No matter where visitors stay in Ocean City, they seem to make at least one pilgrimage to the boardwalk. To some, the boardwalk's function is simply to supply everything the happy beachgoer needs -- from beach towels to boogie boards. For others, especially on bad beach days, the boardwalk is an attraction in itself, with diversions from arcade games to souvenir shopping.
This year, though, the 100-year-old resort landmark looks a little different. You'll find that the 2.8-mile boardwalk now is 32 feet wide (before it was only that wide below 10th Street).
There's also a 3-foot-high concrete seawall that's been added from Fourth Street north to the boardwalk's end at 27th Street. And for joggers and strollers, there are markers every quarter mile so they can measure their progress.
But no matter what your interest, you'll find something fun to do on the boards.
Here's an alphabetical listing to help you find some of the more unusual offerings while enjoying a little of its history.
Arcades: Step right up and try your hand at any of the dozens of games of chance available on the southern end of the boardwalk and the amusement pier. Among the nightly hot spots are Marty's Playland at Worcester Street; Sportland, one block north; Fun City at Caroline Street; Ocean City Bingo at Fifth Street; and the Funcade and Ocean casinos between Ninth and 10th streets.
Atlantic Hotel: Opened July 4, 1875, the original Atlantic Hotel was the town's first beachfront resort. It burned down in a fire that destroyed many boardwalk businesses on New Year's Eve, 1925.
The current hotel at Somerset Street, now partly hidden by storefronts on the boardwalk side, was built in 1926.
Bears: Bear Friends & Company, one of the Inlet Village shops, has more than 5,000 teddy bears, including a cuddly 4-foot-tall fellow that sells for $385. The shop also caters to collectors, offering several rare bear lines such as Steiff, "the Rolls Royce of teddy bears," according to manager Anne Jarvis.
Bikes: From May 30 to Sept. 5, bicycles are allowed on the boardwalk only from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. If you didn't lug your own to the beach, you can rent one for $2 to $5 an hour, depending on the type of bike.
Rental locations include the Ocean Park Motel at 17th Street, outside the Surf & Sands Motel at 23rd Street and near the 27th Street end of the boards.
Frank Cole, rental manager of Bike World, which rents from locations at Caroline Street and 15th Street, says the best times to ride are weekends and mornings before 8 a.m., when the boards are less crowded and you have a better selection of bikes available at the rental places.
Elvis: Yup, Elvis is back and Ocean City's got him. Norman Webb, who dresses in cowboy hat, boom box and "I Brake for Elvis" button, has gained local acclaim (and T-shirt celebrity status) as "Boardwalk Elvis." He strolls the boards virtually every day, playing and crooning the King's tunes to the amusement of tourists.
Ferris wheels: The kiddiest kiddie ferris wheel is indoors (which gives you an idea of its size) at Trimper's Amusements. There's a meek traditional version on the west side of the boardwalk next to the Inlet Lodge.
And for the big kids, check out the 110-foot version on the amusement pier.
Food: The boardwalk's endless menu includes pizza, candy, burgers, chicken, ice cream, tacos and, of course, fries.
"You don't mind waiting because you know you're going to get something good," says Martha Bivens of Pocomoke, who recently stood in line for more than 30 minutes to pick up a tub of Thrashers fries.
Long lines are common at Thrashers Worcester Street store. The 62-year-old business also has a boardwalk location between Eighth and Ninth streets. And just about every eatery on the boards offers its own version of the french fried favorites.
Foot showers: You can take the kids off the beach, but can you take the beach off the kids? Get some help at the free public foot showers at Caroline Street, Ninth Street or outside the Sahara Motel at 19th Street.
Glassblowing: Check out the art of glassblowing at the Glass Shop between Wicomico and Somerset streets. The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., but you're most likely to catch demonstrations of the craft between 9 a.m. and noon.
Gridlock: It's not something you'll go looking for, but parking lot gridlock is something you'll find on any busy summer weekend.
Take the bus -- unlimited rides all over town for a dollar a day -- or risk sitting in a line of fuming drivers and fuming cars on the inlet parking lot.
Haunted houses: Though the ghosts of many an ancient mariner -- and probably a few ancient teen-agers, too -- undoubtedly walk the boards, you'll find haunted houses on the amusement pier and between South First and South Division streets.
Inlet: Created after a fierce hurricane in 1933, the inlet separates the southern tip of Ocean City from Assateague Island and provides fishing trawlers and recreational boaters with a passage between the bay and the ocean.