As a kid, I adored the ticky-tacky tourist trap that was and is Lake George Village. Nestled in the foothills of the Adirondacks, I loved everything from its elaborate mini-golf courses to its flashing arcades. So of course, I love Ocean City, Maryland, which is much like Lake George except bigger and more popular with an actual beach to boot. We had hoped to camp at nearby Assateague National Park, but when realized the entire season was booked up back in May, I joked to my mom about my parents taking us to Ocean City. Much to my pleasant surprise, she took me up on my suggestion, leading us to all head out to Ocean City this past weekend. As this was Sprout’s first time, he had a variety of reactions, some of which were more unpredictable than others.
What Sprout Liked that I Exected Him to Like
Carnival rides: After our experience at the County Fair, I fully expected him to enjoy the even bigger Ferris wheel at the end of the boardwalk. Unfortunately, it turned out that the view wasn’t as good than at the Fair. At night, the dark swallowed the grandeur of the ocean. Nonetheless, both it and the double-decker Merry Go Round were big hits. It’s amazing how Sprout’s reactions to rides have evolved, from the seemingly impassive reception at Disney to the engaged sense of wonder now. While his facial expressions haven’t really changed much, the subtle differences are obvious.
Arcade games: Chris and I introduced Sprout to a fundamental part of our childhoods that had little educational or social benefit – video game arcades! While he liked the percussion adaptation of Dance Dance Revolution, the big hit was skeeball. As Chris and I played in our own lanes, my mom rolled the balls with Sprout hand-over-hand and scored over 100 points! Between the three of us, we had enough tickets to buy a little googly-eyed ring for him, which he clutched the rest of the day. Finding games that he would like brought back some of my childhood joy playing video games, especially since so many of them are just glorified slot machines now.
Ice cream: Okay, this was a gimme.
Spending time with his grandparents: A bit of a gimme too, but I love the relationship they have. My grandparents lived far away from me in a time before FaceTime and we always had to visit them, not the other way around. I really appreciate that my parents want to have a solid bond with him and are willing to put in the time to do so. (This is true of Chris’s parents as well.)
Things I Expected Sprout to Like But He Didn’t
Going in the ocean: Sprout didn’t mind standing on the very edge and allowing the waves to occasionally reach his toes, but he responded “Nope!” every time I asked him if he wanted to go further. He found the feeling of the ground washing away beneath his feet quite disconcerting. He expressed a clear interest in watching the waves and placing shells in the surf to wash away, but was intimidated by the size and power of the waves. (In some ways, it wasn’t all that different from the cows at the County Fair – better at a distance.) I hope that as he gets bigger, he learns to appreciate it, as I adore the power of diving into the crashing waves like a clumsy dolphin.
Building sand castles: I was gung-ho on sand castle building, with a whole giant bag filled with toys. As soon as we sat down on the beach, I started filling the molds with wet sand and flipping them over to create an elaborate castle. But Sprout was totally uninterested in helping. Instead, he just wanted to dump water all over my creations, resulting in them looking less like medieval buildings and more like Gaudi’s architecture. As he wasn’t willing to get the water himself, he would request “More water?” in his little voice, sending myself, Chris, or my dad to go retrieve another bucketful from the ocean. We spent a lot of time trudging the few feet needed to get yet another refill.
Flying kites: Sprout liked watching people fly kites – he pointed out every parasailer we saw (“big kites”). But again, participation wasn’t high on his list. I can’t blame him on this one though. While I envisioned bright kites high up above the ocean, our efforts were much more Charlie Brown than anything else. Both my mom and I had kites that were supposed to be easy to fly, but we found impossible to keep up in the air. As long as I was running, mine stayed up, but running on the beach gets very tiring very quickly. My legs giving out put an end to our kite-flying dreams.
Things I Didn’t Even Consider Before the Trip that Sprout Enjoyed
The Year-Round Christmas Store: These were staples of Lake George Village and pretty much every tourist-trap type place, but I never expected to go to one in Ocean City. (Why bother?) But when we were waiting for more than a half-hour to be seated for dinner, it was an awesome diversion. Sprout piped up “Big Santa!” every time he saw the giant Santa outside and named every single type of vehicle and animal ornament he saw. I had to carry him to prevent his tiny fingers from wrecking havoc, but that was a small price for an extended period of entertainment.
The hotel pool: I’ve always thought pools at ocean resorts were rather redundant. If you have an ocean, why would you ever go in the pool? But when you’re afraid of actually going in the ocean (see above), the pool is a pretty good alternative. Because my parents used their credit card points, we stayed in a way swankier hotel than either Chris and I or normally my parents could afford. It had a rocking kiddie pool, complete with two slides, a mini-lazy river, and squirting fountains. It was the perfect thing to allow Sprout to go in the water without the scariness of the waves themselves.
For a more amusing take on beach vacations with 100% more pie charts, check out Mommy Shorts’ Is the Beach Worth It?
What’s your best and worse experiences bringing kids to the beach?