th Street and the Bay; 410-524-5500), flying toward the bar amid the fire of sunset as Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture hits the cannons. ("Stumpy," the deer who formerly graced the rooftop, was deernapped last summer.). . . . Ocean City proclaims itself "the White Marlin Capital of the World," and the fleet of fishing charters is its navy, visible along the inlet on both sides of the Route 50 bridge; but the OC area is also becoming a labyrinth of golf courses, with eight champion courses and more on the way. . . . More into rat pack than pub grub? Check the retro-lounge lizard chic Jive at 82nd Street and the Bay (410-524-1111) or the fearlessly funky-fusion diner (wasabi pea-crusted lamb with edamame ragu?) and sometime music spot Iguana Surf at 127th and Coastal Highway (410-250-8700). The most popular modern-trend kitchen is probably still Galaxy (66th Street and Coastal Highway; 410-723-6762); its sibling, the light-fare bar inside Liquid Assets at 93rd and Coastal Highway (410-524-7037) is a great idea, but mind the cigars and the $10 corkage fee. For luxury on a budget, check out Jules 's three-course, three-wine $30 dinner Sundays and Mondays (118th and Coastal Highway; 410-524-3396). . . . If you love the OC nightlife but not the daytime crowds, the best pure beach in Ocean City is 10 miles and 10 minutes away from the crowds, at the unspoiled and underutilized Assateague State Park; just take Route 611/Stephen Decatur Highway east from Route 50 in West Ocean City.