Summer vacations aren’t for everyone.
It not always easy to get off work in July or August, and the prices during peak season can be prohibitive. That’s to say nothing of the sweltering summer heat, which drives some into the ocean for a swim, and others duck back inside to turn the dial on their air conditioner up a few notches.
For those who happened to miss out or vacation during other seasons, fret not.
Ocean City, Maryland’s biggest festival of the entire year actually occurs in late September, just ahead of the shoulder season, when prices and temperatures are both dropping rapidly.
All You Need To Need To Know About Ocean City, MD Sunfest 2016
Leading off this year’s Sunfest entertainment lineup is the inventor of “The Twist” himself, pioneering rock and roll artist Chubby Checker. Called the biggest chart hit of all time by Billboard magazine in 2008 and again in 2013, “The Twist” not only changed popular music – it changed the way people moved to it. Checker is also the only recording artist to place five different albums in the Billboard Top 12 at the same time.
Catch a little bit of history – and a whole lot of fun – as Chubby Checker & The Wildcats perform onThursday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20-25.
Rising country music star Chris Janson headlines on the following night, Friday, Sept. 23, at 8 p.m. Along with writing hit singles for Justin Moore and Tim McGraw, Janson also played harmonica on tour for Lee Brice. His debut album, “Buy Me a Boat,” was released last year and the title track became a Top 5 country hit. Tickets are $25-40.
Closing out the headline entertainment lineup is Eddie Money, who will take the main stage on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. Money is best known for the 1978 smash hit “Two Tickets to Paradise,” which was also featured in a recent GEICO ad, with Money playing himself.
During the late 70’s and early-to-mid 1980’s Money produced a string of other hits including “Baby Hold On,” “Shakin” and “Think I’m in Love.” He also – again – played himself on the popular NBC sitcom “The King of Queens.” Tickets for the show are $30-60.
Opening the show that night is national touring tribute artist “Sir Rod,” performing the hits of Rod Stewart. Sir Rod has perform on stages with Sheryl Crow, the Beach Boys, Pat Benatar, The B-52’s and Three Dog Night, among others. Tickets are good for both acts.
Outdoor headlining concerts generally draw between 1,000-2,000 people. Along with the three ticketed events, the festival features free concerts throughout the long weekend.
Besides boasting ample entertainment options, Sunfest is chiefly known as a shopping extravaganza, with literally thousands of unique and handmade items brought to town by close to 200 artists and craftershailing from across the United States.
Sunfest was named number one on a list of the 100 Best Classic and Contemporary Craft Shows in the U.S. by Sunshine Artist magazine in 2014, and draws upwards of 200,000 people to the resort each year.
Last year, the festival kicked off with a parade down the world-famous Ocean City Boardwalk, from 13th Street to the inlet, featuring the Stephen Decatur High School marching band, cheerleaders and choir, along with a shimmering fleet of firetrucks from the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Department.
About 180 artists and crafters participated in that event, setting up tables and tents and offering demonstrations during all four days. Expect roughly the same number this year, along with children’s activities including hayrides on the beach, inflatables, a climbing wall and a children’s craft tent.
Food & drink
Rounding out Sunfest are the roughly three dozen food vendors selling everything you could be hungry for – from Eastern Shore classics like fried chicken, crab cakes and other local seafood, to favorite festival foods like funnel cakes and pit beef. There are also lots of international delicacies, including Asian cuisine and authentic Greek gyros.
Many shops and restaurants along the Boardwalk and throughout the resort also remain open during Sunfest, meaning everything from a bucket of Thrasher’s French fries, to fresh, local catches in dozens of award-winning local eateries are always close by.
Sunfest information & parking
Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Because parking can be limited, visitors are encouraged to make use of Ocean City’s public transportation system. Free parking is available through the West Ocean City Park & Ride, which operates a regular shuttle bus to Sunfest’s grounds at the inlet for $3.
Rides on the Boardwalk Tram to the inlet also cost $3 each way, and make regular round trips.
Free parking is also available at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, on 40th Street, with express trolley shuttles departing from the south lot all day. Trolley shuttle fares are $1 per trip, or $3 for the full day.
Additional free parking can be found at the Public Safety Building on 65th Street, as well as at the Municipal Lot on 100th Street and at Northside Park, on 125th Street. Public buses are available from each lot, with all-day fares costing $3 and single-ride passes running $1.
Plenty of cab companies, and of course, the Uber’s ubiquitous cars, are also available to visitors in Ocean City who don’t drive themselves in.
Whether you come for the great live music lineup, the incredible shopping opportunities, or just to get your family out of the house one last time before the cooler temperatures kick in for good, be sure to book early. Space fills up fast, and better deals often await the early booking birds.
For the latest in accommodation deals and specials, including group rates, package deals and coupons to local bars and restaurants, visit Princess Bayside.