Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer — the time when it seems thousands of Marylanders go into a beach trance, heeding the call of the Bay Bridge and Atlantic Ocean.
"All eyes are on the beach," said Ocean City communications manager Donna Abbott. "Especially given the fact that we've come through such a long, cold winter."
AAA predicts a 6.8 percent increase in the number of Marylanders traveling by car this weekend. And after a rainy start, the forecast is for sunny and mild weather.
Ocean City can expect more than 225,000 visitors this weekend, and there is plenty to do beyond the boardwalk. From road races to boat races, from doo-wop to dinner out, and from crafts to sea creatures, we have created our own beach itinerary for this weekend.
So we're ready. Are you set? Let's summer!
See the boats. The 2010 Geico Offshore Grand Prix season opens in Ocean City this weekend, with sleek speedboats ripping up and down the shoreline. Today, the boats will be on display at Sunset Marina in West Ocean City Harbor. The competitors will test the waters Saturday before the racing begins Sunday at noon and 2 p.m.
Meet the racers. After seeing those gorgeous fast boats, head over to the Atlantic Hotel on the boardwalk for a "meet the racers" party today at 7 p.m. (More parties happen Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Sunset Grille.) Tickets may be required for food and drink.
Break the holiday ice at Seacrets. If you like to float like the ice in your cocktails, visit Seacrets Resort at 49th Street, bayside. There are live bands at night — not to mention 17 bars and waitresses who wade into the water to serve your refreshments. For a schedule of bands, visit seacrets.com/entertainment.htm.
Greet the lifeguards. Summer officially begins when members of the Ocean City Beach Patrol take their seats at 10 a.m. Saturday. Join them for a prayer service at 7 a.m. on the boardwalk at Somerset Street or watch them in the Surf Rescue Academy drills at 10 a.m. at the inlet beach area at the southern end of Ocean City.
Find a new craft. The Spring Arts & Crafts Show will be held this weekend at the Convention Center at 40th St. and Bay. There will be garden accessories, jewelry, candles, florals, woodcrafts and plants for sale. The show opens Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and continues Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cross the border. Head on up to the Delaware coast for the afternoon. The Delaware by Hand artisans group holds its spring members show and sale Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Zwaanendael Park in historic Lewes. There is parking at the Lewes Presbyterian Church on Franklin Avenue. And the show and sale goes on rain or shine.
Doo-wop the night away. The Milton Theater in Milton, Del., will present for one night only Lou Rotondo's Del-Rays at 8 p.m. Saturday. There will be a nostalgic mix of doo-wop, rock 'n' roll and contemporary music. There will be bar service, too, featuring a specialty drink called "The Doo Wop." All tickets are $20. Call 302-684-3400 or order online at miltontheater.org.
Watch the boat race. The OPA powerboat racing can be seen from the beach and the boardwalk in Ocean City between Sixth and 22nd streets, beginning at noon. A second race is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Visit Berlin for the afternoon. Need a break from the beach or the boardwalk crowds? Historic Berlin is just a 10-minute drive from Ocean City. This 19th-century Victorian village was the location for two major motion pictures: "Runaway Bride" and "Tuck Everlasting." Visit the old-fashioned soda fountain, a Victorian tea room, and the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum, home of one of Berlin's most successful citizens and a devoted benefactor. There are also a number of notable art galleries in Berlin, including Water's Edge, J.J. Fish Studio & Fine Craft Gallery and the Worcester County Arts Council Gallery.
Dine out for a deal. Restaurant Week begins Sunday in Ocean City and many of the town's 200 restaurants will offer fixed-price, three-course dinner menus for just $30, or two-course menus for $20. It would probably be a good idea to make reservations. You can find participating restaurants — and directions — at oceancityrestaurantweek.com.
Bike the boardwalk. Bring a bike or rent one because boardwalk bike-riding hours have been extended to 11 a.m. daily. That's when the boardwalk tram takes over, and you can now ride the tram until 4 p.m. with one $6 pass.
Honor the fallen veterans. Join the members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at 11 a.m. at the bandstand on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach as they honor the service of those who made the greatest sacrifice. There will also be a ceremony at 1 p.m. at the VFW at 66th Street in Ocean City.
Relax. And of course, you can always just go to the beach and kick back in the sand.