Each year hundreds of thousands of visitors travel near and far just to visit Ocean City’s Boardwalk. Ocean City’s year round population of 15,400 grows tenfold to 150,000 in the summer. The City has many attractions including a thriving downtown shopping district, attractive neighborhoods, over a hundred eateries, eight miles of beaches and a beautiful bay front. For many, it is a family tradition filled with anticipation up to the moment you step onto “the Boards.” From April through October the Boardwalk offers endless opportunities for wholesome family fun and entertainment. November through March offers a slower pace, many seasonal sales and holiday special events.
In the early days Ocean City was known as Peck’s Beach, an eight-mile stretch of sand dunes, meadows and cedar swamps named for John Peck, a whaler who used the island as a staging spot for his whaling operation. The island had served as a summer fishing camp for local Native Americans, a grazing land for cattle driven out from the mainland and an occasional hunting or picnic spot for mainland residents who would come out by boat.
September 10, 1879, four ministers, Ezra B. Lake, James Lake, S. Wesley Lake and William Burrell chose the island as a suitable spot to establish a Christian retreat. Having chosen the name “Ocean City”, the founders incorporated the “Ocean City Association”, laid out street and lots for cottages, hotel and businesses. From these beginnings Ocean City has grown into the town as it exists today. The first bridge was built to the island in 1883, while the first railroad soon followed. The first school began in 1881. The boardwalk grew and was relocated several times. A large fire in 1927 changed the town significantly.
The Boardwalk starts buzzing early in the morning. Spanning two and a half miles, it becomes an open-air wooden by-way for biking, walking, jogging and people watching (distance is conveniently marked every quarter mile). For safety and comfort during the summer months from mid June to Labor Day, bike traffic is limited to between the hours of 5 am and 12 noon. In the off-season, residents and visitors are free to enjoy riding on the boardwalk around the clock. The boardwalk is an incredible place to take in the ocean views and sea breezes.
The Boardwalk is alive with excitement well into the evening. From 6th to 14th Street you will find two family amusement parks that boast large Ferris Wheels that can be seen from miles around, with views of Ocean City and the surrounding communities from the top. Other a ttractions include roller coasters, go-carts, a water park, bumper cars, water rides, and two movie theatres. Miniature golf theme parks become fantasy island adventures featuring waterfalls, man-eating sharks, pirate folklore and more.
Monday nights include the Stockton Goes to the Beach Summer Concert Series with name artists performing and Tuesday night hosts Radio Disney on the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk hosts over two dozen, runs and bike events to support fundraising activities.
Every Thursday on the Boardwalk in July and August is “Family Night,” with live entertainment and celebrations along every block. This free entertainment is the Boardwalk Merchants Associations’ gift to their visitors who will each find something they love from the great variety of choices. Dance with classic, pop and oldies bands, get serenaded by a strolling barbershop quartet, have your face painted, enjoy free yo-yo demonstrations, try your hand at karaoke or figuring out the latest trick by the roving magicians or simply sit and enjoy the sounds of the strolling string band. Whatever your pleasure may be, the Boardwalk Merchants hope you enjoy your present.
For those who crave shopping, the Boardwalk offers the latest in brand name clothing, resort wear, jewelry, vacation essentials, novelty and specialty items – many unique to Ocean City. From homemade fudge and salt water taffy to antique collectibles or books for lazy afternoon reading, shopping can be a daily event or an end-of-season savings event just in time for holiday gift giving. Ocean City traditions include Mack & Manco’s Pizza, Johnson’s Popcorn, and Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy.
Ocean City is a green community and this effort is very evident on the Boardwalk. Over 150 blue recycling containers line the Boardwalk. Cloth bags are sold at the Music Pier Information Center to encourage our visitors to use reusable bags instead of paper or plastic. The Civic Center on the Boardwalk at 6 th Street is powered by solar energy along with five other City buildings.
Ocean City is known for its creative and family friendly events and there is nothing better than attending an event on the Boardwalk. Fourth of July is the biggest event on the Ocean City Boardwalk with a fabulous fireworks display choreographed to music that can be seen and heard the entire length of the walk. The fireworks are launched from a barge in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast at 9 th Street. Year round special events spice up the Boardwalk experience. The Music Pier, a historic boardwalk auditorium, is the site of many concerts featuring a full range of musical styles for every generation’s pleasure. The Ocean City Pops, the only municipal owned Pops Orchestra in the country, entertains crowds 35 times a year. The Music Pier is also the home of the Ocean City Theater Company. The Miss New Jersey Pageant as well as many other pageants have continued to be hosted at the OCNJ Music Pier.
Parades are another fun boardwalk traditions including the traditional Easter Parade, Doo Dah Parade, the parade of Miss New Jersey contestants, high school marching bands, and a parade of vintage and classic cars. New automobiles are showcased at the Annual Auto Show. Other events not to be missed include the Spring and Fall Family Fun Fests, the 46 th Annual Boardwalk Art Show and the oldest Baby Parade, celebrating its 100 th Anniversary this year, where children from newborns to school age showcase their cuteness and creativity. The Acrobatic Air Show provides entertainment each September and hayrides help celebrate the fall on the famed Boardwalk. Finally, thousands of residents and guests pack the Boardwalk to begin and end their year with Ocean City’s First Night New Year’s Eve celebration and New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge.