- Distance from Philadelphia: 127 miles
- Best time: March to November
- Best for: Arts and CultureFood and WineBeaches
Atlantic City is on the rise once again, after years of ups and downs. Railroads brought the original development in the late 1800s, and the town was roaring by the 1920s, thanks in part to shady dealings and lax regulations regarding Prohibition. But the mid-century brought increased competition from more exotic vacation locales, newly developed Indian casinos, and a revitalized Vegas. Like the boxers who battle here, the city doesn't give up easily, though. With the opening of the Borgata in 2003, another upward climb began. Innovative new restaurants, boutique hotels, and spas followed. Being home to beaches and the original Boardwalk certainly doesn't hurt, and as people rediscover Atlantic City, they experience the simple pleasures that first attracted crowds: endless food and games against a gorgeous ocean backdrop. – By Aaron Starmer
Atlantic City Cheat Sheet
View a printable list of all sights, restaurants, entertainment, and hotels from this itinerary. View
1Impossibly wide and always pulsing with life on summer evenings, the Boardwalk is Atlantic City. Explore on foot or get pushed in one of the many canopied rolling chairs. (They're ridiculous, but they're tradition.) Kids will be drawn to the amusement park at Steel Pier, while adults will have their sights set on the gaming tables. You'll pass pastel-colored storefronts and the impressive arched entryway of Boardwalk Hall, the city's answer to the Roman Coliseum. If a big event is in town, it's probably happening here.
2A couple of blocks inland from Boardwalk Hall is Dock's Oyster House, the city's oldest, and some say best, restaurant. Sample from the day's fresh bounty and soak in the live music from the piano bar.
3Burn off some of your seafood with another amble along the coast and then duck into a casino. Caesar's rules this stretch, and you'll be impressed by its collection of Pier Shops (Apple, Gucci, Tiffany, et al.) and the consistent quality of its shows. That is, if you can pull yourself away from the dice and cards.
Did You Know? Atlantic City inspired the Monopoly board game, but you won't spot all of the original street names anymore. Marvin Gardens is found to the south, at the borders of Margate and Ventnor cities (where the spelling is actually Marven). Illinois Avenue is now Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard. And St. Charles Place was lost during the casino building frenzy of the 1980s.
1Drive or cab it to the northeast corner of town for breakfast on the water at Gilchrist's, a local staple known for giant pancakes and great views, especially from the dock seating.
3Board an hour-long Morning Skyline cruise with Atlantic City Cruises. It leaves at the forgiving hour of 11 a.m. and offers a narrated tour of the city from the water.
4Three blocks south of Gardner's Basin, Kelsey's & Kim's Southern Cafe makes no bones about its mission. It's here to dish out soul food in delicious and ample portions. If you didn't have waffles for breakfast, get some for lunch, with the requisite fried chicken, of course.
5Now peek at the city from above by climbing the 228 steps of the nearby Absecon Lighthouse. With all you've eaten, you may want to climb the tower twice.
6After some spa time at your resort or a siesta on the beach, clean up and head to Chef Vola's, truly hidden just off the Boardwalk. Reservations are absolutely essential but very difficult to get (hint: tell them you've eaten there before). Should you land one, you'll be treated to homey, hearty Italian such as veal parmigiana and ricotta cheesecake in a unique and intimate dining room. Bring cash and your own wine—nearby Russo's has a nice selection.
7Take a cab or the jitney out to the marina area (just north of Gardner's Basin) for the night. The Borgata has the best gaming, bars, and entertainment to keep you occupied into the wee hours.
1You can find an excellent breakfast at Teplitzky's Coffee Shop in the gorgeous four-year-old boutique hotel The Chelsea. Not hungry enough for its signature spread? Choose from cereal or a bagel with lox, in addition to classic omelets and baked goods.
3Before you leave, take advantage of one last opportunity to soak in the sun or take a dip. The beach can be accessed from nearly anywhere on the Boardwalk. For lunch, grab something from White House Sub Shop for the road. Traffic, like the sandwiches, may be thick.
Where to Stay
For its sheer size alone, Caesar's (rooms from $200/night) is an easy choice. More than 1,000 rooms means a baffling range of lodging options, complemented by countless stores, a rooftop pool, one of the city's best buffets, and big names on stage every weekend night.
When to Go
The casinos are open 24/7, but unless there's a big bout or concert, winter finds the city at its sleepiest.
In June, beaches start to fill up, as does Gardner's Basin, where they hold the NJ Fresh Seafood Festival. If you visit on August 15, join the thousands of Catholics on the boardwalk for the annual Wedding of the Sea. Outdoor concerts, air-shows, and plenty of other entertainment keeps the rest of the summer swinging.
How to Get There
By car from New York: Atlantic City is just over two hours from Manhattan. Take the Holland Tunnel and follow I-78 West and exit at I-95 South/Turnpike South. Follow New Jersey Turnpike South to Exit 11 for Garden State Parkway South. Take Exit 38 for the Atlantic City Expressway and follow it to Atlantic Avenue and downtown Atlantic City.
By car from Philadelphia: Atlantic City is just over an hour from Philadelphia. Take the Ben Franklin Bridge to I-676 South. Continue onto I-76 East and NJ-42 South, which becomes Atlantic City Expressway East. Follow Expressway to Atlantic Avenue and downtown Atlantic City.
By bus from New York and Philadelphia:The Greyhound Lucky Streak Bus departs regularly from Port Authority Terminal in Manhattan and the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Philadelphia with direct service to the Atlantic City casinos. Trips take two hours and forty minutes and one hour and thirty minutes respectively. New Jersey Transit also runs daily bus service between the cities.
By train from Philadelphia: New Jersey Transit offers daily service between Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and Atlantic City on its Atlantic City Rail Line. Trips take one hour and forty minutes. Transfer to the casinos aboard the Jitney. (n.b. On Monday to Thursday nights, shuttle buses are used for the segment between Philadelphia and Lindenwold.)
Getting Around Atlantic City: While development has spruced up Gardner's Basin, the marina, and the Boardwalk, the rest of the city still has a ways to go. When traveling between neighborhoods, cars, taxis, or shuttles are your best bet. Taxis always wait outside hotels, and fares rarely exceed $10-$15 in city limits. The Jitney, a shuttle that makes regular trips to all the casinos, is the most affordable option, at $2.25 (exact change) or $2 (advance purchase) per ride.
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