Holiday spirit's ashore Maryland's sand-and-surf capital becomes a winter wonderland

December 06, 1992|By Pat Emory | Pat Emory,Contributing Writer

She's watched it happen year after year. Still, for Gretchen Powell, the transformation of Ocean City from a quiet, hibernating summer resort into one of the biggest, most diverse Christmas celebrations in Maryland is simply amazing.

"It's always exciting, the transformation to a holiday spirit. There are ice shows and plays and activities for kids. There's something for every member of the family and the entire family together as well," she says.

Which explains why Ms. Powell, a Delaware resident who works in the resort town, often heads back to Ocean City with her teen-age son on December weekends to share the holiday festivities with him.

She is not alone. In recent years, as Ocean City, its merchants and hotels began decorating and scheduling events during the Christmas season, the beach city has become a magnet for thousands of families looking for something other than mall promotions to immerse them in the holiday spirit.

Surrounding towns have joined in, too, creating their own Christmas themes. Consequently, beach visitors can find almost any Christmas atmosphere they want in and around Ocean City.

From the decorated Christmas trees lining the Inlet parking lot to the spectacular ice shows at the Carousel Hotel, from the children's shows at the Convention Center to the mechanical moving dolls that make up a giant Dickens display in the lobby of the Phillips Beach Plaza Hotel, Christmas in Ocean City is a dazzling series of events that can keep visitors busy every weekend until Christmas.

While Ocean City decorates its parks and buildings for the holidays, its biggest Christmas display will be the 50 trees at the Inlet, which are lighted daily through New Year's. Each tree is decorated by a different organization or club and set up around the parking lot so that visitors can walk by them or view them from their cars.

Ocean City hosts "Mistletoe Magic," a children's holiday musical revue that will be performed Dec. 11-12 at the Ocean City Convention Center. Featuring Frosty the Snowman, Jolly Old St. Nicholas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the show begins at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available at the box office; they cost $8.50 for adults, and $5.50 and $7.50 for children. Call (410) 289-8314.

Some of the biggest holiday shows in town will be held at the Carousel Hotel, which has booked more than a dozen acts for December -- from plays and ice shows to high school bands, dances and a ballet.

Parker Playhouse will perform "Trouble In Toyland" six times on weekends between Dec. 6 and Dec. 20 at the hotel. The Wills Family, which runs Parker Productions, also presents the "Holiday Gifts Musical Revue," Dec. 18, 19 and 25.

A big attraction at the Carousel is the ice-skating rink, which is available for public skating at specific hours on weekends. For those who like to watch professional skating, the Carousel Skaters will present four 45-minute ice shows on Saturday afternoons and evenings, Dec. 12 and 19. For a complete list of shows, times and ticket prices at the Carousel, call (800) 641-0011.

Even without its numerous shows, the decorations and animated Christmas characters are enough reason to visit the Carousel.

"Christmas here at the Carousel is like a winter wonderland," says hotel spokeswoman Toni Davis, referring to a huge gingerbread village, complete with Santa and his animated helpers, which the public can view in the lobby at no cost.

Then, of course, Santa will be on hand weekends at the Carousel. Children can visit and pose for a free picture with him, or join him for "Breakfast with Santa" at the Season's Restaurant in the Carousel at 9 a.m. Dec. 12 and 19.

In Delaware, the annual Christmas parade in Rehoboth Beach, sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company, will begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 7.

Then on Dec. 12, the Rehoboth/Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts "Breakfast with Santa" at the Sea Horse Hotel from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For $8, children and their parents will be served breakfast while listening to storytelling and musical entertainment. Children can create their own angel headband and have their photos taken with Santa.

To register, write to the Chamber at 501 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971.

"The town goes hog wild" with its Victorian decor, says Atlantic Hotel chef Stephen T. Jacques. "If you're into the old-fashioned-town Christmas, this is a pretty town to visit."

Berlin's Chamber of Commerce will kick off the holiday schedule with a concert and dinner package Dec. 7. For $65, a couple may have dinner at the Atlantic Hotel and hear the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra's Quartet play chamber music at the Calvin B. Taylor Museum, a short distance from the hotel.

There will be two seatings -- 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. For reservations, call the Atlantic Hotel, (410) 641-3589.

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