Take a drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and then follow the highway to the far eastern point. On a barrier island in the Atlantic, just south of the Delaware border, Ocean City is one of the most fun-loving destinations in the mid-Atlantic.
Plenty of sand, a plethora of beach resorts and a long and busy boardwalk make Ocean City a classic beach town for youth groups. In addition to fun in the sun, student groups traveling in the area will enjoy an energetic atmosphere as well as some educational opportunities at attractions along the coast.
A number of islands around Ocean City afford opportunities for exploring nature. One of the most popular is Assateague Island, which is about a 15-minute drive from downtown.
Assateague Island is a natural barrier island with marshlands, grasslands, dunes, beaches and plentiful recreational opportunities. The island is famous for its herd of wild ponies that can be seen running from point to point; legend has it that the ponies are descendents of horses that arrived on the island when Spanish galleons were shipwrecked there.
The island is also home to Assateague Island National Seashore, where national and state park rangers offer a variety of environmental programs for groups.
Several major festivals each year bring out the best in Ocean City. During the first weekend in May, the entire city turns out for Springfest, a four-day festival full of food, crafts, entertainment and sunshine.
Springfest takes place under big-top tents set up in the inlet shopping area. Attendees will find constant music and hundreds of arts and crafts vendors. During the daytime, admission is free; national touring musicians headline the paid concerts at night.
In late September, the city hosts Sunfest, a similar event that emphasizes fall decorations and activities with pumpkin-carving contests and other autumn highlights. During the holiday season, Winterfest illuminates the town with nautical-themed light displays.
Among the biggest Ocean City attractions for students is the boardwalk, an early-20th-century installation that features a traditional wooden walkway and modern entertainment.
Young people will enjoy the many amusements and arcades on the boardwalk, including an antique carousel and a thrilling roller coaster. A traditional Ferris wheel on the pier gives riders a bird’s-eye view of the barrier island, and visitors can play a host of midway-style games along the three-mile boardwalk.
Ocean City’s boardwalk is so renowned that both the Travel Channel and USA Today have named it one of the best boardwalks in America.
This oceanfront destination has some serious history, too, and one of the best places to learn about the city’s nautical past is at the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum.
At the south end of the boardwalk, the museum displays the city’s colorful past with exhibits of shipwrecks, old-fashioned beachwear, mermaid displays and sands from around the world. The early-20th-century building uses aquarium tanks and other interactive elements to teach visitors about historic shipwrecks and the early Surfmen, forerunners of today’s Coast Guard.
Youth groups will enjoy a new exhibit that details the story of the city’s famous boardwalk. The exhibit uses touch-screen displays that give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at some boardwalk institutions.
One of the newest attractions in the Ocean City area is the Delmarva Discovery Center, a multimillion-dollar heritage and cultural museum that educates visitors on the lower Eastern Shore environment and what life was like for the area’s early settlers.
The museum sits on the banks of the Pocomoke River and covers a variety of topics related to the area’s natural and human history. Exhibits focus on river ecology, local Native American culture and historical activities such as fishing, trading and shipbuilding.
The museum also hosts a number of special events and arts workshops, including classes in watercolor and acrylic painting and drawing.
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