Boardwalk renovations

The first phase of the Ocean City boardwalk renovations was completed in April. (Town of Ocean City, Baltimore Sun / May 18, 2012)

Whether it's a wedding on the beach, a White Marlin fishing tournament, muscle car shows or ocean baptisms during the annual Jesus at the Beach festival, Ocean City isn't afraid to mix things up a bit. The resort offers an ample dose of tradition, yet just enough novelty to keep things fresh.

Ocean City has officially declared the summer of 2012 the "Summer of Thanks." As a way for the town to show appreciation to all who have supported the resort throughout the years, look for a bevy of fun, discounts at hot spots, and town-wide promotions for vacationers. (ococean.com/thanks)

"We truly appreciate our visitors as they have made Ocean City the great destination that it is today," said Mayor Rick Meehan. "We hope that families will take full advantage of the Summer of Thanks and discover the many wonderful attractions that Ocean City has to offer."

One new thing visitors will certainly notice will be right under their feet. The first phase of the boardwalk renovation, between the inlet and Somerset Street and 15th and 27th streets, wrapped up last month. The new boards are the first phase of a $6 million project that's scheduled to be completed next year.

As you plan how you'll spend your time in Ocean City, here's a list of what's new, along with what's tried and true, on the shore.

What's new

Dining

The 45th Street Taphouse Bar & Grille recently opened in the 45th Street Village, which is expanding. The bar will offer some three dozen brews on tap and the grill menu includes Natty Boh cheese, Guinness beef potpie, and assorted dishes that feature beer as an ingredient. The restaurant is situated on the bay with indoor and outdoor seating. And coming soon to a building next to Taphouse will be a seafood restaurant called OC Steamers. It's scheduled to open by Memorial Day.

Kim's Cafe & Marketplace (1503 Philadelphia Ave., 410-289-2841) has opened on the bay side. "My wife grew up here, and I'm from Detroit, we met in the military" says Hollis Smith, who owns the restaurant along with his wife, Kim, the eatery's namesake. "Her family has a farm. We'll use local produce and ingredients. We squeeze our own lemonade and O.J., and the meat will be hormone and antibiotic free." The cafe and marketplace offers smoothies, wraps, $2 tacos on Tuesdays, Caribbean grilled chicken, and more.

Galaxy 66 Bar & Grille is adding a new kitchen to its rooftop Skye Bar (galaxy66barandgrille.com).

Adolfo's has moved from its longtime downtown location near the Inlet to the Beach Plaza Hotel on the Boardwalk at 12th-13th streets.

Grotto's Pizza is opening on 125th Street in North Ocean City, formerly the Old Mill crab house. (grottopizza.com/ocean-city-md)

Embers Restaurant on 24th Street owners, the Taustin family, are busier than ever these days. For starters, they're adding an outdoor deck bar to the popular buffet style restaurant, and also opening a second restaurant – the Blu Crabhouse & Raw Bar. It will feature outdoor dining overlooking the Bay. (http://embers.com/home.php).

Hooter's is opening a third location in West Ocean City. (hootersofoc.com). Also in West O.C., Sunset Grille recently expanded its kitchen and has added additional outdoor dining options. (ocsunsetgrille.com)

Dead Freddie's, which launched a few years ago, has expanded its outdoor playground for kids and dining area for parents. Look for a Dead Freddie's "express" – a carryout fronting the main restaurant – to open this summer. (deadfreddiesoceancity.com)

Chipotle and a Chick-Fil-A, respectively, are opening new restaurants on Route 50 just over the Bay Bridge.

Activities

Gran Ville Train Station at Trimper's. Just in time for summer, Trimper's Rides and Amusements has updated its bumper cars and shooting gallery, and unveiled a new ride with a Wild West theme. Dubbed the Gran Ville Train Station, the ride features a mountain waterfall, and a chance to mine for hidden treasures. And of course, you can't miss the historic, beautifully restored carousel, or classic rides such as The Matterhorn," and "The Whip."

Jolly Roger Amusement Park, added a zip line last year, and new for 2012 is the Aqua Loop.

Hotels

Hampton Inn & Suites on 44th Street and the Bay is opening with 113 rooms, all with private balconies. The hotel is located adjacent to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center and will be 100 percent nonsmoking.

Coastal Palms Inn & Suites at 120th Street. The owners of the Carousel Resort Hotel have purchased two hotels, including the Serene Hotel, which has been renamed Coastal Palms. The owners also purchased the Atlantic Oceanfront Inn at 45th Street.

What's tried and true

Dining

Beach eats. The yummy beach fare in O.C. has been known to invoke serious cravings, not to mention lines that seemingly stretch to Delaware. Fishers caramel popcorn, Thrasher's fries with vinegar, Dolles taffy and Candy Kitchen fudge, are all time-honored food traditions, and many of these merchants have deep roots in town.

Coins Pub & Restaurant in the 28th Street Plaza continues to serve its popular jumbo lump crab cakes — and has half-price dinners on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. (2820 Coastal Highway, 410-289-3100). And Pirate's Den, which also has a cool breakfast menu (think Captain Crunch French toast) boasts a happy hour every day of the week. (3201 North Baltimore Ave., 410-289-5376).

Jules Restaurant. For fine dining, executive chef Julius Sanders gets high marks for his creative approach at Jules Restaurant. (12924 Sunset Ave., ocjules.com). Try the bacon wrapped scallops with Asian BBQ glaze, coconut and cashew salsa, and adobe tequila crème fraiche. The crabcake sliders on a potato roll have a hint of curry, and are topped with house-made ginger mayo.

Shark on the Harbor. This restaurant frequently wins raves for its local, seasonal and organic culinary offerings. Try the grilled oyster sashimi (with Choptank oysters from Cambridge, Maryland) and the pan-seared rockfish. (12924 Sunset Ave., 410-213-0924, ocshark.com)

Activities

Northside Park (Bayside at 125th St.) is the town's largest recreation complex with 50-plus acres of sports fields, a lagoon, a fishing pier, playground, picnic pavilion. It's also home to the Sunday evening family concert series Sundaes in the Park.

Fitness fun. Test your stamina in a fitness Boot Camp or try yoga on the beach followed by kayaking, both available on 48th Street. (http://48thstreetwatersports.com/rentals)

Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum. Check out the museum's new surfing exhibit and its free morning programs. (ocmuseum.org).