If you only go to the beach one each year, this is the day to go. 

On the face of it, Memorial Day is something of an arbitrary summer kick-off. It’s a throwback to when most people worked 9-5 jobs and three-day weekends were something of a rarity. The last Monday in May, however, is the first three-day weekend of the year that is guaranteed to be temperate (and often pleasantly hot). It makes perfect sense that it should have established itself as the kickoff to the summer vacation season.

Today, as the three-day getaway is a critical part of many of our busy lives, Memorial Day Weekend in Ocean City holds a special place in the collective consciousness.  It reminds us of the permanent good-off mode we occupied as kids, and gives us a reason to think seriously about how to recapture that attitude once again. 

There are a million reasons to spend Memorial Weekend at the beach. Here are five:

1. The water is cool but not cold.

Ocean City, Maryland
Samantha Snyder and Melissa Thornton riding the waves at the 39t Street Beach.

That first annual dip in the ocean is a really specific one. You hit the surf and are startled by a cold that makes you lose and catch your breath all at once. But by the time Memorial Day rolls around, the Ocean City beach has been toasting in the warm spring sun for a few weeks and 90 degree days are common, or at least more common than not. The sand will have been hot on your way down and, although the seabreeze provided a little relief, the cure for the hot is the cold, and vice-versa. When you head back to your blanket to take in the sun, the head still will be something you appreciate.

2. The traffic is thick, but not desperate and manic

There’s a whole other attitude in May than in July in Ocean City. First off, most people are coming just for the weekend rather than for a week or two. Vacation pressure – the phenomenon that makes some people desperate to have fun, hasn’t set in yet. Instead there is something of an optimism in even the line of cars along Route 50 on the last leg toward the beach. Parking is a little easier, as is navigating the streets, and the enthusiasm for the weekend ahead is the dominant motivator.

3. Ocean City is busy but not packed

Umbrella stand kids are still working on their tans Memorial Day Weekend.
Umbrella stand kids are still working on their tans Memorial Day Weekend.

More than pretty much any other summer-y weekend, Memorial Day weekend makes you feel as if you are part of a rising wave, and in a way you are. In the ramp up to schools closing and vacations starting, festivals and excursions and fireworks, Memorial Day weekend puts the beach front and center. Sure, there still are plenty of sponsored events (movies on the beach for instance) but most of the people in town are there specifically to enjoy the tradition of being at the beach on Memorial Day.

4. The summer is not started, but still is anticipated.

Memorial Day weekend is kind of like a staid Spring Break. Families and couples treat themselves to a well-earned taste of the summer to come. Many if not most people who come to Ocean City for Memorial Day weekend treat it as a kind of vacation test drive, a way of whetting their vacation appetite. Restaurant waits are minimal, bars have plenty of people in them, but getting service still is a piece of cake. It is the best of the summer mixed with the perks of the off season. 

Ocean City lifeguard
Making sure they are in top physical condition all season is a point of pride for many on the OCBP.

5. The lifeguards are back!

If there’s any more iconic symbol of the beach than a member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol mounting the stand, I’d love to hear about it. After months of anticipation and of the recurrent call to keep your feet in the sand until they are in the stand, you can hit the waves while the beach patrol stands guard.