Sun, Sand, and Smiles
A Chol Hamoed Adventure in Ocean City
Compiled and Photographed by Sarah Einhorn of BeenThereDoneThatTrips.com
There are not many opportunities when we are able to enjoy a beach vacation as a frum family. One of the best times to visit is at the start of the off-season, when the weather is not too cold to enjoy the ocean. Chol Hamoed Sukkos often lends to such a trip. This year, with four uninterrupted weekday days of Chol Hamoed, there are excellent opportunities for overnight trips.
Ocean City, a peninsula jutting out of Maryland, was one of our favorite Chol Hamoed Sukkos overnight trips. In relatively close proximity of most big communities in the Tri-State area, it offers an amazingly fun experience. There is nothing like waking up to a brilliant sunrise over the water.
During our visit in October, many of the regular Ocean City attractions such as the amusement parks, boating, and water sports were closed for the season, but there was still plenty for us to do. We were lucky to have sunny days in the low 70s, while back home most days were rainy.
We stayed in one of the many hotels overlooking the ocean in a two-bedroom suite with a kitchenette, and the price was very affordable. The hotel was just a couple of minutes’ drive from the local Chabad Center, where Rabbi Cohen and his family are extremely hospitable. They opened their home and very large sukkah to all the visitors. (There was another small sukkah for visitors right outside the shul.) Chol Hamoed is the busiest season for the Cohens. They make all feel welcome and are delighted by all the visitors they have.
Approximate distance from Flatbush: 4 hours
Chabad Lubavitch Center of Eastern Shore
13719 Coastal Highway
Ocean City, MD 21842
Things to Do:
Cape May-Lewes Ferry
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry is a great way to break up the long ride to Ocean City. Reservations must be made online, so be sure to book early and arrive at the terminal at least 30 minutes before departure. The ferry crosses each direction four times a day.
We couldn’t work it out on our way to Ocean City, so we decided to take the ferry on the way back. The ferry terminal in Delaware is located within the Cape Henlopen State Park. I wanted to get there early to spend some time at the park, but we didn’t make it. At least we made it in time for the boat!
When we arrived at the terminal, we were directed to a lane where we waited in our car to board. Once we parked on the ferry, we exited our car (which remained accessible to us during the ride) and immediately went onto the deck to get a view of the water and enjoy the fresh sea air. People told us that it is common to see dolphins when approaching Cape May, but we weren’t lucky enough to see them. When we exited the boat, we noticed a playground at the terminal.
All in all, we really enjoyed the ferry ride and felt like we had a bonus trip while we were driving home.
Address of Lewes Terminal:
43 Cape Henlopen Drive
Lewes, DE 19958
Address of Cape May Terminal:
1200 Lincoln Blvd
North Cape May, NJ 08204
Check online for the schedule and price. There is a vehicle fee as well as a fee per person.
Ocean City Boardwalk
The Ocean City Boardwalk is a prominent area featuring ocean access and as well as many shops and activities.
The 3-mile boardwalk starts at the inlet – the end of the Ocean City Peninsula – and ends at 27th Street. If you do not want to walk the whole length, there are many exits on the side streets along the way. In the middle of the Boardwalk at North Division Street is the famous Boardwalk Arch. On the sand, a few feet from the arch, is a small, enclosed playground. Ripley’s Believe It or Not is located at one end. There are also many arcades and several bicycle rentals to choose from. The Boardwalk is definitely a happening place.
From the inlet to 27th Street
24 hours a day
Access to the Boardwalk is free. Some activities cost money.
Dandy Don’s Bike Rentals
There are a few bike rentals in the area, but we couldn’t have been happier with the service and the bikes from Dandy Don’s. The establishment is famous for its excellent service, and we definitely experienced it as each person was fitted with a bicycle and helmet.
In addition to their regular standard bikes, Dandy Don’s offers tandem bikes, large and regular surreys, and a bike called the Front Rider with a seat in the front that can be used for a child and is handicap friendly. They also offer what’s called the Boardwalk Car, which resembles an antique car and requires pedaling by two people.
The boardwalk was a great place to enjoy the bikes. Dandy Don’s is located in the middle of the Boardwalk on 12th Street under the Howard Johnson Hotel. There was plenty of space to ride in both directions with views of the magnificent ocean all along.
1109 Atlantic Avenue
Ocean City, MD 21842
Check online for the various prices and options.
9:00 A.M.- 4:00 P.M.
Alley Oops Midtown
One evening, we wanted to go bowling, but none of the local alleys were open. That’s when we discovered Alley Oops, a family-friendly restaurant that also offers arcade games and mini bowling. When we walked in, we were amazed to see a huge tank filled with large sharks near the tables. The staff were very helpful and showed us how to purchase game cards for both activities. We enjoyed a bowling game before heading to the many arcades. We also noticed an XD dark ride although we didn’t try it.
5509 Coastal Highway
Ocean City, MD 21842
Hours and Price:
Check online for current hours and prices.
Assateague Island National Seashore
Assateague Island was the place I was most excited to visit. It is 37 miles long and is just below Ocean City on the tip of Maryland and partially in the state of Virginia. Interestingly, part of the island is considered a state park, while the rest is a national park. The entire island is famous for the wild horses that roam its beaches.
During our visit, we were fascinated to see horses fighting in the middle of the road, inches from the cars. We did not get to see horses walking along the pristine beaches like the pictures I saw online, but we did get to see horses playing and eating at the bayside. Posted signs warned us to stay 40 feet away for our safety. We watched an amusing scene when a horse blocked the door of the bathroom while someone was inside. Later, while the horses were grazing behind the bathroom building, someone turned on the outdoor water pump to wash his hands, and the horses came galloping over. Everyone quickly moved away as the horses drank their fill, apparently preferring tap water over the salty ocean water!
The island is not only about horses. There are beautiful swimming beaches, bird-watching areas, and nature areas. There are also camping grounds. We visited the national park area, so I do not know how the other sections of the island compare, but it was so enjoyable that I had difficulty leaving. I loved the natural beauty, and the horses were a wonderful bonus.
7206 National Seashore Lane
Berlin, MD 21811
Open 24 Hours
Vehicle: $25.00 for a 7-day pass; $45 for an annual pass
Other fees may apply; see website for details.
Carousel Ice Skating Rink
There aren’t many year-round activities in Ocean City, since most of them are outdoor. The Carousel Ice Rink, located within the atrium of the Carousel Hotel, is open daily no matter the season. We actually stayed in the Carousel Hotel when we visited Ocean City. We had the benefit of the ice rink right in our lobby, and we also enjoyed a discounted skating rate as were hotel guests. The rink itself is quite small, but enjoyable. When we were there, it was empty most of the time. The rink has skates for rent as well as walkers to aid beginners.
11700 Coastal Highway
Ocean City, MD 21842
Check online for current hours.
Hotel Guests – $6.00; Non-Guests – $8.00
Ice Skates Rental:
Hotel Guests – $4.00; Non-Guests – $6.00
Game World Mini Golf and Arcades
There are mini golf courses at practically every second corner on Ocean City’s Coastal Highway, each more elaborate than the next. Most were closed when we visited, but there were a couple to choose from. We chose Game World, which features a beautiful 18-hole course with streams and fountains meandering throughout. We were happy to see a sign that they accept competitors’ coupons, so we were able to enjoy ourselves at the best price.
Once we finished our game, we enjoyed arcade games at the onsite pizzeria. Our kids were thrilled when they received extra prizes for their tickets from the kind owner. Game World also had a large laser tag arena, which we did not try during our visit.
107 146th Street
Ocean City, MD 21842
Call or check online for current hours.
Price for Mini Golf:
Ages 7+: $10 per game; Under 7: $9 per game
Check online for laser tag and arcade prices.
Grand Prix Go Karts
There are many amusement parks in Ocean City. Most close by Labor Day, and some open during weekends after that. Grand Prix has amusements in the summer, but when we visited in the fall, only the go- karting was open. That was perfect for us because we were on our way to Assateague Island and just wanted to experience some of the fun go- karting that Grand Prix is especially famous for.
Grand Prix has seven go- karting tracks for all ages, heights, and abilities including race karts that can go up to 30 MPH, the fastest in Ocean City. There is a Kiddie Track for children up to 40″ tall. There are family tracks as well, on which children eight years of age and 52″ are allowed to drive single-seat carts; younger passengers may ride alongside an adult in a double-seat car. Two more tracks – the Super Cyclone and the Grand Prix – are made just for those above age 12 and 56”.
12424 Ocean Gateway
Ocean City, MD 21842
Check online for the current hours and price options.
We arrived at Northside Park with perfect timing to watch the sun set over the bay. The 58-acre park, the largest in Ocean City, has so much to do for all ages. There are walking paths along the water and two piers. There are a variety of sports fields, including three lighted baseball fields, a lighted soccer field, a multipurpose field, picnic tables and of course a large playground designed for all ages. There is also an outdoor “gym” – a fenced-in area near the playground with an impressive variety of manual exercise equipment. This area was fun and challenging and is definitely worth a visit.
200 125th Street
Ocean City, MD 21842
Open 24 hours
Assawoman Recreation Area – Fenwick Island State Park
After our trip to Northside Park, we wanted to watch an unobstructed sunset over the water, so we decided to drive over to Fenwick Island State Park, a few minutes up the road from where we were staying in Ocean City. The park is on a strip of land between the ocean and Little Assawoman Bay. The Assawoman Recreation Area is a small park on the side of the bay, with a bench and picnic table, right by a parking lot that goes right up to the beach sand. It’s a tiny alcove of natural beauty with insane views of the sunset. Some locals who were sitting there said that they often see cars barreling in to catch a glimpse of the magnificent colors as the sun sets. We were so glad we discovered this little area of beauty.
284 Coastal Highway
Fenwick Island, DE 19944
Food Packing Tips
Many people find packing food for a trip a daunting task, especially when there aren’t kosher restaurants, takeouts, or grocery stores. The more I travel, the easier it gets to pack up food and equipment. By now I have quite a system that works for me, thanks to my trusty lists.
My first priority is to find a place to stay with a kitchenette, preferably with a full-sized refrigerator and freezer. I usually stay in an Airbnb or VRBO home or in a hotel suite. If I travel for a short time and do not have enough refrigerator space, I use a cooler with ice (Most hotels have ice machines; otherwise, gas stations usually sell ice.).
I usually travel with two Betty Crocker Pizza Makers, one for milchig and one for fleishig, which can be used to bake, fry, and reheat food. You can prepare almost everything on these, from eggs, pizza, and French fries, to hamburgers, fish, and chicken.
I sometimes kasher the electric stove according to the instructions of my Rav. (Always check with your own LOR.) In these instances, I bring a pot and cook rice, noodles, or couscous.
Crock Pots are practical if you stay for Shabbos or if you want to put in food to cook in the morning and have a meal ready when you return in the evening.
I sometimes bring an urn for coffee and noodle soups. Alternatively, I cook hot water in a pot.
Some basic kitchen utensils I bring with are sharp knives; milchig and fleishig forks, knives, and spoons for cooking; a can opener; and silver foil and tape for covering counters.
To figure out what foods and ingredients to bring, I first decide on a meal plan for each day and add snack items. I also have a list of perishable items (packed a large cooler for travel), non-perishables, and kitchen items.
Breakfast consists of whole wheat crackers, cereal and milk, eggs, and veggies.
Lunch is sandwiches or noodle soup. My packing list includes items such as bread and bagels, cream cheese, lox, tuna, mayonnaise, lettuce, pickles, noodle soup, and a travel thermos.
Supper ideas include fried chicken cutlets (prepared and frozen at home), meat, sloppy Joes, salmon, and frozen pizza. Sometimes, I prepare meat and potatoes in a Crock Pot, and of course, there are always cold cut sandwiches for travel days.
To simplify all the shlepping, especially on a longer trip, I place a pickup order at the nearest Walmart Superstore to our destination. I order basics like water, eggs, ketchup, and paper goods, and toiletries like shampoo and soap. I try to avoid shopping once I arrive at my destination. I want to have more time to spend having fun, and it takes time to shop in stores you aren’t familiar with.
I save my lists from trip to trip so that I do not forget important items.
2 Betty Crockers
milchig/fleishig/pareve sharp knife
milchig + fleishig fork/knife/spoon
frozen French fries
travel hot water thermos
crock pot bags
containers/pans for leftovers
baby corn cans