Though its official name is Atlantic Avenue, it's simply known to the millions who visit Ocean City each year as the Boardwalk.
It's the place where you can drench your salty Thrasher's french fries in vinegar. The place where you can drop $10 in quarters on skeet ball at one of numerous arcades. And it's one of the few places where you can purchase a T-shirt reading, "Not Only Am I Perfect, I Am A Redneck Too."
But it's also the place where you can receive private kite boarding lessons, get your tongue pierced, drink a green "Shillelagh" and try "fire" wings.
Nearly 100 years ago, several Ocean City oceanfront hotel owners got together and constructed a movable wooden walkway for the convenience of their guests. About 1910, a five-block permanent walkway was built and was expanded to 15th street during the 1920s. In March 1962, a severe storm leveled the Boardwalk, and it was rebuilt to its present 2 1/2 -mile length to 27th Street.
More than taffy
The recent overcast skies and rain in the mid-Atlantic region have hurt many OC businesses so far this year -- but not The Kite Loft (Fifth St.; 410-289-7855; www.kiteloft.com), where wind is good for business.
The store sells everything from single-line recreational kites, such as the 6 1/2 -foot "Delta" for $22, to stunt kites, including those used for kite boarding, an extreme sport skyrocketing in popularity.
Kite-boarders are piloted off a small surfboard by a mattress-sized foil kite, allowing them to skim the surface of the ocean. With experience, kite boarders can make 5- to 30-foot lifts.
While it costs north of a grand to outfit yourself with kite-boarding gear, The Kite Loft offers several-hour, private lessons for $100, including use of boarding equipment.
After a morning kite-boarding lesson, wander the many souvenir shops and eating places that largely make up the Boardwalk.
Excellent pizza can be found at Tony's Pizza and Ocean Deck (N. Division St.; 410-289-8115). Try the "Tony's Special," topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and green peppers. Or stop by Caruso Pizza (Wicomico Street and Boardwalk; 410-289-1990) and grab a deluxe calzone stuffed with fried onions, sausage and sweet peppers.
Then feed your crumbs to the seagulls and watch local artists make sand sculptures as you browse shops for nearly every taste and budget. Edwards (N. Division St.; 800-558-0208; www.ocedwards.com) is one of the Boardwalk's largest stores. It's basically an upscale version of Wal-Mart, with two floors of name brand clothing and shoes along with toys and collectibles.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Chat Street (6 N. Division St.; 410-289-7873) offers hard-core clothes and accessories in addition to skateboards. Want to get pierced? Chat Street has you covered.
Maybe you're not looking to get pierced, but rather to take a gift to a relative or friend. Then check out the T-shirt Factory (800-254-TEES; www.tshirtfactorystore.com). With five Boardwalk locations and thousands of styles, the right gift is bound to be found here. For Father's Day this weekend, get Dad one of the T-shirt Factory's best sellers, "Where's the Duct Tape? I Can Fix Anything."
But no trip to Ocean City's Boardwalk is complete without a visit to the Ocean Gallery (2nd St.; 410-289-5300; www. oceangallery.com). This famous landmark -- covered in reflectors, pictures and even a coffee mug -- stands out like a sore thumb from the Boardwalk landscape.
This unusual-looking shop selling mainly pictures, posters and frames, is open from 10 a.m. to midnight daily and offers free parking. "You'll find scenes of anything from Ocean City to scenes of anything in the world," says manager Joe Kro-art (yes, that's how he spells his name) of the more than 30,000 items in Ocean Gallery's stock.
Start the night off at Shenanigan's Irish Pub (Fourth St.; 410-289-7181), where they have live Irish music Friday and Saturday nights. Beginning next month through Labor Day, bands will play nightly. Try their popular house drink, "Shillelagh," a green kiwi banana rumrunner priced at $4.75. Also get their delicious blue crab and baby shrimp dip appetizer for $9.95.
After your "Shillelagh," make your way down the Boardwalk to Brass Balls Saloon (sandwiched between 11th and 12th streets; 410-289-0069). It's open until 2 a.m. daily and offers live entertainment on the weekends.
End your night at Pepper's Tavern (16th St.; 410-289-8444; www.pepperstavern.com), a unique Mexican bar with a Southwestern theme. Pepper's has a bloody Mary bar, where customers can mix their own drinks after choosing from 80 mixes. Pick up a bottle of "You Can't Handle This" at the Pepper Shack, a hot sauce store attached to the bar, where you can purchase a sombrero and try free sauce samples. Order a serving of "fire" wings for $6.95, and see if you can get your picture added to the "Wall of Flame." But before you leave, make sure to carve your name on the bar top.
Ocean City is about a three-hour drive from the Baltimore area. Take Interstate 695 to Interstate 97 South. From I-97, take U.S. 50 East and follow it straight into Ocean City. Once over the drawbridge, the Boardwalk begins shortly thereafter to your right.
A variety of accommodations are available in Ocean City and can be found at www.Ocean City.com. Also, visit the OC Chamber of Commerce (www. oceancity.org) and the Department of Tourism (800-OC-OCEAN; www.oc ocean.com).