Since Ocean City is becoming more of a year-round destination with each passing season, West OC has especially been expanding by leaps and bounds. There’s more open here in the “off” months to keep visitors and locals busy, but there are also pockets that provide a little calm away from the summertime business of downtown OC.
All of Ocean City prides itself on being a family-friendly resort, but the side of town west of the Route 50 bridge is especially conducive for good, clean family fun. Here are a few favorite things to do in West Ocean City that’ll guarantee the whole family a great time, whether you’re booking a hotel in West OC or just exploring for a few hours.
1. Hit up all the amusements
Thrill-seekers are known to frequent West Ocean City for its array of fun, family-friendly amusements. Baja Amusements set up shop in West O more than three decades ago, and they’ve been expanding ever since to provide entertainment to kids and kids-at-heart away from the hustle and bustle of Coastal Highway.
There are eight go kart tracks and two climbing walls, plus kiddie rides, bumper boats, an arcade, mini golf and more, all accessible without having to sit in bridge traffic if you’re staying at a West Ocean City hotel.
Take the little ones to the Wacky Worm roller coaster, let the tweens hang out at the snack bar and the speedsters race go karts, and everyone else can enjoy a peaceful game of mini golf. It’s the perfect way to spend a summer day, at least until dinnertime rolls around. Even then you can stay on the west side and…
2. Get your seafood fill
Some of the best seafood in Ocean City can be found in West OC. It’s where the commercial fishing harbor is, after all. You don’t get much fresher than that.
One restaurant in West O that’s especially worth a trip is The Shrimp Boat off Stephen Decatur Highway. At the Shrimp Boat, an OC tradition for almost 30 years, you can try before you buy, sit outside or inside the “boat,” enjoy a local craft brew and get whatever ocean fare your heart desires, from crab platters to fish entrees to lobster rolls. Seriously.
Hooper’s Crab House is a good on-the-water option for families; diners under 10 can enjoy kid-friendly seafood like rockfish fingers, fried shrimp and and fish tacos, while parents can enjoy a cold beer from Fin City Brewing Co., Ocean City’s oldest brewery that calls Hooper’s their home.
If your family doesn’t favor seafood, there are tons of other restaurants and familiar chains that have amassed in West Ocean City. But if it is seafood you’re looking for — the west side of the bridge is still the place to go.
3. Visit “Stinky Beach” (also known as Homer Gudelsky Park)
If you’re scratching your head at this one, don’t worry — you’re not the only one. While Stinky Beach was once more of a locals’ secret, it’s starting to see more foot traffic with each summer that goes by, and that’s why I’m officially letting the cat out of the bag and telling you that Stinky Beach is a very cool spot in West O to visit.
Formally known as Homer Gudelsky Park, this beach by the bridge is pet-friendly and a perfect place to cast a line, take a stroll or watch the boats sail in and out of the Inlet. Ocean City lore says that the area used to be a dumping ground for the town, and the west wind would bring bugs and the smell of garbage to the beach. The water is shallow, and the wind also spreads the smell of the canal, hence the name “Stinky Beach.” If you have no idea what or where this place is, here’s a map for reference:
4. Stay at a hotel the kids will love
The Comfort Suites in the heart of West Ocean City is one of those hotels. In fact, while driving down Route 50, your kids have probably already pointed out the hotel’s big front yard pool with the prop palm trees, waterslide and buckets waiting to pour water over an unsuspecting person’s head. What they haven’t seen yet is the indoor game room. And just down the street is a favorite of the younger kids, the Francis Scott Key Family Resort, equipped with outdoor and indoor themed pools, playgrounds and mini golf.
Lodging in West O is always a great option for families who want to distance themselves from the rowdier nighttime Boardwalk crowds but remain close to the action, particularly Assateague Island, Frontier Town, and all the restaurants and entertainment listed here. Downtown is just a trip across the bridge away.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been working on a video feature called “Ocean City Stories” wherein contributor BL and I knock around Ocean City with a camera and a video camera and talk to people. You can see the completed work on our YouTube page.
5. Walk across the bridge to even more fun
It’s normally not a good idea to walk across a bridge known for its heavy summertime traffic. Luckily, the Route 50 bridge to downtown Ocean City has a pedestrian walkway that makes it totally safe for families to stroll. When the winds and the tides are in perfect harmony, you can look straight into the ocean and get a crystal-clear view of the sea life within it. Just don’t get so distracted by the beauty that you knock into a fisherman or cyclist passing by.
A major benefit of the West Ocean City region in general is the Park and Ride, where you can park your car for free and walk or take the shuttle bus into town. Here’s one idea for families staying in West O who want to spend an evening on the east side: establish a home (well, car) base at the Park and Ride, take a walk across the bridge and pay a visit to The Angler on the other side. Enjoy a good dinner, then embark on a sunset cruise on the restaurant’s boat (also called The Angler). Allow your meal to digest, then walk home and enjoy a restful night away from the noise and nightlife of downtown OC.