Atlantic City Travel Guide

Overview

Atlantic City, New Jersey, attracts casino-goers and day-trippers en masse, as well as big-time entertainment. Year-round, there is always something to do in Atlantic City.

Along with the hotels and casinos, a whole new assortment of shops, entertainment venues and attractions, including an upscale pedestrian mall (The Walk), there are historic landmarks, museums and wineries.

Atlantic City restaurant choices are vast, from award-winning classics and trendy hot spots to popular Boardwalk stands selling French fries and Nathan's hot dogs.

Activities include kayaking, fishing or parasailing, and golfers can tee up at any of several championship golf courses within a short drive of the casinos.

Geography

The bulk of Atlantic City sits on Absecon Island. Most of the visitor-related sites are along the waterfront, but there is plenty to see and do for miles/kilometers around.

The city's famous Boardwalk extends along the Atlantic for more than 50 blocks and continues along Absecon Inlet. The casinos are split between two areas. Most are on or near the Boardwalk, facing the Atlantic; the others are in the Marina District, 1 mi/1.6 km north, just off the inlet.

Immediately northeast of the city is the island town of Brigantine. Following the shore to the southwest will take you to the neighboring towns of Ventnor, Margate City and Longport. Farther to the south, you'll find the Jersey shore towns of Ocean City, Stone Harbor, Sea Isle City, Avalon, Wildwood and Cape May.

History

Absecon Island, where Atlantic City later emerged, was first inhabited by the Lenni-Lenape tribe, which spent summers fishing and partaking of the island's abundant wildlife. In the late 1670s, the island was granted to Englishman Thomas Budd, and it was first settled by Jeremiah Leeds and his family in 1755.

A century later, Jonathan Pitney, a local physician, foresaw the island's possibilities as a seaside resort. With civil engineer Richard Osborne, he gave the settlement its new name and built the Camden-Atlantic City Railroad, which made its first run in 1854. The two men also laid out and named the streets of the town. Streets parallel to the ocean were named for the world's most famous bodies of water (Pacific, Atlantic, Baltic), and the cross streets were named after the states.

As the resort grew in popularity, its beautiful hotels and elegant restaurants had a problem—sand. Train conductor Alexander Boardman came up with the idea of a wooden walkway stretching from the beach into town; it was built in 1870. Rolling chairs—the only vehicles besides bicycles allowed on the boardwalk—soon followed.

By the early 20th century, Atlantic City had become the East Coast's premier beach resort. People escaping the heat of the city frolicked on the beach, held marathon dance contests and danced to big bands at the Steel Pier. (They also watched such novel animal acts as boxing cats, Rex the surfing dog and, of course, the diving horses.) But interest began to wane in the 1960s. The city fell into deep decline and soon became known as one of the most economically depressed cities in the country.

Legalized gambling, which New Jerseyans voted into law in 1976, brought visitors back to Atlantic City. The city is once again a top tourist destination in the U.S., drawing about 37 million visitors a year. The gaming profits have helped finance new housing, retail outlets and tourist attractions, improving the city's overall well-being. Nonetheless, some parts of the city still await renewal.

Sightseeing

Atlantic City life has always centered on the famed Boardwalk, the great amusements—such as Steel Pier—and, more recently, the casino business. Energized by recent developments such as the opening of Borgata, The Quarter at the Tropicana and the Pier at Caesars, the city has transformed into an entertainment powerhouse that can sustain itself throughout the year.

Nightlife

Other than the casinos, visitors to Atlantic City will find bars and comedy clubs not too far from the Boardwalk. Dancing at the Casbah can last until the early-morning hours. Most clubs close at dawn, so you'll have a chance to watch the sunrise on the Boardwalk before catching some sleep.

Dining

Whether you win or lose at the tables, Atlantic City's restaurants have what it takes to make you happy. From fast food and buffets to trendy new restaurants, this seaside resort offers life in the feast lane.

Along the Boardwalk, enjoy old-time classics such as hot dogs, pizza, cotton candy, shaved ice, funnel cakes, saltwater taffy and hoagies. A number of hotels offer lavish buffets that can keep your taste buds happy at a reasonable price.

For a crop of tony hot spots that can hold their own with New York restaurants, head over to Borgata, the Pier at Caesars and The Quarter at the Tropicana, or check out Margate City's restaurant row.

Many of the area's restaurants change their dining hours not only according to the season but also in response to big events throughout the year. If you find yourself in Atlantic City in cooler weather, take a chance and call your favorite spot to see if it's open. Almost all restaurants offer free parking.

Expect to pay within these general guidelines, based on the cost of a dinner for one excluding drinks, tax and tip: $ = less than US$15; $$ = US$15-$25; $$$ = US$26-$50; $$$$ = more than US$50.

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