From weekly local events to yearly large-scale celebrations, it’s always festival season in Worcester County, Md.
SpringFest brings local, regional and national entertainment to the area in an annual celebration of the spring-to-summer transition. SunFest, OC BikeFest and OCtoberFest promises a diverse variety of live music acts, local food favorites, Craft Beer and classic and contemporary art vendors — and provides a great excuse to plan a beach trip.
“Vacationers aren’t just sitting on the beach anymore,” says Susan Jones, executive director of the Hotel Motel Restaurant Association in Ocean City. Events, activities and festivals give people a reason to visit the city, she says, but the surrounding areas are so all encompassing that festival attendees always have something to do in their downtime when not at the event.
With just a short drive over the bridge, visitors can reach the towns of Pocomoke City, Snow Hill, Berlin and more. Here, you’ll find a wide variety of unique shops and eateries selling specialty items and local farm favorites.
“Worcester County is unique in that you have all of these smaller towns, you have a direct connection with nature and you have just a wonderful population of people who want to share everything with those who are visiting Ocean City,” says Lorissa Mcallister, director of economic development for Snow Hill.
Each town is filled with its own unique charm and rich history waiting to be explored. Check out these must-see spots to visit when planning a trip to Worcester County.
Natural resources and reserves
To experience Maryland’s coast and all it has to offer, a visit to the iconic Assateague Island State Park and National Seashore and Pocomoke River State Park is essential. Both of these unique and pristine parks offer a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy during all times of the year.
On Assateague Island, aside from swimming, surfing or fishing on its two miles of ocean beaches, visitors can explore Maryland’s only oceanfront park by canoeing or kayaking to get a closer look at the many secluded coves on the bayside. The island is also home to a diverse variety of wildlife. With over 200 species of birds, both whitetail and sika deer, dolphins, seals, sea turtles — and even wild horses who inhabit the island — you never know what you might encounter on a trip to Assateague.
Down in the southern portion of the county lies the Pocomoke River State Park and Pocomoke River State forest. Here, the Pocomoke River along with its creeks and tributaries provide a base for all sorts of activities, including fishing, kayaking, standup paddle boarding and more. And for special events like birthday parties, family reunions, weddings or even just a simple picnic, Pocomoke State Park’s Milburn Landing and Shad Landing are popular destinations for those looking to celebrate with a view.
“Worcester County specifically is great because you can see a variety of ecosystems all in one day,” says Ranger Marc Heim, assistant park manager at Pocomoke River State Park. “You can go to a beach, see a barrier island that’s constantly moving, see dolphins in the ocean, horseshoe crabs on the beach, crabs and clams in the bay.”
“There’s a lot you can see in just a very short drive,” he says. “I think that’s pretty cool about Worcester County.”
Farms, food and local favorites
Worcester County has an endless selection of restaurants, cafés, bakeries, creameries, breweries and more — making it the perfect destination for visitors to sample all sorts of local cuisine and Eastern-shore favorites.
There’s plenty of options for waterfront dining or buying local fish right out of the harbor in Ocean City. You can’t get fresher than just caught delicacies at the docks from the Skilligalee and Seaborn or lunch with a view at the Shark on the Harbor or Harborside Bar and Grill, and Jones can’t recommend all enough.
“There are so many great places to eat,” says Jones. “The variety of restaurants is enormous.”
For even more specialty dining and one-of-a-kind menus, head over to the towns of Berlin and Snow Hill to try out all their eateries have to offer.
In Berlin in particular, many of the chefs use fresh and locally-sourced produce in their restaurants, says Ivy Wells, economic & community development director for the town.
For instance, chef and restaurateur Justine Zegna keeps the focus on “Local, Small and Handmade” when crafting menu options for The Blacksmith. Through close collaborative relationships with farmers and bakers, this hip tavern prepares farm-to-table meals using quality products from local suppliers.
“Chef Zegna may even add something new to the menu that morning by whatever she picks up at the local farmer’s market,” says Wells.
And, be sure to grab a scoop of Salt Marsh (chocolate ice cream with salted caramel and graham swirl) from Island Creamery, an all-natural homemade ice cream shop down the road voted the best ice cream in the country.
If there’s still room for more, try out these recommendations from Mcallister to get a full taste of Snow Hill.
“If I could just go from place to place and get a little something from each, I’d get the crispy brussels sprouts with bourbon caramel drizzle at Oaked 110, nachos from Puerto Real Tacos and Cantina, salmon from Elliot’s Tavern right in the downtown area and eclairs from Del Vecchio’s Bakery” Mcallister says. “You just can’t go wrong.”
A place rich with community and history
To round out the Worcester County experience, step back in time and learn where it all started. At the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, visitors can learn about all sorts of history, from the stories of the women who had a hand in shaping the town, to sands from all around the world and how they compare to that of Ocean City.
For a magical ocean experience, explore the legends surrounding mermaids and everything there is to know about these mythical sea creatures at the world’s first Mermaid Museum in downtown Berlin.
Another unique Maryland coast experience is the Delmarva Discovery Museum in Pocomoke City. Explore, learn and imagine while immersing yourself in the shore culture and rich history surrounding the Pocomoke river. Don’t forget to meet the resident river otters, Mac and Tuck — they always put on quite a playful show while enjoying their natural habitat exhibit.
And be sure to check out Blessing of the Combines, Snow Hill’s annual parade celebrating local agriculture and honoring farm families. In this signature first Saturday in August event, the entire downtown shuts down as people gather to watch the parade of huge agricultural combines as they travel through the narrow streets of Snow Hill. With vendors, food, music, a petting zoo and plenty of kids games, there’s no better time and place to experience the small town charm found all throughout Worcester County.
When it comes to describing the full Worcester County experience, Wells says it best herself.
“People come to Worcester County to get away from it all. We’re on the coast of Maryland. People want to escape their cars. They want to be able to go somewhere where they’re relaxed. There’s great places to eat. There’s fun things to do for all ages. And just forget about the world for a little while. It’s a perfect atmosphere for a wonderful vacation,” she says. “Anything goes here. All are welcome. All are included. It’s a very welcoming, inclusive area here in Worcester County.”
There’s something for everyone in Worcester County, on Maryland’s Coast. Plan the perfect vacation today.