Have fun at the beach on the cheap!
-Illustration by Jayde Cardinalli
Sandcastles and flip-flops. Orange Crushes and Dewey Devils. The Hurricane and the Tidal Wave. Soon, summer’s abiding pleasures will be yours. As the countdown begins, we’ve found more than 50 ways to stretch your beach bucks a little further this summer.
Ocean City & Assateague Island
There’s plenty to do at the resort town and the national wildlife refuge.
Deals Under $10
Grab a phaser and join your comrades for a game of laser tag at Lasertron (33rd Street). The objective is to score as many points as possible by trying to deactivate other players with your laser light. Cost: $9. planetmaze.com
Try summer ice-skating at the Carousel Oceanfront Hotel’s indoor rink (118th Street). Five bucks buys you an hour of ice time. Add $3 if you need to rent skates. carouselhotel.com
Sip summer’s favorite elixir, an Orange Crush, at the cocktail’s reputed birthplace, Harborside Bar & Grill in West Ocean City. The refreshing blend of vodka, Triple Sec, fresh-squeezed OJ, and 7Up fetches $5.50 at happy hour. weocharborside.com
Get spooked at an all-star boardwalk attraction, Trimper’s Haunted House. Designed by a master of macabre amusements, this “dark ride” features zombies, torture chambers, and spine-chilling stunts for The Munsters-era prices—$4 per ride. ochh.net
Ride the Beach Bus all day for $3. Hop its Park & Ride shuttle to West Ocean City to shop the new Under Armour and Crocs stores at the Tanger Outlets. In Ocean City, the Coastal Highway route is a steal: 24 hours of unlimited-stop downtown service. oceancitymd.gov
A Priceless Souvenir
Buy Ocean City, Maryland: A Pictorial History, perfect for beach nostalgists; $19.98 at Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum gift shop (813 S. Atlantic Ave.).
Watch For. . .
The release of Ping Pong Summer.Mt. Airy native Michael Tully’s coming-of-age-in-Ocean City comedy starring Susan Sarandon, Amy Sedaris, O.C.’s own Emmi Shockley, and the resort’s rebuilt boardwalk.
Thrifty Day Trips
Assateague Island is a must visit. Go beachcombing, swimming, surf fishing, clamming, and searching for all sorts of wildlife, including the famed feral horses. Just $15 per vehicle for seven days’ access to Assateague Island National Seashore and $4 each (Maryland residents’ rate) for daily entry to Assateague State Park. Admission is free if on foot or bicycle. nps.gov/asis/index.htm. Designate a driver and hit the Delmarva Wine and Ale Trail. Burley Oak Brewing Company in Berlin offers free tours of its barrel-factory-turned-brewery on Saturdays, Sundays, and rainy days. The Maryland Wine Bar in Berlin is a one-stop winery tour, serving $1 tastings ($10 flights) of more than three dozen Maryland wines. toastourcoast.com
Romantic romps don’t have to cost a lot.
1. Alaska Stand burgers, Thrasher’s French fries, a Dumser’s Dairyland milkshake with two straws: What’s more romantic than sharing a boardwalk meal? Escaping afterwards to a secret beach. Anglers like Homer Gudelsky Park aka “Stinky Beach” (an outdated description, BTW) in West O.C., but it’s also an uncrowded option for watching Tuesday night fireworks. co.worcester.md.us
2. Go stylin’ at Macky’s Bayside Bar & Grill (54th Street). Tailor your attire for Tuesday night’s wacky themed parties—anything from hippies to rednecks to nerds—to get discounted drinks and prizes as you kick back at this open-air beach bar. mackys.com
3. On Thursdays, take an afternoon bus to West Ocean City ($4 for two, round trip) and browse Ocean City Fishing Center’s Arts on the Docks, showcasing local artists’ works. Return pre-dusk and head for O.C.’s answer to Mallory Square, Sunset Park, where sunset worshippers enjoy weekly free concerts and spectacular solar descents. ococean.com
Bring blankets and munchies (don’t forget the kids’ glow sticks) and enjoy the city’s nearly nightly entertainment: movies, concerts, fireworks, laser light shows, and family athletic competitions. Various beach locations and invariably free. ococean.com
Learn about Ocean City B.C. (before condos), the finer points of tying half hitches, and other cool stuff at the Life-Saving Station Museum’s free boardwalk educational programs, which begin July 4. Offered daily except Sunday. Kids adore shark-seminar Thursdays and aquarium-feeding Saturdays. ocmuseum.org
Spend a day at Northside Park (125th Street), the city’s largest, most lavishly equipped recreation area. Play softball or soccer. Walk or jog the extensive paths. Enjoy awesome crabbing in Assawoman Bay. On Sundays, pack a picnic and stay for Sundaes in the Park, a sweet deal featuring free evening entertainment and inexpensive ice cream. ococean.com
Visit the Ocean City Branch of the Worcester County Library (100th Street). Programs like story time will enthrall youngsters while you chill out with the latest Grisham thriller or check e-mail on the library’s public computers. Library cards are free to Maryland residents with an ID. worcesterlibrary.org
Bethany Beach & Fenwick Island
The Delaware towns are known as “the quiet resorts.”
Deals for $10 or less
Bike lanes make pedaling around Bethany Beach a pleasure. Rent wheels from Fenwick Islander Bicycle Shop ($10 up to three hours, $25 for 24 hours) and tour the town. Count how many historic camp-meeting cottages you see. fenwickbikes1.com
Save time and euros: Order an authentic Italian dinner to go from “Best of Delaware” Italian food winner DiFebo’s (789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach). Pasta with meatballs, baked rigatoni, and other family-portioned entrees run $7-10 per person. difebos.com
Pick a lucky-color ball and go miniature golfing. Captain Jack’s Pirate Golf in downtown Bethany charges $8 each per round all day. At Viking Golf in Fenwick, $8 buys unlimited daytime play and one round after 5 p.m. captainjackspirategolf.com; vikinggolfamusements.com
Pay pauper’s prices to see a king’s ransom in precious shipwreck artifacts (gold bars, silver coins, pirate booty) at DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum (708 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island). Admission is free; donations accepted. discoversea.com
Skip Bethany Beach’s parking and traffic headaches and take the town’s sea-blue shuttle buses (“Jolly Trolleys”) instead. The one-way fare is $2.50. jollytrolley.com/bethany.html
A $150-Million-Dollar View
Admire ocean and bay vistas from the new Indian River Inlet Bridge, a futuristic cable-stayed span connecting Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach. Carrying busy Route 1, the bridge is toll-free and safer now for pedestrians and cyclists, thanks to an extra-wide sidewalk.
Watch For. . .
Restaurateur Matt Haley’s newest comfort-food emporium, Papa Grande’s Coastal Taqueria, opening next to the chef’s Catch 54 on the Route 54 bridge in Fenwick Island.
Enjoy music, dance, and theater at one of Delaware’s cultural gems, Freeman Stage at Bayside, in Selbyville. Most performances at the open-air venue are free; others cost as little as $10-20. Big-name acts (like Lyle Lovett, pictured above, Sheryl Crow, and Pat Benatar this summer) fetch somewhat more. BYOC (Bring Your Own Chairs). freemanstage.org. Believe your eyes: There’s trickery afoot in tiny Millville near Bethany Beach. Watch top-rate magicians at Dickens Parlour Theatre, an intimate setting straight out of Victorian England. Tickets $20-36. dptmagic.com
Frugal Field Trips
Save money and soak up culture and nature.
1. Learn the history of Fenwick Island Lighthouse, built in 1858, including the fight to get the decommissioned beacon relighted 30 years ago. Admission is free, though donations are appreciated. Visiting dates and hours vary. fenwickislandlighthouse.org
2. Organize an ocean and bay family day. Take a kayak class ($25 for families; $50-100 for others) or guided paddle (from $50-100 per person) from Coastal Kayak, located on Little Assawoman Bay across from Fenwick Island State Park. Then relax on the park’s powdery white ocean beaches (admission $4).
3. Go bird-watching, admire a wildflower garden, and learn about Delaware flora and fauna while hiking through woods and wetlands at James Farm Ecological Preserve on Indian River Bay (Cedar Neck Rd., Ocean View). Admission is free. inlandbays.org
Forget stadium seating; gather the gang in beach chairs on starlit Garfield Parkway Beach for Bethany Beach’s Monday night movies. The flicks are G or PG and no fee. bethany-fenwick.org
Arrive early to snag seats for the most popular show in Bethany Beach: free weekend performances at the boardwalk bandstand. Most are concerts (rock, country, jazz, tribute bands, military brass), but other acts include dancers and children’s shows. bethany-fenwick.org
Take the kids to a school they’ll love: Saturday morning nature programs at Bethany Beach Nature Center (807 Garfield Pkwy.). After story time, they’ll enjoy hands-on lessons at the center’s outdoor classroom, a pristine marshland. inlandbays.org
Fly a kite on the beach. Fenwick Island’s and South Bethany’s beaches permit such aerial acrobatics (but always obey the lifeguards). Kite flying is restricted on Bethany’s public beach to before 9:30 a.m. (10 a.m. on weekends) and after 5:30 p.m. (5 p.m. on weekends).
Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach & Lewes
The shore communities offer vacationers an array of activities.
Deals Under $10
Energize for a day downy ocean with breakfast at JD’s Filling Station, a motoring-themed diner in downtown Lewes. We dare you to spend more than 10 bucks. The Early Riser Special (two eggs, toast, bacon) costs less than half that. jdsfillingstation.com
By now you know: Parking equals $$, so public transit makes “cents.” For $2.50 one-way, Jolly Trolley shuttles you between Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach with stops in both. Or take the bus to nearby beach towns or the outlets. Use Reho- both’s Park & Ride Lot ($7 fee) and everyone in your vehicle rides free that day on all buses. jollytrolley.com; dartfirststate.com
Get value and great vistas at Ryan’s rooftop mini golf, overlooking the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach. Perched above Ryan’s Beach Store, the 19-hole course forgoes bells and whistles for family rates, $4 per person. One-putt the 19th and win a free game. 302-227-2667.
Everyone knows about Friday night Taco Toss at The Lighthouse, part of Lighthouse Cove Dewey Beach (Ruddertowne). At Mug Night Mondays, drinks are discounted for those who bring/buy reusable Lighthouse mugs ($10). ruddertowneusa.com
Customize Tanger Outlets’ free location-based app to its Rehoboth Beach mega-outlet and receive app-only deals on your smartphone while you shop. Programmable to any Tanger location, but only Rehoboth Beach offers tax-free shopping. tangeroutlet.com/getconnected
Bartender too busy to bring your bill? The Starboard in Dewey Beach is trying an app for that. Like pay-by-cell parking, Tabbedout, pictured left, lets you manage your tab and—get this—settle anytime without barkeep assistance. thestarboard.com
Watch For. . .
The brand-new Hyatt Place Dewey Beach, scheduled to open in the revamped restaurant/night life complex formerly known as Ruddertowne. Also, 10 percent savings at retail stores participating in Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce’s new Sand Dollar Savings program. Pick up free, QR-coded savings cards at the Rehoboth Beach Visitors Center. beach-fun.com
Frugal Family Trips
See wildly beautiful Cape Henlopen State Park, pictured above, by bicycle. Its Seaside Nature Center staff will orient you and provide free bikes if you need them. $4 per vehicle daily admission for Delaware residents; $8 for out-of-state vehicles. destateparks.com. Some superheroes wear oilskins not capes. Relive the days of the U.S. Lifesaving Service at the Indian River Life-Saving Station museum in Delaware National Seashore State Park. Self-guided tours: $4 adults, $2 kids six-12; guided lantern tours and lifesaving-equipment demonstrations $5-10. destateparks.com
1. Visit Rehoboth Beach’s new cupcakery Cake Break (7 S. First St.) to sample gourmet goodies like the I-rish I Had Another (Guinness beer cake, Jameson Irish Whiskey filling, Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting) for $3 each (12 or more, $2.50 each). Kids get free sprinkles to decorate their cupcakes. cakebreakrehoboth.com
2. Attention curd nerds: You’ll worship the delicacies at Morgan and Gower Cheesemongers, the hip fromagerie now occupying a former Rehoboth Beach church (20 Baltimore Ave.). If it’s available, try the Pick & Mix sampler: $2 per piece or six varieties for $10. And check out the grilled-cheese “sammich” bar. Find them on Facebook.
3. Bypass the crowd waiting to dine at Rehoboth Beach’s wildly popular Henlopen City Oyster House (50 Wilmington Ave.). Instead, visit off hours to slurp super-fresh oysters ($2.25 each, $12 for six) at their raw bar. hcoysterhouse.com
Take in some tunes. Rehoboth Beach Bandstand hosts numerous summer concerts: R&B, oldies, country, jazz, swing, choral, military, and something called “yacht rock” (think “The Piña Colada Song”). Thursday-Sunday nights. rehobothbandstand.com
Bring the family and a blanket to free Monday night movies on the beach at Dagsworthy Street in Dewey Beach. The beach also hosts Wednesday night bonfires suitable for s’more-making. BYO marshmallows. beach-fun.com
Come to Canalfront Park in Lewes for free entertainment, including Cinema by the Canal on select Wednesdays and concerts one Friday night per month. lewescanalfrontpark.org
Ride the wave and learn skimboarding at Alley-Oop’s free Saturday morning clinics in Dewey Beach, home of the East Coast Skimboarding Championship, located at New Orleans Street beach. alleyoopskim.com
Learn how little Lewes bravely withstood British bombardment in 1813 at “Delaware and the War of 1812,” an exhibit at the intriguing Zwaanendael Museum (102 Kings Hwy.). Free admission. history.delaware.gov/museums