The perfect day in Ocean City

Breathtaking sunsets, sweet salt air, boardwalk confections and fun in the sun — Ocean City has it all.

Long regarded by those in the know as a best bet when it comes to taking the family to the beach, Ocean City, recently received the recognition it deserves. TripAdvisor named the resort to No. 8 on its 2011 list of best family amusements and boardwalks.

"Being in the Top 10, that's incredible," said Donna Abbott, communications manager for the Town of Ocean City. "There are a lot of destinations out there and to consistently rank in these various listings, is certainly something we as a town and as a vacation destination are very proud of."

Known as the White Marlin capital of the world, Ocean City also boasts a lively boardwalk, hundreds of restaurants, a bounty of activities and more than 15 golf courses within a short drive.

"It's just one of those appealing types of vacations that sticks with you and makes you want to come back," said Abbott. "People have been vacationing here for generations. Given our geographical location and our beautiful beach, it just keeps bringing people back."

Ocean City stretches along the Atlantic Ocean from the Inlet to the Delaware state line, and with 10 miles in between, there are plenty of choices. Below we offer five itineraries for spending a perfect day at the beach.

Family times

From miniature golf, to spending the day in the waves, to flying a kite on the beach, there are plenty of things a family can do while in Ocean City. We provide just a sampling.

Make your own breakfast. The Fractured Prune offers hot, hand-dipped doughnuts and the ability to create your own — enough said. Oh, except that kids meals are served on a Frisbee, something that comes in handy at the beach. Three locations in Ocean City: 28th Street (410-289-1134), 127th Street (410-250-4400) and West Ocean City at the corner of Rt. 611 and Sunset Avenue (410-213-9899), fracturedprune.com.

Seek the truth. Check out Ripley's Believe it or Not! Odditorium, where truth is much stranger than fiction. (On the Boardwalk, 401 S. Atlantic Ave., Ocean City, 410-289-5600; oceancity.ripleys.com.)

Ride the Boardwalk. Trimpers Rides has all the classics such as bumper cars, a merry-go-round, the Himalaya and Ferris Wheel. For $23, wristband admission allows unlimited rides beginning June 18. (South First Street and the boardwalk, 410-289-8617; trimpersrides.com).

Grab a bucket. Thrasher's fries are legendary (401 S. Atlantic St. at the boardwalk, 410-289-7232) as is the tub of Fisher's Popcorn (200 St. Atlantic Ave. at the boardwalk, 410-289-5638, fisherspopcorn.com).

Have lunch with pirates. Dead Freddies Island Grill is a family restaurant that offers a separate play area for kids including a pirate ship to climb on. Adults can watch from nearby tables. (64th Street, 410-524-3733, deadfreddiesoceancity.com).

Take the afternoon to fish and crab. For kids the best bet is the pier at Northside Park. The 58-acre complex includes a fishing lagoon, footbridge and if the fish aren't biting, walking paths and playgrounds. (125th Street, Ocean City, 410-250-0125, oceancitymd.gov)

Have a play date. Not only does Fish Tales Bar and Grill offer great food, but there's also a playground in the sand and you can take the kids along the marina to see the fresh catch of the day. Bonus for mom and dad, Fish Tales had the award-winning Bloody Mary last year with its Crabby Mary. (22nd St. bayside at the Bahia Marina, 410-289-0990, ocfishtales.com)

Exercise your funny bone. The Family Beach Olympics take place every Tuesday evening at the 27th Street beach with fun events, including sand castle contests, tug of war, relay races and more. Children must be accompanied by an adult. (June 28–Aug. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m., 800-626-2326, ococean.com).

Romantic rendezvous

While Ocean City is known as a family haven, it is also quite romantic. You just have to know where to look for love.

Stay at the Lighthouse Club Hotel at Fager's Island. Every suite in this three-story octagonal hotel on the Isle of Wight Bay offers views of the bay and wetlands. Don't miss out on dinner at neighboring Fager's Island restaurant. Although it's often hopping with lively entertainment and crowds, they celebrate sunset by playing the "1812 Overture." (60th St. and the Bay, 410-524-5400 or 410-524-5500, fagers.com).

Bike the boards. Get up with the sun and take a quiet bicycle ride on the boardwalk. From now until Labor Day you have until noon to ride. Bring your own or rent one. (Wobbly Wheel Boardwalk Bicycle Rentals, 3 North 1st St., 410-289-2453).

Spa together. Enjoy the Couples Day at the Beach package at Creative Day Spa. She receives her choice of Swedish massage or European facial, he receives a full body massage. Then enjoy spa pedicures and manicures in between sips of wine. (137th Street at Bayside Plaza, 410-250-8664, creativedayspa.com)

Picnic with the ponies. Pack a lunch and spend a relaxing afternoon at Assateague Island. With open beaches, wild ponies and scenic views, just bring a blanket and leave the crowds behind. (dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/eastern/assateague.html).

Be Italian. The bayside restaurant Fresco's has sweeping sunset views. Romance and Italian food seem to go hand-in-hand and Fresco's delivers. (82nd Street on the Bay, 410-524-8202, ocfrescos.com).

Toast the moonlight. Take a full-moon paddle with wine tasting at Ayers Creek Adventures, which offers kayak and canoe rentals as well as guided tours. Watch the sunset and the full moon rise over the water, followed by a bonfire featuring local wines, organic cheese and dessert. If you're not visiting during a full moon, no problem, try a sunrise or sunset paddle. (8628 Grey Fox Lane, Berlin, 443-513-0889, ayerscreekadventures.com).

Budget conscious

Whether your ideal day at the beach is relaxing by the water or racing a jet ski across the bay, most vacationers have one thing in common – they want to stretch that dollar. Here's a list of can't-beat things to do at the beach, while on a budget.

Book smart. Reserve your hotel room through the Ocean City is Free website and receive vouchers for free meals, attractions and fun things to do. More than 80 hotels use this booking engine to help sell rooms and in exchange the site is able to offer great rates and free vacation extras. Go to OCisFree.com. And look for "Rodney Rates" offering special deals and discounts on hotels, dining and activities at ococean.com/rodney-saves/accommodations.

Hit the beach. After all that's why you're here. You don't even have to leave for lunch. Save on gas money by having it delivered to you. Call your favorite pizza or sub place first to see if they'll deliver to the beach, many will, including Fat Daddy's. (216 S. Baltimore Ave., 410-289-4040, fatdaddysocmd.com.) If you're staying in north Ocean City try Surfs Edge Deli with a menu packed with salads, pizza, dogs, burgers, subs and more. (100 Coastal Highway, Fenwick Island, 302-537-5565, surfsedgedeli.com).

Go fly a kite. Really. It's fun and inexpensive. Head to the beach in the morning when it's less crowded. Basic kites start at about $25 at The Kite Loft, which has two locations. Go to kiteloft.com.

Cruise to dinner. Eat an early dinner at the Angler Restaurant and receive an almost-free dinner cruise. The 30- to 45-minute scenic cruise is only $2 per person with a minimum food purchase of $12 per person. This works for lunch or dinner and children are included if they order any selection on the children's menu (children under three are free). (312 Talbot St., 410-289-7424, theangleroc.com).

Watch a free movie on the beach. This year the Carousel and Princess Royal hotels join the Town of Ocean City in offering movies the way summer intended — on the beach under the stars. Movies start at dusk. (Town of Ocean City shows Monday and Friday, June 27-Aug.12 at the 27th Street beach, ococean.com; the Carousel Hotel shows on Wednesdays, June 15-Aug. 24, 118th Street, 410-524-1000, carouselhotel.com; and the Princess Royale shows on Thursdays, July 7-Aug. 25, 91st Street, 800-476-9253, princessroyale.com.)

Foodie fun

What better place for a foodie than in a resort town with as many as 200 restaurants ranging from local seafood to Japanese food to smoked BBQ. Here are a few things to check out that are sure to bring out the foodie in all.

Get a room with a menu. Stay at the Hilton Suites Ocean City Oceanfront, if not for the rooms — which offer fabulous ocean front views — then for the fact that you'll also have access to 32 Palm Restaurant. The much talked about restaurant offers a unique blend of Western Caribbean with Eastern Shore favorites. Plus, there's also a Starbuck's. (32nd Street, Oceanside, 410-289-6444 or 410-289-2525, oceancityhilton.com).

Make it to market. If there's heaven on earth for a foodie, it has to be a local farmers' market. Ocean City's Shore Fresh farmers' market located in the Phillips Restaurant parking lot in northern Ocean City is the perfect way to spend a morning. Open Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (142nd St. and Coastal Highway, mda.state.md.us/md_products).

Sip and say cheese. Have a light lunch sampling wine and cheese at Liquid Assets. Although at first glance it looks like an upscale wine and liquor store, there's also a restaurant with a full menu. The cheese menu comes with some suggested wine pairings. (94th St. and Coastal Highway, 410-524-7037, la94.com).

Go yard. Spend an afternoon at Costa Ventosa Winery & Vineyard. Located only 10 minutes from Ocean City this winery is know as "the fun-spirited winery" and offers samples, a tour of the wine processing area and a chance to wander through its vineyards. Taste all nine of the varietals for $5 and keep the glass. (9031 Whaleyville Road, Route 610, 410-352-9867, costaventosa.com.)

Try dinner at Jules. The menu is innovative and sophisticated enough to please even the pickiest foodie, while the presentations themselves are something to marvel. (11805 Coastal Highway, 410-524-3396, julesoc.com).

Adventure seekers

With an ocean and bay as a backyard playground, being an adventure seeker in Ocean City just makes sense.

Get up and go. Pack breakfast and head out early for a half-day charter boat trip and come home with fresh catch for dinner. Lots of charter boats to choose from, one to try is Fin Chaser Sportfishing Charters, Fisherman's Marina, 12806 Sunset Ave., Ocean City, 866-623-4746, finchasersportfishing.com.

Get higher. Billing this as the "ultimate ride in Ocean City," O.C. Parasail includes bay side or ocean side rides that go 400, 600 or 800 feet up. (Two locations, 54th St. and at the Talbot Street Pier, 410-723-1464, ocparasailing.com).

Feel the waves. Rent wave runners at Inlet Sea Doos and go zooming along the bay of Assateague Island. (710 South Philadelphia Ave., Ocean City, 410-289-1488, inletseadoos.com).

Make the jump. Go tandem skydiving at the Ocean City Skydiving Center. Freefall from two miles up while catching amazing views of the ocean and Ocean City skyline. Best part? The average trip only takes about two to three hours so you have time to enjoy other activities.(12724 Airport Road, Berlin, 410-213-1319; skydiveoc.com).

Hit happy hour. Spend happy hour at Seacrets Bar and Grill. A long-time hotspot, Seacrets has it all, entertainment, food, rafts to lounge on and tables in the Bay. (49th Street on the Bay, 410-524-4900, seacrets.com).

Sit back and enjoy a cold beer and hot steamed crabs at Captain's Galley II. There's an outside deck overlooking the commercial harbor and a place to dock a boat. 12817 Harbor Road, West Ocean City, 410-213-2525, captainsgalley2.com.

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