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Downtown “Earlier Than the Bird” Celebration Set for Saturday

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Pajama-clad shoppers are part of the fun during the Earlier Than the Bird event in downtown Ocean City.

The early forecast calls for clear skies and mild temperatures on Saturday – ideal conditions to kick off the holiday season along downtown Asbury Avenue. In Ocean City, that means shopping in your pajamas for the Earlier Than the Bird celebration.

The annual downtown shopping extravaganza takes place 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 18 – the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Anybody (pajama-clad or not) can take advantage of early-bird shopping specials at stores on Asbury Avenue between Sixth Street and 14th Street.

But free turkeys will be awarded to the best-dressed, and shoppers can text in to win gift certificates and prizes from downtown merchants. Free coffee will be available at Jon & Patty’s (637 Asbury Avenue) and Ocean City Coffee Company (917 Asbury Avenue). Downtown Asbury Avenue will be decorated for the season.

Free horse-and-carriage rides will be available later that day from noon to 3 p.m.  The same free service will then be available noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 25 through Dec. 23. It’s a chance to ride the downtown the old-fashioned way with boarding at Sixth Street and Asbury Avenue.

The downtown will be celebrating “Festive Fridays” this year. The fun will start on Nov. 24 with Ocean City’s traditional Christmas in the Downtown – “Our Miracle on Asbury Avenue.”

Carolers sing holiday classics while wearing Victorian-era inspired clothing.

This Black Friday event includes shopping, horse-and-carriage rides, street entertainment, carolers, and visits with Santa. The event will culminate around 5 p.m. when Santa Claus will emerge on the rooftop of City Hall. With the help of an Ocean City Fire Department ladder truck, Santa will descend and help light the Christmas tree and illuminate City Hall.

Festive Fridays will continue on Dec. 1 with the annual Christmas Parade at 6 p.m. on Asbury Avenue from Sixth Street to 11th Street. Festive Fridays will then continue on Dec. 8, 15 and 22 with shopping, carolers, and free horse-and-carriage rides from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Here is a list of other upcoming events:

  • Annual Fast & Furriest 5K Turkey Trot (Nov. 23): Down the Boardwalk. Sponsored by the Humane Society of Ocean City. For more information, call 609-398-9500, ext. 4, or visit hsocnj.org.
  • Holidays with the Ocean City Pops (Nov. 25):  Enjoy your favorite holiday songs with the Ocean City Pops. Led by conductor Vince Lee, the Pops will perform classic favorites and modern hits featuring soloist Sara Maimone of Ocean City. 6 p.m. at the Ocean City Music Pier. For tickets, visit OceanCityVacation.com/BoxOffice.
  • Photos with Santa in Lifeguard Boat (Nov. 25-Dec. 23): Noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Ocean City Music Pier.
  • Visits with Santa in the Downtown (Nov. 25-Dec. 23): 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Mark Soifer Park, Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue. 
Michelle Hayes, of Absecon, and her son, Noah, try out the interactive train set in 2022.
  • Train Show (Dec. 2-3): Free admission to a model train show 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Music Pier.
  • Holiday Festival (Dec. 3): The Ocean City Community Center (1735 Simpson Avenue) will host its annual Holiday Festival 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3. The event takes place in the Ocean City Free Public Library’s atrium with holiday crafts, a balloon sculptor, live music, refreshments and a visit from Santa (feel free to bring your letters and lists). Mrs. Claus, a reading by a local children’s author, crafts and shopping will take place at the adjacent Ocean City Historical Museum. Handmade pottery, jewelry, paintings and other unique gifts will be up for sale in the adjacent Ocean City Arts Center. 
  • ‘Finding Nemo JR’ (Dec. 8-10): Ocean City Theatre Company students in grades 3 to 8 will present this stage adaptation of Disney’s classic story. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9, and 2 p.m. Dec. 10. More information and online ticket sales are available at oceancitytheatrecompany.com. 
  • First Night New Year’s Eve Celebration (Dec. 31): Celebrate New Year’s Eve with the entire family. The 31st anniversary of this Ocean City event will feature traditional favorites like rides, ice-skating and magicians, along with headline entertainment, including the Stevie Nicks tribute band Gypsy and the Motown revue Motor City. For a complete schedule and to purchase all-inclusive admission buttons, please visit firstnightocnj.com. 
  • First Day Celebration (Jan. 1, 2024): Activities include a 1 p.m. 5K run on the Boardwalk (pre-register at www.ocnj.us/race-events), a 2 p.m. First Dip polar plunge, and an all-day Shopping Extravaganza. Visit firstnightocnj.com for more information.