We came to the beach hoping at least two of our three children (the youngest is a toddler and doesn't count) would find the sand and surf sufficient fun for the summer.
Our hopes were washed away like castles in the sand one week into our summer respite. Although the 5-year-old was faring well, the 10-year-old was no longer amused.
So, we had to look elsewhere for entertainment. And what we've found is that Ocean City offers a variety of activities for youngsters, some expensive and some free.
High on the 10-year-old's list are amusement parks and arcades.
Ocean City boasts three amusement parks of sorts: Trimper's Rides and Pier Rides on the boardwalk and Jolly Roger's on 30th Street and the Coastal Highway.
The oldest, Trimper's, is a sentimental favorite of many longtime resort visitors. The 102-year-old establishment features a 1902 carousel, ferris wheels, bumper cars, a roller coaster and a variety of other rides for young children.
Ride tickets are 30 cents. The cost of each ride varies. Best bet: a pack of 40 tickets for $10, or a wristband, usable from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and noon to 6 p.m. weekends, for $7.95.
Pier Rides, at the boardwalk at Wicomico Street, has more of a carnival atmosphere, featuring rides and a variety of skill and guessing games. There's even a palm reader.
The newest ride here is a double-decker carousel. Pier Rides also features a fun house, ferris wheel, haunted house, water park and other fast-paced rides.
Tickets are 30 cents each. Bet bet: book of 50 tickets for $12.50. Water park costs extra: all-day pass is $12; a four-hour pass is $10; $8, hourly.
The walk out on the pier is free.
For the 10-year-old, Jolly Roger is the amusement park at the beach.
There's a carousel, roller coaster, swings and a variety of other kiddie and adult rides. But that's not all. There's also a big top circus, featuring clowns, elephants and acrobats, and a petting zoo.
Admission is $3, which includes the circus and petting zoo. Rides cost extra. Unlimited rides ticket and admission is $12.
Even Ocean City has some free activities.
Try a puppet show on the boardwalk. Sponsored by the Ocean City Baptist Church, the shows are held regularly at 4:30 p.m. on the boardwalk at Caroline Street. Check a city calendar for dates.
The shows, featuring hand and life-size puppets, are staged by volunteer groups from across the country.
The summer's highlight is Antshillvania II, a puppet show staged under black lights featuring parables from the Bible. Shows are at 10 and 11 a.m. each day, Aug. 15-22.
Young campers can enjoy Surf and Sand Clubs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday at Assateague State Park, Eagle's Nest Campground, Ocean City Leisure Resort and Frontier Town Campground.
The day camps feature stories, games, music and crafts. Teen-age volunteers staff the camps.
Also, there's the Assateague state and national parks, which offer a wealth of educational activities not only for children, but the whole family.
Start out at the Visitor's Center on Route 611, just before you cross the bridge to the island. Inside, you'll find hands-on activities for the kids, including a small aquarium containing a horseshoe and blue crabs and other sea life. The kids will have a ball picking up and looking over the crabs.
There's also a reconstructed beach with shells and debris that the kids can touch.
The park also offers a variety of evening programs and island explorations, including canoeing and walking along dunes and beaches. Evening programs include aquarium feeding and campfires.
:. For more information, call (410) 641-1441.
Rollerblading, the fad at the beach this summer, is a fun sport the whole family can enjoy. Sailng Etc. sponsors a free clinic from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays at the windsurf parking lot at 47th Street. Rentals are $10.
If the heat is getting to you, you can cool off at the Carousel Hotel's indoor ice skating rink. The rink is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2 to 5 p.m.; and 7 to 10 p.m. The cost is $5.25 for adults and children, including skate rentals.
E9 The hotel is at 118th Street and the Coastal Highway.
This week, the kids can make a puppet and enjoy a snack at Summertime Arts and Crafts, held each Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Northside Park, 125th Street and the bay.
Sponsored by the Ocean City Recreation Department, the program is open to kids ages 5 and older.
The fee is $3.50 for town residents and $4 for vacationers. Advance registration is recommended. Call (410) 250-0125.
Treat yourself and the kids to a little culture by attending one of the family-oriented productions at Parker Playhouse at the Carousel Hotel.
Playing at 7 p.m. Monday through Friday is Han Christian Anderson's "Steadfast Tin Soldier," a fantasy about toys coming to life during the night. Tickets are $4.50 for adults and children.
The matinee show is "Pinocchio," featuring an ensemble of youths and professionals. Show times are 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tickets are $3.50.
Advance reservations are suggested. Call (410) 289-3122 or (800) 388-9793.
You can entertain the kids and have a night out, too.
Take advantage of Parents Night Out, a baby-sitting service offered each Monday at Ocean City Baptist Church and St. Peter's Lutheran Church.
Hours are 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Children will be entertained by games, videos and crafts. Supervision is by teen-agers and adults. The cost is $2 per child, $5 maximum per family.
Reservations are suggested. Call (410) 289-6573 or (41) 524-7474.