Balderramas Back East – Phase 3: Ocean City, MD

After getting our fill of mountain and full family time in Jim Thorpe, PA, we ventured further east to Ocean City, Maryland. Earlier this year, when our family was trying to find a gathering point, a sizable segment of the family wanted a beach getaway, resulting my mom traveling with my sister, Christina, her family, and mine to get our beach fix at Ocean City.

Traveling from Jim Thorpe to Ocean City on a Friday presented some challenges with traffic, turning our 4-hour trip into a 6.5-hour trip. Our accommodations for the next few days was a 3-bedroom condo, which luckily didn’t feel too cramped for the nine of us. We finally pulled in after 6 pm, too late to spend any meaningful time at the beach. That didn’t stop us from unpacking as quickly as we could so that we could put our feet into the ocean.

I captured this video of everyone talking on the beach for the first time.

With kids, of course, “putting feet” into the ocean quickly turns into getting your clothes soaked. They enjoyed their little taste of the ocean, anxious for spending the rest of the weekend on the beach.

After a restful Friday night, we ventured to the Ocean City Boardwalk, which embodied the stereotypical image that I formed in my head as we were planning. It was complete with tourist shops, fried food stands, along with an amusement park (which luckily wasn’t yet open for the day).

We did a little shopping, loading up on some stickers and magnets, then took a walk to the pier to get a full view of the ocean. We opted to go earlier in the morning so that we could devote as much of Saturday to beaching. Everyone was anxious to get back to our condo, however, so that we could quickly hit the beach.

We spent the rest of the day playing in the ocean and on the beach, getting our fill of waves, sun, sand, and games. The last time we had been to the ocean, in 2018, we had a more secluded experience in North Carolina. At Ocean City, the beach was much more crowded, but we managed to carve out our little space for a beautiful afternoon. Right when we were packing up, we saw some fins from dolphins that were swimming out in the ocean.

We did learn, the hard way, that the limit for the kids being on the ocean was about 4 hours. Many of the kids were melting down by the time dinner time rolled around. We fed the kids some mac and cheese, while the adult got a seafood boil that was probably too spicy for them anyway. After 2018 though, I learned my lesson and stayed away from drinking too much of the broth.

After the kids went to bed, Christina, Tony, and I ventured back onto a beach for a moonlit walk to see what we could find on the beach. We found a cool surfing toy, as well as a baby seagull that was looking for his parents.

Recognizing our time limits, we shifted our Sunday schedule to include two separate times at the beach. We went immediately after breakfast for a two-hour stretch, with another trip planned for the early evening. In between beaching, Tony and I went to go pick up my rental car for Phase 4, while everyone else went back to the Boardwalk before we met back up for an early dinner.

Mariana had enough of the beach and was ready to get cleaned up, but while we were up in the room, a horseshoe crap washed up on the shore. After checking it out, it was returned back into the ocean.

We ended our time at the beach by writing “SOB ’23” (Summer of Balderramas) in the sand – a tradition that we started back in Daytona that we’ll continue as we venture to other beaches.

Sadly, with the conclusion of Phase 3, we also ended our team with our extended family. The girls and I packed up on Monday morning and made our way towards Washington, DC – the final phase of Balderramas Back East.

Balderrama Beach Bums 2018

Balderrama Beach Bums 2018

We just wrapped up a most memorable week in beautiful Surf City, North Carolina, with the Balderrama Beach Bums (BBB 2018).

We had been on the search for a perfect spot to spend a week at the beach that started with Hawaii, but after looking at costs and travel times, we decided to stay within the mainland. The search started with Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, then kept moving up towards the north and finding the best value – and I think we found it on Topsail Island and Surf City.

We stayed at a beautiful house that was right on the beach, which was the main reason for choosing Surf City. With traveling with 4 kids 6 & under, I was worried about packing everything up for a day at the beach, then having one of the kids get sick of it after 30 minutes and want to go back.  For a reasonable price, we couldn’t beat this level of access and the flexibility to work around nap times and taking breaks from being in the sun.

The beach itself was beautiful, with soft, fine sand and ocean water that felt like a warm bath. I was a bit fearful about the level of humidity we’d get in North Carolina in July, but it was definitely at a bearable level for us Colorado wimps. One of the best aspects of this beach was the fact that that it was not crowded. Most of the people there were occupants in the house, and while there were public access points, it still seemed very low-key, giving the illusion of seclusion.

Surf City itself is a very charming town that was very welcoming to guests, embracing the interest and growth. Every business and local we encountered seemed genuinely glad to have the people there, unlike some other destination towns that seem resentful of the tourists.  What also made Surf City ideal was that there were not many temptations away from the beach.  We had little outings that we went to each afternoon to get out of the sun, but the beach remained the main focus and felt timeless as if we were living in a Corona commercial.

While there seemed to be a lot of dining options, we found our favorites pretty quickly and went back a few times. Some places that we loved:

Surf Dog Bits and Brews – they were so friendly and accommodating. The food and beer were a great casual options, and they were really awesome with our kids.

Salty Turtle Beer Company – a new craft brewery that opened up and was a relaxing way to beat the heat. I was a big fan of La Surfeza (a cool play on words with Cerveza – Spanish for “beer”).

Topsail Steamer – a cool concept that’s basically a “take & bake” for steaming seafood. They give you everything – including the bucket – to steam everything and have a cajun boil at home.

However a ProTip: don’t drink the broth. It made Wednesday night a really bad one for me and also took me out of commission on Thursday.

Overall this turned out to be a really relaxing trip, with absolutely no regrets.  If you are looking for a beach vacation, we couldn’t recommend Surf City enough.

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Why I haven’t written: Part One–Summer of Balderramas


As a justification to you (but mainly to myself) as to why I haven’t posted all summer, I wanted to share of some of the cool stuff that kept me away from blogging.  Up first is our SOB trip – Summer of Balderramas.

Our family is trying to get on the pattern of setting up a reunion vacation every 3-4 years.  We did the first one in Breckenridge, CO back in 2011.  This year we put one together in Daytona Florida for a week in June.  We had a bit of a smaller turnout compared to the last one, but we actually had different family members come out to this trip and had an awesome time.  At one point, there were 18 of us all together.  As with all vacations as of late, we once again booked a VRBO house that sat right on the beach.  The shot below was taken from our back yard on a wooden walkway.  This house was amongst of group of five others that were right on the beach.  Neighboring them were groups of hi-rise buildings with condos, hotels, restaurants and shops.  It was really neat to think that we were occupying the same footprint as a hi-rise with hundreds of people.  During the day folks would drive their cars onto the beach, which then became pretty funny when they got stuck in the sand – similar to folks getting stuck in the slush out here.  For the most part though we had the area right in front of the house to ourselves.  Every day I had Zac Brown Band’s “Toes” playing in my head.


We couldn’t fathom going to Florida and not going to Disney World, so we had that in our agenda.  Given that we were traveling children that were 1 and 2, we didn’t think the lines and 48”+ height requirements of Magic Kingdom would have been best for two little ones that were likely going to skip naps, so we opted for Epcot.  There was plenty for them to see and interact with, as well as letting the grown ups do the “Beers Around the World” crawl by drinking in each country of the lagoon.  The girls spent the morning doing a breakfast with the Disney Princesses, and Clara got lipstick on her cheek with a kiss from Snow White.  We did a couple of low-key rides which were on par with “It’s A Small World”.  Clara also loved seeing all of the musical features as well, as the Taiko Drumming.




Epcot definitely wore her out though.  She took a mini-nap in the USA part of the lagoon, but she stayed up through the fireworks show, easily making this her longest day ever.

Later in the week we drove across the state to visit Clara’s Great Grandparents, enjoying a great lunch with them. Clara loved exploring all of the cool things they had.


The rest of our trip was spent hanging out at the beach house, drinking a lot of beer, eating raw oysters and clams, playing games and staying low key.  Clara was a champ during her first plane ride, staying sane through most of the 4 hour flights.  The trip home turned out to be pretty rough, as weather shut down DIA and forced us to stop in Amarillo for a refuel, making our trip home interesting. All-in-all: this was a fantastic vacation.