Road Trip Destination: Ocean City, Maryland
Donna Abbott likes to remind people that “There's life after Labor Day.”
The sea doesn't stop rolling to shore just because school's back in session, and neither does the appeal of visiting a beach town like Ocean City, Md., where Abbott is tourism and marketing director.
The fall season has its special attraction for many. “People are pleasantly surprised at just how many businesses stay open,” Abbott says. “Temperatures usually stay very mild well into the fall. The same ocean that generates nice, cool sea breezes in the summer, stays warmer here longer, well into October.”
October is a “fabulous” time to visit Ocean City and its environs, adds Connie Yingling, public-relations coordinator of the Maryland Office of Tourism Development. “The peak summer visitation has slacked off and it offers something different to the typical leaf-peeping road trips. There are a number of special events.”
Those range from the Gem, Mineral & Jewelry Show at the Ocean City Convention Center and Winefest at the Beach, both Sept. 28 and 29, through the 15th Annual Endless Summer Cruisin, from Oct. 4 to 7, with live entertainment and boardwalk parades; and Octoberfest, from Oct 19 to 21 and Oct. 26 to 28.
The citywide Ocean City Fall Restaurant Week expands to two weeks, from Oct. 14 to 28, with many restaurants creating special menus designed to tempt taste buds. Special, fixed-priced menus are offered. (1-800-626-2326, ext. 2; www.oceancityrestaurantweek.com)
Fall golfing in Ocean City is “second to none, and prices drop in October,” says Bill Woodard Jr., golf coach of Penn State New Kensington. There are 17 championship golf courses designed by legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Players and others.
Woodard, a Baltimore native, says a visit to the Green Turtle on 116th Street to watch football is a must. And, Seacrets on 49th and the bay is open year-round with good music on the beach and inside. Woodard says M.R. Ducks, Talbot Street, is a fun outside bar where patrons can watch the bridge rise when fishing boats come in.
Buxy's Salty Dog Saloon, 28th Street Bayside, in Ocean City, is a Pittsburgh-theme sports bar that considers itself “Your home away from Pittsburgh,” and the place to catch the Steelers, Pens and Pirates on television.
Speaking of sports, the debut of the first Ravens vs. Steelers 5K/Beach Football Combine Challenge is Nov. 17, featuring a 5K run starting and finishing on 27th Street, with various football-related challenges.
“Birding is also great here. We're right on the Atlantic Flyway and fall migrations start up now,” says Lisa Challenger, director of Worcester County (in which Ocean City resides) Tourism.
Ocean City, which bills itself as the “White Marlin Capital of the World,” claims great fishing during the fall season, too, especially surf fishing.
Bottom line, Abbott says, Ocean City's “Second Season” is “a wonderfully magical time to be at the beach.”
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or email@example.com.
Assateague Island National Seashore
Nature embraces this undeveloped barrier island eight miles south of Ocean City.
The wild horses, Chincoteague ponies, are its most famous residents. Folklore says they are descendants of a 16th-century herd that swam ashore from a sinking Spanish galleon. It's also suggested they descended from local farm horses. Whatever their origin, they are wonders to behold. Endangered peregrine falcons and several waterfowl also stop at Assateague during migration.
Recreation includes birding, camping, fishing, crabbing, clamming, canoeing, wildlife viewing, hiking and swimming.
The 37-mile strip parallels the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Maryland's Assateague State Park is at the northern end and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is at the southern end.
Details: 410-641-1441; www.nps.gov/asis/index.htm
Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum
“Bay Watch's” Mitch Buchanan and C.J. Parker won't be there to greet you. Reality — serious and light-hearted — is the star in this trip back in time.
Originally named the Ocean City Life-Saving Station, and later, the Life-Saving Service, the U.S. Coast Guard actively used this 1891 station until 1964. It was part of the coastal life-saving system, established by the United States Treasury Department, for the saving of vessels in distress and lives in peril on the water.
On display is early life-saving equipment and associated memorabilia, beach sands from around the globe, shipwreck artifacts, and mermaid-theme objects. There's also a history of the boardwalk, beach fashions and a photo exhibit of Ocean City through the years. Local marine life can be viewed in an aquarium room.
Details: 813 S. Atlantic Ave., on the inlet at southern end of boardwalk. 410-289-4991; www.ocmuseum.org
This almost-3-mile-long classic, wooden fixture is roomy, but still quite active, in the fall.
Named a Top 10 boardwalk in the United States by USA Today and Sherman's Travels, it starts on South Second Street at the inlet, and runs 2.9 miles up to 27th Street. In 1900, the first boardwalk was constructed and, thankfully, unlike today, the boards were taken up in the winter and stored until spring.
Stroll, run, bicycle or be transported in other ways with views of the ocean and sand on one side; still-open hotels, restaurants, clubs, stores and a variety of attractions on the other.
Many events, on or near the boardwalk, are scheduled through October. The Ocean City Vintage Car Rally & Ride on the boardwalk returns Oct. 20, lining up on 15th Street and rolling off at noon. (www.downtownassociation.net)
Just off the boardwalk, there's plenty of space to spread your blanket and stake out your place in the sand on the 10-mile-long public beach, stretching from the Inlet to the Delaware state line.
Watch passing boats and dolphins, hardy surfers and para-sailers and an occasional wedding on the beach.
Spoiler alert: you'll probably have to wait until next year for bikini and Speedo sightings.
Details: 1-800-626-2326; www.ococean.com
Harbor Day at the docks
Coastal heritage is celebrated in this free-admission waterfront festival Oct. 6 that showcases Ocean City's humble beginnings as a fishing village. It is held along the working harbor docks adjacent to Sunset Avenue in West Ocean City on the mainland.
Local chefs prepare fresh fish during the “dock-to-plate” seafood-cooking demonstrations and discussions. Local restaurants prepare seafood dishes. Legendary Phillips Seafood Restaurant will conduct “Crabology 101,” describing the crustacean and the art of crab picking, while guests partake of samples.
Maritime artisans display and sell hand-crafted items while artists from the Art League of Ocean City paint plein air style throughout the harbor.
The Fishmobile, a converted bookmobile, arrives with live specimens from local waters. Children, among other activities planned for them, can hold living animals and learn how an oyster reef is created.
There will be fishing vessels along the dock and local fishermen interacting with visitors, offering the opportunity to learn how to band a lobster, clean a fish or mend a net. A working Coast Guard ship can be toured. There also will be water tours on kayak. The day concludes with the “Blessing of the Fleet.”
Details: 410-289-6733; www.ocharborday.com
Delmarva Wine and Ale Trail
This new self-guided excursion, perfect for fall, offers opportunity to get an intimate lay of the land — not to mention a sampling of some fine beverages.
Extending about 150 miles through parts of three states on the Delmarva Peninsula of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, the “trail” runs north/south from the Dover, Del., area to Machipongo, Va.