Whether it's your second trip to Ocean City or your 82nd, much of the beach town's charm is in the familiar. Everyone loves to revisit their favorite restaurants and shops and reminisce about how they spent their summers as children.
But sometimes, that old routine, however lovable, needs a bit of refreshment. Fortunately, there are plenty of new things happening in Ocean City this summer, from brand new camps and roller coasters to new digs for old favorites.
From A to Z, here's what's new at the beach in 2015:
This year, Ocean City's beach was named the 25th best beach in the U.S. in TripAdvisor's listing of the Top 25 Traveler's Choice Beaches. The travel website's users praised OC's cleanliness, space and fun, family-friendly culture.
Over the past few years, craft breweries have popped up all over the Ocean City area, making local beer a big deal at the beach. From the boardwalk to points north and west, the beach offers tons of options for beer-lovers, including Assawoman Bay Brewing Company, Backshore Brewing, Fin City Brewing, Ocean City Brewing Co. and others. Choose one to visit spontaneously, hit one of ShoreCraftBeer.com Beer Talk & Tasting events or plan a brewery tour – there's plenty of craft beer to go around.
Cheesesteak fans have a lot to look forward to this summer, with the opening of Tony Luke's on 33rd Street (3324 Coastal Highway). The South Philly favorite will serve breakfast during the summer and its usual menu of cheesesteaks and burgers through the wee hours of the morning.
On your way into the city, make a stop at the intersection of Coastal Highway and Route 90 to admire the new bronze sculpture entitled "Dance of the Dolphins," installed this April as part of the Ocean City Development Corporation's Public Art Program. The 16-foot sculpture, designed by David Turner of Olney, Va., is part of the group's ongoing efforts to weave artistic works into the existing landscape of Ocean City.
This summer, several popular boutiques are expanding their offerings, bringing in new, fabulous finds for beachgoers who like to do a little shopping on the side. New jewelry at Ragamuffin Jewelry & Clothing (2401 Coastal Highway) will get you in a beachy mood. And check out Ish Boutique's (3408 Coastal Highway) constantly evolving, eclectic combination of products for home, beauty, women and kids.
Full Moon Saloon
Opened in the West Ocean City space that formerly housed Station 7, The Full Moon Saloon (12702 Old Bridge Road, ocfullmoonsaloon.com is part sports bar, part family-friendly restaurant. The menu includes pub favorites, from burgers to orange crushes, plus Eastern Shore specialties (think lots of crab dishes). The funky interior includes tons of TVs, making Full Moon a solid spot to watch any sporting event.
General's Kitchen relocates
Chipped beef fans can relax: General's Kitchen, 74th Street's famed "House of Chipped Beef," has found a new home on 66th Street on the Bayside (6601 Coastal Highway). The restaurant replaces Galaxy 66 Bar & Grille and with almost twice as many seats as its original location, the new General's Kitchen can feed a whole lot of chipped beef fans.
Higgins rooftop deck
It's crabs under the Milky Way this summer at the 31st Street Higgins Crab House (3102 Philadelphia Ave., higginscrabhouse.com. The restaurant has added an open-air, rooftop deck designed to seat 150 to 200 people. Deck construction began last fall and was completed recently, with an opening scheduled for this month.
"We've made a conscious effort this year to really improve public transport," says Jessica Waters, communications manager for the Town of Ocean City. That means more bus drivers and more buses on the roads during the busiest hours, making Ocean City's inexpensive public transportation options even more convenient.
Jolly Roger's new coaster
Jolly Roger SpeedWorld (2901 Coastal Highway, speedworldoc.com just got a little wilder, with the opening of the world's first cart coaster, the Cyclone. Go-carters will fly on the five-story, 1,500-foot-long track, outfitted with 40 go-carts that are twice as powerful as the regular go-carts.
Ocean City Recreation and Parks runs several sports, arts and science camps each summer, including a popular soccer camp hosted for the past 30 years by former Baltimore Blast player and coach Bobby McAvan and a Ravens' flag football camp run by Tom LaNeve. This year, the program is getting even better with the addition of a kayak camp, plus new directors for several programs, including the tennis, fishing, golf and baseball camps.
La Quinta Inn & Suites
Open now on 32nd Street, the brand new La Quinta Inn & Suites (106 32nd St., laquintaoceancity.com has 101 rooms, an outdoor pool, a fitness center and complimentary breakfast. The La Quinta opening will be followed by a flurry of new hotel building and renovation, including a planned expansion nearby at the 33rd Street Quality Inn.
Music on Caroline Street
This summer's Concerts on the Beach series features tributes to Elvis, Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones, plus blues, rock, country, reggae and beach music. The concerts are held on the Caroline Street stage, at the Oceanside Boardwalk, each Wednesday, from July 8th through August 26th, starting at 8 p.m. Concertgoers are welcome to bring chairs and blankets to sit during the shows.
No smoking areas
This summer, when you breathe deeply at the beach, all you'll smell is the gentle scent of the sea, thanks to the "Fresh Air Clean Beach" initiative, which prohibits smoking on the beach and Boardwalk, except in specially designated smoking areas. For a map of those areas, visit oceancitymd.gov.
OC Air Show
It's up, up and away at the 2015 OC Air Show, taking place on June 13-14. This year, for the first time, the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels will perform. Plus, the event will feature the Breitling Jet Team from Europe and the F-22 Raptor, the world's most advanced fighter jet. Tickets are available for the Drop Zone, the VIP Penthouse and the Flight Line VIP Clubhouse and can be purchased via ocairshow.com.
Performing Arts Center
The Roland E. Powell Convention Center's new Performing Arts Center (4001 Coastal Highway, ocmdconventioncenter.com which opened in January, has 1,200 seats and is already a huge hit with both concert-goers and meeting planners. "It reminds me of a smaller, more intimate Hippodrome," says Waters.
Quiet Storm summer sale
In addition to expanded lines for preppy brands like Vineyard Vines and an expanded line of sandals, including Jack Rogers, Quiet Storm Surf Shop has an ongoing summer-long sale for items from its own private label. Quiet Storm men's board shorts are $20 off and women's swimwear is $19.99. Also, men's T-shirts, hoodies and tank tops are half off all summer.
Fans of Ropewalk, which has popular locations in Federal Hill and Fenwick Island, will be thrilled to hear that the restaurant is opening a new location on 83rd Street (8203 Coastal Highway). Scheduled to be open this summer, the restaurant will have a lot in common with the Fenwick location, including a big playground for kids, plenty of outdoor seating and tons of seafood.
Sounds of Sunset Park
Every Thursday from July 2nd to August 27th, Ocean City will celebrate Sunset Park Party nights at the park on South Division Street and the Bay. Bands include blues, jazz, beach country and tributes to Buddy Holly, the Beatles and Journey. Admission to the park is free with beverages (including beer) available for purchase. Don't forget to bring a blanket or chairs for seating.
Tennis Center expands
Get serving this summer! The Ocean City Tennis Center (104 61st St., oceancitymd.gov has revamped its program, expanding the tournament options and adding pickleball – and adding a social mixer during Memorial Day weekend. The Center is operated by the Town of Ocean City and courts are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so reserve early (reservations are available through September and may be made up to one week in advance.)
The car service arrives in Ocean City just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Town officials this spring updated local taxi regulations to accomodate Uber's future arrival. The new language includes a category for "network services" such as Uber, an app-based ride sharing service. Maybe the popular car service will team up with local favorite Uber Bagels (12601 Coastal Highway) for breakfast rides.
Short-term summer rentals have become a point of contention in some areas of Ocean City. With more than 17,000 vacation rentals, the town hosted a seminar in May to help landlords more fully understand housing ordinances. Those who rent places to stay this summer should examine their leases closely for any changes from previous years. Renters also should expect officials to more closely monitor compliance with various residential codes, including rules about noise and the maximum number of people allowed to inhabit a single dwelling.
West OC happenings
Sunset Cycles (9748 Stephen Decatur Highway) is a new West Ocean City business owned by Army and Maryland National Guard veteran Manny Perez that aims to help motorcycle-loving beachgoers with all of their cycle needs. The shop sells gear and does repairs and maintenance work and provides winter storage. Also happening in West Ocean City: New Culture Authentic Eatery (12507 Sunset Ave.), from the owners of The Shark on the Harbor, will focus on a different type of food each year (this year, the menu is Peruvian). Sello's Italian Oven & Bar (9802 Golf Course Road) serves Italian favorites. And at Trader Lee's Village (9935 Stephen Decatur Highway), a makeover has transformed the space into a great spot for live music.
X marks the spot
Mary Lee, a 3,456-pound great white shark, has "pinged" off the coast of Ocean City and the Delmarva peninsula several times already this spring. The group OCEARCH, which tagged the female shark in 2012, defines a "ping" as what happens when a shark's "tagged dorsal fin breaks the surface of the water and transmits a signal to a satellite overhead." No actual sightings of the shark, who now has an unofficial Twitter account @MaryLeeShark with more than 35,000 followers, have been reported.
Yogurt on Sixth
Go for fro-yo at the new Sweet Frog on the Boardwalk at 6th Street. With outdoor seating and tons of flavors and toppings, Sweet Frog is a fun, kid-friendly way to end an evening, or take a mid-day break from the beach.
Take some time out for yourself at the brand new OC Massage and OC Beach Wax (103 120th St.). At OC Massage, massage therapists Karen Thibault and Sharon Phillips offer individual and couple's massages. At OC Beach Wax, offerings include services like waxing, facials and spray tans.