Let's face it, Ocean City is built for sin.
Sure, there's a beach, a boardwalk and things to do for families in the light of day, but Maryland's O.C. is most essentially a watering hole on the water, a place to spend one's days soaking in the sun, and nights quenching that fire with cold, alcoholic beverages. Nightclub after nightclub fights for attention along the oceanfront highway, coyly beckoning travelers with brassy neon lights and come-hither drink specials.
Though a visitor to Ocean City would hardly need help finding a bar, we thought it would be a service to narrow your choices somewhat, to better your chances of finding the sort of spot that fits your mood, your imbibing needs.
Our five selections range from the quintessential beachfront club, to lower-key options, to a place that, quite frankly, doesn't feel beachy at all, but in a very refreshing way.
1 Seacrets: In Ocean City, you begin to notice that if you tell people you're going out, they'll immediately nod knowingly and say, "Seacrets?"
One might assume that going clubbing in O.C. and skipping this place would be like going to Orlando and missing Disney World. And it kind of would be.
Seacrets is that kind of spectacle - a massive, drinking theme park with a capacity for 4,630 people - bigger than some villages.
Inside, there are 18 bars, full restaurants, dance floors, a live music stage, its own radio station ... not to mention a man-made sandy beach complete with a veritable grove of palm trees imported from Florida.
Managers brag about how Seacrets is one of the biggest bars on the East Coast. People regularly get lost inside, they boast.
Easy to see how.
Recently, a band played in one corner of the place. Women in tight jeans and tube tops danced, drinks in one hand, as beams of colored lights cut lines through the smoke machine haze.
Silly String dropped onto the dance floor from a mystery spot in the ceiling that periodically ejects confetti, balloons, whatever. The string stuck like toilet paper to dancers' shoes. Some scooped up the strands and attempted to move seductively with them.
Waitresses in bikinis wandered about, offering colored shots in test tubes.
2 Fage r's Island: This is the place you'll want to try if you want a beachy sort of debauchery like Seacrets, but at a quarter the size (less chance of getting lost).
With its palm trees, sand and bay-front access, Fager's is almost a junior, more navigable, more manageable Seacrets.
The club has the disc jockeys, the bands, the dance floor, but it's also got an outdoor, tree-lined spot on the water where people can lounge with the bar's signature rum punch on deck chairs before the dancing flames of a fire pit. It's quite charming.
There's also a gazebo set scenically back into the bay where one could imagine a legitimately romantic moment.
A Fager's tradition is playing the 1812 Overture as the sun sets, trying to time the end of the song to the sun's dip beyond the horizon.
3 Macky's Bayside Bar and Grill: Like a set of Russian nesting dolls, if Fager's is the miniature Seacrets, Macky's, with a capacity of about 500, is almost a little Fager's, but with less of the seaside sweetness.
Here are two things to know about the touristy Macky's:
First, it's got "little black dress night," where girls wearing them get half-price drinks. This is just one of its theme nights, which include Mardi Gras, '80s and "Dress Like a Tourist" nights.
Second, the house drink comes in a bucket.
Beware this bucket. It's 64 ounces of booze, a mix of too many things to list, that costs $24.99. Manager Carl Bozick says some people stick in multiple straws to share them, but plenty of people stumble around, sipping from their own personal trough.
People will also bust out the moves. The bar hosts disc jockeys a few nights a week and live bands on Sundays.
4 Galaxy 66 Bar and Grille: This bar offers a refreshing change of pace from O.C.'s sand, palm tree and dance floor standard.
It's more subdued, more sophisticated and generally aspiring to a different sort of experience. For instance, the drinks are served in actual glassware, not plastic buckets.
Decorators have had a lot of fun playing off the celestial theme. A mosaic star is laid into the floor near the entrance, modern pendant lamps resemble flying saucers ... even the cocktails come with names like "Saturn's Squeeze," "Hypernova" and "Big Bang."
(Cool factor: The bathroom sinks, also mosaic, are custom-shaped to look like giant martini glasses.)
The real draw, however, is the chance to head to the roof deck to lounge as close as possible to actual stars.
Kim Law, a teacher from Ocean City drinking at the bar recently with her friend, hairstylist Stacey Williams, called the bar "comfortable."
"It's like being in your own living room," she said. "It's classy with a fun flair."
5 Liquid Assets: If you think you don't like beach bars, this is where you need to go. The place has nothing in common with anything else in the area. Nothing. And there's the draw.