Things to do in Ocean City, New Jersey
What to do and where to eat in the family friendly resort town.
by Tommy Rowan and Lauren McCutcheon, For The Inquirer
Summer visitors still take Ocean City’s marketing slogan to heart: “America’s Greatest Family Resort;” the town is full of families from June through August.
Some come for the day or weekend, many others stay for a week or longer.
No matter how long you plan to visit, here’s where to go while you’re there.
The island’s fine-sand beaches get the bulk of inhabitants’ attention on non-rainy days. Lifeguards keep swimmers safe, whistling to stay between the flags and off rock jetties. Feeding the gulls is generally frowned upon; the seabirds will help themselves to your lunch anyway.
Tags are required and checked at most beach entrances. Beach tags are required from everyone 12 and up from early June through Labor Day. For the 2021 season, beach tags are $25, and you can buy them online.
The second-most-popular pastime is, and has always been, the 2.45-mile boardwalk. Boardwalk mornings mean bike and surrey rides. Rental spots abound, including Oves, and bike lanes are generally observed. The boards between Sixth and 14th Streets are home to two amusement parks (see below), dozens of merchants, and one old and busy Music Pier (see below).
» READ MORE: Where to swim for free at the Jersey Shore
Amusement-wise, Gillian’s is the slightly more peaceful option. There are old-timey boats and cars for the preschool set, and just enough space to not step on someone on your way to the tilt-a-whirl, log flume, or Ferris wheel, the one you can see from the bridges.
📍600 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 📞 609-399-7082, 🌐 gillians.com, 📷 @gilliansocnj, 🕑 Mon.-Fri. 6-9 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 2-9 p.m.
The other option is Playland’s, which features a full arcade, a galleon that appears to swing into the Double Shot, and the newer, scarier GaleForce roller-coaster.
📍1020 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 📞 609-399-4751, 🌐 oceancityfun.com, 📷 @playlandscastawaycove, 🕑 Mon.-Thu. 6-9:30 p.m., Fri. 6-10 p.m., Sat. 1-11 p.m., Sun. 1-10 p.m.
Also in recent years, an inflatable aqua park and obstacle course expanded to 2,000 square feet of bright slides and jump-offs. A 45-minute, book-ahead session costs $35, life jackets included.
📍228 Bay Ave., Ocean City, 📞 609-398-9000, 🌐 aquaparkocnj.com, 📷 @ttwaquapark, 🕑 daily, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
The Ocean City Music Pier, which dates back to 1923, is as recognizable to visitors as the water tower and the Ferris wheel. And its 98th summer is shaping up to be a busy one. The 2021 Summer Concert Series is a go, and tickets are on sale now. On the schedule? The Machine performs Pink Floyd, Jon Anderson of YES with the Paul Green Rock Academy, Tommy James & The Shondells, and more.
📍825 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 📞 609-525-9291, 🌐 ocnj.us/music-pier, 📷 @oceancityvacation, 🎟ticketmaster.com.
Italian food done right. The staples (meatballs, bruschetta, ravioli) are executed flawlessly, and they also offer vegetarian options (try the vegetarian Pomodoro sauce). And the tiramisu is always delightful.
📍300 E. Ninth St., Ocean City, 📞 609-399-4937, 🌐 ocluigis.com, 🕑 Mon.-Sat. 5-9 p.m.
For the slightly more health-conscious, Hula offers terrific grilled seafood, specifically its ahi tuna. It also offers its own line of Hula sauces, including teriyaki and Hawaiian barbecue. It’s one of those restaurants that manages to multitask extremely well.
📍940 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 📞 609-399-2400, 🌐 hulasauces.com, 📷 @hularestaurant, 🕑 daily 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Hot, homemade doughnuts in the morning. That’s all you need to know.
📍110 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 📞 609-391-0677, 🌐 brownsocnj.com, 🕑 Sat.-Sun. 7 a.m.-noon.
A majority of visitors already know about Manco & Manco’s pizza and Kohr Bros. ice cream, but what about a place that does both and gets a lot less attention? Prep’s offers all of the specialty pizza pies, and carries all of the staple ice cream flavors, but has a unique twist: It makes homemade waffles, and pairs them beautifully with its ice cream selections. You’re welcome.
📍1004 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 📞 609-398-0636, 🌐 prepspizzeria.com, 📷 @preps_pizza, 🕑 Sun.-Fri. noon-5 p.m., Sat. noon-7 p.m.
The quaint eatery offers some eclectic menu options, including the consistently exceptional Vermont Lodge French toast for breakfast, and tasty “Nutty” Chicken Salad Sandwich for lunch. It also designs creative coffee concoctions, including a latte inspired by Kohr Bros. soft serve. Besides the sugary options, its cappuccino is made from an imported Cuban Roast. It’s open daily for breakfast and lunch and dinner is served from Wednesday to Saturday.
📍637 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, 📞 609-399-3377, 🌐 jonandpattys.com, 📷 @jonandpattys, 🕑 Sun.-Tue. 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Wed.-Sat. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Bob’s has occupied the last merchant spot on the south end of Ocean City’s boardwalk since 1928. Summer resident and former PA Governor Ed Rendell used to go there, with the late Lew Klein (Longport). Grace Kelly and her family lived 12 blocks south. Bradley Cooper is rumored to have ordered the egg-white omelet. And it also rents bikes and surreys.
📍1368 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 📞 609-399-3438, 🌐 bobsgrilloceancity.com, 📷 @bobsgrilloceancity, 🕑 Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
Bars and BYOBs
The blue laws that have long kept Ocean City’s restaurants from selling alcohol are starting to waver. Visitors can drink at open bars at The Flanders hotel and the Ocean City Yacht Club as long as they’re attending private parties, and the American Legion and the local VFW offer alcohol to veterans who are members. Some restaurants are working around 2012’s BYOB ban by turning their eateries, at least parts of them on select nights, into private dining clubs.
On dinner club nights, Captain Bob’s is known as the Foodie Club, where patrons are allowed to BYOB, provided they pay a fee to join the club.
📍9 E. 55th St., Ocean City, 📞 609-391-9292, 🌐 thefoodies6.com, 🕑 Fri. 5-8 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-1 p.m. for brunch and 5 p.m.-8 p.m. for dinner, Sun. 7 a.m.-1 p.m. for brunch.