Free activities in Ocean City
Going on vacation is expensive enough already, but if you know where to look, there is plenty of fun to be had in Ocean City for absolutely free. Certainly you can enjoy 10 miles of free beach or stroll the boardwalk, but the town of Ocean City wants to help you make the most of your next trip, without emptying your wallet, by hosting numerous free, family friendly events weekly all summer and occasionally throughout the year.
Free summer fun
Let’s start with summer, because you’ve more than likely taken at least one summer vacation in OC. Summer is the ultimate tourist season, which could be why the town gets a bad rep for being expensive this time of year. But ignore the beachside chain stores and you really can have a fun and inexpensive time June through August, because those three months are actually when the most free activities are offered. Such activities include, but are not limited to:
The Ocean City Air Show – It happens the third week of June every year, so you know when to plan for a weekend of incredible aircraft stunts and maneuvers.
Beach Patrol Rookie Graduation – In late June, the graduating beach patrol class demonstrates their skills and training exercises for spectators on the beach.
Family Beach Olympics – Compete in a sand castle building contest or relay race with the entire family (or just watch the sun set and cheer them on from the sidelines).
ESA Summer Surf Series – If you’re an amateur surfer, this summer surfing competition could provide an avenue for you to participate in other competitions nationwide.
Skate Bash – Love to skate? The Skate Bash is a free day of skating open to kids of all ages with door prizes, music and food galore.
Arts Alive – One weekend out of every summer, hundreds of artists set up their easels and tents in Northside Park to paint, sell their wares, and enjoy live music and food at Arts Alive.
4th of July Concert and Fireworks – If you’re willing to brave the crowds, Ocean City throws an Independence Day celebration like no other town. Watch the fireworks and enjoy live music from multiple locations around OC.
Beach Dance Party – A free dance party every Tuesday night?! Yep. Dance the night away at Caroline Street Stage as DJ Batman spins modern and decade-specific bops.
Sunset Park Party Nights – Now you’re busy on Tuesday nights, but on Thursdays there’s another free party in town, with food, beer and live music that plays while the sun sets over the Isle of Wight Bay.
Concerts on the Beach – Check out Caroline Street Stage just off the boardwalk in July and August to watch tribute bands and local musicians perform.
100 Nights of Lights – New in the summer of 2017, colored lights illuminate the beach between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day. It’s a gorgeous sight to see on warm summer nights.
Graduates visiting Ocean City for Senior Week are encouraged to check out Play it Safe, which offers free events throughout most of June to help graduating students safely make the most of their beach trip.
Also make sure to take advantage of free events associated with annual car shows and other festivals, and if you’re in town during the White Marlin Open, checking out the nightly weigh-ins at Harbor Island (14th St., bayside) is a must.
The festivities in Ocean City tend to slow down around September, when kids go back to school and everyone else returns to their day jobs. That’s what makes it the perfect time to vacation – the crowds have thinned out, it’s not so hot outside and there are still free events to take advantage of.
If you’re in the mood to see a play, check out what Shakespearean dramas the local Brown Box Theatre troupe might be performing. Watch a weigh-in at one of the many autumnal fishing tournaments, and then officially say goodbye to summer at Sunfest and at the Sunfest Kite Festival. And, of course, celebrate Halloween the Ocean City way at the family-friendly Spook-Out Party and Howl-O-Ween Pet Parade (among other fun, festive events!).
Still in November but leading us to the holiday season is the free Light Up Downtown Festival, which brings us into…
Okay, it’s technically still fall, but it’s starting to feel like winter when the Ocean City Christmas Parade hits town in early December. Take a peaceful winter walk on the boardwalk, and don’t miss Winterfest of Lights – if it’s not a tradition in your family yet, it should be! I’ll admit, this one’s not completely free for those older than 11, but tickets are only $5, and it’s well-worth it for a tram ride through a winter wonderland. Once the holiday season is over and spring is getting closer and closer, close out the season at the town’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Winter is also a great time of year to score deals at hotels and restaurants, so check back in as the season nears and book your vacation ahead of time.
As soon as the weather warms up again, you know it’s time to head back to Ocean City. The first weekend in May brings locals and visitors together for a free four-day festival of food, live music, arts and crafts and soaking up the sun called Springfest. But while Springfest is the most popular free thing to do, it’s not the only one – you can also get into the high-flyin’ spirit at the Maryland International Kite Expo, get artsy at the Spring Arts and Crafts show, or head over to Berlin for music and food at May Day Play Day.
So don’t worry about the dent your vacation might put in your budget – as long as you know where to go and what to do, you won’t have to spend more than a dime (or $10 on the beer and ice cream that many of these events offer). As your Ocean City vacation nears, make sure you check back to see all of the free festivities the town has to offer – events are always being added right here.