By Car -- Route 50 goes right to Ocean City. To reach the southern end of town, continue on Route 50 to the bridge that enters O.C. at Caroline Street. For those staying at 60th Street or above, take Route 90 and cross the bridge at 62nd Street. An alternative route (but only one lane each way) is to turn on Route 404 East past Queenstown; follow it into Delaware. Turn south onto Route 113 south. Route 26 east connects with Bethany. Turn south on Route 1 to Ocean City. Or take Route 54 to Fenwick to Route 1. However you get there, avoid Route 1 in Rehoboth -- especially on weekends, when traffic slows to a frustrating crawl most of the day. Tip: Call tel. 877/229-7726 on your way to the Bay Bridge for up-to-date traffic reports.
By Plane -- The Salisbury-Ocean City-Wicomico Regional Airport, 30 minutes west of Ocean City, near Salisbury (tel. 410/548-4827), handles nonstop commuter flights to and from Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and points south via US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usairways.com). Private planes also fly into that airport, as well as Ocean City Municipal Airport, 3 miles west of town off Route 611 (tel. 410/520-5412).
If you arrive via Baltimore Washington International Airport, then you can arrange to have the BayRunner Shuttle (tel. 410/912-6000; www.bayrunners.com) pick you up; it makes five trips daily.
Car rentals are available from Avis (tel. 410/742-8566; www.avis.com) and Hertz (tel. 410/749-2235; www.hertz.com), both at the Wicomico Regional Airport. At the Ocean City airport, Express (tel. 410/213-7336) rents cars.
By Bus -- Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.com) has daily service into Ocean City from points north and south, with nonstop buses from Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Salisbury. Buses stop at the West Ocean City Park & Ride, 12848 Ocean Gateway (tel. 410/289-9307).
The Ocean City Convention and Visitors' Bureau operates a visitor center in the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, 4001 Coastal Hwy., at 40th Street, bay side (tel. 800/626-6232 or 410/289-8181; http://ococean.com). It's open daily from 8:30am to 5pm.
If you're heading into town from Route 50, stop at the information center run by the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, routes 707 and 50, 1 1/2 miles from Ocean City (tel. 410/213-0552; www.oceancity.org). It's a great place to pick up brochures and coupons. Open daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm.
Tip: If you have only 1 night to stay at the beach, check with the staff at either center. Although most hotels advertise 2- or 3-night minimum stays on weekends, they can probably find you accommodations.
Look for coupons and event schedules in Ocean City Visitors' Guide, Sunny Day, Beachcomber, and Beach Guide, available in restaurants, stores, and hotels.
By Bus -- In peak season, when parking is scarce, the bus is the most convenient way to get around. Buses run 24 hours a day. They follow one route, from the Delaware border south along Coastal Highway to the inlet, returning north along Baltimore Street and Coastal Highway. In summer, buses run every 10 minutes; from October 20 to Memorial Day, they run every half-hour. The fare is $2 for a 24-hour period; exact change is required. For information, contact the Ocean City Transportation Department, 66th Street, bay side (tel. 410/723-1606).
A park-and-ride lot, on Route 50 in West Ocean City (on the western side of the bridge), has free parking. Visitors can board a shuttle to South Division Street near the inlet to either spend the day there or catch a bus to other O.C. destinations. It costs $1 for the entire day.
By Boardwalk Tram -- The tram travels 2 1/2 miles between the inlet and 27th Street, stopping to pick up passengers who signal the driver. In summer, it runs every 10 minutes from 7am to midnight daily. On weekends from Easter to May, and in September and October, it runs every 15 minutes. To get off, raise your hand and the tram will stop. The fare is $3 one-way, or get a frequent rider card at the tram station for $20 for eight rides. It's great for parents with tired children -- and a good way for first-time visitors to become familiar with the boardwalk.
By Taxi -- Taxi service has expanded in recent years -- serving those who've had too much to drink as well as nondrivers. Among the growing number of services are Sunset Taxi (tel. 410/250-8294) and Eastern Shore Taxi (tel. 410/524-6647).
Parking is difficult at the height of the season. A majority of public facilities, such as shopping centers and restaurants, offer free parking. Eight public lots, mostly around the southern end of Ocean City, and most downtown streets have meters which must be fed $1.25 an hour 24 hours a day April 15 through October 15. Parking is free off-season. You can find change machines at several lots: Worcester Street; Somerset Street and Baltimore Avenue; Dorchester Street and Baltimore Avenue; North Division Street and Baltimore Avenue; and Fourth Street and Baltimore Avenue. The largest public lot is the Hugh T. Cropper parking lot at the inlet, with 1,200 paid spaces. The first 30 minutes here are free; then the rate is $1 an hour, $1.50 on weekends. If you plan to park here for nighttime activities, be aware that hundreds of other people will have the same idea -- and the wait to get in the lot, and later to get out, can be long.
Ocean City stretches for 10 miles, with one main north-south thoroughfare, Coastal Highway. It becomes two one-way streets on the southern end at around 32nd Street: Philadelphia goes south; Baltimore heads north. Cross streets are designated by numbers (from First to 145th), with numbers decreasing to the south. It's vital to know the cross street when looking for a shop or restaurant (though if you have a street address, the first two numbers usually tell you the cross street). Attractions and businesses on the cross streets are designated as either ocean side (east of Coastal Hwy.) or bay side (west of Coastal Hwy.). If you see an address that says Atlantic Avenue, it's oceanfront.
Ocean City's party atmosphere is enhanced by festivals throughout the year; below is just a selection of the largest and most popular.
Everybody in O.C. is Irish on the Sunday closest to St. Patrick's Day for the St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival. Every year, more and more people decide this is the place for the "wearin' of the green." The 4-day Springfest, held the first week of May, brings crafts, music, and food to the inlet parking lot. Lots of businesses open now, as O.C. prepares for summer.
On the Fourth of July, some 300,000 people crowd into Ocean City. Fireworks over Assawoman Bay top off the family-style picnic held at Northside Park beginning at 1pm. A second fireworks display takes place at North Division Street, at the south end of the boardwalk. Festivities begin with a concert at 8pm; fireworks begin at both locations at 9:30pm.
The White Marlin Open (www.whitemarlinopen.com) is held the first full week in August. Some 400 boats register for this annual fishing expedition. In 2009, prize money for the biggest white marlin, blue marlin, shark, and tuna totaled more than $2 million. Stop by the Harbor Island Marina on the bay side for the weigh-ins every night from 4 to 9pm. They reel in some whoppers. A 1,062-pound blue marlin broke a state record in 2009.
The 4-day Sunfest festival, held the third week of September, officially ends the summer season with crafts, music, and food at the inlet. From mid-November to New Year's, holiday displays make up the Winterfest of Lights. The first takes place at the inlet, where you can drive past the lit displays. The second takes place in Northside Park. For $3 for those 12 and older, you can ride the tram through the light displays and then stop to see Santa, have hot chocolate, and browse the gift shop.
Family activities are scheduled nearly every summer evening on the beach or at North Side Park: Sundae Sundays, movies, concerts, and bonfires. Check with the visitor center.