Like Las Vegas or Disney World, Atlantic City is a place unto itself. It may be as far as you can get from reality within a few-hour drive from Long Island. So if you are looking for a break from the everyday, hop in your car or reserve a seat on a bus that’s headed to the Jersey Shore. Spend some time at a glitzy casino or two, but make sure to enjoy the other attractions at this beachside resort town.
Stay at a casino hotel
Gambling is the main attraction in A.C., so pick a hotel where you can get in on the action. For understated luxury (well, as understated as you can get in these parts), stay at The Water Club at the Borgata (rooms from $109; 1 Renaissance Way, 609-317-1000, theborgata.com/hotel/the-water-club, pictured). This hotel-within-a-hotel gives you access to all the amenities of the larger Borgata including a room service menu by star chef Jeffrey Zakarian, high-end shops such as Roberto Cavalli and Hugo Boss, and five adults-only swimming pools. For a splashy environment, you can’t beat the Tropicana (rooms from $69.99; 2831 Boardwalk, 609-340-4000, tropicana.net), which is right on the boardwalk and offers convenient access to the beach. This sprawling, Havana-themed resort has 2,000 rooms (many recently renovated), a shopping village and multiple entertainment venues, including an Imax theater, a karaoke bar and a disco.
Dine with a celebrity (chef)
Like Las Vegas, Atlantic City has attracted some major cooking talent. Skip the all-you-can-eat buffets and head to a celebrity-chef-helmed restaurant for a memorable meal. There are plenty to choose from. Enjoy ceviche, tiradotos and other Ecuadorean specialties at Iron Chef Jose Garces’ (pictured) Olon at the Tropicana (609-340-4050, olonrestaurant.com). Another Food Network star, Bobby Flay, headlines Bobby Flay Steakhouse (bobbyflaysteak.com) at the Borgata. Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill (caesars.com/caesars-ac/restaurants/gordon-ramsay-pub-grill) at Caesars Palace offers elevated bar food, including Scotch eggs and shepherd’s pie. Guy Fieri’s Bar-B-Que Joint (caesars.com/ballys-ac/restaurants/guys-bbq-joint) just opened at Bally’s and features the “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” host’s award-winning pork butt and Blue Ribbon Chicken.
Take in a concert
Hotel concert halls and theaters will host acts ranging from Kool and the Gang, Journey and Santana at the Borgata to Patti LaBelle (pictured), Rick Springfield and Smokey Robinson at the Tropicana (atlanticcitynj.com/events). In addition, the historic Boardwalk Hall (boardwalkhall.com) has two venues, a large arena with nearly 15,000 seats and a smaller ballroom with a capacity of 3,200. Upcoming headliners include The Who and Janet Jackson. If you are visiting this summer, you might catch a performance on the beach. The Atlantic City BeachFest (acbeachconcerts.com) presents outdoor shows right on the beach. This summer, Pink and Brantley Gilbert are on the schedule. Ticket prices start at $19.
Relax at a spa
Recover from a late night at one of Atlantic City’s luxurious spas. Qua at Caesars (caesars.com/caesars-ac/things-to-do/qua-baths-and-spa, pictured) has updated Roman baths with three pools of varying temperatures and 15 treatment rooms where you can detox with special experiences such as the “Cleopatra body ritual.” Immersion at the Borgata (theborgata.com/spas/immersion-spa) is on the 32nd floor of the hotel, with views of the ocean from floor-to-ceiling windows. Specialties include ayurvedic treatments and massage. The Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa at Harrah’s (caesars.com/harrahs-ac/things-to-do/red-door-spa) offers hair design and makeup artistry for a night out, as well as multiple types of facials, massages and body treatments.
Enjoy the boardwalk
Originally built in 1870 to help keep sand out of resort hotels, this four-mile oceanfront walkway provides access to the city’s casinos, shops and hotels as well as the beach. Old-fashioned snack options include John’s Water Ice (at St. James Place), Steel’s Fudge (South Kentucky Avenue) and Charlie’s Funnel Cake (on the Steel Pier). Rolling chairs, which have been around almost as long as the boardwalk itself, are still available to transport tourists. The Steel Pier (steelpier.com) offers thrill rides and amusements. At Boardwalk Hall (longtime home of the Miss America Pageant), see the world’s largest pipe organ. The Tropicana (tropicana.net) offers free multimedia light and sound shows on the Boardwalk daily in the summer, beginning at dusk.
Take in a historic site
Absecon Lighthouse (abseconlighthouse.org, pictured) is the tallest in New Jersey and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Decommissioned in 1933, its lens is still lit every evening for the enjoyment of Atlantic City visitors. Climb its 228 steps for a view of the city skyline. On the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks is Lucy the Elephant (lucytheelephant.org), a six-story-tall wooden pachyderm built by land speculator James Lafferty in the 1880s on the beach in downtown Margate. Guided tours every 30 minutes during monument hours.
Take home some saltwater taffy
The two competing candy companies that first sold this signature Atlantic City treat merged into a saltwater taffy powerhouse in the 1940s. The James Candy Co. (jamescandy.com, pictured), produces more than 600,000 pounds of both the James and Fralinger’s brands. (Natives of the shore know the difference: James’ is short and square, Fralinger’s long and skinny.) Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy (1901 Boardwalk, 1325 Boardwalk) is said to have been the first taffy purveyor in town. Don’t overlook the other nostalgic confections on sale here, including Caramellos (caramel-covered marshmallows), butter crunch and peanut chews. James’ Candy (The Marketplace at Tropicana, 1519 Boardwalk) offers factory tours at its 1519 Boardwalk location.
Of course, you also have the beach in Atlantic City.