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Ocean City

Visit Ocean City in October

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

Way back what seems a full eon ago (but really only amounts to the 90s) I worked at a Salisbury area hotel. From March until September people would call asking whether the upcoming weekend would be “nice.” My answer was always the same, “It’s always beautiful on the Eastern Shore.” Mostly it was one of those stock jokes we all have stowed away, waiting for some unsuspecting straight man to come along and lob the softball our way. This last week, however, we’ve gotten a lot of Facebook comments that ask whether anything it open and whether it is going to be nice this weekend. Similarly, people worry about the cold at the beach. It put me in the mind of my stock line from the 1990s. My new line might be, “Visit Ocean City in October.”

People on the boardwalk
Don’t you people have jobs?

Rethinking the Boardwalk

I try and get to the boardwalk four or so times per week to take photos and to see what’s going on in real time. Wednesday afternoon just after lunch the boardwalk was alive with people enjoying the afternoon sun. I’ll be honest, if you want to shoot water in a balloon clown’s mouth, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you’re interested at all in boardwalk food, taking photos, or just soaking in the peace and listening to the waves, you can do a lot worse than the Ocean City Boardwalk in the fall.

Fall is my favorite time in Ocean City. Summer can be like an all you can eat buffet: there are so many things you want to enjoy but time and endurance are an issue. Locals and savvy travelers take small bites at the Summertime Ocean City buffet knowing that, once the weather cools, they can return and savor the experience. The city becomes that fine dining establishment where there are fewer choices, but only the most exquisite pairings are even on the menu.

That said, it’s also a great time to work on your Skee Ball game or enjoy an afternoon on a barstool or in booth and linger without regret or remorse as you enjoy the slower pace.

Dog on the boardwalks
The Boardwalk is dog friendly.

The off season in Ocean City pretty spectacular

As the weekend approaches, especially in October, people use the occasional sick or personal day for three day weekends at the beach. The city keeps a pretty full calendar of events through Christmas, but October is special because it combines spring-like temperatures with aggressively blue fall skies. Halloween is among the biggest off season events the town has, and it is big in pieces. That is, lots of groups and businesses, as well as the town itself, plan events aimed at helping people develop a new attitude toward Ocean City in the “off season.”

Moreover, because it has superior hotels and those hotels have serious autumn discounts, Ocean City is an excellent launchpad for exploring the surrounding area. The towns of Worcester County and Southern Delaware plan on this and promote events accordingly. There are hayrides and harvest festivals throughout the region. It’s a time a lot of small towns do their best to establish themselves as an alt-destination by taking chances. This year there already have been something on the order of 10 different beer festivals in the region in late September and October alone. And as these towns gear up for Christmas, there only are going to be more opportunities and diversions available.

Assawoman Bay
Assawoman Bay is one of dozens of outdoor adventures

Getting out while you can

Setting aside the nature tourism all over the region—birding, biking, kayaking, etc.—one of the greatest reasons to spend one last weekend in Ocean City before the snow flies is, well, pretty soon the snow is going to fly. Taking advantage of one more relaxing weekend at the beach, boating, fishing, taking guided nature tours or even just napping, could be that one last memory you need to carry you through until the spring.

I spoke recently with a couple who took up beach-combing as a fall and winter travel hobby. They come to the beach in the autumn just to enjoy themselves out on the sand as if it’s their own private island. In the evening, there also are still plenty of places to have a night out and some fine, fall meals being served all over the Delmarva Peninsula.

So in my long answer to some short questions, there is plenty open and plenty to do, so come on in, even if the water isn’t, technically speaking, fine.

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