By Lydia Woolever

Illustrations by Josefa

Photography by Christopher Myers

Travel & Outdoors

Greetings from Ocean City: Fun & Games

Cue up the lights. Fire up the Ferris Wheel. From the Northernmost street corners to the bottom of the boardwalk, there are endless ways to play at the beach.

By Lydia Woolever

June 2024

A big, beachy love letter to going Downy Ocean.

Enter the epicenter of eye-popping entertainment.

If summer had a hall of fame, the boardwalk would be located squarely between baseball and barbecue. In fact, it’s hard to imagine an East Coast beach town without one. But back when Ocean City’s was built in 1900, this wooden walkway was only a seasonal fixture—hauled in each winter, only to be returned come spring. Originally invented to keep the sand out of hotels and railroads—likely dragged in by women’s petticoats, as was the fashion in the Victorian heyday of early beach culture—these planks were eventually installed permanently. Now those initial five blocks have grown into 36, running over two-and-a-half miles, and stuffed to the gills with modern curios, commerce, and hermit crabs. Whether you love or loathe the crowds, consider a quick trip through this heart of the hubbub at least once a summer, if only to snag some snacks, then be on your way. Read on for a few of our boardwalk musts.

From top: Boardwalk archway welcomes all; Ocean Gallery storefront; the beach’s one-of-a-kind sand sculptures.

Marty’s Playland

5 Worcester St.

You hear it before you see it—the bells, the whistles, the buzzers of Playland that beckon all ages inside this palace-of-pastime arcade, located at the bottom of the boardwalk, as it has been since the 1940s. And it’s a true time warp, indeed, where throwback games live on— Skee-Ball, The Claw, Pokereno, Pac-Man, pinball—and the brave can get a card reading from the Fortune Teller in the back corner. Find us in the photobooth on the way out the door.

M.R. Ducks

410 South Boardwalk.

If you don’t have an M.R. Ducks T-shirt, are you even from Maryland? As the story goes, this 42-year-old bayside bar-turned- clothing brand was born out of two duck hunters, sitting in an Eastern Shore blind, debating what birds they saw in the air, and yep, “them are ducks!” Pick up colorful, waterfowl-themed swag in their shop between Somerset and Wicomico streets.

Ripley’s shark is an old standby.

Ocean Gallery

201 N. Boardwalk.

Even on the busiest dog days, there’s no way to miss this wild, wacky, whimsical institution on the corner of Second Street, where some 60 years ago, Baltimore artist Joe Kro-Art transformed a gallery into this beautiful chaos. The exterior is a pastiche of salvaged materials, painted in mustard yellow, a sea of superlatives, and at least one likeness of Bart Simpson. Inside, tens of thousands of paintings, prints, and photographs—ranging from original beach-scene watercolors to mass-produced pop-culture posters of Jimi Hendrix to a fine selection of reproductions by famed Sun photographer A. Aubrey Bodine—occupy every inch. Ask if the owner is in town; the Towson-alum art-car maker known as the “P.T. Barnum of Fine Art” is full of fantastic stories.

The Kite Loft

2511 Boardwalk.

Vacation is for slowing down, and while much of the boardwalk entices the exact opposite, there is still one form of fun that encourages simple Zen—a kite. For nearly 50 years on Fifth Street, The Kite Loft has been a high-flying bazaar, filled with every kind of air-floater you could imagine, shaped like butterflies, Blue Angels, and more. There are wind chimes, whirly mobiles, and weather indicators, too, with the locally owned business playing a big role in September’s annual Sunfest kite show. Their online beach cam also serves as a good weather gauge for flight conditions.


Multiple locations.

Few things remind us of the 1990s more than a pop into Sunsations. Inside, we are once again flooded with all the hermit crabs, henna tattoos, and puka-shell necklaces of our adolescence. “Your beach department store,” as they herald themselves, opened on the boardwalk the late ’80s, and all these years and stores later—12 in O.C. alone—they remain a locally owned one-stop-shop for all things seashore. That means that thousands upon thousands of brightly colored bikinis, boogie boards, beach chairs, and a bevy of souvenirs can be found, floor to ceiling, in these yellow big-box stores, which still happen to be locally owned.

Excitement endures at the amusement park.

The rides at Jolly Roger at the Pier.

In the late 1800s, German immigrant Daniel Trimper and his wife, Margaret, owned a successful saloon near the Bromo Seltzer Tower in downtown Baltimore. But as is the case for many Baltimoreans, it would take one trip east for them to become enamored by the beach.

Shortly after that visit, they moved to Ocean City, first opening a handful of hotels, then their lasting legacy, the namesake Trimper Rides amusement park, located inland between the boardwalk and Baltimore Avenue. By 1912, there was a 50-seat, crème-de-la-crème carousel, now said to be one of the oldest operating in the United States, and year by year, there came more attractions, from billiards and boxing matches to a roller rink and live alligator exhibition, with shouts of “step right up!” echoing down the nearby streets.

These days, the reptiles and fighting rings are gone, but the place is still family-owned—and feels straight out of the 1950s. Like Disneyland meets The Jetsons, it’s a cacophony of carnival sights and sounds. The colorful glow of hundreds of thousands of blinking lights brightens the night sky amidst the buzz of water guns, pop of balloons, whack of moles, and rattle of wheels rolling down iron tracks under the shadow of the towering Tidal Wave coaster.

In fact, this Shangri-La of retro rides boasts more than two dozen in total—think the Zipper, Tilt- A-Whirl, Teacups, and other thrills with themes like aliens, pirates, and rock-and-roll. There are bumper cars, giant slides, and a funhouse mirror maze, plus a circa-1964 haunted house, where passengers ride in mini coffins through Day-Glo-in-the-dark terrors that some grownups— cough—will never forget.

And whatever your feelings about heights, the full splendor of the fun-fueled spectacle is best admired from the tippy-top of the 149-foot Ferris wheel. From way up there, the multitude of ticketholders fades into the distance of a miles-wide view. To the north, Fenwick Island. To the south, Assateague. And all of Ocean City in-between.

“We have rides that my great-great-grandparents bought, touched, and, in the case of the carousel, may have ridden,” says Tracey Hausel, the great-great granddaughter of Daniel and Margaret, who also grew up working at Trimper’s. And now, “Generations of our family have ridden the same rides, over and over.” And over again.

The old boardwalk, c. 1960s.
BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Dorchester Street
TOURIST TRADITION: Flashback Old Time Photos
WATER PARK: Jolly Roger’s Splash Mountain
GO-KARTS: Speedworld
MUSEUM: Ocean City Life-Saving Museum
ICE-SKATING: Carousel Hotel
GREEN SPACE: North Side Park
PLAYGROUND: Downtown Recreational Complex
VIEW: Sunset Park

Day in the Life

Here’s to another round at Old Pro Golf.

Pointers for putt-putt.
  1. The Dinosaur Park on 68th Street is quintessential Americana.
  2. Play at night for an optimal cool-down.
  3. Slow and steady wins the race. No need for showing off.
  4. Snag a $28 Pro Pass to access multiple locations.
  5. Cap it off with an Old Pro beer from Union Craft.

Smoking volcanoes. Overflowing waterfalls. Towering castles. Teeth-bearing Tyrannosaurus rexes. A few tricked-out pirate ships, topped with flags of skulls and crossbones. These are just some of the wonders in the fantastical world of Old Pro Golf.

In 1963, founder Herb Schoellkopf opened his first bare-bones location on the boardwalk fishing pier with a bit of lumber and dirt, where Jolly Roger’s amusement park now stands. Inspired by Walt Disney’s concept of “imagineering,” the Jersey native would go on to build a micro-empire of more than a dozen miniature-golf courses up and down the East Coast—part of a nationwide post-war trend toward this form of leisure—with four remaining today, all in Ocean City.

Over time, each grew increasingly elaborate and enchanting, adding mechanized figures, challenging obstacles, and tropical landscaping. Described as a playful and patriotic visionary, Schoellkopf worked on new designs until his final days in 2016. His motto? “Work hard, play hard,” per a Sun obituary, and from what we can tell on August evenings, that ethos continues. With tiny pencils and pint-sized clubs in hand, kids play with parents and grandparents, couples get engaged under life-size killer whales, and core memories are made over plastic turf.

“Old Pro is an iconic symbol of carefree summer fun,” says Jon Zerivitz, a Pikesville native and co-founder of Union Craft Brewing, whose now-beloved tart beer of the same name was inspired by his own trips to Ocean City.

The New Beach Read

Books and business gets a breath of fresh air at The Buzzed Word.

In the upper reaches of Ocean City, the most happening place in town sits in a nondescript strip mall tucked off Coastal Highway on the bayside of 119th Street next to a kabob carryout restaurant in the shadow of a Food Lion. There, a hot-pink neon sign lures you inside, where you’ll find two chartreuse-colored couches and stacks upon stacks of books on almost every surface.

“Women writers, writers of color, queer writers, translated literature,” says Mickie Meinhardt, listing just a few of the many genres regularly stocked in her three-year-old bookstore, The Buzzed Word. Not to mention memoirs by Hanif Abdurraqib, Sloane Crowley, and Dolly Parton. Poetry collections from Frank O’Hara, Cleo Wade, and Ocean Vuong. Plus classic and contemporary novels, banned books, cookbooks, kids’ books, comic books, and swag inspired by R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps.

The 33-year-old owner was born and raised on this island, and for much of her life, the lifelong reader says it was a bibliophile’s wasteland, leading her to seek out bookshops in other nearby towns. Then, after years in New York, she moved back home in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, following the death of her mother, and poured herself into that one thing that had always filled her cup.

“Bookstores are centers of community,” says Meinhardt, who, with a slew of sailor-chic tattoos, looks more like a surfer (which she is) or a writer (which she is, too) than the sort of unofficial Ocean City mayor that she’s become.

natural wine shop, bringing just one more bit of metropolitan flair to her tiny hometown. It’s because Meinhardt has also cemented herself as its fierce cheerleader, helping to lead a growing group of hip young locals who are building new businesses around inclusivity and intention.

At the store’s back bar, an inclusive crowd gathers for magazine flips and fair pours of Lambrusco, as well as tasting classes, author readings, book clubs, movie screenings, and theme dinners. The Buzzed Word also hosted the first-ever Ocean City Pride Parade last year, followed by an after-party prom (which will take place on June 28 at the Ashore Resort this year). And for Meinhardt, it’s all brought out the best of her city.

“I could have poured Chardonnay, stocked James Patterson, and called it a day, but people wanted something different,” she says, noting that the town offerings have long catered to the white middle class. “Ocean City has showed up in spades, and I will champion it forever. Because there is something so magic about this place. It’s difficult to put into words.”

Even for her.



Fun facts about the Ocean City boardwalk.

Years old

Miles long

Feet wide


Public restrooms


Morning-to-midnight hours

Cost in dollars per one-way tram ride

Opening date of the Atlantic Hotel

Teeth on the shark bursting through the walls outside of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!



On 30th Street and Coastal Highway, a small, white, weather-worn shack is bringing a year-round abundance of freshcut, feel-good flowers and gifts for locals and tourists alike, all thanks to Innerbloom by Ocean City native Meredith Moore.

  • After years in the Los Angeles floral industry, what’s it like owning a business back in your hometown?
    I actually get emotional about it. Ocean City is such a tight-knit community. It feels like everyone is in your corner. And it’s really cool to see all of these young entrepreneurs starting new businesses and thriving here.

    You collaborate with some of those folks. Do you also source any local flowers, too?
    Lisianthus, I work with Masterpiece Flowers in nearby Whaleyville—another small, local, woman-run business. She’s a mother and a wife, creating a really beautiful experience on her farm. I always love sprinkling in her flowers because they’re such a great story, grown right here on the Eastern Shore.

  • What varieties will you be excited about in June?
    Lisianthus, and lots of beautiful wildflower-like varieties like phlox, snapdragons, and zinnias that really shine.

  • What was your last workshop?
    On the first full day of summer, June 21, [we hosted] a make-your-own-candle with Honey Water from nearby Berlin. Her scents are so simple, but she puts them together in ways you’d never think of. We have a collaborative candle together, featuring ylang ylang, jasmine, and sandalwood.

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