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Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean City, Maryland, is a tale of two cities. That’s because it’s a tale of two seasons and a tale of two markets.

During its peak summer season the resort city is sizzling. Most of Ocean City’s annual 8 million visitors come to town between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the city has — in round numbers — 10,000 hotel rooms and 25,000 condominiums, said Fred Wise, director of sales and marketing for the Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

But that also means summer isn’t great for conventions and conferences. Ocean City hosts only two meetings in the summer, both of which are sort of “legacy events” that have been meeting there since the early 1970s.

“In the summer, there’s almost no discussion of rate,” Wise said. “It’s either take it or leave it.”

Throughout the rest of the year, Ocean City shifts from leisure tourism and becomes a weekend meetings destination, a market that city officials have been diligently building since the Roland E. Powell Convention Center opened in 1997, Wise said. In the slow season, “we are a weekend-centric business; we have businesses that are opening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to serve the people who are coming in for these events,” he said.

Some hotels limit their space or shut down entirely during the offseason, cutting the city’s inventory of sleeping rooms to roughly 4,500, which makes it a great time for groups that are on budgets, including state associations, youth events and the SMERF market, Wise said.


Convention Center

City officials and community leaders gathered in January to cut the ribbon on the city’s new performing arts center, a facility that just happens to sit in the middle of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.

The grand opening marked the final piece of a two-phase, $22 million project that renovated and reinvented the convention center by carving out a hunk of space in the middle of the building for a 1,200-seat performing arts center.

Crews expanded the western edge of the ballroom and built an exhibit hall beneath it, “slicing off” square footage along the interior to make room for the performing arts center. The finished ballroom is 24,600 square feet and has a wall of windows overlooking the Isle of Wight Bay, and the center has 60,000 square feet of exhibit space in two halls.


Waterfront Hotels

Plans for two new Ocean City hotels have been announced. One will be a Hyatt Place on the boardwalk that will have about 200 rooms. The oceanfront hotel will be on the Atlantic side of the city near 32nd Street and will be within walking distance of the Ocean City Convention Center, Wise said.

The second hotel is a Marriott Residence Inn that’s being constructed on a four-acre site on the Isle of Wight Bay just south of the Route 90 bridge. The hotel broke ground in the fall, and although details still aren’t finalized, the Marriott will likely have about 150 units. The owners are hoping to open this summer, Wise said, although there’s no firm date.


On the Water

The convention center ballroom delivers a view of the water, which is almost unfair, Wise said. In the past, some planners have struggled with losing their attendees to the beach town’s other diversions, he said.

“When you have a high-level meeting that can’t afford to lose their people, put them on a boat in the middle of the bay; that’s what you call a captive audience,” Wise said. “We’ve had to do that with some events to hedge against groups losing their people; they couldn’t keep their people in the classroom.”

Several large charter boats dock in Ocean City, and many of them are available for meetings, receptions or team-building fishing trips. The Ocean Princess is an 80-foot boat that can carry up to 70 people. Other charter boats include the Miss Ocean City and the Judith M.


Ways to Play

Ocean City is a huge golf getaway destination, Wise said, and with courses “within less than half an hour from the convention center, I could have you on 17 championship golf courses.”

One of those courses is Eagle’s Landing, which is part golf course, part wildlife habitat. The course delivers views of both Assateague National Seashore and Sinepuxent Bay, and with nesting boxes for sparrow hawks, purple martins and bluebirds, it’s the state’s only course certified as an Audubon Sanctuary.

A 10-minute drive inland takes visitors to Ocean Downs, which had been a harness racing track since 1949 but recently became home to the smallest of Maryland’s authorized casinos. The “racino” (racing track and casino) was approved to add up to 800 slot machines, and the casino opened in 2011.


Ocean City, Maryland


Atlantic Coast, about three hours from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore


U.S. Routes 50 and 113, Baltimore/Washington International and Philadelphia International airports,

and the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport served by US Airways

Major Meeting Spaces:

Roland E. Powell Convention and Performing Arts Center

Hotel rooms:

Nearly 10,000 in the summer and about 4,500 in the offseason

Off-site Venues:

Casino at Ocean Downs, NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Visitor Center, charter boats

Contact Info: