THE VIBE It’s all about offspring in America’s Greatest Family Resort. I mean, the town is dry.
THE 411 The august Flanders Hotel now has an Internet lounge, Shriver’s has opened a gelateria, and last summer we spotted an oxygen lounge on the Boardwalk. (Ye gods!) But the $6 million that O.C. just poured into a major beach reclamation proves that underneath the newfangled bells and whistles, at the heart of this über-democratic oasis — where the guy who buys the duplex next door may be a doctor, a lawyer, or a really good plumber — is the sea and sand.
LOCAL LEGENDS The just-made apple-cider doughnuts at Oves, the Boardwalk stalwart that starts the day slinging pancakes and renting surreys, then morphs into a pricey seafood restaurant at night. The scrumptious macaroons and molasses paddles at George’s Candies. Dough-twirling hunks at Mack & Manco’s Pizza. Teenage boys on the Boardwalk, wheeling round to trail after hot girls like moths drawn to flame. Cinnamon buns (nuts and raisins, yes) from Wards Pastry. Over-the-top stuffed cheesesteaks from Voltaco’s on West Avenue. Lifeguards who make you reconsider your career path. Uniformed waitresses slowly biking home late at night.
A roster full of retro municipal events — Ocean City Pops concerts on the Music Pier, baby parades (this year’s will be the 99th!), sand-sculpting and kite-flying contests, the hoary Night in Venice boat parade (this year on 7/19). While Asbury Avenue has seen some nifty new emporiums open in recent years, there’s not much in the way of shopping beyond Boardwalk tchotchkes — but who comes to Ocean City to shop? Check the Chamber of Commerce website (oceancitychamber.com) for the town’s Mayberry-ish summer schedule. How could you live with yourself if you missed the chance to enter your darling in the Freckles Contest or the Little Miss O.C. Pageant?
WHAT’S NEW The ticket-takers at Gillian’s Wonderland pier have Eastern European accents. An off-leash doggie park opened in late 2006 at 45th and Haven. (Get a “Paw-Pass” at City Hall first! Cost: $10 a week; season $35.) That Shriver’s gelateria has six jillion flavors, all of which (we tasted) are rich and good. The Courtyard restaurant, with a menu ranging from Continental to vegetarian, has opened in the Homestead Hotel on 8th Street; among the owners is Arthur Weiler of Bustleton Avenue’s famed Arthur’s Catering. And while it’s not exactly new — it’s been around eight summers now — the farmer’s market is an under-the-radar gem that pushes Jersey produce, baked goods and crafts every Wednesday morning on the grounds of the Tabernacle church.
TYPICAL DAY Get up and get rolling: biking on the Boards is less of a mob scene the earlier you go. And if you’re taking young kids (and of course you are), think about a surrey or tandem bikes, for safety’s sake; there are always some Spandex-clad idiots out to prove their manhood. Grab cinnamon bun French toast or corned beef hash at the Beach Club Hotel, or stop anywhere along the boards where your nose says yes. (It may well be at Bob’s Grill, where Elvis and the Beach Boys would feel right at home. Can you say “Taylor Pork Roll”?) Head to the beach to work off those carbs, and hope the waves are right for boogie-boarding.
Midday, get your wee babes out of the sun — and go for sammies, fries and thick, rich Breyer’s shakes at Kessel’s Korner on Asbury, which, conveniently, is right around the corner from the so-square-it’s-cool Discovery Sea Shell Museum. Then muster the troops for a trip to the 34th Street playground, where they’ll run wild along the wooden walkways while you catch up on your reading on a nearby bench. (Show them the “whispering hole” that lets them trade secrets cross-playground.) After that, naptime!
If you’re lucky, they’ll sleep straight through dinner, so you can savor takeout crabcakes and calamari from chef Paul Raymond’s Ocean City Seafood Company on Asbury. Oh, it would be wasted on them anyway. Besides, you’re taking them back to the Boards for the obligatory rounds of frozen custard, Tilt-a-Whirl, bumper cars and carousel. They’ll be so comatose by the end that you’ll have to carry them to bed from the car.
NOTABLE SHOOBIES Ed Rendell, Gay Talese, Brian Westbrook.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT A big plastic tub of Johnson’s caramel popcorn. Order it without the lid — you nab more kernels.