October means crowds have left Rehoboth Beach

Boardwalk, outlets, jazz fest among attractions

Trips: road trips, regional events

October 02, 2003|By Doug Beizer | Doug Beizer,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Most families have their own beach traditions. For some, it is a trek to Ocean City every summer. For others, it is North Carolina's Outer Banks.

But for many, Rehoboth Beach, Del., is the place to go to swim in the salty Atlantic and consume the many incarnations of greasy beach food.

Just a short drive north from sprawling Ocean City, Rehoboth Beach offers a different experience than its Maryland neighbor. While Ocean City's main oceanside avenue is more than 100 blocks, Rehoboth is smaller with a boardwalk only about a mile long. You can park the family vehicle when you arrive and not get back behind the wheel until the drive home.

And now that summer has drifted away, many locals and regulars say the best time to visit Rehoboth, October, is here. After Labor Day, the biggest crowds are gone, and the days are still warm. Lodging costs plummet and the end-of-summer sales are in full swing. Unlike the high season when cars troll up and down the streets looking for metered parking, during the off season, parking is free and plentiful. Meters do not have to be fed, and parking permits are not needed in the neighborhoods.

A Rehoboth trip feels different than an Ocean City venture soon after crossing the Bay Bridge into Eastern Shore. Shortly after crossing the bridge, make a left off U.S. 50 onto Route 404. Then follow the signs to Rehoboth. Or for a shorter ride, turn left off Route 404 after about 18 miles onto Route 16 east. Follow Route 16 east about 26 miles to U.S. 1 south.

The speed limit on Route 16 is only 50 mph for much of the way, but the two-lane road is generally free of traffic and offers plenty of opportunities to buy fresh produce on the side of the road from vendors. From Baltimore, the trip should take about 2 1/2 hours.

Follow U.S. 1 and highway signs to a left onto Rehoboth Avenue, the main drag to the beach, and stay on it until it dead ends at the boardwalk and the oceanfront. The quick drive up and down the avenue will provide a tease of what's ahead: pizza, boardwalk fries and soft serve.

Where to stay

Deciding where to stay is key to enjoying a Rehoboth vacation. There are abundant hotels, bed and breakfasts, condos and houses within easy walking distance to the beach, dining and fun.

If you are looking for a rental house or condo, there are plenty of Web sites to help. Start with the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce site at www.beach-fun.com.

The Pines neighborhood is a mostly residential section with cottages and bigger homes on tree-filled lots. The South Rehoboth neighborhood is just blocks off Rehoboth Avenue and has houses and condos that sleep two to 14 people. In general, house rentals do not include bed and bath linens. Most rental terms are weekly, but owners will sometime break up weeks on an unrented unit, a few days before a new week.

For visits less than a week, a hotel is a good option.

The Boardwalk Plaza Hotel (800-33-BEACH or www.boardwalkplaza.com) is on the boardwalk and just two blocks from Rehoboth Avenue.

A number of suite hotels also populate Rehoboth. The Breakers Hotel & Suites (302-227-6668), for example, is two blocks from the beach and a block from Rehoboth Avenue.

Where to eat

Besides the sand and sun, food might be the most important element in Rehoboth. There are several must-have food items, so plan all eating excursions.

Nicola Pizza on 1st Street serves pizza, but more importantly it is home to the Nic-a-boli -- sort of a calzone, but better. As the story goes, Nicholas Caggiano created the Nic-a-Boli first for his employees, and then later for customers. The basic Nic-a-Boli is cheese, tomato sauce and ground beef wrapped in pizza dough -- which the menu says is fat-free. Standard pizza toppings are available, and the Nicola's crew will make a non-meat version.

Obie's By the Sea is a mid-priced restaurant at the north end of the boardwalk at Olive Avenue. It has an indoor and outdoor bar, steamed clams and shrimp, as well as a kids' menu. All with a great view of the ocean.

Thrashers Fries, deep-fried and vinegar-doused, are available at several locations on the boardwalk and Rehoboth Avenue.

Grotto Pizza can be found in and around Rehoboth. You can eat in or carry out.

Funnel cakes and soft serve ice cream, rounding out the list of must-haves during a Rehoboth vacation, can be found at several shops along the boardwalk.

Head down to 1 Rehoboth Ave. at the boardwalk and visit Dolle's Candyland. A 4 1/4 -gallon tin of caramel popcorn costs $24.95 or the 17-oz. tin is $9.95. Dolle's is open weekends through November and closes for the season at Christmas.

What to do

The 2003 Rehoboth Beach Autumn Jazz Festival, held in Rehoboth and Dewey Beach, begins Oct. 16. The festival features contemporary and traditional sounds, according to organizers.

James Ingram performs at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center Oct. 17. And Gregg Karukas featuring The Heat Wave Horn Section will perform at the 1776 Restaurant the same night. The event closes Oct. 19 with a party held at Sydney's Blues and Jazz restaurant.

For shoppers, there are 140 tax-free outlet stores with some of the most popular brands on the way into or out of town on U.S. 1. Names include Nike, J.Crew and the Gap (302-226-9223 or shoprehoboth.com).

For kids and kids at heart, there are the games at Funland on the boardwalk. There are the latest in video games and some old favorites such as Ms. Pac-Man. And, of course, there's the beach. Chair and umbrella rentals are available.

More information

For schedules of events and other information, look on the Web at www.beach-fun.com or www.rehoboth.com.

For more regional trips, see Page 44.

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