Berlin, the coolest small town in America
Think of it as the “un-O.C.” Visitors who seek out Ocean City, in the far southeastern corner of Maryland, know what they’re getting: big hotels, a boardwalk and the expanse of the ocean.
But if visitors travel only a few miles inland—five miles from the water as the crow flies, and nine miles from O.C. by car—they will find a very different scene in Berlin.
And that is exactly what the town of Berlin is counting on. From its 18th-century start as the Burleigh Inn and later history as a stopping-off point for salesmen—“drummers”— and tourists en route to and from Ocean City, Berlin (pronounced “BUR-lin”) has been a respite from the resort-world to the east.
These days, Berlin is positioning itself quite successfully as a fun escape from the commercialization to the east, but it can also be like a step in time in two directions at once: toward the small-town community feeling of the past and toward a future of green sustainability and localism. All in all, it’s a good lesson in what it takes to keep a small town thriving.
The arts are an integral part of this mix, of course. Offerings by local artists tend to the crafty, functional and sometimes whimsical—including a glassblower, a letterpress featuring vintage cold-type presses, several jewelers and a custom metal-wright among the painters and designers—but there is also Art in the Fields, a gallery featuring internationally-known 20th- and 21st-century artists. Music and the “time based arts” are mostly represented in the many outdoor concerts, fiddlers’ festivals, cinema “al fresco” and even vintage-car “cruises”that festoon the tourist season.
Find our more why Smithsonian named Berlin one of the 20 Best Small Towns to Visit, and Budget Travel crowned Berlin “Coolest Small Town in America."