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Best Things To Do in Ocean City

AOL PICK from our Editors
Most people come to Ocean City to sit on the beach, play in the water and eat copious amounts of greasy food. Within that equation you can add a few variables: buying a cheesy T-shirt, getting obliterated in one of the OC’s many bars or, in a greener vein, relaxing amid the wild horses on Assateague Island. We’re the types of folks who can only take so much beach bumming, so we recommend taking a day to get out to Berlin and Snow Hill. Otherwise, order up some French fries and save us a slice of pizza.

Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum

Neighborhood: Snow Hill
Hidden away in a lonely forest of loblolly pines 10 minutes northwest of
6556047
Snow Hill are the remains of Nassawango Hills, a village that grew around an iron smelting furnace built in 1829. The furnace and Nassawango flourished for two decades, but in 1850 the furnace, and by extension, the surrounding community vanished. In the 1960s the remains of "Furnace Town" were turned into a cool open-air museum, almost as interesting for its deserted isolation as its costumed interpreters and restored buildings. Nineteenth-century artisans—blacksmith, weaver, spinner, etc.—ply their trades for curious tourists. Peer around and you catch sight of Sampson Harmon, Furnace Town’s last living resident. Born in bondage in then-slave holding Maryland, Hat died a free man in an alms house at the ripe age of 107 (give or take). He longed to be buried in his old home of Furnace Town, where he lived in isolation for years, and his ghost is still seen loping through the woods and within the reconstructed village.

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Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum  

The Boardwalk

Neighborhood: South Ocean City
The Ocean City Boardwalk is one of America’s great exemplars of the seaside, wooden slat, pedestrian thoroughfare genre. It begins at the Ocean City inlet and runs north roughly 2.5 miles to 27th Street. All along the way are carnival-style attractions, arcade parlors, food stalls—most serving some variation on pizza, fries or some form of fried seafood. You’ll also find bars, ice cream parlors and the tackiest T-shirts in the universe. To your east is the beach, a fat ribbon of pale yellow sand, and the Atlantic Ocean, with waves that are good for body surfing and occasionally decent for real surfing, although the breaks are too small and too close to shore to really ride anything the vast majority of the time.

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The Boardwalk  

Snow Hill

Neighborhood: Snow Hill
About 25 miles south of Ocean City, Snow Hill is even smaller than Berlin, and arguably cuter. Not in the lacy, antique goodness and boutique art galleries kinda way, although these things are certainly present here, if in reduced number. But Snow Hill can feel prettier than Berlin because it feels more genuine and less geared toward tourists. There’s a glut of picturesque historical heritage homes, but there’s also an older side of town that hasn’t been spruced up for day-trippers. You can experience the best of Eastern Shore natural beauty in nearby Pocomoke River State Park, stroll the old school Main Street and easily lose an hour in the quirky Julia A. Purnell Museum, a sort of warehouse for all the eclectic stuff ever collected in Worcester County, Md.

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Snow Hill  

Trimper's Rides of Ocean City

Neighborhood: South Ocean City
There are all kinds of amusement park-style attractions in Ocean City, and they all offer similar levels and types of thrills, chills and spills. There’s go-kart racing, laser tag, mini golf and more. While this stuff might appeal more to kids, you can’t help but act like a kid when you visit Ocean City, so don’t be shy in getting your ride on. We recommend Trimper’s Rides, both for their carny quality and the sheer nostalgia old school Trimper's exudes. Anchoring the south end of the Boardwalk, Trimper’s is a motley, lovable collection of fun houses, roller coasters and the famous Trimper’s Haunted House, which has been around since 1964 and is, without exaggeration, a shared childhood memory across much of Delmarva.

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Life-Saving Station Musuem

Neighborhood: South Ocean City
This museum, located in the old life-saving station building, gives a pretty exhaustive and fascinating peak into how 19th- and early-20th-century maritime rescue operations worked. Before becoming a beach resort, Ocean City was both a commercial fishing port and major outpost of Atlantic life savers, an early form of modern rescue swimmers. The coast and the ocean itself were treacherous, and shipwrecks once littered the waterways around Delmarva. On the second floor there are intimate collections of OC historical bric-a-brac—old swim suits (can you believe that men used to wear leather trunks?), knickknacks, tchotchkes, magazine spreads, etc.—which all serves to humanize and personalize the history behind one of the East Coast’s most beloved beach resorts.

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Life-Saving Station Musuem  

Assateague Island

Neighborhood: Berlin
Despite the fact (or maybe because) Ocean City is, woefully over-developed, the prime attraction here is a call back to the unspoiled nature of an Atlantic barrier island. Assateague is a protected slash of wind-tossed, soft-shouldered dunes, hairy wild grass, and a herd of small horses that are some of the most-photographed equines in the world. The Assateague herd is supposedly descended from survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast, but there is no hard evidence to back this much-loved folk tale. The equines are small, tough and lovely to look at, but they are wild. While they’re used to visitors, you’re endangering yourself and the animals if you try to feed or pet them. The island extends south into Virginia, where its name changes to Chincoteague (Shink-oh-teeg). The north end of Assateague, 8 miles south of OC, is a Maryland state park. Running south it becomes a federally run National Seashore, and then, in Virginia, a national wildlife refuge, the entrance to which is technically 60 miles from Ocean City.

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Assateague Island  

Ocean Gallery

Neighborhood: South Ocean City
Ocean Gallery! It’s Amazing! It’s Astounding! It’s Filled With Signs That Make Similar Statements With Lots Of Exclamation Points!!! Despite the over-exclamation, it’s Actually A Fantastic Example Of American Eccentricity And Folk Art! It’s the most recognizable building on the Boardwalk, a cube encased in the manic decorative stylings (shrine to Michael Jackson and improvised Batmobile) of founder Joe KroArt. Joe’s a madman in the best sense of the word—a man who marches to his own drum, which he beats so loudly you can’t help but follow along. Inside, the gallery is a cluttered mess of artwork ranging from cheap posters found on dorm room walls to expensive prints to a few unexpected originals. It’s one of our favorite places on the beach.

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Ocean Gallery  

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum

Neighborhood: South Ocean City
Even though we tend to lean toward the "or Not" camp and remain stiff skeptics, we have to admit the Believe It or Not Museum as a whole is pretty enjoyable. It’s kitsch, of course, but intentional kitsch, and the young (and young at heart) will easily enjoy themselves. There are museums that seek to educate us and museums that seek an eye pop because they just showed you some incredible stuff. Here, that comes in the form of things like a real shrunken head from South America or an engraved bear skull from Borneo. Be prepared to be amused, repulsed, romanticized and educated all at the same time.

DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum

Neighborhood: North Ocean City
This small museum is a nice example of what a dedicated enthusiast can pull off with a little time and some floor space above a seashell shop. DiscoverSea is a shipwreck museum that’s pretty much entirely the love child of director Dale W. Clifton Jr. and some dedicated supporters. Clifton dives shipwrecks and recovers all of the artifacts in DiscoverSea himself, which adds to the intimacy of this small space. There’s just something ineffably cool and Indiana Jones-ish about Dale and the real Spanish doubloons on display. It’s just over the border in Delaware, and we think well worth a detour off the beach.

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DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum
 

Berlin

Neighborhood: Berlin
About 10 minutes west of the OC is the supremely charming small town of Berlin. Warm, red-brick buildings downtown; elegant federal-style houses throughout; an almost frightening concentration of art galleries and antique shops. It’s like someone took a chick flick and somehow morphed it into a living, breathing small town. "Runaway Bride" and "Tuck Everlasting" were filmed here. We’re trying to come up with an appropriate way of conceptualizing Berlin’s cuteness. Basically, imagine a kitten dozing off on your grandma’s favorite 19th-century heirloom drawer and you’ve got an idea of how sweet it is. This is our favorite option for a day (or weekend trip) away from the beach; a new winery has just opened, Victorian Christmas makes December impossibly romantic and the town annually hosts a huge fiddler’s convention.

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Berlin  
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