In the Philadelphia area, a person's choice of shore point says a lot about them. In my experience, Ocean City, NJ means a family-oriented, old-fashioned fun kind of person. Wildwood signals someone going for big crowds, packed bars and low cost. Sea isle is kind of a smaller mix between the two, quiet and kid friendly during the day and decent bars for the night life. Stone Harbor and Avalon are high class; these places solidify one's position in the upper crust of shoobies. All shore towns have something to offer, but if you've never been outside the Jersey Shore, there's another Ocean City farther south worth visiting.
When most people hear that I have been to Ocean City, Maryland, a few things come to their mind. Foremost, is the bar known as Seacrets. This place is the Mecca of all shore bars. It is right on the bay, allowing easy boat access and for customers to float around while day drinking. For dinner, the food is decent but just watching the bayside sunset is well worth the price of an entree. The night life here is great for people who like big crowds and loud music on multiple stages and dancefloors, but it can be a little crazy for those looking for a more chill spot. Definitely try the long island iced tea no matter what time you go.
If Seacrets is too packed or sounds too trendy, this year I discovered Mackie's on the bayside as a good alternative. Mackie's also allows for drinking on a sandy beach and sells a $30 bucket drink (seriously, a bucket) that contains many types of liquor, some kind of fruit juice, ice, and twelve straws. Judging by the amount of straws, this drink was probably meant to be shared by a large party, but my brother and I found no problem getting it down just ourselves. At least, no immediate problem, the next day was a different story.
Another great thing about Ocean City, Maryland is the bus situation. Basically there is one main highway running through the whole town, and for two dollars, you can ride the bus up and down it all day. That means visitors can bus it down to the boardwalk on the Southern tip of town, crawl from bar to bar headed north, and then catch the bus again at the end of the night back home. As one could imagine, the buses are packed with drunk people of all sorts but there is usually a police presence or a sassy bus driver to keep them in line. Some of the more interesting conversations I overheard involved a drunk American college kid asking a Russian girl on a summer work visa if she was a gymnast. When she said no, he commented that someone told him all Russians were gymnasts and she looked like she could be one too. That was the end of that convo. Another good one regarded the finer points of a local OC fireworks ordinance between two large hicks and what seemed to be a rookie cop based on his youthful appearance and willingness to entertain their questions. Apparently, in the next town over in Delaware, you can go to the beach and blow up whatever you want, but the Ocean City, MD cops will confiscate anything above the grade of snakes and poppers. These two experiences occurred on the way to the bar, so you can imagine the ride back was much much messier. I seem to recall a lot of "hey what street are we on", "please stop ringing the bell unless you are really getting off", and "yo wake up, this is our stop." To some this may sound annoying, but I actually enjoyed being along for the ride. The $1.75 drafts of PBR and Zeppelin cover band we found at the Purple Moose Saloon probably contributed to my overall good spirits.
Finally, by far the best reason why OC, MD tops the Jersey shore is that the State of Maryland does not require visitors to pay to use their public beaches. That's right, no beach tags, no problem. Also, no flags near lifeguards that limit the freedom of your ocean swim. It's exactly what a beach should be, a free invitation to sit or swim wherever you please.
So one may be able to infer all kinds of things about those of you who go to the same Jersey shore point year after year, but a few things are certain. One: you are missing out on the best shore bar from here to Jamaica. Two: yeah, it's an extra hour but once you get to OC, MD, you won't have to drive again all week. And three, you are just plain suckers for paying for a natural resource that would otherwise be free if the irresponsible politicians in Trenton hadn't been spending their state into a budget crisis for the last twenty years. That being said, get down to Ocean City, Maryland or whatever shore point you can soon and enjoy it because the summer is already half gone.