A Traveling Insider’s Guide To Atlantic City
Plan your next Atlantic City vacation with our expert guide to America’s Playground. | By Paul Oswell | August 3, 2022 (Updated March 2, 2023)
Atlantic City has a long history of welcoming fun-seeking visitors to its corner of the New Jersey coastline. A city since the mid-19th century, by the height of the 1920s it had become a vacation destination in its own right, with its famous boardwalk and the hosting of glamorous events such as the Miss America pageant. Today, streams of visitors arrive by regular train services from New York and Philadelphia, and the century-old attractions — casinos, funnel cake and a vibrant nightlife scene — are still extremely popular. The beaches can almost seem like an afterthought, but families will love the lively atmosphere and there are beautiful, uncrowded spots and ocean views for those that want to venture beyond the boardwalk.
Follow along and we’ll deal you a winning hand of options to easily hit the vacation jackpot:
Stretch out: The beach has plenty of space for families to enjoy a day on the sands
Tuck in: Revel in the fresh seafood, the legendary sandwiches and of course, the traditional seaside snacks of taffy and funnel cakes
Game on: See world-famous musical acts and entertainers at any one of the many venues, or try your hand at one of the casinos
Why visit Atlantic City?
This is a destination that is dedicated to recreation. Imagine a Las Vegas-style resort, with casinos and fairground attractions, but by the sea and with all the fun and relaxation of life on the water.
It’s arguably a more family-friendly ambiance, with parents and kids strolling along the boardwalk or the Steel Pier. The beach itself is underrated. It’s relatively uncrowded, the sands are soft and the easy access helps maintain a fun, wholesome scene.
Adult-oriented nightlife and amusements abound as well, of course, with the famous Atlantic City casinos, Sportsbook, concerts and shows at the many venues that pepper the seafront. Even beyond the obvious, there’s gourmet food and locally distilled spirits to enjoy, intriguing bookstores, antique shops and a growing arts scene.
In addition to sweet treats, Atlantic City has a wealth of delicious fare to consider. These range from oysters to legendary New Jersey subs(or as they’re known in Philadelphia, hoagies), gourmet chocolatiers and some of the best Italian food outside of the old country. Innovation abounds, and the adventurous can try novelties such as truffle udon alfredo or taco pizza.
There’s a world of outdoor pursuits if dark poker rooms aren’t for you: Scenic parks with hiking trails and lakes for fishing and kayaking are just a short drive away. The Absecon Lighthouse is a picturesque spot that offers a bird’s-eye view of the area. Prefer the ocean? Parasailing, surfing, bodyboarding and windsurfing are also available.
Atlantic City is one of the most popular seaside destinations in the United States, and you can find theme parks (including Storybook Land amusement park) just a short drive from all of the region’s best attractions.
When is the best time for your trip to Atlantic City?
Peak summer season really starts in spring, with crowds arriving from March and a busy period that stretches through August. Summer temperatures are usually in the low-mid 80 degrees Fahrenheit (around 26 degrees Celsius), with a sea breeze that takes the edge off all but the hottest days. From September to February, the number of tourists thin out and prices come down, though temperatures can be quite chilly in December and January.
Getting to and around Atlantic City
Atlantic City International Airport is 10 miles from the city center. From here, travel options are a New Jersey Transit bus or taxis, ride-hailing services and rental cars. An alternative is to fly to Philadelphia International Airport, 60 miles west of the city, and then take a train or rent a car for the one-hour drive to Atlantic City. The Atlantic City Rail Line runs a convenient daily service from Philadelphia 30th Street Station to Atlantic City Rail Terminal. If you're staying at a casino, you’ll find free shuttles from here.
A bicycle is a great way to see the town and cruise the boardwalk, and several bike rental stores operate downtown. As well as the world-famous boardwalk, Atlantic City has a network of walkways that connect the major venues along the main drag, offering visitors a convenient and efficient way to get around town.
Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”