Memorial Day Weekend 2012

Posted on May 23, 2012

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WORKERS ARE BUSY PUTTING THE FINISHING TOUCHES ON AN EXTREME MAKEOVER AT THE OUTLET MALL IN WEST OCEAN CITY. GRAND OPENING OF THE REBORN OUTLET MALL WILL BE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND.

Once again, the summer season begins in Ocean City, Maryland. All things are possible.

Cruising OC weekend was spectacular, thanks to perfect sunny weather on Saturday.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the town packed so tight on the third weekend in May. A few hot rodders left behind a bit of burned rubber. You’ll see evidence of it along Baltimore Avenue. Why would anyone want to burn the tread off expensive tires? I don’t get it. The police don’t approve of that kind of driving, either. The Ocean City Police Dept and Maryland State Police were busy writing tickets all weekend. They’ll be out in force this coming weekend as well.

Memorial Day Weekend, straight ahead, will be at least as busy, with summery weather long before the solstice. Could it be climate change? Global warming? I remember chilly, rainy Memorial Day weekends in the last century. Shivering teenagers wrapped in soggy blankets sought shelter in the Boardwalk 5&10, which I managed in the 1970s. How cold was it? I borrowed an electric blanket my first season in Ocean City to make it through the cold May and early June nights in a house with a great fireplace, but no central heat.

Of course we still have chilly evenings. But the daytime prediction is for high temperatures in the 77 to 80 degree range this Memorial Day Weekend. Sunny, too! It will be warmer in the Baltimore and Washington metro areas. Please go online or call your favorite hotel now. It’s not going to be easy finding a room in Ocean City on Saturday night if you don’t have a reservation. Most hotels and motels are asking for a two- or three-night minimum this holiday weekend. Rooms are still available, but booking up fast.

Every season brings a few changes in Ocean City.

You have to know what you’re doing to make a profit in a seasonal business. The most notable change on the island, IMO, is the move of a well-known Italian restaurant from its longtime home in a historic building near the Inlet to a large dining room on the Boardwalk @ 13th Street. A restaurant with an avant-garde menu opened at that location last year, but lasted only one season.

There’s a lot of churn in the restaurant business here. Like I said, you have to know what you’re doing. Another new restaurant, in West Ocean City, lasted only one season last year as well. And Boog’s Barbeque quit its Route 50 location after giving it a try for two or three seasons.

I HAD EXPECTED THE COLOR SCHEME AT THE OUTLET MALL TO BE PRIMARILY BLUE AND WHITE. IT’S TURNED OUT TO BE MUCH MORE COLORFUL.

You’ll notice the most obvious changes in West Ocean City. We’ve had some new construction along Route 50 west of the bridge. But most of the bright and colorful change is the result of exterior renovations to existing buildings, most notably at the outlet mall on Route 50. The mall, now known as TangerOutlets, will hold a grand opening Memorial Day weekend. Shopping has always been part of the vacation experience on the Ocean City Boardwalk, and now shopping will be bigger than ever in West OC. I’ve heard that gardening is the most popular hobby in America, but shopping is great recreation for many people. You’ve heard the phrase,”Born to shop?” I’ll try to post more photos of changes in West Ocean City soon.

Two of the most significant changes affecting the greater Ocean City area are farther west along Route 50.

2011 was the first season for the slots casino at Ocean Downs, located on Route 589 near Berlin. I had only a few requests for directions to the casino all last summer. The 2012 season will be a better test of the casino’s popularity. It’s small, as casinos go. I checked it out this winter (it’s open year-round) and was not particularly impressed with the computerized video slots. I like the classic one-armed bandits better. Many people seemed to be having a good time. The facility offers quite a variety of different video games. I think people should also have the option of playing the classic mechanical slots. At least you get some exercise pulling the handle. Harness racing will also continue at the racetrack. Click here for more on the Ocean Downs casino.

Walmart opened a new super store on Route 50 this spring. There’s been some concern about how that will affect local supermarkets. One supermarket closed last year in North Ocean City. But rumors that the Superfresh in West Ocean City might close were premature. The store remains open, reportedly with a new three-year lease.

Many people will be tempted to stop at the Walmart on the way into Ocean City, but be warned: It’s a huge parking lot with retailing on a grand scale. For a photo story on the new Walmart, click here. Getting in and out of the Walmart-Home Depot complex for a few groceries will likely add an hour to your travel time. Rest assured, you’ll have a good choice of supermarkets with competitive prices throughout the Ocean City area.

North Ocean City still has a Superfresh and a Food Lion. A variety of smaller grocery stores and convenience stores are also located on the island. In West Ocean City, you’ll find the Superfresh in the Outlet Mall on the north side of Route 50, and a Food Lion on Route 611, especially convenient for campers going to Assateague Island. Ocean Pines also has a Food Lion, as does Berlin.

Something else new this season: Residents of Montgomery County and points west have a new highway option when traveling to Ocean City. The long-awaited Intercounty Connector toll road opened last Thanksgiving. It should save time and gasoline for people in that region. I’ll try to give more details about the ICC later.

Finally, an accident involving a truck and a car closed Route 50 at Route 611 for a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon. It’s a reminder that we need to build at least one additional bridge into Ocean City. More on that later.

Hopefully, we won’t have many accidents this season. Please drive safely.

— John Hayden

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