Another summer, another visit

Familiarity breeds vacations. Comes another summer in Ocean City, comes another 300,000 people on any given summer weekend.

This is Ocean City:

Maximum miniature golf. Languid sunsets over Sinepuxent Bay. Pool bars, actual phone booths and riptides. Owl decoys peering from Boardwalk balconies. Bottles of Coronas with lime wedges caught in their throats. Secrets and Seacrets. Tacky T-shirts and conventional amusements.

And the beach itself: Kites, Crocs and Boogie Boards. Gulls leaving claw marks in the sand. Jet contrails scratching the sky in sunset purple.

Again, you tell yourself you made the haul for the kids.

But this is your place, too.

Ocean City has about 9,500 rooms in too-many-to-list hotels and motels. Two Web sites can help sort through the options: and Here are just two accommodations: one a splurge and the other a more sublime accommodation.

• Holiday Inn, 1701 Atlantic Ave. 410-289-7263; Not your father's Holiday Inn. This towering, blue-roofed, all-suite behemoth features a $425-a-night oceanfront suite (peak summer rate) with private balcony, full kitchen and two-person Jacuzzi. Golf packages available. There's an ambitious "activity pool" for kids. Summer rate: $425.

• An Inn on the Ocean, 1001 Atlantic Ave. 888-226-6223. Only one name came up in the search for a bed & breakfast in Ocean City. The six-bedroom and Jacuzzi-tubbed Inn on the Ocean is considered the only B&B in town, as well as the only center-gable Victorian house. Summer rates: $245-$350.

Ocean City Restaurant Week. June 2-9. Participating restaurants will offer a fixed-price, three-course dinner for $30 and/or a two-course meal for $20. (Alcohol, gratuity and tax are not included.) For more information,

• Fausto's Bistro, at Howard Johnson at 12th Street and the Boardwalk, 410-723-3675; Ristoranteanti From the folks who brought you Ristorante Antipasti and Fausto's Antipasti, the new bistro opened in March and boasts brick-oven pizza from $9-$14. Homemade pasta dishes also are offered. Entrees range from $18-$35.

• The Shark Restaurant, 46th Street and the Bay, 410-723-1221. The new Leopard Shark Lounge is open on the first floor, and on the third floor, there's the rooftop Hammer Head Bar. Menu includes $15 pastry-wrapped brie stuffed with crab, mako bites for $12 and a half-pound Bass Ale shrimp for $12.

• The Marlin Moon Grille, on the south side of Route 50 in West Ocean City just before the bridge, 410-213-1618. Located in the Francis Scott Key Motel, the restaurant offers $11 backfin crab dip and fresh fish of the day. (The motel is sponsoring a YouTube contest. Just make a two-minute, family-appropriate video of favorite Ocean City scenes or memories and put it on YouTube. Winners will be announced in October. For more information:

• Kathy's Olympia Country Kitchen, 710 Philadelphia Ave., 410-289-1200. Owner Kathy Whit- mer might exuberantly hug you hello or goodbye. The other owner, Walt Everett, is busy making breakfast and lunch - maybe the $6.25 Kathy McMuffin or one of Walt's 18 specialty omelets, perhaps the $6.95 South of the Border omelet.

• Big Tuna Grill (formerly The Wharf), 128th Street and Coastal HighWay, 410-250-1001; bigtuna The new grill offers full seafood fare, including its signature dish: the $22.99 cedar tuna, cooked on a cedar plank.

• OC Frog's Grill and Bar, formerly the Red Eye Frog Saloon, 410-289-2850. Tucked away off the Boardwalk in the Inlet Shopping Village, OC Frog's offers penetrating views across the inlet to Assateague Island. Burgers and steamed shrimp.

Few new businesses have opened up so far this year in Ocean City. But here are some existing crowd favorites:

• Sea Quest, 76th Street and Coastal Highway. 410-524-0076. Super-sized selection of beach swimwear. Caters to pre-teen to women's size 24. "We can fit anybody - almost anybody," says owner Marsha Howarth. Shoes, accessories, too.

• Raggamuffin, 2401 Philadelphia Ave., 410-289-3311. West Coast-styled casual beach wear on the Eastern Shore. Handbags - and jewelry from sterling silver, natural gemstone and vintage designs.

• Coconut Kids, 8001 Coastal Highway. 410-723-0391. In a word, Crocs. The $30 rubber sandals are big sellers at this children's boutique - as are the $2.50 Jibbitz designs for your Crocs. Store also carries Roxy and Quicksilver surf wear.

You know the usual suspects - Seacrets, the beach sand-floored bar complex at 49th Street and the Bay, and Fager's Island at 60th Street and also on the Bay. Here are two other places.

• Jive, 8203 Coastal Highway. 410-524-1111. Ocean City doesn't scream or scat jazz, but Jive offers jazz and blues acts - and a martini bar, a feature that can enhance one's listening pleasure. "Half-priced martinis on Sundays" is mentioned on the club's answering machine.

• Peppers Tavern, 16th Street and the Boardwalk. 410-289-8444. By day, a Mexican restaurant. By night, young punkers, artists and bartenders commune by the free jukebox.

• Cork Bar, No. 3 Wicomico Street and the Boardwalk, 410-289-6921. A regular's regular bar in downtown O.C. that offers no view of the water whatsoever - but frosted beer mugs every time. "Coldest Beer in Town." Jukebox, too.

• Kite Flying. Never underestimate the Zenlike experience that is kite flying. You have your classic Delta-shaped kites in all colors. And this year, the Kite Loft on 5th Street and the Boardwalk expects the tumbling and twisting Prism EO6 Box Kite to soar in sales. (EO stands for expandable object, as kite aficionados know.)

• Sling Shot. In its second year, Jolly Roger's popular, sling-shooting ride at the Pier (Worcester Street) places riders into an open-air cage ball, which is hurled at a soothing 100 miles per hour. "It's really fun to watch the screaming people being thrust up into the sky. It's quite a spectacle," says the town's public- relations director, Donna Abbott - herself, so far, a mere spectator in this spectacle.

• Birding. Not just a spring flyover treat in Worcester County. Summer birders in and around Ocean City spot oystercatchers, rails, herons and other marsh birds. The inlet is a choice spot for spotting brown pelicans - and terns and gulls are ocean regulars. To spot shorebird nests on the sand islands or any high-flying birds, you'll need binoculars and a field guide. Birdwatchers: Guide to Delmarva is recommended.

• Bahia Marina, at 21st and 22 streets on the Bay; Watch charter boats return after chumming for marlin or tuna or after drift-fishing for bluefish. Head over to the marina's bayside bar, Fish Tales, for a beer or watch fish cleaners bag the day's catch for customers.

• Sunset Marina. On Sunset Avenue in West Ocean City a quarter mile from the inlet. Watch charter and private boats come and go. Size up the day's catch, as boats display white and blue marlin, tuna, dolphin, wahoo, flounder and sharks. Oh, you can always go fishing, too.

Cruisin' Ocean City // Convention Center, 40th Street and the Bay, Inlet Parking Lot / 800-OC-OCEAN, 410-798-6304 or 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 18-20 (event kicked off yesterday). Car show features 3,000 hot rods, muscle cars, customs and classics. Live music and entertainment, commercial vendors, more. $10; free for children younger than 14 with an adult.

Temptations in concert // Convention Center, 40th Street and the Bay / 800-551-7328 or ticketmaster .com. Concert at 8 p.m. May 19; doors open at 7 p.m. Classic Motown group performs their hits. $35.

Salute to the Services // Throughout Ocean City / 800-OC-OCEAN or salutetotheservi May 19-June 20. Discounts for military, police, fire or emergency medical services personnel at numerous restaurants, attractions, hotels, motels and other businesses. Must show credentials for discounts.

Spring Arts and Crafts Show // Convention Center, 40th Street and the Bay / 410-213-0735. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 26-27. Country crafts, nautical items, ceramics, jewelry, candles, hand-painted clothing, more, for show and sale.

Baltimore Ravens Roosts Parade // 19th Street and Baltimore Avenue to 28th Street and Baltimore Avenue / 410-726-2416 or 10 a.m. June 2. Celebration and parade in honor of the Baltimore Ravens includes floats, marching bands, Ravens players, cheerleaders, mascots and others.

Ocean City Car and Truck Show // Convention Center, 40th Street and the Bay / 302-436-0183 or oc 10 a.m.-10 p.m. June 9 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. June 10. More than 700 vehicles, interactive games, live entertainment, more. $20.

Flag Day Ceremony // Northside Park, 127th Street and the Bay / 800-OC-OCEAN or 7 p.m. June 14. Patriotic ceremony with music and a pause for the pledge. Free.

Maryland Firemen's Association Parade // Baltimore Avenue and Worchester Street to Baltimore Avenue and 9th Street / 1 p.m. June 20. Marching units, fire apparatus and honor guards participate in the parade.

Jamboree in the Park // Northside Park, 127th Street and the Bay / 800-OC-OCEAN or 5 p.m. July 4. Family festival with arts and crafts, music, food and a variety of activities. Fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. Free.

Concert on the Beach // North Division Street and the Beach / 800-OC-OCEAN or 8 p.m. July 4, 11, 18, 25, Aug. 8, 15, 22, 29. Bring a blanket or chair for a concert on the beach. Fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. July 4. Free.

Bonfire Hour // North Division Street and the Beach / 410-289-2800. 9 p.m. July 12, 19, 26, Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23. Gather around a bonfire on the beach and hear beach tales and facts. Free.

Sundaes in the Park // Northside Park, 127th Street and the Bay / 800-OC-OCEAN or 6 p.m.-8 p.m. July 15, 22, 29, Aug. 5, 12, 19, 26. Make your own ice cream sundae for a small fee, listen to free live music and participate in kids' activities. Bring your own chair or blanket.

Greek Festival // Convention Center, 40th Street and the Bay / 410-524-0990. Noon-11 p.m. July 27-28 and noon-9 p.m. July 29. Enjoy Greek foods and desserts, music and dancing and Greek items for purchase from various vendors. Call for fees.

White Marlin Open // Harbour Island, 14th Street and the Bay / 410-289-9229 or www.whitemarlin Aug. 6-10. Competitors in more than 300 boats will try to catch white marlins, blue marlins, wahoos, dolphins, tunas and sharks, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Spectators can watch weigh-ins, 4 p.m.-9:15 p.m. Entry fee for participants, who must register. Free for spectators.

Labor Day Weekend Arts and Crafts Festival // Convention Center, 40th Street and the Bay / 410-289-8311 or 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Arts, crafts and gifts from various vendors.

Labor Day Weekend Concerts // North Division Street and the Beach / 800-OC-OCEAN or Various times Sept. 1-2. Free concerts on the beach all weekend. Bring a blanket or chair.

Sandcastle Home Tour // Various Ocean City locations / 410-524-9433 or Sept. 20-21. Tours of 10 unique and interesting Ocean City cottages, grand homes and other dwellings, presented by the Art League of Ocean City. Call for times and fees.

Sunfest // Inlet Parking Lot / 800-551-7328, 800-OC-OCEAN, oc or 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 20-22 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 23. Festival celebrates Ocean City's "second season" with live music from Wayne Newton, Josh Gracin and others, arts and crafts, kids' activities, food, more. Free admission; fee for evening headline concerts.
Top 10 things not to miss in O.C.

1. Sunset on the beach when everyone is clearing out.

2. A surrey ride on the Boardwalk.

3. A sidetrip to Assateague Island

4. The Alaska hamburger stand on the Boardwalk for beach burgers.

5. July 4th fireworks on the beach.

6. Free ice cream and concerts at Sundaes in the Park at Northside Park.

7. A little quiet time at Hoopers Crab House off Route 50.

8. Souvenir jewelry, including 14-karat-gold crabs, from Park Place Jewelers.

9. Thrasher's fries with lots of salt and vinegar.

10. Sunset over the bay at Macky's Bayside Bar and Grill or Fager's Island.