Ah, that age-old question all people in the D.C. area have to consider when planning their long weekend beach vacations. Which is better: Ocean City, MD, or Virginia Beach, VA?
Though both beach towns are similar in many ways, there are some key differences between Ocean City and Virginia Beach that could make you lean one way over the other. Here are a few to think about:
Honestly, both are pretty much the same distance from Washington, D.C. Technically, Ocean City is almost an hour closer, but when you factor in the traffic (more people are always headed to the Ocean City area, it seems), they really come out about the same. The distance from D.C. to Ocean City is quoted around two hours and 50 minutes, while a drive to Virginia Beach takes around three hours and 55 minutes.
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Number of Tourists
Followed (and somewhat related) to distance is the number of tourists to expect at each location. An overcrowded beach filled with people isn’t exactly the most fun, and neither is sitting in traffic for two more hours than expected due to the volume of people who’ve decided they also want to go to the beach.
Ocean City does tend to be more crowded, so if you’re not a fan of a full house (or city), Virginia Beach may be the better option for you. However, being more popular also means more established institutions and businesses along the boardwalk and a guaranteed good time.
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Because Ocean City has more visitors each year, its boardwalk is much more popular and filled with restaurants, bars, fun shops, stands, and much more. It also means that it’s constantly full of people -- and plenty of families with smaller children (your call on how you feel about that!).
Virginia Beach doesn’t exactly have the dreamiest boardwalk. It’s really more like a large sidewalk with a beach on one side and a smattering of restaurants throughout. Still, there’s great seafood to eat, live music to listen to, and fun to be had both at night and during the day.
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The City Itself
Outside of being a local beach destination, Virginia Beach is primarily a military town. That means that a lot of the town outside of the boardwalk isn’t really catered to tourism. If you come here, you may find that you’re confined to just the one small area on the waterfront, without much to do outside of it.
Ocean City is basically a city devoted to fun. The entire city is sort of touristy, and it’s really a summer destination, without being much of anything else during the colder parts of the year. You’ll definitely get everything you want out of it for your beach weekend.
Both cities are really catered to visitors coming to experience the beach, and there are plenty of summer events and happenings to participate in.
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I would say that, overwhelmingly, both of these towns are family-friendly. If you don’t want to be around kids all the time, neither of these places are for you. But if you have a family, or you don’t mind families, you’ll have a great time.
That being said, there are still things for adults to do. Both towns have a decent nightlife, but they are vastly different from each other. Virginia Beach is a little bit more relaxed (think live music on a patio), while some places in Ocean City can get pretty rowdy.
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While both of these cities offer a beach and similar experiences, there are differences that can make or break which one you decide to visit. I won’t spoil your decision by giving my opinion. I say try both, and see what you’re vibing with.
So, if you already know, which one is your favorite, Ocean City or Virginia Beach? Share your opinion in the comments below!