Best Things To Do in Atlantic City
Most of the activity in Atlantic City is centered around the beach and the 4-mile-long boardwalk, which is lined with casinos. Branching off the boardwalk are piers, which offer kid-friendly alternatives. Steel Pier, with old-fashioned amusement rides and carnival games, is especially popular. There are a few novelty-specific attractions visitors will find in Atlantic City as well, including Lucy the Margate Elephant and Storybook Land.
Updated April 17, 2017
- #1View all Photos#1 in Atlantic CityBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're not visiting Atlantic City to gamble, chances are you're coming to hit the beach. The city's beach is wide and its camel-hued sands are soft – recent travelers said they were impressed with the cleanliness and with how much room there was to spread out on this beach. The Atlantic Ocean's waves are good for body boarding, boogie boarding and wave jumping for the little ones, while adults can enjoy walking along the flat terrain near the water or relaxing in a beach chair. On-site facilities include showers and changing rooms, plus lifeguards are on duty during the summer from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Beachgoers also have access to the boardwalk, which is populated with eateries and shops selling beach gear and water sports equipment.
Unlike many other New Jersey beaches, Atlantic City's sands are free to access – you don't need a fee-based badge or pass to visit. For more information on the beach, visit the tourism board's website.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Atlantic CitySightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Boardwalk isn't named after its wooden planks. Its namesake actually comes from its inventor, Alexander Boardman, who developed the walkway in the 1870s. Since then it's remained a hot spot. Four miles long, the Boardwalk runs along the shoreline and is lined with shops, bars, restaurants and amusement park-style games. The popular Steel and Central piers (and their carnival rides) branch off the main stretch.
For some adult visitors, the Atlantic City Boardwalk offers a sense of nostalgia of youthful days perusing through the souvenir shops and going on rides. Other travelers said they enjoyed the diverse array of shops and eateries that line the walkway. A handful of visitors warned that some parts of if are looking worn down and that you may encounter homeless people begging for money.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Atlantic CityCasinosTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDCasinosTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Atlantic City is practically synonymous with gambling. The seaside city is home to several casinos with everything from slots to table games like blackjack, roulette and poker. Crowd favorites include the casinos at Caesars Atlantic City, the Borgata, Bally's and Resorts, thanks to their clean atmospheres, variety of gaming options and attentive service, according to recent travelers. (Though, some visitors did note the persistent smell of smoke, even in the nonsmoking areas.)
Caesars and Bally's are situated just off of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, which means these casinos are located central to all the action in town and are easy to access. Resorts Casino Hotel is along the northern end of Atlantic City (also just off the boardwalk), situated near Steel Pier. Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is one of the most luxurious casinos in AC; it's also about 2 miles removed from the boardwalk. Plus, the Borgata is home to some highly touted eateries (Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck have restaurants at this property).
- #4View all PhotosfreeCape May#4 in Atlantic CityFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Just about 45 miles south of Atlantic City is a much calmer stretch of Jersey shore – Cape May. Founded in 1620 by the Dutch, Cape May didn't reach its stride until the 1800s when it became a vacation spot for wealthy Southerners who reportedly didn't want to venture much farther into Yankee territory. Today, vacationers from all over – not just the South – flock to Cape May for its relaxing-bed and-breakfasts (many of them complete with rocking chairs and wraparound porches) and clean, family-friendly beaches. To enjoy Cape May's beaches – from Higbee to Poverty – you'll need to purchase a beach tag. Daily beach tags cost $6 and three-day passes cost $12. You can find beach tags at the beach entrance and adjacent City Hall.
Visiting families loved Cape May and its beaches because of their cleanliness and quiet atmosphere. Many travelers also appreciated the use of tags because it made the beaches less crowded.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Atlantic CityShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
To spend some of that freshly won casino cash (or not), head to the Tanger Outlets. With stores that range from J.Crew and Abercrombie & Fitch to Michael Kors, Nike and Calvin Klein, the outlets have stores for all types of shoppers. Recent travelers said they appreciated the variety of stores and added the steep discounts and deals were worth the visit. However, unlike some outlet malls, which are confined to a pedestrian-only area, the Tanger Outlets shops are spread out across a few busy streets, which some visitors noted as inconvenient. If you're looking for an even greater selection of designers, consider checking out Playground Pier as well.
The outlets welcome shoppers from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays, although hours can vary depending on the season. You can find the shops behind Bally's and Caesars, a few blocks removed from the boardwalk, between Atlantic and Baltic avenues. For more information, including a directory of stores, visit the Tanger Outlets website.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Atlantic CityAmusement ParksTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDAmusement ParksTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Visitors with kids will enjoy this 20-acre amusement park, where children's literature reigns supreme. Storybook Land's rides are themed after classics like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Dumbo" and admission grants you unlimited rides on all the attractions within the park. The park also has a cafeteria and a picnic area.
Most visitors say the park is best for toddlers and younger visitors, and travelers comment that they are always impressed with how clean the park is, how well-manicured the gardens are and the friendliness of the staff. Some note that the admission prices are on the high side but say if you plan to spend most of the day there you will get your money's worth.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Atlantic CityEntertainment and NightlifeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and NightlifeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
On rainy days, AC visitors can see a blockbuster on a big screen at Tropicana's IMAX Theatre. Even when it's not raining, many families with kids say visiting the IMAX is high on their list of things to do. In addition to running Hollywood films, the Tropicana also screens 3-D, kid-friendly flicks.
Travelers say the theater's seats are comfortable and it's a clean venue; visitors also commented it was well-situated and easy to reach for those staying on the Boardwalk and gambling in nearby casinos.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Atlantic CityZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Sitting along the Absecon Inlet, the Atlantic City Aquarium features a variety of interactive exhibits the kids will enjoy. You can touch sharks, stingrays and coral and see other creatures like piranhas, terrapins, iguanas and moon jellies. Other noteworthy exhibits include Ocean Oddities and a Tropical Rainforest. Plus, just outside the aquarium, you'll find a host of restaurants and shops, as well as kiosks for boat rides and cruises around the harbor.
Visitors say that while this is a small aquarium, it's entertaining for younger children (especially the touch tanks) and also good for a rainy day activity. Travelers say the staff here is knowledgeable and friendly, too.
- #9View all PhotosfreePlayground Pier#9 in Atlantic CityShopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDShopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Playground Pier is a four-story shopping, dining and nightlife complex that sits on a 900-foot-long pier that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The mall houses several high-end stores, including Burberry, Gucci, Tiffany & Co. and Armani Exchange. Many travelers typically visit just to window shop and enjoy the displays at the upscale stores that sell designer merchandise. (For budget shopping, head to the nearby Tanger Outlets.) The mall has undergone several renovations over the past few years, which recent travelers said have certainly improved its overall ambiance.
Located on the boardwalk between Arkansas and Missouri avenues, the Playground Pier is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Check out the Playground Pier's website for more information on shops, dining venues and more.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Atlantic CitySightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
You can climb the Absecon Lighthouse's 228 steps for a great view of your surroundings. And a great view it is – located at the northern end of the city, this lighthouse stands 171 feet high, making it the tallest of its kind in New Jersey and one of the tallest in the country. Built in 1857, the black-and-white structure is visible from most of the strip. And according to recent visitors, the views from above are a major perk of visiting the lighthouse. While you're here, you should also take some time to explore the history museum inside.
The lighthouse often hosts art exhibits, shows and festivals. There's a $7 fee to climb to the top for adults and a $4 fee for kids ages 4 to 12. The lighthouse and museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday to Monday from September through June. However, hours can vary by the season; check the official website to better plan your trip.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Atlantic CitySightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Although she sits about 5 miles southwest of Atlantic City, the drive is worth it; where else are you going to see a giant elephant? The six-story tall, 90-ton elephant has had a long history of preservation efforts and repairs. Built in 1881 in an effort to attract homebuyers to the area, Lucy is now a National Historic Landmark and a great place to take the family. Climb to Lucy's howdah (the platform on her back) for a great view of the Atlantic Ocean, and take a tour of the elephant's interiors, which once even served as a hotel.
Recent visitors give the massive elephant rave reviews. Travelers say Lucy is a fun piece of history, adding that it's particularly interesting to tour and explore the inside of the elephant and learn about the attraction's beginnings. Many also recommend stopping by the gift shop to check out the trinkets there as well.
- #12View all Photos#12 in Atlantic CityAmusement ParksTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDAmusement ParksTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're traveling to AC during the summer (or on fall weekends), you might want to spend a few hours at the Steel Pier amusement park. Opening nearly a century ago, Steel Pier used to attract thousands of visitors each day; even big-name performers like Frank Sinatra came to entertain. Its popularity slowed to a halt in the late 1970s, but – like many things in the AC – the Steel Pier is making a comeback.
Rides like the Rock-n-Roll, the Ferris wheel and the Drop and the Slingshot provide thrills and offer excellent views of the AC shoreline. But if you want an even higher flying view of the beach, you might take one of the helicopter rides offered here. To enjoy the rides, you will need to purchase tickets, offered by the single or by a book; special attractions, including helicopter rides, cost extra. Single tickets cost $1 and ticket books range in cost from $40 to $60, depending on how many you'd like to buy.
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