Ocean City Alternatives
Blame the traffic, the crowds, the prices, our embarrassing obsession with old-time photos, but we just don’t always have the energy to haul it all the way down to the Atlantic. Plus, according to MapQuest, Baltimore City to Ocean City takes 2 hours 51 minutes (145 miles). Here are a few substitutes for your shoreline cravings, and the time plus miles from Baltimore to get there. Welcome to the OC alternatives, bitches.
If you can’t stand trying to nudge splotchy beachgoers over so you have somewhere to lay your towel, there are plenty o’ waterfront parks close to the city with lots of room to spread out.
Beaver Dam Swimming Club, 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, website, $8-$14. Just up I-83 is 30 acres of a very Ocean City-like social atmosphere—think lots of cute young people playing volleyball, sunning themselves on the sand, eating junk food from the snack bar, and engaging in awkward mating rituals. If that’s not your thing, there are also two pools, a 40-foot deep freshwater quarry, and a rope swing. (22 minutes/17 miles)
Cascade Lake, 3000 Snydersburg Road, Hampstead, (410) 374-9111, website, $5-$11. Heaven for all the waterbabies, with a bit of beach, big, twisty waterslides, and a new “sprayground” opening this summer. (53 minutes/37 miles)
Gunpowder Falls State Park, 2813 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville, (410) 592-2897, website. Lounge your way down the river on a tube ride starting at the Hereford area, or stop by Ultimate Watersports and try to windsurf at the Hammerman area. (35 minutes/27 miles)
Oregon Ridge Beach, Oregon Ridge Park, (410) 887-3780, website. Wiggle your toes in the fresh water of the spring-fed lake—your feet are safe from pinch-happy crabs here. The swimming area has shallow and deep areas for short and tall, and the beach has a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, playground, and picnic areas with grills. Best of all, you can rinse off the tanning oil and sweat in the bathhouse before everyone piles back in the car. (25 minutes/19 miles)
Rocky Point Beach, 2200 Rocky Point Road, (410) 887-3780, website. In OC, you have to lug a damn umbrella with you to the beach if you need some shade, but on Rocky Point’s sandy, 75,000 square foot beach on the Chesapeake Bay, there are plenty of shady pavilions and picnic areas if you’re feeling a little well-done. Bring a volleyball (there are nets) and some ground chuck or not-dogs (there are grills), then toss some horseshoes while the kids enjoy the playground. (32 minutes/20 miles)
Sandy Point State Park, 1100 E. College Parkway, Annapolis, (410) 974-2149, website, Maryland residents $5, non-Maryland residents $6. It’s sandy, it’s on the water, and there is a well-stocked concession stand. Your kids will never know the difference. If they behave themselves, you can buy crabbing supplies at the Marina Store and walk down the pier to catch dinner. (44 minutes/36 miles)
Obviously, a big reason to go down the ocean is the cheesy-beachfront-tropical-theme bars—we’re looking at you, Seacrets, but Shark, we see you, too—but why drive three hours when you can get fruity drinks, coconut shrimp, and sunburn right here?
Bay Café, 2809 Boston St., (410) 522-3377, website. Some might scoff at Canton’s wannabe-Caribbean bar where steel drum and reggae bands regularly play, but let’s be honest: It’s nice to rub your feet in the sand after work. (9 minutes/2.5 miles)
Dock of the Bay Restaurant and Bar, 9025 Cuckold Point Road, Sparrows Point, (410) 477-8100, mywebpages.comcast.net/ lthanner/dock/index.html. This boater bar, located north of North Point State Park, is open until 2 a.m., seven nights a week. But Happy Hour, from 3-7 p.m., is well spent in an Adirondack chair on the 6500 square feet of outdoor seating. (30 minutes/18 miles)
Island View Waterfront Café, 2542 Island View Road, Essex, (410) 687-9799, website. Despite its deceptively tiki bar-ish name, this place is low-key, with a history going back to the 1920s and beautiful views of the bay. Come by land or by sea. (33 minutes/21 miles)
The Krab Kove at Bo Brooks, 2701 Boston St., (410) 558-0202, website. Instead of being a tourist in Ocean City, act like one for a night here in Baltimore—feast on crabs at Bo’s, then step out onto Canton’s only floating deck for umbrella-garnished drinks. (9 minutes/2.4 miles)
Riverwatch Restaurant and Marina, 307 Nanticoke Road, (410) 687-1422, website. Sure, you could drive, but most of the guests here will have arrived by water—the huge wooden patio bar fills up with red-nosed boaters and their bikini-clad bitches, downing shots and listening to live music Thursday through Sunday. (25 minutes/17 miles)
You probably don’t get a chance to go out on the water in OC anyway, so hop on someone else’s yacht for Happy Hour and cruise the Chesapeake.
Harbor Cruises, 561 Light St., (410) 727-3113, website. Food, sightseeing, booze, kids. (3 minutes/0.7 miles)
Fisherman’s Inn Cruises, 3116 Main St., Grasonville, (410) 827-8807, website. Sightseeing, booze, fishing. (55 minutes/47 miles)
Living Classrooms, 802 South Caroline St., (410) 685-0295, website. Kids. (5 minutes/1.4 miles)
Natural Light Fishing Charters, Kentmorr Marina, (410) 978-0232, website. Food, booze, fishing, crabbing, kids. (1 hour/47 miles)
Pintail Yachts, 312 Third St., Annapolis, (410) 626-1888, website. Food, booze. (40 minutes/32 miles)
Skipjack Martha Lewis, 121 North Union Ave., Havre de Grace, (410) 939-4078, website. Food, sightseeing, booze, kids. (49 minutes/42 miles)
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201