National Road & Atlantic City
An Excerpt from
The book provides
information on eight different roadtrip itineraries.
This excerpt introduces
one of the routes, known as 'The National Road' and includes
area information about Atlantic City (pictured left), from
where the route commences.
This page is an excerpt from
the introduction to the book Let's Go Roadtripping USA.
If cross-country’s the name, the
National Road is your game. This route cuts across the middle of
the country, from sea to shining sea. For the first stretch,
you’ll follow the Old National Road, much of which is today’s
U.S. 40. Construction on this road began in 1811, and the road
reached its original terminus, Wheeling, WV (p. 328) by 1818. By
1833, it had been extended to Vandalia, IL (p. 344); from the
start of the route to Vandalia, Old National Road Markers, as
well as Madonna of the Trails (p. 328) statues, are still
visible on the roadsides.
Miles: c. 3000
Route: Atlantic City, NJ to San Francisco, CA.
States: 14; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West
Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado,
Utah, Nevada, and California.
Driving Time: Give yourself three to four weeks to begin to
experience what the road has to offer.
When To Go: Almost any time you feel like taking off for
California. Go in winter and ski in Colorado (but keep in mind
that driving conditions can be treacherous) or go in summer and
explore the wilderness along the way (but keep in mind that
prices and temperatures are higher). The bottom line? Just go.
Crossroads: The East Coast in Atlantic City, NJ (p. 91); Route
66 in St. Louis, MO (p. 470); The Oregon Trail in Independence,
MO (p. 544); The North American in Ely, NV (p. 693); The Pacific
Coast in San Francisco, CA (p. 941).
Start your trip in Atlantic City,
NJ -- check out Lucy the Elephant (p. 304), but don’t spend all
your quarters at the slots here; save some for Reno, NV (p.
416), still 2700 mi. down the road. From here, continue on to
Philadelphia (p. 305), revered by some as the birthplace of the
nation and revered by more as the birthplace of the cheesesteak
sandwich, before passing through Baltimore (p. 315). Soon enough
you’ll enter the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Stop at
scenic Harpers Ferry National Historic Park (p. 322) before
rolling through Ohio and into Indiana, home of the world’s only
National Cookie Cutter Museum (p. 338) and the world-famous
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (p. 340). Continue, officially
passing into the West under the arch at St. Louis (p. 346) and
then through Missouri, home state of ragtime legend Scott Joplin
(in Sedalia, p. 355). Next is Kansas, home of the world’s
largest hairball (p. 373). By now, you’ll be on U.S. 50, another
famous continent-crosser, paralleling the historic Lincoln
Highway. It’s a long, straight shot to Colorado, and then from
Denver (p. 379) up into the mountains, winding through the Rocky
Mountains National Park (p. 387) and some of the nation’s best
skiing at Vail (p. 391). This area also hosts unparalleled
opportunities for summertime activities, including rafting and
The stunning scenery continues
into Utah; our route takes you through Moab (p. 399), gateway to
the spectacular formations of Arches National Park (p. 400), and
then north to Salt Lake City (p. 405) and its namesake Great
Salt Lake. From there, it’s on to northern Nevada, where U.S. 50
is known as “The Loneliest Road,” tracing the route of the
shortlived Pony Express (p. 415). The road here is a black
ribbon winding across the desert, broken by the occasional cow,
cactus, or mining town. You’ll pass Great Basin National Park
(p. 410) and then Reno -- ”biggest little city in the world” --
before the welcome blue oasis of Lake Tahoe (p. 419), which
somehow offers pristine wilderness and casino-sponsored
debauchery (p. 422) side-by-side. Continuing west, you’ll come
down from the Sierra Nevada into California’s Central Valley.
Berkeley (p. 429), is a bibliophile’s dream and home to Chez
Panisse (p. 430), the birthplace of California Cuisine. Go west,
young roadtripper, until you can go west no more, ending your
journey in San Francisco (p. 432). Watch the sun set over the
Golden Gate Bridge (p. 435), a grand end to a grand
Welcome to New Jersey
An express train and early cars
once brought thousands of East Coast city dwellers to Atlantic
City for inexpensive weekend getaways, and later the city gained
fame as the home of the Miss America Pageant and the source of
Monopoly’s property names. But the former opulence of Boardwalk
and Park Place have faded from neglect and evolved into
casino-driven tackiness. Gambling, legalized in the 1970s in an
attempt to revive the city, brought mega-dollar casinos to the
Boardwalk and restored a flow of tourists, but the casinos
appear to have done little for the city itself. Highlights
center on the Boardwalk, where blaring announcements invite
pedestrians to step into the casinos to try their luck. .
Attractions cluster on and around
the Boardwalk, which runs northeast-southwest along the Atlantic
Ocean. Parallel to the Boardwalk, Pacific Ave. and Atlantic Ave.
offer cheap restaurants, hotels, and convenience stores.
Atlantic Ave. can be dangerous after dark, and any street
farther inland can be dangerous even by day. Getting around is
easy on foot on the Boardwalk.
The Jitney, 201 Pacific Ave., is
basically a small shuttle bus. Jitneys run on four routes to all
the casinos and most major points of interest. (609-344-8642.
$12.50 for 10 tickets or $1.50 in cash per ride). Rolling Chair
Rides appear along the Boardwalk as frequently as yellow cabs in
(617-347-7500. $5 for up to 5 blocks.)
Parking is available on some
residential streets. Try Oriental Ave. at New Jersey Ave. near
the Garden Pier Historic Museum for free 3hr. parking at easy
walking distance from the Boardwalk. Be careful at night: this
area is more desolate than other parts of the city. On streets
farther from the Boardwalk, such as down Martin Luther King
Blvd., free parking is unlimited, but be prepared to walk
several blocks to the Boardwalk and casinos. Parking lots near
the Boardwalk run $5-10.
Atlantic City Vital Stats
Visitor Info: Atlantic City Visitors Center
(609-449-7130), on the Atlantic Expwy., 1 mi. after the
Pleasantville Toll Plaza. Open daily 9am-5pm. Atlantic City
Convention Center and Visitors Bureau Info Center (888-228-4748;
www.atlanticcitynj.com), on the Boardwalk at Mississippi St.
Open daily 9:30am-5:30pm; Memorial Day-Labor Day Th-Su until
Internet Access: Atlantic City Library, 1 N. Tennessee
Ave. (609-345-2269). Open M-W 10am-8pm, Th-Sa 9am-5pm.
Post Office: 1701 Pacific Ave (609-345-4212), at Illinois
Ave. Open M-F 8:30am-6pm, Sa 8:30am-12:30pm. Postal Code: 08401.
The Boardwalk. There’s
something for everyone in Atlantic City, thanks to the
Boardwalk. On one side stretches the beach, with its bars
and two piers of arcades and amusement rides. The other side
is lined with gift shops, surf shops, food stalls selling
pizza, funnel cakes, stromboli, and ice cream, the
occasional jewelry store, and, of course, the casinos (see
p. 303). There’s often live music playing, usually paid for
by casinos trying to lure in gamblers. Visitors can walk,
ride bikes between 6 and 10am, or take advantage of the
rolling chairs. Most of the action along this 8 mi. stretch
takes place south of the Showboat. Beyond this harried
flurry of activity, it’s most enjoyable as a quiet walk.
Those under 21 play for prizes at the many arcades that line
the Boardwalk, including Central Pier Arcade & Speedway. The
pier also has go-karts and paintball. (At the Boardwalk and
Tennessee Ave. 609-345-5219. Go-karts single $6, double $14.
Must be 12 and 54 in. tall to ride alone. Paintball $3 per
15 shots.) The historic Steel Pier juts into the coastal
waters with a ferris wheel that spins riders over the
Atlantic. It also offers the rest of the usual amusement
park attractions: a roller coaster, a carousel, and games of
“skill” aplenty. (On the Boardwalk at Virginia Ave.
609-898-7645 or 866-386-6659; www.steelpier.com. Open daily
noon-midnight; call the Taj Mahal for winter hours. Tickets
one for $0.75 or 35 for $25. Rides 1-5 tickets.) When and if
you tire of spending money, check out the historic Atlantic
City Beach, pretty much the only free activity in town. For
more water fun, visitors invariably stumble upon at least
one of the piers occupied by Morey’s Piers & Raging Waters
Waterparks. (On the Boardwalk at 25th Ave., Schellenger, and
Spencer. }609-522- 3900 or 888-667-3971; www.moreyspiers.com.)
Just west of Atlantic City, Ventnor City Beach offers more
Museums. Those looking
for a quieter, more cultured way to spend the afternoon can
explore the Atlantic City Art Center, which displays the
work of local and regional artists. (On Garden Pier at New
Jersey Ave. and the Boardwalk. 609-347-5837; www.aclink.org/acartcenter.
Open daily 10am- 4pm. Free.) On the same pier, the Atlantic
City Historical Museum contains memorabilia from the history
of the “Queen of Resorts,” including displays on the Miss
America Pageant, Monopoly, sand art, and the role of
electricity. (609-347-5839; www.acmuseum.org. Open daily
Other Sights. The
tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and the third tallest in
the nation, Absecon Lighthouse ceased operation in 1933.
Today, it remains open as a tourist attraction, offering a
small museum and the chance to climb to the top for a
stunning view of the city and ocean. (31 S. Rhode Island
Ave. Drive northeast on Pacific Ave. from midtown; it’s on
the left. 609-449-1360; www.abseconlighthouse.org. Open
July-Aug. daily 10am-5pm; Sept. June M and Th-Su 11am-4pm.
Call for winter hours. $5, seniors $4, ages 4-12 $2.)
Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum may not be quite so
historically oriented, but it does feature some pretty
freaky artifacts and stories that are, well, hard to
believe. (At New York Ave. and the Boardwalk. 609-347-2001;
www.ripleys.com. Open summer daily 10am-10pm; winter M-F
11am-5pm, Sa-Su 10am-9pm. $11, ages 5-12 $7, under 5 free.)
All casinos on the Boardwalk fall
within a dice toss of one another. The farthest south is the
elegant Hilton, between Providence and Boston Ave. (609-347-7111
or 800-257-8677; www.hiltonac.com), and the farthest north is
the gaudy Showboat, at Delaware Ave. and Boardwalk.
(609-343-4000 or 800-621-0200; www.harrahs.com). Donald Trump’s
glittering Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, 1000 Boardwalk,
(609- 449-1000; www.trumptaj.com), at Virginia Ave., is too
ostentatious to be missed; this tasteless tallboy and the rest
of Trump’s casino holdings have been struggling with financial
In true Monopoly form, Trump owns
three other hotel casinos in the city: the recently remodeled
Trump Plaza, at Mississippi and the Boardwalk (609-441-6000 or
800-677-7378; www.trumpplaza.com); Trump World’s Fair, on the
Boardwalk (800-473-7829); and Trump Castle, on Huron Blvd. at
the Marina (609-441-2000; www.trumpmarina.com). In summer,
energetic partiers go to “rock the dock” at Trump Castle’s
indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant, The Deck (877-477-4697).
Many a die is cast at Caesar’s
Boardwalk Resort and Casino, 2100 Pacific Ave., at Arkansas Ave.
(609-348-4411; www.caesarsatlatincity.com). At Indiana Ave., The
Sands (609-441-4000; www.acsands.com) stands tall and flashy
with its seashell motif. The newest casino in town is The
Borgata (866-692-6742; www.theborgata.com), a golden
scintillation near the Trump Marina Hotel Casino and Harrah’s in
the Marina District that has been in the works since 2000.
All casinos are open 24hr. and
are dominated by slot machines.
Although not recommended by
nutritionists, $0.75 hot dogs and $1.50 pizza slices are readily
available on the Boardwalk, and there is no shortage of
ice-cream parlors. Some of the best deals in town await at the
casinos, where all-you-can-eat lunch ($7) and dinner ($11)
buffets abound. Tastier, less tacky fare can be found farther
from the seashore.
Inn of the Irish Pub, 164 St.
James Pl. (609-345-9613; www.theirishpub.com). Locals lounge
downstairs and foreign students and hostelers stay upstairs
at this hostel-and-bar combo. Serving hearty pub-style food
all night, it’s packed with carousers at all hours. Start
off with a “20th St. sampler” (buffalo wings, fried
mozzarella, potato skins, and chicken thumbs; $7). The daily
lunch special (11:30am-2pm) includes a sandwich and a cup of
soup for $2. Dinner specials 2-8pm ($6). Domestic drafts $1.
Open 24hr. Cash only.
White House Sub Shop, 2301
Arctic Ave. (609-345-8599, takeout 609-345-1564;
www.whitehousesubshop.com), at Mississippi Ave. Sinatra was
rumored to have had these immense subs ($4-7 for half, $9-12
for whole) flown to him while on tour. Pictures of
sub-lovers Joe DiMaggio, Wayne Newton, and Mr. T overlook
the team making each sandwich to order. Open Su-Th
10am-10pm, F-Sa 10am-11pm. Cash only.
Tony’s Baltimore Grille, 2800
Atlantic Ave. (609-345-5766), at Iowa Ave. Tourists can’t
resist the old-time Italian atmosphere with personal
jukeboxes, not to mention the $3-8 pizza. Seafood platter
$12. Open daily 11am-3am. Bar open 24hr. Cash only.
Motels are located 2-6 mi. out of
town on U.S. 40 and U.S. 30, as well as in Absecon (8 mi. west
of town on U.S. 30). Before dropping in the off season, rates
can more than triple the week of the Miss America Pageant,
usually the second or third week in September.
Inn of the Irish Pub, 164 St.
James Pl. (609-344-9063; www.theirishpub.com), between New
York Ave. and Tennessee Ave., near the Ramada Tower.
Spacious, clean rooms less than a block from the Boardwalk.
Enjoy the porch’s rocking chairs and refreshing Atlantic
breeze. The downstairs bar offers lively entertainment and a
friendly atmosphere. Key deposit $7. Free parking across the
street. Doubles with $45-52, with bath $75-90; quads with
shared bath $85-99.
Comfort Inn, 154 S. Kentucky
Ave. (609-348-4000), between Martin Luther King Blvd. and
New York Ave., near the Sands. Basic rooms with king-size or
2 queensize beds and -- true to Atlantic City swank -- a
jacuzzi. Continental breakfast, free parking, and a heated
pool. Rooms with ocean views are $20 extra, but come with
fridge, microwave, and a bigger jacuzzi. Reserve in advance
for weekends and holidays. Singles June-Aug. $100-159;
Rodeway Inn, 124 S. North
Carolina Ave. (609-345-0155 or 800-228-2000), across from
the Resorts Casino. Fairly basic motel room fare, but the
rates are reasonable and the location is excellent, nestled
between the pricier resort casinos and only a bit farther
from the Boardwalk. Rooms $50-150.
Red Carpet Motel, 1630 Albany
Ave. (609-348-3171). A bit out of the way, off the Atlantic
Expwy. on the way to town. Be careful in the surrounding
neighborhood after dark. Standard, comfy rooms with cable TV
and free shuttles to the Boardwalk and casinos. Restaurant
in lobby. Doubles $39-59; quads $55-79. Prices can jump to
$130 summer weekends.
Lucy the Elephant 9200
In Margate City, off the Garden
State Pkwy. at Exit 36. Follow signs to Margate and Lucy.
Originally built in 1881 by land
developer James Lafferty as a marketing gimmick, Lucy has always
been a sight for the public. It’s no wonder; at 65 ft. and 90
tons, she’s hardly the average pachyderm. After she fell into
disrepair in the 1960s, the Save Lucy Committee convinced the
city to donate land for a site and raised $62,000 to restore her
and move her two blocks down the beach to her present location.
(609-823-6473; www.lucytheelephant.org. Open mid-June to Labor
Day M-Sa 10am-8pm, Su 10am-5pm; Apr. to mid-June and Sept.-Dec.
Sa-Su 10am-5pm. Tours every 30min. $4, children $2. No public
parking or restrooms; free street parking.)
Leaving Atlantic City
U.S. 40 has a humble and
unlabeled beginning. Take Pacific Ave. southwest until it curves
right onto Albany St. (U.S. 40).
Eighteen miles along U.S. 40 from
Atlantic City is well-maintained Mays Landing. Note the American
Hotel on your left and the courthouse on your right, both built
in the late 1830s. The American Hotel now forms part of the
public library, 40 Farragut Ave., which offers free Internet
access. (609-625-2776. Open M-Th 9am-9pm, F-Sa 9am-5pm.) A bit
more homey than area diners, Ye Old Mill Street Pub, 6033 W.
Main St., is a good choice for grub. (609-625-2466. Lunch $3-5.
Open M-Sa 11:30am-midnight, Su 1pm-midnight.)
Sixty-four miles from Atlantic
City, U.S. 40 passes through Woodstown. Architecturally
interesting buildings line Woodstown’s leafy main streets.
Locals congregate under chef photographs at the Woodstown Diner,
16 E. Ave. (856-769-1140. Breakfast $1.75-6.50. Lunch $4.50-7.
Dinner $5-16. Open daily 6am-10pm.)
The Road to Camden
Leaving Woodstown, keep left to
stay on U.S. 40. When you see the exit to the right for U.S.
40/Delaware Memorial Bridge, stay straight. One mile ahead, turn
right on U.S. 130, and head north to Camden. Along U.S. 130,
you’ll pass small Penn’s Grove. One of several depressed towns
along the New Jersey shore, Penn’s Grove has little to it; most
buildings are boarded up. Turning left onto Main St., about a
half-mile into town on U.S. 130, takes you to the center of
town, and then to the water.
Copyright © 2005 Let's Go Publications
15 Apr 2005