9 Reasons to Visit Ocean City This Summer

Pack up your beach chairs.

Crowded beach in Ocean City, MD
Crowded beach in Ocean City, MD | Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Shutterstock
Crowded beach in Ocean City, MD | Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Shutterstock

It’s one of the biggest beach destinations in the Mid-Atlantic region, and Marylanders of all kinds meet here for some sun, fun, and Old Bay seasoning.

That’s right, we’re talking about Ocean City, Maryland. This beach town is more like a sprawling seaside city filled with some amazing restaurants, bars, and outdoor activities. It’s also home to the Orange Crush cocktail, all-you-can-eat seafood buffets, and one of the highest grossing bars in the country—the one, the only, Seacrets Jamaica USA.

The draw of Ocean City is that it’s a vacation destination for just about anyone—from families looking for some sun and surf, 20-somethings looking to party all night, and laid-back folks who need nothing more than a dock with a sunset, and preferably a Duck Call in hand from M.R. Ducks. There are plenty of reasons to visit Ocean City this summer, but here are some quintessential experiences that make it worth the trip whether you’re a first timer or regular beachcomber in these parts.

Trimper's Rides
Courtesy of Trimper's Rides

Be a kid again

Since 1890, Trimper’s Rides has been a destination on the Ocean City Boardwalk. It’s one of the oldest continuously operated, family-run amusement parks in the country. The OC Ferris Wheel continues to dazzle visitors with its breathtaking views of the boardwalk, ocean, and OC skyline, and the park also has a 1912 antique carousel that’s still spinning. 

Meanwhile, the Ocean City pier is home to Jolly Roger Amusement rides, where the fun stretches on a pier into the ocean. Top rides here include the Looping Star Roller Coaster, the Hurricane, Power Surge, Twister, and a two-level Carousel—plus, the pier has carnival games and a giant ferris wheel the whole family can enjoy.

Challenge yourself to a Crush crawl

The orange crush cocktail is what some Marylanders say tastes “like sunshine in a glass,” and it’s a drink born in Ocean City and served on virtually every bar menu along the shore. This vodka and Triple sec cocktail comes with freshly squeezed orange juice and a splash of lemon lime soda, but the options don’t stop there. Bartenders across Ocean City put their own spins on the Crush, adding in different fruits like grapefruit and watermelon. You can try them all by challenging yourself to a cocktail crawl that starts at Harborside Bar & Grill (where the drink was first made). Then hit up M.R. Ducks across the bay for a classic option, before venturing north to Macky's Bayside Bar & Grill, where the Crushes come served in buckets. 

The Original Thrasher's French Fries
Courtesy of The Original Thrasher's French Fries

Go on... douse your fries in Old Bay and vinegar

Unlike the rest of the country, Marylanders like to dress their French fries up with something other than ketchup. It’s common to find a spray bottle of vinegar and a shaker of Old Bay sitting on the counter of several fry shacks that dot the Ocean City boardwalk, and you should do as the locals do, spraying down your fries with malt vinegar before heavily dousing them in the state’s favorite seafood seasoning. It’s also the only way to eat Thrasher’s Fries, which are an Ocean City favorite that dates back to 1929.

Visit Ocean City, Maryland’s oldest bar

Harbor Inn is the very definition of a dive bar and it has a long and heralded history in Ocean City as the oldest bar on the peninsula—and it has the distinction of being continuously owned and operated by women. The charm of this spot lies in its history, character, and local appeal. There’s a jukebox, pool table, and local beer on tap, as well as Maryland’s favorite beer, Natty Boh, of course.

Oysters Po Boy
Oysters Po Boy | Courtesy of Lookout Lounge

Enjoy dinner with a view at Lookout Lounge

Some things never change in this lively beach town, and for good reason. But Ocean City’s newest rooftop restaurant and bar, Lookout Lounge, is worth a visit. The spot is dishing out modern American cuisine with craft cocktails that come with some exquisite sunset views of the Assawoman Bay. To start, try the spiced dark-and-stormy, gin fizz, or a smoked old-fashioned—any of these cocktails are the perfect way to unwind after a long day at the beach. For dinner, the menu sources fresh, local seafood, including diver scallops and salt crusted sea bass, and a rack of lamb marinated in Mediterrean spices and served with a mint chimichurri is another standout. It’s destination dining that’s gaining critical buzz this season, so be sure to book a reservation in advance

Go deep sea fishing 

Ocean City is the white marlin capital of the world, and you can easily be rewarded for your catch if you so dare to chart a course on the deep sea waters. Every year, the angler who catches the first white marlin of the season out of the Ocean City Inlet can win up to $15,000

Of course, if you’re a newbie to deep sea fishing, you might want to go with a guide for your fishing expedition. “Head boats" as they are known because they charge individuals per head are easy to find along the bayside in the south end of Ocean City. The day trip experience is a great way to get out on the water, even if you don’t own a boat, or you can fish from one of several piers and bridges in Ocean City. If you want to do some more research, scout out fishing reports on Fish In OC.

Courtesy of Seacrets

Dance the night away at Seacrets

Whether you’ve been to Ocean City once or almost every summer since Senior Week, it seems folks can resist the lights, music, and sprawling bar that is Seacrets Jamaica USA. One of the best reasons to plan a trip is for the live music—there are three stages with live acts that generally cover the greatest hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s. If you’re ever having a Seacrets concert FOMO, you can livestream the fun online. By day or by night, it’s generally a raucous and fun vibe. After all, who doesn't enjoy floating on a raft while sipping on a frozen drink?

Down a dozen donuts from Fractured Prune

The Fractured Prune has a guarantee to always deliver you freshly made doughnuts with the toppings you want on them. And they’ve been living up to that promise for more than four decades. Through the years, this humble doughnut shop, founded in Ocean City, has garnered quite the following and expanded to more than a dozen locations up and down the Delmarva Peninsula, and in beach towns in New Jersey and North and South Carolina, too. The fan favorite seems to be the O.C. Sands, named for Ocean City, which featuring a honey glaze with cinnamon and sugar. In true baker's dozen fashion—an order of a dozen comes with an extra bonus doughnut.

Dive into history at the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum

At the far southernmost point of the Ocean City boardwalk sits a museum that pays tribute to Ocean City’s history and culture as a seaside city. The Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum is a great spot for nautical history buffs. The site of this museum was once the home to the U.S. Life-Saving Service and U.S. Coast Guard.

Permanent exhibits include some relics preserved from Ocean City’s past including several boardwalk artifacts. There is also an exhibit dedicated to surfing, and a collection of sand from beaches all over the world. You can pose with the giant anchor saved from a shipwreck from 1870, as well as the largest fish ever caught in the state of Maryland—an enormous, 1,000-plus pound tiger shark. Tours are self-guided and make for a nice rainy day option at the beach if the weather’s not on your side.

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Tim Ebner is a food and travel writer based in Washington, D.C. He grew up going to Ocean CIty as a kid and has a strong weakness for Old Bay seasoning. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.