It's been said that there are Ocean City people and there are Deep Creek Lake people. We have no idea who said this or what it even means. This much we know: Both these classic Maryland destinations lure visitors with sun, sand and water. So, decide for yourself where your vacation loyalties lie.
Are you a lake person or an ocean person?
Memorial Day weekend launches the summer vacation season with travelers packing cars, trailers and suitcases with sunscreen, bathing suits and towels, and scrambling out the door with neither map nor Mapquest directions in hand.
That's because these people know where they are going -- to the beach.
But which way?
East to Ocean City, an oasis of sand and sea hugging Maryland's Eastern Shore?
Or west to Deep Creek Lake, 3,900 acres of freshwater lapping at the feet of rocky, pine-covered peaks in Garrett County?
Depends on who you talk to.
"There are two kinds of people in the world," says Charlie Ross, president of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce. "There are lake people and there are ocean people."
You can guess which he prefers.
Deep Creek Lake is 12 miles long and offers 65 miles of shoreline in Western Maryland. The area is a nature lover's paradise with rivers, forests and mountains. Garrett County is home to more state parks -- 90,000 acres of public land -- than anywhere else in Maryland.
Still, the area feels like a small town.
"There are only 13 traffic lights in all of Garrett County, although it's one of the largest counties in the state," says Jo Donaldson, public affairs officer for the chamber.
And no major bridges.
While its 50 miles farther from Baltimore than Ocean City, you might make it there more quickly.
"There's never a bridge delay for Deep Creek Lake," says Ross, who has obviously visited Ocean City a few times.
This year, Deep Creek Lake area expects to attract a larger crowd thanks to a new artificial whitewater course that opens this weekend at Wisp Resort in McHenry. Adventure Sports Center International has created a mountaintop whitewater rafting experience that is "the first course of its kind in the entire world," says Ross. The course has a unique feature that allows the level of difficulty of the rapids to be quickly adjusted.
"We expect ... about 25,000 paddlers a year, from the spring through the fall," Ross says.
The area already swells by thousands of people during the summer, but not nearly as much as the state's other water playground to the east.
Ocean City draws some 8 million visitors annually, more than half between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
"Summer is our prime time. I think most of the people that come are here for the beach," says Donna Abbott, Ocean City's public relations director. "It's the lure of the sea; people just want to be by the sea, especially during the summer months."
Abbott, who has never visited Deep Creek Lake, admits to a tinge of bias. "I'm an ocean person," she says.
So where does that leave you?
If you love fresh, greens-scented air, head for the mountains and Deep Creek Lake. If you prefer a tad of saltiness on the wind, get over to Ocean City.
Both places offer fun summer activities such as golfing, fishing and swimming. Both offer beautiful -- but quite different -- scenery.
In the end, it all comes down to individual choice. Lake or beach doesn't really matter, as long as you know where you're going.
DISTANCE FROM BALTIMORE
Deep Creek Lake
-- 180 miles or 3 hours
-- 135 miles or 2 1/2 hours
-- The lake
-- The beach
-- Savage River State Forest
-- Assateague Island National Seashore
-- Backbone Mountain, elevation 3,360 feet
-- Splash Mountain at Jolly Roger Amusement Park
-- Poison ivy
-- Gas prices
-- Gas prices
-- Summer skiing at Wisp Resort
-- Ice-skating at Carousel Resort Hotel and Condominiums
-- Wild bears
-- Wild ponies at Assateague
WHERE TO STAY
-- Condos, cabins
-- Condos, hotels
WHAT TO WEAR
-- Bikinis and hiking boots*
-- Bikinis and sandals
(*Bikinis and hiking boots? Edge has to go to Ocean City on this one.)
AVERAGE SUMMER WATER TEMPERATURE
-- 73 degrees
-- 72 degrees
-- Lakeside Creamery ice-cream cone
-- Dolle's saltwater taffy
-- Sunset on Marsh Mountain
-- Sunset on the bay
MUST-HAVE ON iPOD
-- "Hot Fun in the Summertime" - Sly & the Family Stone.
-- "Under the Boardwalk" - The Drifters
-- Forget work and routine
-- Forget work and routine
IF YOU GO
DEEP CREEK LAKE AREA
-- The Deep Creek Lake area is in Garrett County in Western Maryland. From Baltimore, follow Interstate 70 to I-68. Take Exit 14 to Route 219 South. Follow Route 219 for about 13 miles. The visitors center is on the right.
-- For lodging, dining, shopping and a list of events, go to visitdeepcreek.com or call the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce in McHenry at 301-387-4386.
-- Ocean City is in Worcester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore. From Baltimore, follow I-695 East to I-97 South. Take Exit 4, on the left, toward Annapolis/Bay Bridge. Merge onto U.S. 50 East. Cross the Bay Bridge and follow U.S. 50 East.
-- For lodging, dining, shopping and a list of events, go to ococean.com or call 800-626-2326.