Each month during the bustling summer season, upwards of 300,000 tourists make their way through Ocean City. While some are regulars who've vacationed here, forever, just as many are newbies who are eagerly discovering the charms of this resort town. And it's fairly safe to say both groups have probably heard a few rumors, legends and lore about Ocean City.
Is Rodney, the hunky lifeguard, really rescuing swimmers or is he a model? (Ahem, our lips are sealed). Does Mayor Rick Meehan get chauffeured around town? (Nope, he drives himself; and sometimes can be seen pedaling his bicycle). And finally, where in the world does all that sand hail from?
Here are five myths about Ocean City worth debunking before you head to the shore.
1. You can only find junk food. Sure, there are goodies galore — from pizza, fries and funnel cake, to salt water taffy, fried chicken and corn dogs. But the truth is there's ample opportunity to stock up on fresh seafood, bountiful produce and healthier fare, too. The Ocean City Farmers Market, held on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday on the parking lot of Phillips at 142nd Street, offers a cornucopia of fresh fruit and colorful produce from Eastern Shore farms. At Rippons Seafood, a carry-out at 11911 Coastal Hwy (tucked behind a 7-Eleven), there's high quality fresh seafood. Buy a few pounds of crab meat and shrimp and enjoy a seafood feast in the condo one night for much less than you'd pay in most restaurants. And Minit Market on 33rd Street and Philadelphia Avenue is a traditional butcher shop — complete with staffers in white coats — for carnivores eager to put a juicy T-bone on the grill.
2. "Jaws" is lurking in the waters. Anyone who's ever hit a beach in the aftermath of the classic 1970s flick can't help but wonder if the waters — in this case, the Atlantic Ocean — is safe for swimmers and surfers. While certain species of sharks can be found in this region's shallow waters, marine and other experts note that they're typically small hammerheads and smooth dogfish, not the white shark that attacked in fictitious Jaws. For anglers brave enough to try their hand at catching real sharks, the Ocean City Shark Tournament is held each June. A whopping 1,210 pounder from a past competition has a place of honor on the Boardwalk. Go to ocsharktournament.com.
3. Ocean City is expensive, especially after Memorial Day. Ocean City offers free entertainment all summer long, including the return of Movies on the Beach, the Family Fun Olympics, and beach concerts. This year, as part of the new Summer of Thanks promotion, additional freebies include laser light shows on the beach, free family programs at the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, special discounts, free nights at select hotels and restaurant deals, plus savings on Ocean City attractions such as mini golf and museum admissions. Meanwhile, you can't beat the excitement of a free fireworks display every Tuesday night (10 p.m.) on the beach at North Division Street. A coupon book is available for sale at the visitor center in the Ocean City Convention Center, 40th St. & Coastal Highway. Check out more deals at ococean.com/thanks
4. The city recreational facilities are for residents only. Get ready to slip on your athletic gear because the town's Recreation & Parks Department offers everything from tennis to golf for adults, plus a variety of youth activities, open to residents and visitors alike. Kids can enjoy an array of camps, including soccer, baseball, basketball, softball, lacrosse, and cheerleading, plus skateboarding and boogie boarding. There's even art camp for future Picassos and Junior Beach Patrol for budding surf rescue technicians. Go to oceancitymd.gov/Recreation_and_Parks
5. Pets aren't welcome. This myth has more bark than bite. Officials say visitors should feel free to bring four-legged friends to the shore, but there are some rules. By town ordinance, animals are not allowed on the beach or boardwalk during the peak summer season (they can visit in the spring and fall, however). Dogs must also be kept on a leash at all times in and around Ocean City, and signs are posted reminding owners to tidy up after Fido does his business. Fortunately for owners, Ocean City has several pet-friendly hotels, condos, etc. More good news: a doggie playground is open year-round at 94th Street and Bayside, where pooches can romp with their fellow canines.