Founded over a century ago by Methodist minsters, Ocean City has always been seen as a shore town where families and friends can spend time together in a safe, relaxing environment. With close to a million visitors every year, Ocean City was recently named “America’s Happiest Seaside Town.” Here are 15 reasons why Ocean City, New Jersey (OCNJ) should be your family’s next vacation destination.
These beaches are covered in white sand, surrounded by shimmering water and usually filled with sunshine. Families and friends scatter across the eight miles of beaches building sand castles, swimming in the waves, or catching a quick nap before the next activity. With guarded beaches and first aid stations, Ocean City makes it easy to relax and enjoy the sea air.
© Simply Rikkles
Most likely OCNJ’s most popular feature, its two-and-a-half-mile boardwalk is the perfect place for endless ocean views and family fun. While walking on the boardwalk, visitors can stop into a variety of different shops, restaurants, and activities. Whether it is grabbing a slice of pizza, enjoying the fresh salt water taffy, or playing a round of miniature golf, families always lose track of time while walking the boards.
After getting a quick bite to eat or finding the perfect Ocean City sweatshirt, many are ready to have fun at the two great amusement parks right on the boardwalk. Gillian’s Wonderland Pier and Playland’s Castaway Cove both offer kids of all ages the opportunity to smile. Both amusement parks have Ferris wheels that offer unimaginable views of the whole island. With so many rides to choose from, and the location being so convenient, these amusement parks never fail to make a good time great.
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4. Water Sports
For those craving a little more fun on the water, Ocean City offers many different opportunities for a good time no matter what your experience level is. Boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, kite boarding, and windsurfing are some of the many water sports people can be seen enjoying in the bay and ocean. Many businesses offer rentals, as well as lessons, for these activities. Whether it is an hourly, half-day, full day, or weekly rental, these activities are great way to get out and enjoy the amazing waterways OCNJ has to offer.
© Peter Miller
5. Downtown District
The downtown-shopping district is where you can find most people when the sun decides not to shine or when they need a rest from wondering the boards. With over 100 shops and cafes, it is hard not to walk away with something new. The shops, which are located midway in between the beach and bay along Asbury Avenue, include everything visitors and homeowners need and want.
6. Dry Town
Adding to the family atmosphere, Ocean City is a “dry” town. No alcohol is sold on the island and public drinking is not allowed. Most restaurants welcome customers to bring in their own beer and wine while dining. This is a rather unique element to the island that parents greatly value; they appreciate having the ability to enjoy their vacation in a safe, family friendly environment.
7. Family Fun
With so many options to choose from, being bored while visiting OCNJ is virtually unheard of. Beyond the usual rides and attractions, the town even hosts numerous family events throughout the year to keep everyone busy. From annual events like the Unlocking of the Ocean and the 4th of July Bike Parade, to weekly summer activities like Funtastic Tuesdays and Wacky Wednesdays where families are invited to come out and join in on taffy sculpting, pie eating contests, face painting, and balloon sculpting, there is never a dull moment. These events keep the children interested and parents wishing they caught a few extra minutes of sleep on the beach.
© Carly Schwartz
8. Bicycle Friendly
After eating all the homemade ice cream and salt-water taffy, it is usually a good idea to get in some exercise, and bicycling is always an option in OCNJ. People are welcome to ride on the boardwalk every morning until 12:00 PM. There are also several safe bike paths that are very well maintained throughout the island, for those non-early risers. Renting a bicycle or surrey is always easy, as there are many local rental shops scattered across the island.
OCNJ owns and operates a 12-hole golf course that is open to the public of all ages. It is a fun and affordable way to spend time with friends and family and maybe get some friendly competition started. Golf bags, clubs, handcarts and riding carts can all be rented from the course. For those miniature golf lovers, do not worry, the island offers an array of different miniature golf courses. Whether looking for family bonding or a good date-night or a group activity, golfing is always a welcomed answer.
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The Ocean City Music Pier, which is located on the boardwalk, holds fun events that gather families together, like the annual Mr. Mature America competition, as well as shows and concerts from professionals like the famed Beach Boys. With affordable tickets, parents have the choice of bringing the kids, or maybe enjoying a special date night. There is also an Art Center on the pier that allows people to admire the work of local artists, and maybe bring home a piece of OCNJ.
11. Variety of Places to Stay
Ocean City is filled with numerous overnight accommodations. For those wishing to visit for a week, or longer, and to experience private living, there are lovely vacation rentals available throughout the island. For those visiting for perhaps a shorter time frame, hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts are always a good option. And, for families that are split between a beach vacation and a camping trip, OCNJ has the perfect solution; there are campgrounds on the island for those who prefer to sleep in a sleeping bag.
12. Delicious Foods
It is virtually impossible to go hungry in Ocean City. Bakeries, candy stories, ice cream parlors, and restaurants surround visitors as they walk the boardwalk or wander through town. From crab cakes to tacos to sticky buns and homemade donuts, there are numerous places to satisfy your Jersey shore cravings.
13. Recreational Facilities
As you drive, bike, or walk along the island it is hard not to notice the abundant recreational facilities along the way. Tennis courts, basketball courts, and skate boarding parks are always available to get in a quick game or match and have a little fun. There are also many private fitness locations that offer daily and weekly passes to their facilities and classes, like yoga and aerobics. And, for those with furry friends, have no fear–there are several dog parks conveniently located throughout town to give Fido a romp with his friends.
© Peter Miller
OCNJ is definitely one of the better locations for surfing on the east coast. In addition to the gradually sloped beaches, the waters and shorelines provide a safe place for surfers to paddle out. Surfers are also offered an opportunity to surf on guarded beaches, as well as exclusively, unguarded beaches. Many local shops are stocked up on rental boards and offer inexperienced surfers lessons. People who dream of becoming a surfer, or who just enjoy watching, often stop by the Ocean City beaches to take it all in.
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15. Proximity to Other Points of Interest
Ocean City’s location along the New Jersey shoreline makes it a convenient spot for many families in the surrounding metropolitan areas to take just a short drive to reach this sandy oasis. The town’s convenient proximity to neighboring cities, such as Atlantic City, Wildwood and Cape May, allow day (and evening!) trips to other places of interest while staying on the island.