The holidays are upon us, and Ocean City is already looking like a winter wonderland: Lights are strung everywhere from downtown to Northside Park, wreaths hang on front doors, and everyone’s all bundled up as they stroll the quiet Boardwalk and the peaceful, empty beach. There’s more to do than take in all the peace and tranquility that this time of year offers, although that’s always a benefit of winter in Ocean City.
Additionally, though, there are plenty of holiday happenings from lights shows to parades to shopping events, and you can bet that most of them include a visit from Santa and lots of hot chocolate. Add these festivities to your trip planner, and check our events directory for a full list of holiday and non-holiday events this winter in OC.
Nov. 15 – Dec. 31. Sunday – Thursday: 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday: 5:30 – 10:30 p.m.
$5, free for kids 11 and under
No list of holiday happenings in Ocean City could start without Winterfest of Lights, the annual lights show in Northside Park where more than a million twinkling Christmas lights illuminate the night sky. Many families travel to Ocean City during the holiday season just for Winterfest — it’s one of the annual events that the Town is best known for, and it only gets bigger every year. What are Boardwalk trams in the summer turn into magical Winterfest Express trains in the winter, driving passengers through the park while holiday music plays on the speakers. In the heated Winterfest Village Pavilion, visitors will find hot chocolate and a photo op with Santa.
The month-and-a-half long event kicks off with a tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 15. Ocean City Elementary’s “OC Stars” will sing Christmas carols and the Mayor will flip the switch on the 50 ft. Christmas tree before Winterfest rides officially begin for the season.
This year, on Dec. 2 from 5 – 6:30 p.m., there will be a Jingle Bell 5k Run/Walk through Winterfest of Lights. Participants will receive a long-sleeve race shirt, hot chocolate, cookies, and a ride through Winterfest after the race.
Nov. 17, 3 – 6 p.m.
Last year’s Light Up Downtown Fest was sadly canceled due to high winds, but the free 2018 event is coming back strong with holiday shopping, a tree lighting, live music, crafts, games and prizes for the kids, and a visit from Santa.
2017’s Light Up Downtown Festival is on Nov. 18 from 2-6 p.m. Any lover of the holidays won’t really need a reason to want to attend Ocean City’s annual Light Up Downtown Festival-after all, it’s chock full of pretty much every exclusively Christmastime specialty except egg nog.
Nov. 23 – 25, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday), $3 admission for the weekend
Skip the madness of Black Friday and opt for Ocean City’s Holiday Shopper’s Fair instead. The sheer size of the Convention Center where the fair takes place keeps it from becoming a traditional Black Friday madhouse, and it also helps that the event stretched out over three days. Find handmade items like jewelry, candles, and ceramics, plus a food court, a non-shopper’s lounge, kids activities, and, of course, Santa. Have fun shopping and get all your holiday gift-buying out of the way early this year.
Dec. 1, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
2018 marks the 35th year of the Ocean City Christmas Parade, where more than 50 festive floats, school marching bands, and classic cars make their way down Coastal Highway, all in the spirit of Christmas. Bring chairs and blankets, and secure your spot early. The parade starts at Old Landing Road and marches south to the judges’ stand at 120th Street. And yes, Santa will be there — Ocean City keeps him very busy this time of year.
Gold Coast Mall started the tradition 35 years ago, and the Ocean City Christmas Parade is still going strong in 2017. From Old Landing Road to 120th street, marching bands, jeeps and classic cars, firetrucks and floats paraded down Coastal Highway on Dec.
Dec. 5, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Pizza and Santa always make for a winning combination. The kids’ pizza party will take place in the Winterfest Village Pavilion and include cookie decorating, arts and crafts, a ride through Winterfest, and more.
Dec. 7, 5 – 7 p.m. Dec. 8, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Pick up handmade, locally-made gifts for your loved ones at the Art League of Ocean City’s annual Holiday Artisan Fair. All kinds of art, including jewelry, glass, ceramics, and art prints are for sale, and visitors can also peruse the beautiful two-story gallery while they’re shopping. Live music, refreshments, and book signings with local authors complete the weekend-long event.
There’s nothing that puts you in the holiday season more than seeing a Christmas show and singing along to all the classic holiday hits. Bring the whole family to the Ocean City Performing Arts Center to see the Christmas Cabaret on Dec. 5, where kids perform live music, dance, and skits. On Dec. 9, enjoy music from the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. On Dec. 15, Brian’s Christmas Songbook features the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra in the “Concert for a Cause” that aims to fight opioid addiction, and on Dec. 16, the Sussex Dance Academy presents The Nutcracker.
You can’t say goodbye to 2018 without attending some kind of fireworks/NYE party combination, and no one does fireworks and partying better than Ocean City. The free fireworks display at Northside Park begins at midnight, and the festivities include live entertainment, hot chocolate, and one last ride through Winterfest of Lights. Winterfest rides will begin at the usual time but extend to midnight on New Year’s Eve. With all the fun you’ve hopefully had in Ocean City this year, there’s no better way to end 2018 and begin 2019 than by celebrating right here in OCMD.
Consider trekking over to Berlin for their seasonal celebrations while you’re in town. And no matter where you are, we hope your holiday season is filled with peace, joy, and lots of time spent with loved ones. Happy holidays!
Ocean City is well-known for its holiday celebrations that begin in mid-November with Winterfest of Lights and end with a New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration, but a little to the west in Berlin, Maryland, small town living is elevated and ultra-festive.