Atlantic City, New Jersey is a 2.5 hour drive from New York City and a slightly shorter ride from Philadelphia. Discover what awaits you in this vacation spot and find out what draws travelers to its most popular casino resorts.
For more than a century, the seaside town of Atlantic City has drawn summer visitors to the Boardwalk, the beach, and the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1976, a Casino Gambling Referendum was passed. Old Atlantic City hotels were torn down or revived and towering new ones were built along the Boardwalk and by the nearby Atlantic City Marina.
Since then, Atlantic City's fortunes have ebbed and flowed like the tides along its eastern shore. With the widespread legalization of casino gambling in nearby states including Pennsylvania and New York, Atlantic City faces more competition than ever before.
Yet there are many reasons for couples to visit Atlantic City. There's the beach and the ocean, the nightlife and shopping, the affordable hotels, and a number of outstanding restaurants.
At this writing, Atlantic City contains 9 casino resorts in addition to several non-gaming hotels.
From 1921-2006, Atlantic City was the home of the Miss America Pageant, a parade of young women in high heels wearing bathing suits, sparkly evening gowns, and patriotic get-ups representing their state.
There was also a "talent" competition, although the majority evinced little talent beyond the ability to smile winningly for long periods of time (Vaseline on the teeth was said to help). They competed for college scholarships.
As women gained a stronger place in society, the Miss America Pageant became an embarrassingly retro event. In 2006, it relocated to Las Vegas and has since attempted to modernize by eliminating the swimsuit competition, showcasing a more diverse cast of competitors, and allowing them to speak to raise awareness of individual platform issues.
Symbolizing simpler times, the bronze statue of Miss America stands on the boardwalk in Atlantic City across from Constitution Hall, where the pageant was originally held.
It feels as if there's a party going on at the Hard Rock, and everyone's invited. With five stages and live entertainment 365 days a year, this casino resort is mecca for music lovers. Thanks to the collection of outfits worn and instruments played by the industry's best-known performers on display, visitors are surrounded by sights and sounds that thrilled generations. Just a few of the things that caught our eye among the thousands of items of priceless memorabilia:
- Elvis Presley's 1983 Phantom Rolls-Royce
- A gorgeous (and tiny) white lace gown that Stevie Nicks once rocked
- Frank Sinatra's office piano
- Slash's leather get up
- The Beatles' matching suits
- Keith Richards' guitar
Originally built as the Trump Taj Mahal, this was the third of the Atlantic City casinos the developer bankrupted. The property was later bought by the Seminole Indian tribe, completely and expensively renovated to showcase music and memorabilia, and re-opened as the Hard Rock in 2018.
Today the hotel is home to several exceptional restaurants. The Seafood Tower at Council Oak Fish yields a bounty oysters, shrimp, crab, and lobster to create a pescaterian paradise. Japanese fare hits a high note at Kuro; wagyu tacos and tuna crispy rice are scrumptious ways to start a meal.
Hard Rock's Beach Bar on the sand offers a sunny respite from the casino. And when you're ready to continue (or start) a winning streak, check out the Steel Pier across the way, which has a ferris wheel, roller coaster, and carnival games.
Atlantic City is known as the home of saltwater taffy, a confection inspired by the saline ocean. Its leading purveyor is Fralinger's, a family business that boasted "sea air and sunshine in every box."
The candy company sells the sugary-elastic cylinder (a boon to dentists everywhere) online, on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, in casinos including the Hard Rock, and in area gift shops.
Fralinger's Saltwater Taffy is available in a range of , cavity-inducing flavors including piña colada, watermelon, passion fruit, sour cherry, and peppermint pattie (sic).
The hotel with the highest name recognition in the gambling world celebrated its 40th anniversary in Atlantic City in 2019 and continues to enjoy a central location on the Boardwalk.
Towering statues of historic figures such as Caesar Augustus; Roman spa baths; and eateries that prepare the cuisine of Italy all emphasize Caesars Atlantic City's Ancient Rome theme. Yet there are significant differences between this casino-hotel and the civilization that ruled before the birth of Christ. Among them: Togas were considered both daywear and evening wear in Ancient Rome. And there was nary an escalator or cocktail waitress around when you needed one.
The East Coast version of Caesars Las Vegas's lavish spa, Qua is located on the 4th floor of the Centurion Tower, near the hotel's indoor pool. In addition to sauna, steam, and fitness center, it features pools of different temperatures, and 14 treatment rooms, including couples' suites.
The hotel now features a Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, where diners can savor the star chef's renowned Beef Wellington among other items.
Revel Resorts invested $2.4 billion to build this glass, Arquitectonica-designed structure on The Boardwalk between South New Jersey and South Connecticut avenues. Opened spring 2012, the glass behemoth dubbed Revel contained 1090 guest rooms, dozens of retail shops, multiple restaurants encircling the 150,000-square-foot casino, nightclubs, a huge spa with an indoor-outdoor pool, and two theater venues.
In two years, the revelry abruptly ended as the hotel-casino closed, hundreds of employees lost jobs, and it sold for $82 million at a bankruptcy auction. The property then changed hands.
Rebranded as Ocean Casino Resort, the striking structure has won back visitors and provides a welcome respite from the city's loud, crowded, smoky casinos.
The #1 Atlantic City casino hotel in terms of gaming revenue, The Borgata is located on the city's marina side and considered more upscale than the Boardwalk hotels. Its exterior is clad in a golden mirrored material. Internally the hotel is well lit and expensively decorated (marble and mosaic floors, Dale Chihuly glass sculptures). Eateries range from Starbucks to restaurants from star chefs Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, and Geoffrey Zakarian, among others. And there's a nightclub, beer garden, and multiple bars.
Standard guest rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views that overlook the skyline and stretch to the Atlantic Ocean. The Water Club Atlantic City is a satellite of The Borgata. Comprised of 800 guest rooms, swimming pools, a two-story spa, and a few shops, The Water Club is akin to an upscale dormitory for gamblers. Patrons use an indoor walkway to get to the nearby Borgata to eat, play, be entertained, and club-hop.
Harrah's Atlantic City Casino Hotel is also situated in the city's Marina district, away from the crowds and hubbub of its legendary Boardwalk. The hotel is geared to adults who like to drink, gamble, and have fun.
Its expanded entertainment and retail center, hotel tower, Elizabeth Arden Red Door spa and salon, and lively pool-and-party area attract couples. The glassed-in atrium dome soars 90 feet and is filled with a million dollars' worth of tropical vegetation that overlook the 80,000-gallon swimming pool, which is but four feet deep.
Harrah's Atlantic City is one of three Caesars Entertainment Company properties in New Jersey. The others, which are located on the Boardwalk, are Caesars Atlantic City and Ballys Atlantic City.
This hotel began life as Trump Marina in 1985. Over time it slumped into neglect as the chronic bankrupter failed here, too. Landry's, Inc., a Houston-based company, acquired the property in 2011, renamed it the Golden Nugget, and invested millions in upgrading the property and expunging evidence of the former owner's garish bad taste.
One of three hotels in Atlantic City's marina district, the bay-side Golden Nugget has the distinction of being the one adjacent to the state marina, which holds up to 630 vessels. Other pleasures of the water available to guests include a large outdoor swimming pool surrounded by cabanas and a quadrant of hot tubs. There's also a day spa, plus a casino where unlucky gamblers can get soaked.
Birthplace of Monopoly Picture
Before gambling arrived, the big game in these parts was Monopoly, invented by Charles Darrow in 1934, at the height of the Depression. In his youth, Darrow had spent summers in Atlantic City. He became the first millionaire game designer in history.
This commemorative sign, once affixed to a Boardwalk railing on Park Place, reads:
"In 1930 an unemployed Philadelphian named Charles Darrow dubbed a board game MONOPOLY. He labeled its streets after avenues along the Boardwalk. It became the most popular board game of all time and gave new meaning to the word "gaming" in Atlantic City."
"Darrow sold his homemade game to department stores in Philadelphia before Parker Brothers bought the rights in 1934. MONOPOLY added millions to Darrow's personal Community Chest."
Cash for Gold in Atlantic City, New Jersey
More than 40 years of legalized gambling have not been profitable for all in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
A block away from the glittering Boardwalk hotels, two blocks from the Boardwalk itself, the town was mired in poverty. Urban renewal has eliminated many of the ramshackle wooden houses that once blighted the view en route to the casinos and replaced their footprints with grassy areas.
Still, a few "cash for gold" pawnshops remain, beckoning tapped-out gamblers and others in need of quick cash from the underside of Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Note: The National Council on Problem Gambling Helpline offers a confidential, 24-hour line for problem gamblers or their family members at 1-800-522-4700.