Boardwalk thrills: The biggies are Gillian’s Wonderland Pier (600 Boardwalk, 609-399-7082, pictured) and Playland’s Castaway Cove (1020 Boardwalk, 609-399-4751), where you can ride bumper cars, the Ferris wheel, or a log flume. Jilly’s Arcade (1166 Boardwalk, 609-399-2814) has games galore for kids of all ages. When you feel like a snack, here are the places that draw hordes: Johnson’s Popcorn (three Boardwalk locations, 609-398-5404); Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard (five Boardwalk locations, 609-398-3440); Mack & Manco’s thin-crust pizza (758 Boardwalk, 920 Boardwalk, and 12th St and Boardwalk, 609-399-2548). At Brown’s Restaurant, deliciously fresh doughnuts are fried right before your eyes (St. Charles Pl and Boardwalk, 609-391-0677). Sample the wildly popular monkey bread, a cinnamony glazed confection sold at T&M Monkey Bread’s three locations (972 Boardwalk, 3339 West Ave, 417 E 8th St, 609-391-0113).
Funky and chic: Ocean City’s a lot hipper than it used to be—just stroll down Asbury Avenue, the town’s main shopping hub. Women’s clothing and accessories, such as handcrafted jewelry can be found at the Flying Carp (743–745 Asbury Ave, 609-391-1546). At the jam-packed Gabrielle & Co. (810 Asbury Ave, 609-399-1008) you can get everything from organic teas to handmade soaps and personalized bra fittings. Colette (900 Asbury Ave, 609-525-0911) has an array of retro-flavored clothes, jewelry, and luggage. Don’t miss Denovum’s ultra-mod furniture, lamps, and quirky kitchen magnets (910 Asbury Ave, 609-814-9084). (Tip: There’s a nifty collection of marked-down merchandise tucked away in a front corner of the store).
Way to start the day: Breakfast and lunch eateries abound: There’s the down-home vibe of Ready’s Coffee Shop (415 E 8th St, 609-399-4418); the college-themed Varsity Inn (605 E 8th St, 609-399-1500); Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (2112 Asbury Ave, 609-398-7393); Veronica’s Blue Planet Diner (841 Asbury Ave, 609-525-0999); Nags Head Fine Foods (801 Asbury Ave, 609-391-9080); the 4th Street Café (400 Atlantic Ave, 609-399-0764); June’s Gourmet Café (621 E 8th St, 609-399-0303); and the Airport Diner (at the municipal airport, 2602 Bay Ave, 609-399-3663).
Retro shopping: Stop by Colette (900 Asbury Ave, 609-525-0911, pictured) for an array of retro-flavored clothes, jewelry, and luggage. Don’t miss Denovum’s ultra-mod furniture, lamps, and quirky kitchen magnets (910 Asbury Ave, 609-814-9084). (Tip: A nifty collection of marked-down merchandise is tucked away in a front corner of the store.)
Festive overtures: If you’re a fan of starfish and other marine life, don’t miss the Miss Crustacean Pageant and Hermit Crab Races (August 6). The city’s other summer contests and events include the Freckle Contest (July 3); Boardwalk Art Show (August 1–3); Baby Parade (August 14); Weird Contest Week (August 18–22), which features everything from french-fry sculpting to wet T-shirt tossing; and Twins Contest (August 14). In the fall, there’s the Air Festival (September 22); Boardwalk Corvette Show (September 23); massive Indian Summer weekend (October 6–8) featuring a ten-block-long street party and seafood festival; Quiet Festival (November 16–18) in which participants watch clouds and pursue other pensive activities; and the Trail of Two Cities (November 3), a walk and run held with nearby Somers Point. On New Year’s Eve, there’s the annual alcohol-free First Night celebration.
Venice bound: Ocean City’s Night in Venice Boat Parade (July 22, dusk) is the biggest one-night event each summer: More than 100 boats and 300 decorated homes vie for prizes during this watery spectacle in which themed boats cruise on the back bays before some 100,000 revelers. Get there early: The 9th Street Causeway closes for about 45 minutes during the festivities. (The night prior, there’s a five-block-long Merchants in Venice Seafood Festival, 5–9 pm along Asbury Ave.)
Boardwalk heaven: The Ocean City Pops orchestra has performed at the Music Pier every summer since its opening in 1929. The Pops’ season begins in June and runs through September (oceancitypops.org). Good to know: The pier is also home to well-maintained public restrooms.
Worth the wait: In summer, here are the places that draw hordes: Johnson’s Popcorn (660 Boardwalk, 828 Boardwalk, and 1368 Boardwalk, 609-398-5404); Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard (664 Boardwalk, 820 Boardwalk, 986 Boardwalk, 1140 Boardwalk, Wonderland Pier, 609-398-3440); Mack & Manco’s thin-crust pizza, (758 Boardwalk, 920 Boardwalk, and 12th St and Boardwalk, 609-399-2548). Doughnut lovers dig on Brown’s Restaurant, where deliciously fresh doughnuts are fried right before your fascinated eyes (St. Charles Pl and Boardwalk, 609-391-0677). First-time visitors may want to try the wildly popular monkey bread, a cinnamony glazed baked confection, with T& M Monkey Bread specializing in it at its three locations (972 Boardwalk, 3339 West Ave, and 417 E 8th St, 609-391-0113).
Upscale eats: Being a dry town has made elegant evening dining a rarity here, but Cousin’s (104 Asbury Ave, 609-399-9462) is a long-standing favorite among locals and tourists for its Italian food, while Sindia Restaurant (801 Plymouth Pl, 609-399-1997) offers a full array of seasonal specialties with an emphasis on seafood.
Seafood dining: Spadafora’s Seafood Restaurant isn’t fancy, but the fish is fresh and the service is good (843 Atlantic Ave, 609-398-6154), while Ike’s Famous Crabcakes offers oceanfront dining and seafood ranging from shrimp to mahi mahi, as well as crabbier menu items (1344 Boardwalk, 609-814-1700).
Tee time: No boardwalk would be complete without miniature golf. Some O.C. favorites include Congo Falls Adventure Golf, which has a King Kong theme (1132 Boardwalk, 609-398-1211); the Golden Galleon (1124 Boardwalk, 609-399-3186); and Tee-Time (642 Boardwalk, 609-398-6763). Beyond mini golf, the city’s twelve-hole Municipal Golf Course is spacious, well groomed, and—at about $10 in greens fees—inexpensive (2600 Bay Ave, 609-399-1315).
Chocoholics, unite: Head downtown for traditional, handmade chocolates at Rauhauser’s Candies, known for its seasonally themed confections (721 Asbury Ave, 609-399-1465).
History, we got history: The Ocean City Historical Museum (1735 Simpson Ave, 609-399-1801) has everything from info on the 1901 wreck of the British sailing ship Sindia to a collection of vintage clothing on display. And if you visit on a Saturday, singer/songwriter Todd Rundgren’s mom, Ruth, who volunteers there, may well greet you.
Catch a wave: Surfers flock to the city’s designated surfing beach at 7th Street and the nearby 7th Street Surf Shop, which has three locations: 654 Boardwalk, 1118 Boardwalk, and 654 Asbury Ave (609-391-1700).
Monday nights live: Get away from it all: Nature-lovers will want to visit the 341-acre Corson’s Inlet State Park at the southern tip of O.C. (609-861-2404 or state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/corsons.html). This natural jewel has a walking path, boat launch, fishing off the nearby bridge, and an unprotected beach (friendly to dog walkers as well as vehicles and fishermen at certain times of year). The Bayside Environmental Center, 520 Bay Ave, offers an array of summer camp-style nature programs for children (609-525-9244).