The Beach in the Dead of Winter

When my kids were younger I used to take them to Ocean City Maryland every winter, to see the Winterfest lights and enjoy the empty beaches. As they got older they had other things going on, so we hadn't gone in a few years. But this year I was determined to go and get my obligatory beach time in. But where were we going to stay? It had been so long since I was there that one of the two hotels I stayed in was no longer open year round and the other one had terrible reviews, mostly saying the place was filthy with a light sprinkling of bedbugs. Yay!

We did a ton of research, which left us with the impression that every hotel except for the Hilton had suddenly become extremely dirty with bad service. Was this some weird campaign to discredit hotels? Were the reviews left by people with ridiculously high standards? Were the “attitude problems” really on the part of the guests and not the hotel staff? It was hard to say. We finally settled on two hotels that seemed to have everything we wanted, which was mainly clean, comfortable beds, a nice view, free in room wireless internet and an indoor pool.

We were going to pick one and book online but in the end I decided to decide once we were actually in Ocean City, which turned out to be at eleven at night. At the last moment I decided the Dunes Manor Hotel was going to get the pleasure of our company. We were able to negotiate a slightly lower rate than the lowest rate we had found online, which made me quite happy.

The hotel is designed in a Victorian style, with a welcoming lobby, which has a gorgeous ceiling. There was a Christmas tree done up in a Victorian theme, as well as other seasonal decorations that looked great. Live piano music was just coming to an end, which made the place feel even more inviting. The elevators are on the slow side, but since the hotel is not a skyscraper it's not a terrible inconvenience. We were on the sixth floor, which was high enough for the seagulls to startle me every time they flew past but not high enough that the fire department couldn’t get to us if needed.

Every room faces the ocean, which seems like an impossibility, but somehow is true. We had a balcony which was big enough for a couple of chairs, although it was a little cold to sit outside, and far too cold to stand on the metal with bare feet, as I learned the hard way. We had a standard room, with two full beds (which are smaller than I remembered), a kitchenette (which essentially means a microwave, a tiny fridge and a coffeemaker), a little table with two chairs and of course a dresser with a TV on top. The television gets your standard basic package as well as HBO and it made me realize how much my DVR has spoiled me. I'm apparently too used to being able to watch what I want when I want.

If you're used to giant, fancy suites you'll probably be unhappy with these rooms. They're more on the cosy side, I think their website says 500 square feet, and they're fairly simple. Also the hotel is being renovated and our room smelled vaguely of paint. Luckily our room was warm enough that we could leave the window open for much of our stay, which made the sound of the ocean even louder, a plus as far as I am concerned. But the beds are comfy and we were very happy with our accommodations.

The original owner of the hotel built it in a wish to return to the days of full service hotels (where you don't have to pump your own gas?). Everyone we encountered was very polite and eager to please. The swimming pool attendant particularly impressed my companions. She showed them her tattoos that she got fifty years ago and regaled them with stories while they swam. (There's also a hot tub, which is great for after you've exhausted yourself swimming.) The person who checked us in and out was extremely efficient and had everything waiting for us at check out. It only took about two minutes to finish that transaction, which was great as we were anxious to get over to Assateague to see the ponies.

The hotel serves tea every afternoon, along with food like crumpets with jam or marmalade. This is an opportunity for the guests to mingle. There are rocking chairs along the back of the hotel, facing the sea, so you can sit and relax without the full force of the sun beating down on you. Perfect for older folks like myself, who have a new aching joint every time we wake up. The hotel is one block from the boardwalk, which was still being repaired post superstore Sandy when we there. It is right across the street from Mother's Cantina (one dollar tacos during happy hour), the Fractured Prune (custom donut shop, which is either a nightmare or a dream come true, depending on your perspective.) and is two blocks from the Happyjack Pancake House.

Their website is and you can find specials there if you look in the right place.

Bonus Treat:
Fans of Doctor Who and Edward Gorey should love this adorable retelling of the Gashlycrumb Tinies starring characters from the Doctor's universe.