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Celebrate Thanksgiving at the beach

Ever think of heading to Ocean City, Md., over the Thanksgiving weekend for some holiday and seaside fun for the family?

You could go caroling on the boardwalk and enjoy holiday lights on the bay. And maybe eat steamed crabs instead of dry turkey.

But if you need another reason to spend Thanksgiving at the shore, it’s miles of beach to yourself.

“It’s surprising to a lot of people how appealing fall is here,” says Jessica Waters, Ocean City communications manager. “The weather is often very temperate.”

Most afternoons, it’s warm enough to fly kites, ride bikes and look for shells. Many shops and restaurants are still open, including some along the boardwalk. Yet, traffic and crowds are much thinner.

“It’s really, really relaxing,” says Linda Parkowski, director of tourism for the state of Delaware. “The off-season is phenomenal.”

If Black Friday shopping is a family tradition, the outlets are all open during the holiday weekend. And you won’t miss out on welcoming the holiday season with several charming events to choose from.

Remember to follow CDC Guidelines to remain healthy and safe and protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Here are a few activities to enjoy down the ocean Thanksgiving weekend 2021.

Holiday events down by the ocean

Winterfest of Lights, 200 125th Street, Ocean City

See how Ocean City, MD, sparkles this winter and visit the Winterfest of Lights! This walking event will take you through thousands of sparkling holiday lights and many animated light displays located along a paved path in Northside Park. Sip hot chocolate, take a photo with Santa, visit our gift shop and walk through the array of holiday exhibits and view the 50-foot Christmas tree at Winterfest of Lights.
When: Open Wednesdays through Sundays (closed Monday and Tuesday) November 18, 2021-January 2, 2022; 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. $5 for ages 12 and up, FREE for children 11 years and younger.
Website: ococean.com/events/winterfest-holidays

Rehoboth Beach Tree Lighting & Hometown Sing-along

Families gather around the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand to sing carols and watch the annual tree lighting.
Rehoboth boardwalk and Rehoboth Avenue
When: Nov. 26, 2021
Website: cityofrehoboth.com

Santa’s House on the Boardwalk

Kids can climb on Santa’s lap and tell him their wishes at the Santa House on the Rehoboth Boardwalk at the end of Rehoboth Avenue. The Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce sponsors the free opening, though donations are appreciated. Bring your camera. End of Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach
When: Friday, November 26th, 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. & Saturday, November 27th, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Website: Beach-fun.com/holiday-fun

Dewey Beach Tree Lighting

Enjoy a tree-lighting, music and refreshments.
Fifer’s Farm Market Cafe, 200 Cullen St.
When: Nov. 27, 2021
Website: deweybusinesspartnership.com

Winter WonderFEST

Drive-thru Light Spectacular, see Santa’s workshop and Christmas trees available for purchase.
Hudson Fields, Milton.
When: Open Nightly: November 19 – January 2
Website: wonderfestde.org/

Outdoor fun at MD/DE beaches

The Salisbury Zoo
The zoo is open everyday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. See over 100 animals at the “Best Little Free Zoo in North America.” Admission is free.
755 South Park Dr., Salisbury; salisburyzoo.org

The beach is a great place to hang out and run around no matter what time of year. For a deserted feel, check out one of the state parks open during the off-season, including Assateague Island National Sea Shore , Cape Henlopen State Park and Delaware Seashore State Park.
Rules on the beaches relax in the off-season. Kite-flying and other games not typically allowed in the summer are permitted. You can also walk dogs on many of the beaches in the off season.

Kids always want to play mini-golf at the beach and it’s still possible in the off-season. There’s an under-the-sea themed indoor course and an outdoor course open weather permitting at Old Pro Golf, 68th Street Bayside, Ocean City; oldprogolf.com.
Other courses are often open if temperatures are above 50 degrees.

Bike rentals
Take the family for a spin on the boardwalk when there’s actually room to ride. Several bike rental shops open in the off-season include:

  • All Wheels Bike Shop, 37431 Oyster House Road, Rehoboth Beach; allwheelsbikeshop.com (Closed Wednesdays in the winter.)
  • Continental Cycles, 73rd Street, Ocean City and South Gate, Ocean Pines; continentalcycles.com

Other rentals on the boardwalk are open weather permitting.

Indoor fun for winter at the beach

Escape from the cold and check out two museums worth a look:

DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum
One of the largest collections of shipwreck and recovered artifacts in the Mid-Atlantic.
708 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island
October through December 8; Open Saturdays and Sundays; 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum
Learn how Ocean City grew from a fishing village to a major resort and a lot more.
Boardwalk at the Inlet
Open Sat.-Sun. November through April, 10am-4pm; $3-$5 (11 and under free).

Ice skating
One of the quintessential shore holiday activities is ice skating at the Carousel Hotel in Ocean City. The indoor ice rink and game room are open to the public.
118th Street, Ocean City
Open all week, various times.; $6 skating, $4 rental.

Holiday shopping at the shore

The Holiday Shoppers Fair
Crafters and gift shops sell handmade jewelry, ceramics, photographs and more. There are also children’s activities and a “non-shoppers’ lounge.”
Ocean City Convention Center
Nov. 26-Nov. 28, 2021; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Free admission

Tanger Outlets
36470 Seaside Outlet Dr, Rehoboth Beach
12741 Ocean Gateway, Ocean City

The Queenstown Premium Outlets
441 Outlet Center Dr, Queenstown

Where to stay on the off season

Princess Royale Hotel
The family will love the arcade and huge indoor pool in the light-filled atrium. A breakfast buffet is offered and a spa is on site.
91st Street Oceanside, Ocean City. http://www.princessroyale.com

The Breakers Hotel
With an indoor, rooftop pool, arcade and some space for family dogs, this Rehoboth Beach hotel is a popular off-season choice for families.
Second St., Rehoboth Beach. www.thebreakershotel.com

Fenwick Inn
In addition to an indoor pool and hot tub, all rooms have refrigerators and microwaves. There are also several suites.
138th Street, Fenwick Island. www.fenwickinn.com

Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa, and Marina
Cozy up around the outdoor fireplace and roast s’mores, swim in the large indoor pool, or play ping pong in the game room. The Cambridge resort also offers golf, scavenger hunts, movies and more.
100 Heron Blvd., Cambridge. hyatt.com

Thanksgiving dining at the beach

Many family-friendly restaurants will be open Thanksgiving Day. Some will serve traditional meals, but others will offer their popular beach menus. Here are just a few of the options:

Other holiday events at the beach

  • Delaware Hospice Festival of Trees, November 19-November 21 at Brantwyn Estates, Wilmington, Delaware and November 29-January 5 at Delaware Hospice Center, Milford, Delaware. www.delawarehospice.org
  • A Virtual Christmas Tour of Lewes, early December, private and public homes around historic Lewes. Plus join the live outdoor festivities December 4 from 10 – 4 p.m. at the Holiday Village & Market on LHS’s Shipcarpenter Street Campus. www.historiclewes.org

Article by:  Laura Barnhardt Cech

Updated 2021

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