Welcome to summertime on the coast.  If you’re coming here on vacation, chances are you expect to pay handsomely for practically everything. But that’s just not so in Ocean City, MD, especially if you happen to be in the market for family-friendly entertainment. You’ve already got kids camps and other summer activities to pay for—which experts say cost on average about $600 per child, now—why not take advantage of all the free entertainment and budget-friendly options available? And yes, you read that right—there are free activities nearly every day of the week. Plan your vacation around these budget-friendly options and go home with a happy wallet.

Unequivocally and Absolutely Free Fun in the Great Outdoors:

Sunrises: Yes you can see it happen nearly everywhere, but make sure you dedicate at least one day to witness it rise over the Atlantic Ocean.
A Morning Jog on the Beach: It’s better for the knees, cheaper than the gym, and there’s nothing like breathing than ocean air to invigorate you.
Football, Volleyball, and Soccer on the Beach: There’s 10 miles of sand, put it to good use by playing your favorite sport. And it’s okay to get a little rowdy—sand doesn’t hurt as much if you’re a little out of shape!
Go Fly a Kite: Ocean breezes can take it up, up, and away. Pack your own and have the experience be totally free, or visit the Kite Loft on 5th Street and the Boardwalk.


Family Fun for $15 and Under

Biking the Boardwalk: Get the family up early and see the entire boardwalk by bike. Numerous rental facilities offer bike rentals for under $10.
Don’t Tip the Canoe: You can pile a family of four into a canoe on Assateague Island at Coastal Bays Rental Facility (on the National Park side) for just $10 an hour. Paddle the bay; get up close (but not too close), to wild horses, herons, and a crab or two. (Note: you will need a National park Annual Pass, or a week pass to gain access to this area.)
Beach Snacks and Free Entertainment in the Sky: Nothing says quintessential boardwalk like Thrasher’s Fries or Fisher’s Popcorn. Grab a bucket of either for the whole family to share, and keep your eyes on the skies every Sunday until Labor Day. Beach Lights Spectacular display lasers, lights and special effects on a giant 5-story beach ball. How’s that for excitement and food for $10?
A Trip to the Beach Museum: The Ocean City Life-Saving Museum is pretty awesome and is guaranteed to have something that everyone will find interesting. Many unique items from Ocean City’s past are located here. Laughing Sal, wool bathing suites, deep sea treasures from shipwrecks off the coast, pictorial documentations, live aquariums, and beach toys popular through the decades are on display. Adults can enter for $3, children for $2, and those under the age of 5 can enter for free.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not: We’ve all seen the snarky shark protruding from the old Ocean City ballroom on the boardwalk, but have you ever actually been inside to see the unbelievable treasures? The Ocean City Ripley’s features some off-the-wall beach-related exhibits. Other exhibits are just funny, unusual, or atypical. Adults can enter the attraction for $13.99, children for $7.99, and kids under 5 are free. Go online to save up to $2 per person by purchasing tickets in advance.
Planet Maze: If your kids have some energy to burn, take them to Planet Maze and let them crawl and run through the large indoor/outdoor maze. Kids can crawl through a winding maze and climb up rope ladders all day (an unlimited amount) for just $7. There is an area downstairs where adults can hang out, eat some grub, and kick back while the kids burn some energy. Planet Maze is a perfect plan for rainy days at the beach. Discount coupons are available online, too.


More Free Choices! This Time, Entertainment:

Who Needs a Drive-In? We’ve Got a Beach! Free movies are shown on the beach all summer long. Every Monday and Friday on 27th Street Beach, every Wednesday in front of the Carousel Hotel on 118th Street, and Thursday on 91st at 8:30 pm. Bring beach blankets or chairs and your favorite snack for an absolutely free family night.
Get an Education: Every Day at 10am (except Sundays) the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum holds family-friendly free programs. Learn about sharks, storm warriors, how to tie sailor’s knots, and much more. Programs are approximately ½ hour.
Family Beach Olympics: A little healthy competition makes a family stronger, right? Every Tuesday on the 27th street beach participate in sandcastle contests, relays, tug-of-war. How will your family fare? Free to participate, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
More Fireworks! Follow up your success at the Family Beach Olympics with a celebratory journey to watch the fireworks on North Division Street at 10pm. 
Free Concerts on the Beach: Sing along to a variety of different musical acts every Wednesday night at 8:00 pm on North Division Street. People have been known to dance.
Become Immersed in Local Art: Every Thursday Arts on the Docks in the West Ocean City Fishing Center Marina showcases the works of local artisans, all available for purchase. Now, that’s a truly unique kind of souvenir!
Party at Sunset Park: Every Thursday (perfect, come after visiting Arts on the Docks), Sunset Park on the Bay at South Division Street offers free concerts including Irish, jazz, blues, and the Beatles (or a great rendition of, of course)!
Spend Sundays at the Park: Sundaes in the Park is a celebration of free all-ages music, and additional children’s entertainment. For a small fee, you can create your own sundae. The park features acres of waterfront fields, picnic tables, stage, and a huge play area for kids. Picnic baskets and blankets are most welcome. At Northside Park on 127th St.
Beach Lights Spectacular: OC Beach Lights presents a Beach Lights Spectacular every Sunday night in Ocean City. The free laser lights show is displayed on a giant five-story beach ball and is choreographed to music. Three shows take place: 9:30, 10, and 10:30 pm. The show lights up the beach at North Division Street in Ocean City three times every Sunday night.
Shipwreck and Pirate Museum: Located above Sea Shell City just north of Ocean City, the DiscoverSea Shipwreck museum showcases pirate’s treasures and artifacts resurrected from shipwrecks off of our coast. Gold coins, dainty porcelain dishes, ship parts, and pirate’s plunder are on display. There are interactive activities for children to participate in. Admission is free. Check the DiscoverSea website for hours of operation.
And there you have it, a free family-friendly social events calendar six nights out of the week. (Saturday nights, it’s up to you.)

Shorebread Suggests:

One last idea…Do what the locals do. Forgo the busiest hours on the beach with tons of people. The most beautiful times on the beach are also the most peaceful. Wait until around 6 pm, take the boogie boards, surf boards, Frisbees, kites, volleyballs, and whatever you else you may wish. Skip the crowded dinner hour, instead opting to order out—to the beach. Make it quick and easy. 
All photos by Ami Reist.