The sun, sand and salt water might always be a part of the Ocean City vacation experience, but every year, the beach town, its residents and business owners have a few surprises in store for both tourists and locals.
This year, new developments include a smattering of restaurants and attractions, a few rules and regulations, and some fresh food and exercise options that will help you stay healthy and fit, even in the land of funnel cakes and french fries.
Dining and nightlife
Mother's Tortilla Shop, 2810 Philadelphia Ave., 410-289-1330 (Mother's Cantina), motherscantina.com. The husband-and-wife team behind Mother's Cantina on 28th Street is expanding into the space next door, opening Mother's Tortilla Shop. They'll use the space to make and package fresh tortillas for distribution, and it will also be a casual eatery.
"It's going to be like a very adult Starbucks," says owner Neely James. "We're going to be making really delicious fresh coffees and serving beers local to Baltimore and the Eastern Shore."
James says the Tortilla Shop will have a small menu and will sell some fresh produce and a handful of items from the Cantina, like salsas and spice mixtures.
Real Raw Organics Kombucha Brewery & Cafe, 3406 Coastal Highway, 443-783-5374, realraworganics.com. Health food enthusiasts will find a lot to love at this locally owned cafe selling healthy breakfast, lunch and snack foods like tempeh tacos and mix-and-match yogurt bowls, plus kombucha in flavors like blueberry ginger and pomegranate hibiscus.
The beach bar has been making Seacrets Spirits, including vodka, rum and gin, under the Seacrets name at a Delaware facility since May 2014. In addition to housing production, the new distillery will be open for tastings and tours.
"The place is themed after the 1920s and Prohibition," says assistant general manager Justin Grimes. "It'll be like walking through a museum."
Residence Inn Ocean City, 300 Seabay Lane, 410-723-2222, marriott.com/hotels/travel/sbyro-residence-inn-ocean-city/. The new Residence Inn is scheduled to open in July near the Roland E. Powell Convention Center and the Route 90 Bridge. The hotel's 150 suites will include workspaces and fully furnished kitchens and, in some, views of Assawoman Bay.
Wally the Whale. Families won't want to miss the new play structure on the beach at Somerset Street, near the boardwalk. Dubbed "Wally the Whale," the two-piece structure includes a whale's head and tail, designed to look as if it's emerging from the sand.
Fish Tales, 2207 Herring Way, 410-289-0990, ocfishtales.com. Family-friendly favorite restaurant Fish Tales has renovated its kids' play area this year. "We've really upped our game. It's pirate-themed and gigantic," says the restaurant's front of house manager Julie Hemp. "It's for all ages, from little tiny ones to 12 years old."
Ocean City Screams, 14 Worcester St., screamcity.com. The boardwalk is getting a new fright factory this summer with the opening of Ocean City Screams. The two-story haunted house uses sights, smells and sounds to tell the story of an abandoned ghost ship. It promises to be very scary — and is not appropriate for young children.
OC Swim Call, in front of The Shark restaurant at 12924 Sunset Ave., 443-235-4950, ocswimcall.com. OC Swim Call launched its boat tours in the middle of the last summer. This year, Captain Danny McDorman is adding crab cruises to the boat's lineup of multihour tours. The boat has two decks and holds 49 passengers in all; during the crab tours, guests can get busy with a bushel of crabs while they cruise the waters around Ocean City.
Ocean City history signs. This spring, as part of his effort to become an Eagle Scout, local resident William Rothermel installed signs highlighting bits of Ocean City history in six spots around the historic downtown area. Keep an eye out for the signs, which share elements of the town's past, from its history as a fishing town to information about the historic pier and band shell near Somerset Street.
Rules & regs
This summer, the smoke-free boardwalk and designated beach smoking areas enter their second year and a handful of new regulations have gone into effect since last summer.
Boardwalk performers will be assigned areas based on a lottery system.
New parking rules for trailers and oversized vehicles ban them from Baltimore Avenue and require permits for them to park on any street or public lot between May 1 and Oct. 31.
Vehicles with three or more outstanding tickets or $100 or more in outstanding fines may be booted or towed.
For more information about these regulations, visit oceancitymd.gov/oc/departments/city-clerk/trailer-ordinance/.
Getting from place to place will be easier than ever this summer.
Car-for-hire company Uber launched its services in Ocean City last summer. This year, they have new regulations to follow; state laws require Uber drivers to be registered to drive in the state of Maryland.
Two "articulating" buses have been added to the town's fleet. These two new vehicles are 60 feet long, each with a second section connected to the back of the main bus. They can carry about 100 passengers at a time; the town hopes their presence on the street will reduce wait times for bus riders.
Barrevolution, 12216 Ocean Gateway, Suite 1400, 443-509-0277, barrevolution.net. Lara Custer, owner of Barrevolution studio in Timonium, opened a sister location in West Ocean City in May.
Custer lived at the beach for a year and saw a need for a barre studio close to Ocean City. "I plan on it being a year-round business," she says. "There will be morning and evening classes, so people can get a workout in before the beach." She also plans to hold some outdoor barre classes and host bachelorette parties.
Kinda Jerky Really Nutty, 607 Atlantic Ave., Suite 101, 888-821-3601, kindajerkyreallynutty.com. The jerky and snack mix shop opened on the boardwalk in March. Owner Philip McGuire, a Forest Hill resident, started making his snacks a little over a year ago, and this is the company's first brick-and-mortar location. (Barrevolution's Custer, along with the staff of hot yoga studio Yoga Vibez, will also teach classes on the outdoor patio at Kinda Jerky Really Nutty.)