by Caroline Costello
It’s often the little things that get kids excited on vacation — the chance to make friends with other children, a pool with a waterslide, an ice-cold hot-pink strawberry milkshake; that’s what Francis Scott Key Family Resort is all about. Child-friendly and amenities abound on the property’s extensive grounds. Take a quick stroll around the place with your kids, and the youngsters will have your vacation itinerary planned in a heartbeat, whether they want to splash around in the resort’s indoor pool, cool off at the Pirate Sprayground or go mini-golfing with mom and dad. (The 3-year-old we traveled with was simply thrilled that there was a playground directly across the street from our room.) If you’re looking for a resort where you can have a great time with the kids without setting foot off the grounds, this is your kind of place.
Of course, Ocean City, Md., isn’t exactly the kind of town in which you’d want to stay cooped up for too long. But for rainy days and off-season visits, when a trip to the beach isn’t at the top of your to-do list, Francis Scott Key offers tons of activities. And when you do want to hit the sand, Francis Scott Key (which is not a beachfront resort) has a complimentary shuttle bus that will get you there in a cinch.
Our Editor Loves
- Huge array of onsite family-friendly activities
- Free shuttle to the beach
- Indoor and outdoor swimming pools
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
While Francis Scott Key bills itself as a resort, the property is technically a motel. Almost all accommodations -- with the exception of the rooms at the Lodge -- are drive-up style (which comes in really handy when you have a lot of luggage to lug). Offering more than 250 rooms, Francis Scott Key has a great selection of different room styles to suit families of virtually all sizes, from one-bedroom digs that resemble your traditional hotel room to two-bedroom vacation homes that can house up to six people. There are also ranch-style rooms, which are first-floor motel-style that have private parking and sleeper sofas, and rooms with full kitchens (in the Florida building).
Rooms are cheery and decorated with bright, beachy colors. Don't expect full-on luxury like plush down comforters or Jacuzzis -- the resort uses those ubiquitous stiff hotel bed spreads that tend to end up tossed on the floor at night, and the bathrooms are pretty standard. But the rooms are quite clean, and housekeeping service comes daily. All rooms have free Wi-Fi, coffee makers, flat screen televisions, safes, and irons and ironing boards. Cribs are free to borrow upon request.
We often stay at the Francis Scott Key Family Resort and they are always there for us like an old friend you can always count on. The staff is unbelievably friendly, the rooms are clean and the location is great. Close to Ocean City but not in the mix of the crowds. The only complaint I have is that the beds are just double beds. They really need to upgrade to queen. It is just about impossible for two adults to get a good night sleep in a double bed. At least for us.
I traveled to the FSK Resort just for a mini vacation with my 2 yr old. We loved the coziness/homey feeling of the room (we were in the Florida building), the staff was really friendly and helpful, and the location is the perfect distance from everything! The only downfall was the time of year. The outdoor water facilities, restaurants, and shuttle bus to the boardwalk were not up and running because it was too early in the season. However, we still had a blast doing the mini golf and swimming in the indoor pool. The arcade is a tad outdated but it looks retro! Overall, it’s great!!
A pirate ship replica (called the "Sea Witch") complete with water slides, spraying fountains of water and nets for climbing -- kids who love pirates won't be able to get enough of this place. The sprayground is an outdoor attraction, and as such it's only open seasonally. Keep in mind that there's no lifeguard on duty here. Admission is free for guests staying at the resort.
Caribbean Key Indoor Pool
The resort's fantastic indoor pool is one of the reasons Francis Scott Key is a great year-round family vacation destination. When we visited the pool, a group of families were celebrating a child's birthday, but there was still plenty of room to splash around and enjoy. The pool is heated, and it's surrounded by cushy lounge chairs. There's a water slide, giant buckets hung very high that pour water onto the heads of giggling children, life-size neon palm trees and a whale statue that spouts water. Younger kids could easily spend half a day or longer here without getting bored.
During summer, the Francis Scott Key outdoor resort offers families a chance to cool off without having to trek to the beach. There's a small kiddie pool for younger children, as well as a hot tub for adults (you must be 18 years of age or older to go in the hot tub). Children ages 14 and younger aren't allowed in the pool area without a supervising adult.
Outdoor Sporting Activities
Francis Scott Key has courts for basketball, volleyball and horseshoes. Hours for these activities are from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the courts are only open seasonally. If you want to get in the game, visit the front desk to borrow basketballs, volleyballs and horseshoes.
An adorable playground with slides, swings and monkey bars sits in the center of the resort grounds. The playground is open year round (why not don some mittens and hit the swings?).
Pet Leg Putt Putt
Try your hand at mini-golf at the resort's impressive course, which is open year round. Golf clubs are available at the front desk, and they're complimentary.
Organized Activities for Families
In addition to its already extensive offering of onsite activities for kids, the resort hosts fun, organized events like bingo games and basketball tournaments. These events, which are a fabulous way to meet and mingle with other families staying at the resort, tend to take place during the busy summer season. Contact the resort's front desk staff to see what's going on during your stay.
In the same building as the indoor pool, there's an arcade with video games galore, and even one of those delightfully frustrating machines with the stuffed animals and the metal claw. All machines are coin-operated, but there is a change machine in the arcade that will turn dollar bills into quarters.
There are a few onsite dining options here but there are lots of other restaurants located within a short distance, and some can even be reached on foot. There's no room service on offer. Vending machines serving snacks like chips and cookies can be found behind the lobby, and in the same building as the indoor pool.
Rt. 50 Diner
Open seasonally, this diner serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Route 50 offers a Build-a-Burger option -- pick your burger, from turkey to beef to veggie, then add any amount of toppings like peppers, sprouts, pickles, mushrooms -- even shredded coconut or pineapple! Kids menus are available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For dessert, indulge in freshly made milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. The diner is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Chicken and Rib Shack
Open seasonally, chicken and ribs are cooked on the smoker here daily. Pizza, wings and chicken tenders are a few of the other options at this casual spot. The kids' menu offers things like grilled cheese, hot dogs and mac and cheese. The shack is open from noon to 7 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Surf Shack Pool Bar
Located on the indoor pool deck, things like pizza, wings, ice cream, hot dogs and frozen cocktails are available here.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Unfortunately, there are no childcare services available at this resort. However, all of the staff members we encountered (including housekeeping) were simply fantastic with kids. Expect staff to smile politely and crack a joke when you arrive at 10 p.m. and your tired toddler is crying and screaming at the top of her lungs. That's the benefit of staying at a resort specifically geared to families -- the staff has seen and dealt with it all, from apocalyptic tantrums in the lobby to lost teddy bears.
A well-kept fitness room, which has a TV, can be found in the Florida building near the indoor pool, which is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
There are also coin-operated laundry machines in the Florida building.
The Art of Smart Timing
While most resort's facilities are only open during the summer, the indoor pool and arcade are up and running year round. Off-season (late-fall, winter and early spring) is when you'll find the best deals on nightly rates at Francis Scott Key. But Ocean City can be a bit of a ghost town during winter. The period between mid-June and Labor Day is high season, when pretty much everything at the resort is open, and the whole town is bustling with summer vacationers.
Ocean City, Maryland is located about three hours from Philadelphia and about two and half hours from Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Being a motel, Francis Scott Key was built for families who drive. The property is located on Route 50 about a mile from the beach. However, keep in mind that you probably won't need to use your car very much during your stay. You'll want to take the shuttle to the beach (parking can be a nightmare in the summer), and with so many activities available onsite, there's no need to drive all over town looking for things to do.
The shuttle bus from the resort to the beach is free, and it runs seasonally from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
For Mom & Dad
Shipwreck Cove Bar
Adults can enjoy a beer or frozen cocktail at this seasonal bar open from Memorial Day to Labor.