On the inside looking out

You've come to the Maryland or Delaware shore to lounge in the sun and enjoy the ocean. So what do you do when the weather ignores your request for sunshine and blue skies?

Spend! Spend! Spend!
Tourists and their money are easily parted in Ocean City and Rehoboth, where a glut of retailers will gladly swipe your plastic in exchange for a tacky souvenir or some beachwear.

The most popular bargain destination is the Rehoboth Outlets, where discounts and Delaware's lack of sales tax combine for great bargains (for more on the outlets, see Beach bargains). For a kitschier Ocean City shopping experience, visit the shops along the Boardwalk, where you can buy anything from flavored popcorn and string bikinis to offensive T-shirts and ceramic figurines.

Bar hop
What better place to wait for the sun to resurface than a dark and smoky bar? Despite the suggestive name, Big Pecker's is a respectable place with decent pub food, bargain-basement happy hours and live entertainment. Seacrets, with its nightclubs, tropical bar, live entertainment and popular bayfront beach, is a great place to imbibe, rain or shine. The venerable Greene Turtle has live music, a game room and cigar bar, and 38 TVs for watching your favorite sporting events. Further north at Dewey Beach is the infamous Bottle and Cork, which has hosted such well known acts as the Dave Matthews Band, Gin Blossoms and Better Than Ezra.

See the absurd
You can easily kill a few hours looking at shrunken heads, a 40-foot hand-carved wooden roller coaster and the world's largest tire at Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum. You can't miss it -- just look for the shark protruding from the building on the Boardwalk. This fish, with its moving head and tail, is only the first of many curiosities you'll see upon entering this museum of oddities. (Ripley's can also be found in Atlantic City.)

A-maze yourself
At Planet Maze, your kids and the kid in you can slide down tubes, climb ropes and crawl through tunnels. This labyrinth of fun is open until midnight during the summer and even has an arcade and a snack bar. In the same complex is Laser Storm, where you can suit up in futuristic headgear, plunge into an arena filled with black lights and fog and enter the world of the movie "Stargate" for a rousing game of laser tag.

Stop, roll and redeem
It wouldn't be the Boardwalk without Skee-Ball, pinball and other games that buzz, clang and dispense redemption tickets. For a good old-fashioned family arcade, try Sportland; Fun City and Marty's Playland.

Skate away
For the ultimate disconnect, there's nothing like ice skating in summer. And you can do it at the Carousel Beachfront Hotel. Refreshments and skate rentals are available and the rink is open year round.

Discover the sea
Not only does the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum have lots of cool shipwreck artifacts, jewelry, bottles, weapons, tools and navigational instruments, but it's all free. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Time travel
See what shore life was like before high-rise condominiums, strip malls and tourists infiltrated Ocean City at the Life-Saving Station Museum. The museum is in one of Ocean City's oldest buildings, a former base of operations for U.S. Coast Guard maritime lifesaving efforts. The exhibits include artifacts recovered from shipwrecks; a collection of early hand fans; 100 years worth of bathing suits; and sand from beaches and riverbanks around the world.

Pick a flick
You'll find a venue for that old standby -- the rainy Saturday afternoon matinee -- at Carmike Sun & Surf 8, Fox Theater Gold Coast Mall, Fox Theater White Marlin Mall and Movies at Midway in Rehoboth.

Let it snow
The town of Snow Hill, just over the bridge from Ocean City, has many 19th century buildings worth exploring:

Furnace Town is an iron-manufacturing village with artisan interpreters, nature trails, 11 historic buildings and archaeological dig sites.

Mt. Zion One-Room School was the local school in the early 1900s, when kids carried their lunches in pails and sat on wooden benches.

The Julia A. Purnell Museum contains a large collection of the local folk artist's needlework. The museum -- also known as the Attic of Worcester County -- recounts the historical and cultural heritage of Maryland's Eastern Shore with more than 10,000 pieces from the earliest known Indian societies, the Victorian era and more. The museum features many interactive exhibits, a children's touch table and colorful and educational displays.