Hi there adventurer! Thanks for checking out my first ever blog post. It’s going to be beachin’!
After a long, cold winter, we could not be more ready for summer and wanted to kick off the season with some much-needed vacation time. We needed a place that was manageable with our two boys (Gavin, 2 and Trevor, 4 months) and didn’t require a long flight or drive.
Ocean City, MD was a perfect choice. Less than five hours from our home in NJ, the city boasts clean sandy beaches and lots of fun to be had on the world-famous boardwalk.
Check out our four days of fun…
DAY 1 // BEACH DAY
We arrived late Wednesday night and checked into the Grand Hotel and Spa. I’ll start by saying that June is a great month to visit Ocean City. The weather was unbelievable, and the crowds have not yet overrun the beach. However, it is still peak season so accommodations are already super pricey. We chose the Grand Hotel and Spa because it was one of the more affordable options available on the boardwalk. We loved the location because it’s accessible to many great restaurants and attractions, but is far enough away from the busy boardwalk scene. My husband surprised me and upgraded our room to oceanfront, so we had an amazing view from our balcony. The hotel also includes an indoor and outdoor pool, several restaurants, pool bar, ice cream shop, and spa. All the staff at the hotel were incredibly friendly and helpful. They also give you six free vouchers you can select when you arrive for various local attractions and restaurants, including a free unlimited ride wristband for Jolly Rogers Amusements. We did feel that the room was a bit worn and could use some upgrades. Next time we would likely try another hotel, but overall we had a good experience there.
We had some breakfast in our room (I like to pack cereal, yogurt, fruit for an easy morning) and then headed out for a long walk on the boardwalk to get acquainted with the area. There’s nothing like a coffee and walk in beautiful weather to get the day started!
We let Gavin pick out a ball and some beach toys from one of the boardwalk stores, and headed to the beach. We set up our umbrella and towels and let Gavin run around and play. The beach is absolutely gorgeous – so well maintained, clean sand and friendly atmosphere. There are also umbrellas and chairs available for rent, although you will pay a premium for a day rental. We gave Gavin lunch at the beach and then put both boys in the double stroller and prayed for a nice long nap.
Success! A little walk on the boardwalk and both boys were out. We stopped at Brother’s Bistro and Bar and were able to park our huge double stroller next to our table. So clutch! Finally our first moment to relax, Ryan and I ordered the famous “Bulldog”, a huge margarita with two Coronas. Now it feels like a vacation! We split the shrimp poppers and crispy chicken sandwich and the food and service were both good.
When the boys woke up, we headed back to the hotel and went to the pool. Gavin loved jumping in the pool and splashing around. They also had live music by the pool, so afterward we got a few drinks from the pool bar and just hung out. Gavin is obsessed with guitars and drums these days, so he was in a trance.
After baths, we walked 10 minutes to Fish Tails, an amazing dinner location right on the bay. There was a 45-minute wait, but we were seated in 30 minutes. While we waited, there is a sand playground for the kiddies to run around in plus a temporary tattoo station – very kid friendly restaurant. The food was amazing. My husband said it was the best fish tacos of his life! Gavin’s kid menu was served on a frisbee that he could take home. Only negative is that we were there before sunset and our table was hot and barely shaded, so indoor seating might have been better.
We walked back to the hotel and had ice cream at the shop downstairs. All four of us were lights out by 8 p.m.!
DAY 2 // JOLLY ROGERS AND POOL TIME
Another gorgeous day – we were so lucky with the weather! We walked down the boardwalk to the Fractured Prune for some donuts. We tried the banana nut, lemon coconut and raspberry with sprinkles and they were all awesome. It was windy so we opted to spend the morning at the pool. No live music today and Gavin probably asked 100x where the “itar” (i.e. guitar) was.
We packed the boys up in the stroller and walked about 40 minutes all the way to the end of the boardwalk while the boys took a snooze. We had some obligatory boardwalk food – Thrasher Fries and Dumsers ice cream. We also stopped at Dollie’s to get some fudge to take home for our parents. I also stopped in a store to purchase an Ocean City, MD mug. We started this tradition when we got married to get a mug from every vacation spot so when we are having our morning coffee we can think back on all of our amazing adventures.
When the boys woke up we went to the Jolly Rogers Amusement Park. There is a second location on 30th Street which also has a free circus and more kiddie rides, but since we were already down by the boardwalk we thought we’d check it out.
Gavin loved playing a game where you throw little whiffle balls into glass jars and even won a little prize. He also is loving basketball these days so I played a game and after shooting two shameful airballs the carnival worker let Gavin shoot around for a little (and even gave him one of the prize balls). Everyone who worked there couldn’t be nicer.
There were only a few rides for little kids, but Gavin and I rode the teacups (so not my favorite!). He loved it so much he threw a fit when it was over and the worker let us ride it again. Again, people were so nice our whole stay!
We let Gavin run around the beach with his new ball while I fed the baby. They were setting up for a concert on the beach that night – a STYX cover band – so we listened to them do the soundcheck. It would be an awesome location to watch a concert.
Back to the pool for an afternoon swim, and then a low-key dinner at the pizzeria downstairs (not the best by Jersey standards). We bought a few souvenirs from a nearby shop, and then called it a day.
DAY 3 // ASSATEAGUE ISLAND
We woke up excited to spend the morning at Assateague Island, a 37-mile long barrier island known to have hundreds of wild ponies roaming free. It’s known to be one of the best spots in the country for camping on the beach. It was a 25-minute ride from the hotel. I would recommend stopping in at the Visitor Center before crossing the bridge on 611. We missed this on our way in and it would have been helpful because the island is a bit confusing upon arrival. It is split into two areas: state and federal owned. We drove to the right to the federal entrance and paid $20 to park our car. We had hoped there would be some kind of boardwalk where we could walk with the stroller, but it’s really just a beach so we set up a spot in the sand to let Gavin run around. We hadn’t planned for a full beach day, so we didn’t have any beach toys or balls, but we met a lovely family from El Salvador that let Gavin play with their beach toys for hours. The little girl even gave him a little red shovel to take home. It was so sweet and was my favorite moment of the vacation. There was also a couple flying several gigantic, beautiful kits so we loved watching that too. We also saw some dolphins swimming in the ocean to top it off! The beach was beautiful and the locals said they prefer this beach to the Ocean City beach which is more crowded with tourists.
We did see some ponies on the bridge to and from the island. There is an amazing walking path parallel to the bridge that I wish we had more time to go over. I would give a full day to experience the island.
The boys napped on the ride back to the hotel and then we had one last afternoon in the pool.
The boardwalk features a tram that you can ride from one end to the other. Gavin was so excited to ride the tram like Daniel Tiger so we decided to take it for a ride to dinner. It’s kind of pricey for a one-way ride, $4 per person including toddlers, but there is a daily and weekly rate that is a better deal if you plan to ride it a lot. It works like a taxi system so all you have to do is flag it down, pay and hop in. I’ll add that there is nowhere to put a stroller, so I wore Trevor in the carrier and Ry sat with Gavin and it worked out fine.
We went to Hammerheads on the Beach for dinner. There was a short wait but it was right by a beach volleyball court and Gavin loved watching the boys play. Dinner was good – low-key vibe with picnic tables and casual food.
Afterwards we walked next door to the Alaska Stand (free ice cream voucher also available from Grand Hotel and Spa) and had some soft serve. We waited for the tram for about 20 minutes and it never came so we decided to walk back. Good thing we did because by the time we got back to the hotel it still hadn’t passed us. While convenient to ride, the pick-up timing can be hit or miss.
DAY 4 // BREAKFAST AND GOODBYE
Gavin and I went for a breakfast date so Ryan could pack up the room. We walked 10 minutes to Happy Jack Pancake House. Such a great breakfast spot with a real local feel. Gavin loved drinking his milk from a silly straw and the banana pancakes we shared were delicious. The staff was so friendly and everyone was saying “goodbye Gavin!” when we left like he was a celebrity.
After that, we packed up the car and headed out. We would have loved another day or two to enjoy the beach or pool. I also heard the nearby Frontier Town is a great day trip for kids. I would say a minimum of three days is recommended to really be able to unwind and enjoy the area at a relaxed pace.
Thank you Ocean City for an unforgettable family getaway. Share your thoughts/experiences on OC MD in the comments below.