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May 22, 2024

Ocean City: What you need to know about beaches and things to do there this summer

Where can you surf? How do you reserve a tee time at the Ocean City Municipal Golf Course? Do you need a beach tag? And answers to other questions about this popular Jersey Shore town.

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ocean city surf mall Jon Tuleya/PhillyVoice

The Ocean City Boardwalk is a hub activity and attractions at the popular Jersey Shore destination. The photo above shows the Surf Mall, on the boardwalk between 11th and 12th streets.

You may know Ocean City from its Baby Parade, the Night in Venice boat parade or even its newly minted celebrity. But there's a lot more to this Cape May County shore town, which bills itself as "America's Greatest Family Resort." 

Ocean City boasts 8 miles of beaches and 2 1/2 miles of boardwalk, all nestled on a barrier island between Great Egg Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. It's a dry town, which boosts its family-friendly image, and home to numerous amusement and water parks.

Here's everything else you need to know to enjoy a visit to Ocean City, including where to surf and buy beach tags:

MORE: 34th Street Market demolished in Ocean City after decades of renting bikes, serving ice cream

What are some things to do in Ocean City this summer?

The Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce maintains an online calendar of things to do there year-round. For those starting their 2024 Memorial Day weekend early, Ocean City holds the annual unlocking of the ocean and business persons plunge at noon on Friday, May 24, at at the Moorlyn Terrace beach. Participants dressed in business attire and carrying brief cases will march into the ocean as "Pomp and Circumstance" plays to mark the start of the summer season.

One of Ocean City's best-known events is Night in Venice, the July boat parade that occasionally enlists Philly media legends for grand marshal duties. It'll return Saturday, July 20, with a parrothead theme in tribute to Jimmy Buffett, who died last year. ESPN reporter and host Marty Smith, who owns a home in Ocean City, will be the grand marshal for the 2024 Night in Venice boat parade. This is the 69th year for the event.

Other annual festivities include the 61st Boardwalk Art Show from Aug. 2-4, where artists from the East Coast showcase (and sell) their works, and the Baby Parade on Thursday, Aug. 8, now in its 114th year. Ocean City will also host regular themed days like Wacky Wednesdays, which start June 3 and run through Aug. 7. The weekly event include fun competitions for children, like taffy sculpting, a pie eating contest and Christmas in July. There also are twice-weekly Mummers Nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays from July 2 through Aug. 29, when Philly's most colorful characters will strut the boardwalk.

The Ocean City POPS will perform at Music Pier throughout the season. The ensemble kicks of the season accompanied by Broadway legend Bernadette Peters on Sunday, June 30.

What are the attractions in Ocean City?

Scream and hold down your crab fries at your choice of two amusement parks in Ocean City. At one end of the boardwalk, there's Gillian's Wonderland Pier, a beach institution since 1929, and just a few blocks down, there's Playland's Castaway Cove, another old-timer that's still down one pirate ship after a 2021 fire. (The park says it will likely be finished in the off-season, and hopes the arcade will be fully restored later during the 2024 summer; everything else is open.) Also on the boardwalk is the OC Waterpark, which features slides and a lazy river. But it, too, has a rival across town: Totally Tubular Aqua Park, an inflatable collection of stairs, slides and ramps open for 45-minute sessions.

Ocean City has lots of mini golf, but for more serious duffers, the city also operates the 12-hole, par-37 Ocean City Municipal Golf Course. Club rentals are available and tee times can be reserved online. Bring your racquets to the pickleball courts at 18th Street and Haven Avenue, or pop an ollie at the skate park at 550 Asbury Avenue. Dogs can have their day, too, at a 42,000-square-foot enclosed park for pups at 45th Street and Haven Avenue.

Nature lovers in search of wildlife beyond jellyfish can check out Corson's Inlet State Park. There you'll find a protected nesting site for endangered birds including the black skimmer and piping plover, hiking trails and a more untamed beachscape. With the right permits, you can boat and fish, too, but swimming is not allowed.

Do you need a beach tag in Ocean City?

All beachcombers ages 12 and up must wear beach tags between June 1 and Sept. 2. Seasonal tags are available at a discounted $30 rate until May 31, but will climb to $35 in June. Weekly tags cost $20 and daily tags are $10.

Beach tags can be purchased online, through mail order or in person at city hall, the Henry Knight Building, Aquatic & Fitness Center and welcome centers at 46th Street and on Rt. 52. Weekly and daily tags also can be purchased from beach tag inspectors.

When are Ocean City's lifeguards on duty?

The Ocean City Beach Patrol watches the waves from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Guarded beaches are updated daily on the OCBP website, and there will be limited number guarded beaches during Memorial Day weekend.

What are the rules on Ocean City's beaches?

Bonfires, barbecue pits and alcohol are not allowed on Ocean City beaches. You also can't peddle, vape, smoke, walk on the dunes or drive a motor-powered vehicle on the sand. Tents and canopies are permitted, but they cannot exceed 10 feet by 10 feet or block public or emergency vehicle access. And your furry friends need to stay home: Dogs are banned from the beach anytime between May 1 and Sept. 30.

If you're looking to surf, the designated beaches to hang 10 are at Waverly Boulevard, Seventh and 16th streets or any stretch south of 36 Street where lifeguards stands are spaced three blocks apart.

Also, don't feed the seagulls.

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