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While many visitors barely step outside the casinos, Atlantic City offers much more than just gambling.

Nature and natural beauty abounds nearby, and in the city you'll find plenty of diversions, ranging from countless shopping opportunities to simply relaxing in the sun.

 
 
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What to See and Do in Atlantic City

There's always lots to do in and around Atlantic City
 

The beach, the boardwalk and the casinos are three of Atlantic City's biggest attractions.

Part four of a series on Atlantic City, NJ, see also

1.  All about visiting Atlantic City, NJ
2.  Where to stay in Atlantic City
3.  Where to eat and drink in Atlantic City

4.  What to see and do in and around Atlantic City

 

 

Gambling?  Shopping?  Strolling the boardwalk?  Or any one of many other activities - the chances are that you will not be short of things to fill your time in Atlantic City.

The information here will get you started in your planning, and of course, there's lots more available in the linked resources mentioned in the article too.  Get ready for a fun time in vibrant Atlantic City.

What to See and Do in Atlantic City

There is plenty to see and do in the region, and one of the valid activities to do is 'nothing at all' - just relaxing and enjoying the beach and soaking up the atmosphere on the boardwalk.

Over the summer in particular most weeks will feature some sort of free outdoor festival - the most popular being the Atlantic City Air Show and the Food and Wine Festival. If you time your visit carefully you can even catch a major boxing event at the Boardwalk Hall.

The Casinos

Without a doubt the major attraction of Atlantic City for most visitors is the availability of legal gambling (or "gaming," as is now the preferred term) at the casinos.

There are currently 11 large scale casinos operating in Atlantic City, all of which are open 24 hours, 7 days a week:

Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort

Bally's Atlantic City

Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa

Caesars Atlantic City

Harrah's Resort Atlantic City

Resorts Atlantic City

Showboat - The Mardi Gras Casino

Tropicana Casino and Resort

Trump Marina Hotel Casino

Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino

Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort

There is very little difference between all the casinos when it comes to the games on offer, betting limits, level of service, etc, so it does not really matter where you end up purely from a gambling point of view. Arguably the Borgata is a slight cut above the rest and perhaps Resorts is most in need of renovation, but the differences are far from overwhelming. Nonetheless, most regular visitors have developed a preference for one or more casinos - in our own case we usually find ourselves at Caesars, the Tropicana, or Resorts among the boardwalk casinos and the Borgata when we are in the inlet area, but this probably has more to do with the force of habit.

The local weekly papers, such as the Atlantic City Weekly, usually run columns that detail any particular promotions that are being offered by the different casinos along with a guide to which casinos are currently offering the best odds on the different games and slot machines.

In addition to gambling, the casinos also offer a wide range of other activities, ranging from bars and restaurants to nightclubs and internationally recognized performers. Check the individual casino websites for major upcoming attractions.

The Boardwalk

The boardwalk is Atlantic City's oldest and most famous attraction and also the most pleasant way to get from point A to point B.

As the main route through the touristy areas of Atlantic City the boardwalk is home to a high percentage of the tackier, more gaudy aspects of Atlantic City. It often seems as if most of the stores lining it are almost identical souvenir shops, with the rest being fast food joints of one description or another. Despite this, the boardwalk is still a great place to spend a few hours enjoying the wonderful views of the ocean and the casinos and watching the constant stream of people go by (especially during the summer).

The busiest section of the boardwalk runs between the Showboat Casino and the Tropicana. Although it extends beyond these points you will find that there is less to see and do beyond them.

If you get tired of walking you can always take a rolling chair ride or, if you get up early enough, bicycle riding is permitted on the boardwalk between the hours of 6.30am and 10.00am.

As you wander along the boardwalk you will find yourself passing several of Atlantic City's leading attractions. These include the following:

Atlantic City Art Center on Garden Pier (boardwalk at New Jersey Ave): Three exhibition galleries feature artwork by contemporary artists and artisans of local, regional and national renown. Provides a wide array of activities in conjunction with exhibitions including concerts, gallery talks, artist demonstrations and literary readings. Admission is free.

Atlantic City Historical Museum (also on Garden Pier): Focuses on the history of Atlantic City with vintage photographs, local artifacts and a video presentation, "Boardwalk Ballyhoo: The Magic of Atlantic City." Worth at least a quick look, especially as admission is free.

Atlantic City Miniature Golf (1 Kennedy Plaza, Boardwalk at Mississippi Ave): A fun spot for the not-so-active golfer.

Central Pier Arcade and Speedway (1400 Boardwalk): Features Nascar go-carts and paintball.

Haunted Tales (1535 Boardwalk): Features a "haunted" animated theater where you can listen to tales of the New Jersey Devil and NJ pirates who still haunt the Jersey shore. Also has a gift shop.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum (1441 Boardwalk at S. New York Ave): This is the oldest of the various Ripley's locations and features over 400 exhibits in 13 themed galleries.

Playcade Amusements (2629 Boardwalk): Atlantic City's longest running arcade offers various amusements for the young.

The Steel Pier (1000 Boardwalk, opposite the Taj Mahal): The famous Steel Pier reopened in 1993 & features a wide selection of rides and attractions including Crazy Mouse Roller Coaster, The Rocket (a catapult ride) & helicopter rides during the warmer months.

Steel's Fudge (1633 Boardwalk): Steel's, the oldest continuously family owned and operated fudge company in the world is one of the best places to try Atlantic City's very own Salt Water Taffy, as well as other delicious fudge, cookies and candies.

The Beaches

Unlike most New Jersey beaches, Atlantic City's clean, wide beaches are free. Of course the easiest way to spend a day at the beach is swimming and sunbathing. Beach chair rentals are available at several locations along the boardwalk, including Pennsylvania Ave, South Carolina Ave and Park Place. Most of the casinos also operate beach bars during the summer months, where you can enjoy your favorite drinks while you socialize and enjoy the fresh sea air.

If you are looking to fill your day at the beach in a more active way the following activities are available.

Surfing is permitted on three designated surfing beaches: Crystal Beach at New Hampshire Ave; Delaware Ave Beach; and Downtown Beach at Raleigh Ave. Lifeguards are not on duty at the surfing beaches so surfers should not surf alone. Surfing lessons are available.

Kayaking and Windsurfing are both permitted at the Jackson Ave beach. This is a no bathing zone designated for kayaking and windsurfing only. Unfortunately rentals are not available so you will have to bring your own equipment.

Boogie Boards and body surfing are permitted on any bathing beach. All boogie boards must have a leash.

Beach Volleyball nets are provided by several hotels for their patrons enjoyment and informal pick up games form regularly. Just wander around until you find a game taking place.

Metal detectors are allowed on the beaches at all times, should you choose to try your luck somewhere outside the casinos.

Fishing is permitted on the jetties along the Oriental/Main Ave Boardwalk, in the inlet off the Boardwalk and on the bathing beaches - though not when lifeguards are on duty (10am-6pm). No fishing license is required for these areas.

Grilling is permitted on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day only. Grills must be charcoal briquettes; no gas grills or open flames are permitted.

Group activities and parties require permits from the City of Atlantic City.

Shopping

While the boardwalk is mainly filled with tacky souvenir shops and the casinos generally offer stores that will quickly drain you of any money you may have won, there are several other concentrations of shops that are worth a visit.

The Pier Shops at Caesars: Located on the pier directly across from Caesars, this collection of about 90 stores and restaurants offers the most high end shopping options in Atlantic City and is one of the two main shopping centers. Among the luxury stores you will find such well known names as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Movado, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tiffany and Tourneau, to name just a few. The Pier Shops also features The Water Show, an interactive water, light and sound display. For more information check out the website.

Atlantic City Outlets - The Walk: The Walk is Atlantic City's other major shopping center. The better part of 100 stores and restaurants are located between Atlantic and Baltic Aves, stretching the three blocks between Ohio and Christopher Columbus Aves. Here you will find countless name brand outlet stores offering discounts of up to 70% off normal retail. Adidas, Banana Republic, Coach, Guess, J Crew, Kenneth Cole, Nike, Old Navy, Polo and Timberland are all to be found here, as are many other nationally recognized brands. If you are so inclined, it is easy to spend a whole day strolling around and visiting all the stores that are a part of The Walk. The website offers more information, including a full list of stores.

The Quarter: Although we have already been somewhat dismissive of the casinos as a shopping venue, if you feel the need to take a look at what is on offer then we would definitely recommend The Quarter at Tropicana as the best choice. This Old Havana-themed area features some 30 stores, along with a dozen or so bars, restaurants and nightclubs. There is even an IMAX theater and a TrickZone Theater to keep younger visitors entertained. For more information check out this and this.

Sightseeing

Atlantic City is not a prime sightseeing destination. A trip to Atlantic City is more about the casinos, beaches, shops, restaurants and, of course, the boardwalk than it is about visiting great cultural or scenic sites. Nevertheless, if you are spending more than a day or two here you may appreciate a change of pace at some point. The following suggestions are not an exhaustive list but will probably be more than enough for one visit.

Atlantic City Trolley Tours: Offer fully guided sightseeing trolley tours showcasing the Atlantic City region's attractions. A variety of tours are available Monday through Thursday during the summer months. See their website for more information.

Absecon Lighthouse: First lit in 1857, the Absecon Lighthouse is the tallest in New Jersey and the third tallest in the country. Restoration of the lighthouse was completed in 1999 (with the rest of the 2 acre grounds being finished in 2003). Visitors can now stroll around the property, visit the Keeper's Cottage museum and gift shop and climb the 228 steps to the top of the lighthouse, which features a magnificent 1854 First-Order Fresnel lens in the lamp above. Well worth a visit on a nice day in order to take in the wonderful panoramic views of the Jersey shoreline on offer. For more information visit their website.

Atlantic City Aquarium: Offers at least 18 aquarium tanks, including a 25,000 gallon tank featuring a variety of sea creatures indigenous to New Jersey waters and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region. Other highlights include a Shark and Ray touch tank and a daily "Dive and Dine" live diver feeding show. More information is available at their website.

Lucy the Elephant: While we must confess to being a little bemused by this attraction the locals seem fiercely attached to Lucy, so we feel obliged to include it/her. Located in nearby Margate, Lucy the Elephant was built in 1881 by real estate developer James Lafferty as a gimmick to attract potential buyers to his land holdings. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 as the oldest surviving example of zoomorphic architecture, Lucy's dimensions - 65 feet high, 60 feet long and 18 feet wide, weighing over 90 tons and containing nearly one million pieces of wood - have earned her the title of "The World's Largest Elephant." Visit the website for further information.

Noyes Museum of Art: Located in nearby Oceanville, The Noyes Museum of Art displays a growing collection of American fine and folk art, a collection of vintage bird decoys and exhibitions by regional and national artists. They also host various programs, workshops and community events. Probably not worth a special visit, but worth dropping in if you are pursuing other activities outside Atlantic City itself.

Cape May: Located on the Southernmost tip of New Jersey, some 45 minutes drive from Atlantic City, Cape May is well worth a visit - you may even wish to spend a night here if you have the time. The only city in the US to be wholly designated a National Historic Landmark, Cape May is famous for its Victorian-era houses (only San Francisco has more). Other notable attractions here include the beach - designated one of the nation's Top 10 beaches by the Travel Channel - and bird watching (particularly during the fall migration). See the website for more information.

Recreation and Sports

While Atlantic City is not a destination that you typically associate with recreation and sports there are numerous possibilities to explore, especially in the summer months. You may wish to participate in one or more of the following diversions.

Golf: There are more than 20 golf courses in the vicinity of Atlantic City, making it something of a developing golf Mecca. Whether you are a novice or a pro you are sure to find a course to suit. For more information, this site is a good place to start.

Fishing/Boating/Diving: For a seaside resort, there is surprisingly little in the way of outlets for these activities, although that is not to say that nothing is available. Two places (though not the only ones available) to check out are the Atlantic City Fishing and Dive Center and Summer Breeze Sailing Charters. If neither place has what you are looking for they can probably guide you in the direction of someone who does.

Surfing lessons: As we have already mentioned, surfing is permitted on some of the Atlantic City beaches. Lessons are available from June through October. Sign up at the Boardwalk Hall Information Center or call (609)398-0159.

Bicycle rentals: B&K Bike rentals (Boardwalk at North Carolina Ave, Tel (609)344-8008) offer adult's and children's bikes, tandems, baby seats and safety helmets for rent between 6.30 am and 10.00am daily (the hours when cycling is permitted on the boardwalk). ID and/or deposit required.

Spas: Atlantic City continues its long tradition as a restorative destination through its abundance of top class spas. Every casino has a spa and there are several others in the city as well. While we cannot claim to know them all, we can recommend the Blue Mercury Spa at Tropicana and Spa Toccare at The Borgata.

Parks: There are any number of State parks within easy driving distance of Atlantic City should you wish to spend some time surrounded by nature. The best known of these is probably Wharton State Forest, the largest single tract of land within the New Jersey State Park system. With over 110,000 acres, it offers picnic and camping areas, cabins, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, etc, as well as the historic Batsto Village (a former bog iron and glass making industrial center in the 18th and 19th centuries). For more information on this or any other of the nearby parks you can visit this website.

For more information

There are a number of worthwhile sources of additional information on what to do in Atlantic City. To the best of our knowledge, this is the only guide book that focuses exclusively on Atlantic City and it offers over 200 pages of information (although, as the latest edition is already two years old, a few details are likely to be out of date).

If you are looking for information online the key website is run by the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority (ACCVA) and offers an incredible amount of information about almost anything to do with Atlantic City.

While you are in Atlantic City itself there are a couple of free weekly newspapers (most notably the Atlantic City Weekly Magazine) that provide details of current activities - chances are that you will find copies in the lobby of your hotel. For in person assistance there is also the Boardwalk Information Center, located on the boardwalk at Mississippi Ave and open daily from 9.30 am.

Summary

Atlantic City can be a fun town to spend a few days in regardless of whether you are looking to unwind and take it easy or are after something more action packed. Don't be fooled into thinking that all you can do is spend time in the casinos, although if you are feeling lazy that is always an option as well.

Read more in Parts 1, 2 and 3

Part four of a series on Atlantic City, NJ, see also

1.  All about visiting Atlantic City, NJ
2.  Where to stay in Atlantic City
3.  Where to eat and drink in Atlantic City

4.  What to see and do in and around Atlantic City

 

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 726 June 2009, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 

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