Yes, we actually did more than eat on this trip to Ocean City, Maryland. Well, not much more. Just like in December, staying in a popular summer vacation town during the off-season has its perks. No traffic, minimal waits in restaurants, and the chance to play a round of mini golf in under an hour. Below are some highlights.
- The nearby town of Berlin bills itself as “the coolest small-town in America”. They might be right. Aside from having a large assortment of restaurants, bars, historic buildings, and antique stores, they also have some really nice people. It reminded me of Lititz, Pennsylvania, where in almost every shop someone asked where we were from and what we’re doing in town. Whenever a conversation gets going, I always ask about restaurants the locals enjoy. It’s better than any vacation guide. In fact, our lunch at Rayne’s was based on such recommendations, and it was excellent. The shopkeepers were so incredibly nice. Something I will never forget.
- There’s an “antique trail” of sorts. Pamphlets with a map and list of all stores in that area of Maryland and nearby Delaware are available all over town. I think he and I made it to seven or eight of them located in Berlin, Salisbury, Fennwick Island, and Parsonburg. Prices are much more expensive than what you will see in Pennsylvania, where we go antiquing the most often.
- You may remember back in December when I took on something called the “Pipeline” at the Decatur Diner on the outskirts of Ocean City. It’s basically a five-pound loaf of home-fries, scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese, and gravy. If you finish it, you win a sticker and get a chance to sign a board which is mounted on their wall. I made it about 75% through before I could continue no further. At the end of this trip, we went back, and my friend ordered the “Pipeline”. Only this time, he finished it, along with a bowl of grits. My stomach hurt just watching him.
- There are a few indoor mini golf places (Old Pro) open in Ocean City during the off-season. At $9.50 per game or $19.50 to play unlimited at all locations all day long, we decided to purchase the latter. It is something we wanted to do following December’s trip. Mini golf hearkened back memories of playing there as a child in the summer, with endless crowds before and after you. Where it might take two hours to play one round while rushing to get through each hole. Again, I’ll say it: the off-season saves you a lot of trouble. Anyway, as fate would have it, I managed to hit two holes-in-one on those bonus holes they have at the end, where if you make it you get a free game. I could not help but laugh. On the one day we buy unlimited games is the one day I won us two free ones. Then, when we returned at night for one last time, the owner or manager told us we had to come back when the outside was open, and kindly gave us two more free game tickets. Thankfully they do not expire.
- Oh, and here’s why we ended up at BJ’s the other night when we had not planned on it. We had pre-paid movie tickets that night and the Crab Bag had too long of a wait. So we left and while driving spotted Higgins Crab House North. A tourist-trap looking place no doubt, but we figure we would give it a shot. We left shortly after, carrying our jaws on the way out. Seafood platters starting at $30, the all-you-can-eat specials at around $37, unappetizing sandwiches were cheap, but who wants to eat a grilled chicken sandwich at a crab house. So yeah, we actually walked out. I can’t remember the last time I did that, if ever. Good thing we did. BJ’s was excellent.
- I also want to mention the bay-side Hampton Inn we stayed at. It was perfect, both in location, view, cleanliness, and service. While nothing will beat the Hilton Oceanfront, this was a worthy second. The manager, Byron, was outstanding. A more friendly and helpful man you may never encounter again. But I knew this before I even arrived because of the many Trip Advisor reviews which mention him by name. That is impressive.
- One last bullet, which is just a reminisce. The above picture is the hotel I stayed at with my family nearly every summer of my life for 13 years. The Howard Johnson Oceanfront is closed during the off-season, but I wanted to stop by anyway. Countless memories there. From going on the beach, to swimming in the pool (that’s where I learned—my dad taught me using a foam fun noodle), and you cannot forget the Satellite Cafe’s awesome breakfast dishes.