To kids reared on DisnEy fantasies and Saturday morning cartoons, Ocean City must seem like one big amusement park. There are dozens of rides and games, mountains of junk food, a few unusual characters in bizarre costumes and that granddaddy of all amusements, the Atlantic Ocean.
Rides have been a part of the town's recreation scene for more than 100 years. And just like their parents and grandparents before them, today's kids love to ride.
Trimper's Amusements (289-8617), home of a spectacular 102-year-old carousel and dozens of other classic rides, is on the south boardwalk. The rides crank up at 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and at noon on weekends and keep running as long as business is good -- usually until at least midnight in the summer.
Paid with tickets purchased at any of Trimper's many booths, the fare varies by the ride. If your kids like rides, your best bet is to arrive early and purchase a $7.95 wrist band, which entitles the wearer to unlimited rides until 6 p.m.
The wrist band also is good for a $1.50 discount at Trimper's Tank Battle, a popular attraction in its second season on Baltimore Avenue between South Division and South First streets.
Tank Battle features a yard filled with tanks that two people maneuver while dodging and firing tennis-ball missiles. You must be 5 feet tall to ride in a tank, but you can fire balls from the spectator galley no matter how short you are. The cost is $3.50 for a ride that lasts about five minutes and includes 100 to 150 balls, $2.50 for a bucket of 15 balls to shoot from the sidelines, and $5 for a bucket of 50 balls.
The rides on the amusement pier, operated by Jolly Roger, are mostly for bigger kids, although there are a few for the kiddies including a new mini-roller coaster.
State law says you've got to be at least 42 inches tall to ride these thrillers. And you have to be 48 inches or taller for admission to the Riptide Water Park.
This amusement features nine water slides, including an 80-foot-tall high-speed chute. Some parents say if your kids are tall enough and brave enough, you should encourage their interest in the speed slide; just climbing the stairs to the top of the slide tower a few times is sure to tire them out.
Riptide (289-3031) opens at 10 a.m. Admission is $12 for an all-day pass, $10 for a four-hour pass or $8 an hour. After 6 p.m., you can buy a $7 pass good until closing time, which varies depending on business.
There are other water parks in Ocean City, including one at Jolly Roger's giant amusement park on 30th Street and Coastal Highway. Open from 2 p.m. to midnight daily, Jolly Roger (289-3477) also features rides, miniature golf and shows.
Admission is $3 for children and adults, which includes admission to the park's shows. Rides and games are extra, although you can purchase an all-day unlimited ride wrist band for $12.
The special attraction this year (through Labor Day) is the Royal Hanneford Circus, performing at 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. under a big-top circus tent. Like any good circus, this show features elephants, clowns, animal acts and acrobats. It's included in the price of admission to the park.
Another of the park's favorite attractions is Speedworld, which offers go-cart and boat racing on a variety of tracks. It's mostly for the big kids, although there's a new kiddie raceway this year and a family grand prix that kids can ride with a grown-up.
Another amusement is the 65th Street Slide and Ride at 65th and the bay (524-6440). Open daily 10 a.m. to midnight, this small amusement park features a triple-flume water slide, with one slide specifically reserved for little kids. The height minimum is 33 inches, and children must be accompanied by an adult. Sixty-fifth Street also has a new attraction called Water Wars, where participants slingshot water balloons at each other, as well as a moon bounce tent, bumper boats, go-carts and batting cages.
Just across the U.S. 50 bridge in West Ocean City, Baja's Amusements (289-BAJA) and the Grand Prix Family Amusements (289-KART) offer a variety of go-cart tracks as well as speed boats and bumper boats that run on man-made water courses.
If you do decide to head west for entertainment, you might as well make it to the Wild West. That's what you'll find at Frontier Town (289-7877), a Western-theme amusement park off Route 611 about 4 miles south of U.S. 50.
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Frontier Town features a rodeo show and rides on a steam train, stage coach, paddle boats or ponies. Kiddie visitors will thrill to gun fights, Indian dances and the can-can show. Admission is $7 for adults and $6 for children 4 to 13. Kids under 4 get in free.