Life’s short, so why let a hurricane get in the way of a weekend getaway?
What do you do when there’s a hurricane charging up the East Coast and you’ve planned a weekend escape to enjoy some R & R in a coastal resort town which happens to be in the path of the hurricane?
If you’re like Peter and me, you never miss a chance to explore new landscapes, so we battened down the hatches at home and headed north a couple hours to check out a new hotel in Ocean City, Maryland, and visit friends in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. A windy, rainy weather forecast wasn’t ideal, but life’s short, so why let a hurricane get in the way of some fun?
A Spin on Ocean City’s Famous Ferris Wheel
Camping Adventures on Assateague Island
Photo by Bill Price III
My memories of Ocean City go back to a trip I took with a college buddy when I was single. First we spent a couple days in Assateague National Seashore camping. It seems a million years ago when we set up our tent in the sand dunes as hungry mosquitoes chewed us to pieces. After a picnic on the mosquito-free beach, we returned to our campsite to discover our tent flailing in the wind. A few mosquito bites later, we were safe inside, snug in our sleeping bags, listening to the crickets as we tried to fall asleep.
Soon we heard some snuffle-like sounds around the tent. It seemed that something was out there, some kind of animal. How big? Would it trample us? We peeked through the tent screen and saw large shapes around us in the starlight. Ahhh, they’re wild ponies munching on the grass around our campsite, grazing way too close to our tent for comfort.
That’s when my dog started to bark. She was in the tent with us and must have smelled the ponies. Great, we are going to get trampled for sure or at least kicked by one of these wild creatures. “Shhh,” I said to Heather, the dog, and happily, after a few minutes the ponies wandered off, and we escaped our wild encounter with only memories—and a few dozen mosquito bites.
Then my friend and I headed to Ocean City, where we connected with a surfer friend of mine, Mike, a transplant from Virginia Beach. Mike invited us over to enjoy cocktails: Malibu rum and pineapple juice. I’d never tasted anything so delicious. Later we headed out for a spin on Ocean City’s famed Ferris wheel and a stroll on the boardwalk. I don’t remember too many details about Ocean City back then, but I liked the amusement park and the businesses that lined the boardwalk, selling everything from souvenirs to pizza.
Aloft Ocean City: Sanctuary from the Storm
Don’t Miss Tasty Sushi at Blue Fish
A few decades later, Peter and I parked our car on a side street in Ocean City and ventured out onto its wooden boardwalk. Built in 1902, it stretches nearly 2.5 miles and tons of businesses still line its western side, including charming old family hotels, a nice change of pace from Virginia Beach’s boxy, high-rise buildings. These small beachfront hotels have verandas with rocking chairs and a completely different feel—more small-town and cozy.
Peter and I lodged in style a couple blocks back from the beach at Ocean City’s new Aloft hotel. This brand—part of the Marriott family—is known for its trendy décor and hipster vibe. Check in at the hotel was breezy and casual, so soon Peter and I were relaxing in our comfy room, watching dark clouds loom over Isle of Wight Bay through our picture window.
What others may see as the pending bad weather as a disappointing turn of events, I think of it as an opportunity. First of all, I love hotels. You could say I’m a hotel addict. I love being in a different space, where everything’s clean and tidy, and there are no chores calling my name. Well, to be honest, there’s always work to be done, so as the gray afternoon turned to evening, Peter read and I did some writing on my laptop, knocking a couple items off my to-do list.
Had the weather been better, we could have gone for a dip in Aloft’s gorgeous pool and sat poolside at the tiki bar, soaking up some sun, and enjoying a few libations. Every Aloft also has a pool table for guests to enjoy, as well as Aloft’s W XYZ® bar, where you can catch live acoustic performances, mix and mingle, and sip on signature craft cocktails. Instead of a restaurant, Aloft offers grab-and-go food 24/7 at Re:fuel with salads, sandwiches, and snacks. Breakfast bowls also offer a quick morning option.
After our work session in our comfy Aloft room, we were ready to have some fun. Mini-golf is big in Ocean City. However, rain belts from the approaching hurricane put a damper on that activity. So we opted to go out for sushi at Blue Fish, a place with good reviews. In spite of the storm—and rain was falling in torrents by now—the restaurant was comfortably full. Peter and I ordered a sushi-sashimi combo with a California roll. It was the perfect amount of fish and tasted fresh like the sea.
Not much night life going on in the off season in Ocean City, so we headed back to Aloft and our lovely room. As the storm raged outside, I opened a bottle of wine and Peter and I hunkered down for some serious Kings on the Corner, our favorite card game. Turns out we don’t need tons of excitement to have a good time these days, and our Aloft room was the perfect sanctuary from the storm.
Rehoboth Beach: Cozy Vibe and Dolle’s Salt Water Taffy
Don’t Miss Happy Hours at Rehoboth Beach Restaurants
The next day we headed north to Rehoboth Beach, where my friend Brenda and her wife, Karen, live. I’ve known Brenda since college, and she and Karen recently moved from Colorado back to the East Coast. They chose to settle in Rehoboth, which has an established gay community, and they absolutely love it.
I can see why. Rehoboth is a cozy beach resort with a small-town vibe. Years ago my grandmother would spend a few weeks each year in Rehoboth, escaping the cold temps of upstate New York for the warmer breezes of this seaside town. Not that it’s warm in Rehoboth year round, but the ocean does contribute to its mild climate, making it a good choice for those who like four seasons but don’t enjoy harsh winters.
Our late summer visit was the perfect time to enjoy Rehoboth’s lovely temps minus the tourists. I love the city’s wooden boardwalk and family-friendly vibe. As we strolled along the boardwalk, we snapped photos of the famous Dolle’s Salt Water Taffy neon sign. People were out and about in spite of the gray clouds overhead. Luckily, the hurricane had taken a right turn and was headed out to sea, so the weather was improving by the minute.
We enjoyed a late lunch at Jam Bistro on Baltimore Avenue, where we had tasty fish tacos and shrimp tostadas. Brenda and Karen were intent on showing us as many of their favorite places as we could fit in. We popped into Obie’s by the Sea for a beverage and chatted with a couple who, turns out, were from Chesapeake and had headed to Rehoboth for an escape like we did. They agreed Rehoboth has a unique charm that’s missing from our mega-resort city back home.
Next we bellied up to the bar at Eden and ordered martinis. Everywhere we went, it seemed, the bartenders knew Brenda and Karen. That’s what happens when you live in a small community. In fact, Rehoboth has a population of only 1500 year-round residents. Compare that to Virginia Beach’s population of nearly 450,000, and no wonder I never bump into anyone I know.
Another favorite haunt of Brenda and Karen is Diego’s, which has a weekly Yappy Hour on Fridays in an outdoor terrace. We headed there, Brenda’s dog in tow, and wow, what a lot of yapping and snarling and tail chasing. Dogs are like children to some people, so the Yappy Hour is like a playdate. The dogs all got along for the most part, and we humans sipped adult beverages and watched the animals’ antics. Afterwards we headed to a(MUSE), where we shared a charcuterie plate and some wine. So many cute restaurants in Rehoboth!
One night we popped into Café Azafran for chocolate martinis served by the one and only Holly Lane, aka the Singing Waitress, who serenaded us with “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” We opted to catch an Uber home, and soon we were sitting around Brenda and Karen’s firepit with “Somewhere over the Rainbow” still echoing in our ears.
Our hurricane adventure was ending. So glad we didn’t let a little rain and gusty wind get in the way of exploring new landscapes and visiting old friends. Both Ocean City and Rehoboth are so different than Virginia Beach, even though they’re also resort towns. But that’s why I travel: to learn more about the world we live in. The best part is you don’t have to go far from home to have an adventure. New horizons are waiting for you in every direction.
What You Need to Know
Here Are Tips for Visiting Ocean City & Rehoboth
Find out about Ocean City’s best hotel rates, must-see attractions, and seafood restaurants (including crab feasts) at www.ococean.com.
Stay at the swanky Aloft Ocean City and check out the W XYZ Bar and gorgeous pool.
For a low-key escape, consider visiting Rehoboth Beach in the shoulder seasons. For information on hotels and great places to eat, go to www.beach-fun.com.