A Budget Weekend Trip to Ocean City

You'll find a great deal at every turn in this All-American boardwalk town. Here is where to go, stay, and eat for a weekend trip that won't cost you more than $500.
Story by Stephanie Granada and Caroline McKenzie

Friday
Check in to the 237-room Carousel Hotel (carouselhotel.com), which has direct beach access and an ice-skating rink. Rates start at $179 in June; use code SL2013 to get 10% off rooms booked by June 30. (Bill: $322 for two nights.)

Grab dinner at BJ's on the Water (bjsonthewater.com), a 33-year-old institution where the crab cake BLT pairs well with nightly live music. BJ's is known for its 1 p.m. duck feedings on the dock, but we prefer the view as the sun dips over the bay. (Bill: $30 for two.)

Saturday
Start at the Satellite Café (satellitecafeoc.com) with a Chesapeake Sarah—hash browns topped with eggs and chipped beef and seasoned with Old Bay. (Bill: $16 for two.) Then visit the Ocean City Boardwalk (ocboards.com), an East Coast icon that dates back to 1902, complete with a haunted house, amusement parks, and about 2.5 miles of vendors such as Fisher's Popcorn and Thrasher's French Fries. On the pier's 100-foot Ferris wheel, take in breezy views of Ocean City and Assateague Island across the inlet. (Bill: $6 for two.)

General consensus says you can't go wrong with any of the crab shacks in Ocean City, but locals say the Crab Bag (thecrabbag.com) serves the Maryland blues the best. Roll up your sleeves and share a half-dozen blue crabs—steamed and served on brown paper with a wooden mallet. (Bill: $40.)

Cross the Bay Bridge on Highway 50 to see the sunset at Assateague State Park (dnr.state.md.us), an unspoiled barrier island flanked by the Atlantic and the marshy bay. If you're lucky, you may also spot the wild ponies that populate the island. (Bill: $12 for two.)

Head back to town for dinner at Liquid Assets (ocliquidassets.com). A cross between a dining room and a boutique package store that looks like a wine cellar, it's perfect for a romantic dinner of pan-roasted mussels and fried shrimp and grits with chorizo. (Bill: $40 for two.)

Sunday
Have brunch at Fager's Island (fagers.com), a luxury boutique hotel and restaurant with tables on a deck overlooking the bay. Fill your three-egg omelet with the freshest catch of the day and enjoy the jazz band. (Bill: $30 for two.)

Get some more beach time before you roll out of town. The crowds tend to be slimmer at the access point near 146th Street behind the Econo Lodge. (Bill: Free!)

Grand Total: $496