Whether you are an Ocean City veteran or this is your first time to visit, check out these tips for how to rock your family friendly Ocean City vacation!
Confession time: I had lived in Maryland over 10 years before we visited Ocean City for the first time. I know, what was I thinking back then?
Actually, we had such a blast that the entire time I was thinking, ‘Why did it take me so long to plan a summer trip to Ocean City?!’ We (me– the solo adult– along with my 6 year old daughter and two teenage-nieces) spent 4 days in Ocean City on that trip and since then we have visited scads of times. I have some great tips for how you can totally rock your Ocean City vacation, even if it’s your first time too!
Go to the Beach!
Ok, I know this sounds obvious, but since there are so many fun family activities, you could easily over-schedule yourselves. Every family has a different tolerance for being out in the heat. However, even if you would prefer to go at the beginning or end of the day, make sure you block off a few hours each day to play in the sand and surf!
The great thing about Ocean City is that the entire island is basically one block away from the ocean. That’s means you are either on the beach, or merely a block away. Also, every block or so there is beach access, which means you can basically park at your hotel and walk to the beach.
Stock up on all the best beach gear (umbrella, beach chairs, etc…). But, if you a) don’t want to haul all your beach gear to the beach yourself or b) don’t want to dig the hole for your own umbrella, there is a solution for you! Ocean City hires seasonal entrepreneurs to rent umbrellas and beach chairs.
The best part is if you rent from them, they will set your umbrella up wherever you want! How cool is that?
Next Stop– The Boardwalk!
Just like the beach, no Ocean City vacation would be complete without at least one trip to the famous Ocean City Boardwalk. If your hotel is further north, just park in the huge inlet parking lot and explore! The boardwalk is considered one of the best in the U.S., with 2.25 miles worth of fun. Here are some must-do boardwalk experiences:
You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with a made to order decadent gourmet donut from The Fractured Prune. Or, pop into Dolle’s Candyland for salt water taffy, fudge, or other treats that are sure to give you cavities.
Dip into an arcade!
The boardwalk is also home to tons of arcades. Many of them offer a wide range of games, including multi-player games, retro arcade games (Pac Man!), and many games that pump out tickets (like skee ball).
The arcades are fun any time. However, make sure you have your arcade card stocked in case of rain, or if it is just too hot to be outside.
Amusement Park Rides
There are numerous options for amusement park rides in Ocean City. On the boardwalk Trimpers Rides offers indoor and outdoor amusements. The indoor rides are best suited for younger kids (and are open year round). The outdoor rides are a mix of family friendly and thrill rides.
Jolly Roger Amusement Park has two fun locations. The location at the Pier offers seasonal outdoor amusement park rides, including the iconic Ocean City Ferris Wheel.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
Yes, it’s completely cheesy. But oh my goodness we had a blast at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Where else can you get cozy with the world’s tallest man, escape a shark, and see a completely blinged out car.
Note for parents: There are some questionable exhibits here (ie: scary and gory) but you can easily avoid them. Basically just blast through the entire section of torture implements and a few photos of capitol punishment (it’s a small section) and you will be good to go.
There are so many super kid friendly exhibits though you will definitely want to check this place out.
Also, if you get tickets for the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, you can also enjoy getting lost in the mirror maze and race your family to see who can get the best time in the laser race maze.
Here are some more family travel planning ideas!
- Best things to do in Boston with young kids
- Here is what you should do in Philadelphia with your kids!
- Check out all these free ideas for fun in Washington DC
So Many Awesome Restaurants With Playgrounds!
Ok, I am not going to lie. This was one of the things I absolutely LOVED about Ocean City. There are so many family friendly restaurants with ginormous play areas. Your kids will not go stir crazy at these restaurants. These are the some of the kid friendly restaurants we have tried!
Dead Freddies Island Grill
What’s not to love about a kid’s drink with a big shark head? Ok, the kid’s menu is decent (my daughter is on a strict macaroni and cheese diet… Dead Freddies did not disappoint).
The regular menu was tasty too! I ordered the Chicken Jennifer; two grilled breasts topped with lump crab & diced tomatoes with creamy lemon butter or creamy tomato basil sauce served over smashed red bliss potatoes, rice pilaf or linguine. It was phenomenal.
But for real. Check out this playground. Actually they have two playgrounds. The smaller one is actually decent sized; bigger than many park playgrounds. But the main playground will knock your socks off. Wow!
Another highly rated family friendly restaurant that did not disappoint was Fish Tales, a sprawling casual dining restaurant on 22nd street. Fish Tales claims to have Ocean City’s largest enclosed playground.
I don’t know about that, but I can vouch for the fact that it is pretty awesome. One of the best things is you can request a table literally in front of the playground. And, the entire dining area near the playground is a big sandbox. That means even at your table, kids can play in the sand.
When we visited, Fish Tales even had free face (or arm) painting. My daughter loved that!
But what about the food? Oh my goodness it was amazing. We indulged in the Duo- homemade guacamole, salsa, and guacamole chips. The salsa in particular was one of the best things I have eaten in a while. It was so fresh!
As for the main course, the Coconut Encrusted Cod was utterly delicious. It is served with a peach mango glaze and is very large (but you will be tempted to inhale it anyway. It’s that good).
Another fantastic family friendly restaurant we visited was Ropewalk. The first thing I noticed about this awesome restaurant was the view. It was spectacular. I bet the sunsets here are gorgeous. The kid’s menu was fun and they served lunch with a few Wikki Stix.
The restaurant is expansive but there are so many fun touches and photo ops (including a statue of Ronald Reagan). The playground is amazing as well. A fun pirate ship, plenty of sand, and other games.
Splurge for a Decadent Breakfast!
One of our favorite family traditions is to splurge for a decadent breakfast at least one morning when we are in Ocean City. There are so many places to choose from– Bad Monkey, Bayside Skillet, Happy Jack Pancake House, and more. Check out the menus of the best places and get there early to avoid the crowds.
And if all else fails, snag a hot gooey donut from the Fractured Prune. That is the very definition of decadent!
Splish Splash at Splash mountain
Jolly Roger on the Pier has quite a few Amusement Park rides. Jolly Roger’s mainstay though is at 30th street, where they have four parks– miniature golf, Speedworld go karts, amusement park and Splash Mountain.
We would have loved to play at all four parks, but one of the things you have to be ok with on your Ocean City family vacation is that there is no way you can do everything. For real. But you can always plan a second trip to explore more!
We spent the day at Splash Mountain and it was AMAZE-BALLS! It doesn’t matter if you have toddlers, young kids, teens, or all of the above– there are tons of water features to wow everyone in your family. Younger kids (or pretty much anyone who wants to cool off) will dig the Rainforest Play Area, the Wave Pool, and the Kiddie Pirate Ship Play Area. For older kids, there are more than 10 water slides of varying thrill levels.
Plus, there are tons of food and drink options, as well tons of umbrellas for shade.
Trust me, your family will love spending the day at Splash Mountain!
Get out on the water
Ocean City is, in fact, on the Ocean. That means there are some great family friendly options for boat tours and cruises. Talbot Street Watersports has a few options your kids will love.
The first cruise we experienced was Assateague Adventure Cruise and we had a fantastic time! I would highly recommend this boat cruise for families; especially families with young kids.
The tour lasts about 90 minutes and the route takes visitors to Assateague Island, where guests can try to catch small fish (catch and release) with nets, pick up other treasures like shells or crab legs, and dredge for clams.
Because the boat is relatively quiet and slow, you have a decent chance of seeing all kinds of wildlife. We saw a few pods of dolphins, tons of birds, and even one of famous wild ponies!
During the cruise, guests get up close to marine wildlife like clams and crabs. This is a great cruise to get kids excited about nature and marine ecosystems.
We have also had a blast on the pirate adventure cruise! Affectionately named the Duckaneer, this pirate adventure is great for kids under 8 or 9. You and your kids will get wet with water cannons and other tom foolery. They will meet real pirates and defend the ship against an attack.
And at the end of the cruise they will walk away with some pirate treasure! Super fun!
Mini golf is the perfect family friendly activity!
There are so many amazing miniature golf places in Ocean City. It is hard to know which one to pick. Really, just find a location that has the features you think are fun and dig in!
Did I mention it can get super hot during a summer Ocean City vacation? Yeah.. sometimes it will be too hot to be in the blazing sun. If that is the case, your family will have a blast playing miniature golf at one of the only two indoor mini golf locations in Ocean City.
Old Pro Golf has multiple locations, but the one at 68th Street has both indoor and outdoor courses. The indoor course is an undersea adventure, complete with a mermaid and submarine. The outdoor course is all about dinosaurs. RARRRR!!!!
Don’t forget About Northside Park
Northside Park is probably not a location you would think to include on your Ocean City vacation bucket list. However, it is perfect for low-key family fun.
The park is gorgeous and right on the ocean (like everything else in Ocean City). There is a decent sized playground for kids, a picnic area, and a fishing pier that is great for fishing, but also has the best scenic views.
Another reason to love Northside Park– special events! During the summer they host all kinds of special events for families like ice cream socials, fireworks, and live music!
Venture out of Ocean City
Even though Ocean City could easily entertain your entire family for a week or more, you could definitely enrich your beach vacation by taking a short distance day trip from the beach and boardwalk! Here are our recommendations:
the Playgrounds of Ocean Pines
Ocean Pines is a planned community about 2 seconds (literally) from downtown Ocean City. It’s mostly a residential area but they have a number of fantastic playgrounds. The two that are larger and I would recommend for kids of all ages are Manklin Meadows Park and White Horse Park.
Assateague National Seashore or State Park
You almost have to visit the wild ponies of the Assateague National Seashore when you visit Ocean City. I mean, they are right there and so beautiful! The beach is pristine as well. This is a great kite-flying destination with some kid friendly boardwalk hikes.
Spend the Day in Berlin, MD
Another town that is literally in the backyard of Ocean City is Berlin, MD. Consistently rated as one of the best small towns in America, this gem really is worth a visit.
Check out Pocomoke City, MD
If you want to venture a little further away, Pocomoke City, MD has a different vibe and that vibe is chill fun!
Kids will LOVE the Delmarva Discovery Center, especially the otters! The museum is on the Pocomoke River and is quite lovely.
There is also a lovely playground and boardwalk trail at Cypress Park. The trail isn’t long but it is definitely something different to do with kids.
And Pocomoke River State Park is also worth a visit. You can rent kayaks and cruise the river. Or, check out one of the nature trails or the nature center.
Don’t get stuck in back to back traffic
Ok, in fairness, this one might not be avoidable. However, if your drive takes you along the Route 50 Corridor, there are actually quite a few fun pit stops you can build into the drive to break things up and keep antsy kids from melting down. Here are our top picks!
- Terrapin Nature Park
- Chesapeake Heritage Center
- The Jetty
- Idlewild Playground
- Councell Farms (in the fall)
- Be With Me Playseum
- Sailwinds Park and Visitor Center
- Emily’s Produce
- Suicide Bridge Restaurant
- Ben’s Red Swings
- Salisbury Zoo
- Island Creamery
Plan to Attend An Ocean City Event!
Ok, I know this can be slightly controversial because Ocean City events tend to bring all the people But they are also so much fun! There is Jeep Week, Bike Week, Sunfest, holiday events, 4th of July and summer fun.
We are partial to the OC Air Show. It’s really thrilling to see the jets and other aircraft fly over the water while your kids are building sand castles and swimming.
The ‘on-season’ is from May through the middle of September. This is when the weather is warm (or hot) and most of the seasonal activities and restaurants are open. The shoulder season would be April/May and September/October.
YES! Absolutely. It’s incredibly family friendly with activities, restaurants, and events to suit most ages, abilities, and interests. The beach is very long and it’s easy to find a good spot to camp out and stay for the day. In the evening there are tons of activities to keep your family smiling– most notably the Boardwalk!
For a family of four, the average cost is between $5500-$6000 for a week. This includes hotel, food, and activities.
Ocean City can be ‘done’ in one day, but to truly experience Ocean City, you need 3 days. Many families visit Ocean City for an entire week.
The huge beach, the famous boardwalk, salt water taffy, Thrashers fries, and it’s status as the White Marlin Capital of the World.
No. The beach is free to access and it’s free to swim and play at the beach.
Yes! The water is very warm in the summer months and there are lifeguards present along the entire stretch of beach during the summer season.
Officially, the beach is open to the public from 5am-10pm every day.
Typically after Labor Day through Memorial Day is off season. However, many activities and businesses will stay open through at least the end of September and reopen sometime in April. There are also some of Ocean City’s biggest festivals in the fall.