In Depth Atlantic City has had its ups and downs, but like the Comeback Kid, the scrappy city keeps on swinging. The beach resort's heyday came during the 1920s and early ’30s Prohibition era when liquor laws were disregarded and mobsters and crime ruled. The decadence of those golden days was re-created in the 2010-2014 HBO television series “Boardwalk Empire.”
This early 1900s playground of the wealthy still bears some of the scars of the economic downturn that hit in the 1950s, when air travel inspired curious travelers to seek adventure farther from home. Like an aged beauty queen, Atlantic City slipped into sad decline, with abandoned buildings, disrepair and empty streets taking the place of grand hotels and promenading tourists dressed to the nines.
Once the first casino, Resorts International, entered the picture in the late 1970s, the beach town entered another profitable period. Soon entertainment entrepreneurs like Merv Griffin, Donald Trump and Steve Wynn were on the scene, spurring casino development and creating an East Coast gambling hub.
Then the Borgata casino hotel opened in 2003 to much fanfare. First-rate shops and restaurants sprouted and slowly but surely started to glam up the Boardwalk and marina areas.
The potential almost seemed realized—until the Great Recession, Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the advent of casinos in nearby areas took their toll on tourism dollars. In 2014, Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, Showboat—The Mardi Gras Casino, Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, and even newly built Revel announced in quick succession that they were folding. Trump Taj Mahal Casino Hotel closed in 2016.
But don't count out “America's Favorite Playground.” Hard Rock International, which bought the former Trump Taj Mahal in 2017, is betting on the success of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City . Then another resort and casino took a chance on Revel's former site. Simply put: Folks still come here for the challenge of mastering Lady Luck. They can also mingle at the latest martini or tequila bar and dance the night away in chic velvet-rope dance clubs reminiscent of Vegas, all fun things to do with friends.
With nighttime thrills aplenty, it's nice to know that you can also indulge in laid-back pursuits such as unwinding in a spa or embarking on a relaxing ocean cruise. Beachcombers can sun themselves on a stretch of sand close to the hotels' bars and live bands.
More active adventure travelers can join a friendly game of beach volleyball or escape to the jetties for saltwater fishing. For some exercise along with a view, the ambitious tackle the 228 steps of the Absecon Lighthouse.
And what's more, Atlantic City is fun in a retro sort of way. Brimming with nostalgia, the Boardwalk lures casual strollers to “hit the boards” and take a trip down memory lane. You'll pass Boardwalk Hall, home of the Miss America Pageant, reminders of which are reflected in the lobby of the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel and by commemorative plaques cemented in Michigan Avenue's sidewalk. And the famous rolling chairs, which made their debut in the 1880s, can still whisk you to and fro on the Boardwalk—for a small fee, of course. If you're a fan of mid-century modernism, take a short drive south to the small beachside town of Wildwood Crest, where dozens of colorful, 1950s-era motels all done up in the kitschy “Doo Wop” style of architecture line Ocean Avenue.
Despite redevelopment, some landmarks continue to withstand the test of time. Rediscover your inner kid by taking a roller coaster or Ferris wheel ride at Steel Pier, site of amusements and other diversions since 1898. Or amble over to White House Sub Shop, praised for its uber-sandwiches sampled by the likes of the Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.
Before you leave, don't forget to pick up that iconic Atlantic City souvenir—some saltwater taffy from Fralinger's or James' Candy, both satisfying the sweet tooth of generations of patrons with their sugary concoctions since the late 1800s.
Atlantic City, NJ
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
Members save up to 10% and earn Honors points when booking AAA rates!Hampton Inn by Hilton - Egg Harbor Township/Atlantic City
6708 Tilton Rd. Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234
Members save 5% or more and earn Marriott Bonvoy™ points when booking AAA/CAA rates!Residence Inn by Marriott Atlantic City/Egg Harbor
3022 Fire Rd. Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234
New Jersey's statewide sales tax is 7 percent; the county has a 10 percent lodging tax and $5 per day rental car surcharge.
AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, (609) 345-4000.
Atlantic City International Airport
Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (609) 646-7733 or (800) 654-3080.
New Jersey Transit travels from the rail terminal at 1 Atlantic City Expwy. to Absecon, Egg Harbor City, Hammonton, Atco, Lindenwold, Cherry Hill and Philadelphia. A valid rail ticket also can be used for free shuttle service from the terminal to casinos; phone (973) 275-5555.
Greyhound Lines Inc., (800) 231-2222, and New Jersey Transit, (973) 275-5555, operate from the terminal at Michigan and Atlantic avenues.
Companies include Mutual Taxi & Limousine Service, (609) 345-6111; and Yellow Cab, (609) 344-1221. Base fare is $3.40, plus 60c per one-tenth mile. Maximum fare to any city destination is $13 for up to five people.
The buses of New Jersey Transit operate along Atlantic and Ventnor avenues as far south as Longport. The fare is $1.60 each way; 75c (ages 5-11 and 62+).