It's now summertime (unofficially) in Ocean City and some of you will be hitting the shore for the first time since last year. I took a gander around town during last week's Memorial Day celebrations, looking for new places and new faces. If you're headed over for this weekend's Ravens Beach Bash, here are some tips on changes at the beach that you'll want to know about:
1. Lasers we love. Visitors last Sunday got to enjoy some green lasers- no, not the kind from two summers ago that drove everyone crazy. This time, the lights were from the Beach Lights Spectacular, a new weekly event featuring laser spotlights and a giant 5-story "beach ball" that lights up to create images and is choreographed to music, including some of today's hits, as well as the Bee Gees and the Beach Boys. The show is only about five minutes long, but a couple hundred visitors still came for the first showtime at 9:30 p.m., and many more watched from the boardwalk. It might not be long enough to warrant a long trip from uptown, but if you're staying below 6th Street, or you're already on the boardwalk, it's a cool show to watch. You'll know right where to find it too - you can see the green laser spotlight from the bay. For more information you can visit www.ococean.com, www.ocbeachlights.com or call 410-798-6304.
2. Cha, cha, chains. Rumors about a Chick-fil-A opening in the area have been floating around for years, varying in locations from the Gold Coast Mall to inside White Marlin Mall. However last year a sign went up on Route 50 confirming the area just shy of the bridge would have a Chipotle and Chick-fil-A in 2012. Chick-fil-A will be opening June 7, according to the company's website. The Chipotle is currently hiring, but the company hasn't posted an opening date yet.
3. Traffic tips. Visitors coming into Ocean City on Route 50 may run into some additional traffic around the newly opened Walmart Supercenter in West Ocean City. The new 24-hour store is replacing the old Walmart. This store is larger, has more parking, and also sells groceries. There are two new signals in the area, and the old stoplight in front of the center is being removed. The new lights have been causing some small delays in the area during major travel hours, Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. For this weekend, in particular, Maryland transportation officials have warned that the Bay Bridge is likely to be jammed due to a fundraiser and an auto race.
4. Outlets get new look. The Tanger Outlets in West Ocean City, formerly the Ocean City Factory Outlets, have gotten some new decor to accompany the new ownership. The stores are still the same, but the old green roofing is out, and replaced with copper. The siding is now a beachy-yellow with red accents. To celebrate the renovation Tanger held a celebration last weekend featuring a live performance by American Idol winner Kris Allen.
5. Park and ride, baby. This is not a new tip, but still a good one. The absolute best way to avoid beach traffic frustration is to use the West Ocean City Park and Ride. You can park your car for free in the lot just before the Route 50 bridge, then for a dollar you can take the shuttle to the South Division St. Transit Center. From there you can catch a ride on Ocean City's bus, which runs the entire length of the shore. The bus costs $1 per boarding, or $3 for unlimited rides all day. With stops at every street no matter where you're staying you can get there on the bus. The Park and Ride shuttle also makes a stop at the Tanger Outlets. During the summer the Park and Ride shuttle arrives at stops every 20 minutes from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. In the summer the bus arrives at stops every 10 minutes during the day, and every 20 minutes from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m