Atlantic City is known as a miniature Las Vegas. It is one of the oldest casino towns in the United States. The main thing that distinguishes Atlantic City from Las Vegas is in addition to casinos, the town is located directly on the ocean and there is a big boardwalk. The Atlantic City boardwalk has an amusement park pier, shopping mall pier, and is the home of many parades, including the Miss America Parade.
Atlantic City is the inspiration for Monopoly, and the street names in the board game coincide with Atlantic City’s street names.
Atlantic City is home to the following casinos, from north to south: Harrah’s, Golden Nugget, Borgata, Taj Mahal, Resorts, Bally’s, Caesar’s, Tropicana. Unfortunately with the economy decline, casinos such as Revel, Trump Plaza, Atlantic Club, and Showboat have recently closed down. UPDATE: Revel and Showboat have reopened as of 2016!
Harrah’s is one of the bigger casinos on the marina (away from the beach and boardwalk). It overlooks neighboring Brigantine. Harrah’s hotel has two towers, the Waterfront Tower and the Bayview Tower. The Waterfront rooms face the indoor Pool and are slightly more expensive; my recommendation is don’t upgrade. These rooms are loud and the bass from the Pool nightclub shakes the rooms. Personally, I like the natural bay view better anyway.
The indoor Pool is open for guests during the day. There’s an upstairs naturally sunlit deck with no pool (and no breeze, but there is a shower to cool off). At night, the Pool turns into a nightclub with a DJ, low lights, a dance floor, and private cabanas for rent. DJ Pauly D is a resident DJ at the Harrah’s Pool, and celebrities make guest appearances throughout the summer. The Pool is open as a nightclub on Friday, Saturday, and Wednesday nights.
The Golden Nugget has been recently renovated and a new club has been added: Haven Nightclub. Haven is a lot of fun and offers $4 Fireball shots to get people in the door (for those who think that’s expensive, avoid clubs in Atlantic City). The Golden Nugget is located on the marina and faces the bay.
The Borgata is probably the best casino in Atlantic City. It’s well designed and everything seems centrally located. The Borgata has one nightclub, Premier, open Friday through Monday. It offers guest DJ’s, celebrity appearances, VIP sections, and dance floors.
The Borgata has two hotel towers: the Borgata and the Water Club. The Water Club is newer, more elite, and more expensive with larger suites and rainfall showers. It has a spa and both an indoor pool and outdoor pool available to Water Club guests only. The Borgata also has a comedy club which is open every night.
The Taj Mahal was one of Donald Trump’s properties until he sold all of his Atlantic City casinos. Now under new ownership, it managed to survive extinction but may be next on the list to close. The Taj casino bar is Ego Bar & Lounge, open 24 hours. On the second floor of the Taj is Scores, a go-go bar that also offers pole dancing lessons (good for bachelorette parties). The Taj offers two hotel towers: the Taj Tower and the Chairman Tower. The Chairman Tower is a bit newer and more prestigious. One night while at the Taj, I was playing the Wheel of Fortune slot machine and hit for $1000. About two minutes later, James hit for $1000. Then three minutes after that, I hit $1000 again. We only put $20 each in the machine and walked out with $3000!
Resorts and Bally’s are the older casinos in Atlantic City, and ironically attract an older crowd. Resorts is trying to bring in a younger crowd with Landshark Bar, Margaritaville, and 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar. Bally’s doesn’t have much in the way of nightlife but it does have a beach bar, convenient in the summer. If you’re not gambling your social security away while on an oxygen machine, there’s no need to go to Resorts or Bally’s.
Caesars is one of the flashiest and well-located casinos. It’s home to the Pier at Caesars with high-end luxury shops and restaurants. Caesars casino bar is the Toga Bar offering Roman-themed drinks, bottle service, and nightly DJ’s. The nightclub at Caesars is Dusk, modeled after a Las Vegas nightclub with a dance floor in the middle and VIP tables around in a sphere. Dusk is pretty small and the spherical idea don’t mesh with the crowds well, so the nightclub has lost a lot of its glamour and appeal. It’s open Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday nights and Caesars offers room specials on Tuesday nights to draw partiers to Dusk.
The Tropicana is one of the older casinos in AC at the extreme south end of the city. This Cuban-inspired casino is famous for its two-story French Quarter, home to many restaurants, bars, a nightclub, and an IMAX movie theater.
The Trop is easy for party people who get bored easily because all the bars are next to each other, so bar hopping is common. Providence is the Trop’s two-story nightclub, located just next to A Dam Good Sports Bar which has specials on 40 ounce beers, Cuba Libre with its Latin themed music, Planet Rose karaoke bar, and Ri Ra Irish Pub. Through the casino and down an escalator you will find Firewaters, a nightclub open to the casino (no walls) and Atlantic City Hooters Restaurant. Other bars include Chickie’s & Pete’s and Boogie Nights (70’s and 80’s themed dance club).
There are plenty of fine dining restaurants inside the Trop too. The abundance and proximity of so many places within one casino make this a popular destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties. The hotel rooms at the Trop have been recently renovated. Still, the Trop is not one of my favorite casinos because it doesn’t have the same aura as somewhere like the Borgata or Harrah’s.
Most other hotels in Atlantic City should be off-limits to anyone who can afford to stay in a casino – the only other hotels in AC are cheap, dirty motels (Atlantic City is not a nice city and it’s best not to leave the casino unless you’re in a taxi or know where to go).
The Chelsea is one of the only other hotels that is upscale enough to stay in that doesn’t have a casino. The Chelsea is right next to the Tropicana. The Chelsea is slightly cheaper than casinos because it’s less desirable but still decently located and clean. It also has a rooftop pool for sunbathing and nighttime dancing. The Chelsea has a suite (bigger than my house) on its top floor for celebrities such as Celine Dion and Beyonce. Atlantic City nightlife crews have high hopes to bring a bigger nightlife party to the Chelsea pool in the near future.
The Sheraton at the Convention Center is another non-casino hotel that won’t eat guests alive. It’s a nice hotel and convenient for trade shows or conventions at the convention center (for example, Beerfest at the Convention Center in March/April). It’s a good distance from other casinos but usually cheaper for those expensive summer weekend nights.
To get a casino hotel room for free, all you have to do is gamble with a player’s card. After a certain amount of money (won or lost), the casino will see you as a real gambler and give you free rooms to bring you down to gamble more. Remember, even if you only put $20 in a machine, as you keep winning, you up the amount you could lose. If you put $20 in a slot, win $100, lose $100, win another $50, then lose $30, you’re still up but it looks like you’ve now gambled $170 when you started with $20 and ended with $40! You will get free rooms as long as you gamble (some casinos are easier to get free rooms at, for example Harrah’s and the Taj). Player’s cards also give you reduced parking fees in the casino parking garages (free parking if you gamble your way into a higher card).
If you’re not lucky enough to have a free room on the night you want to go to AC, check hotels.com or Airbnb.com. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, people can rent out their houses (or apartments, penthouses, yachts, or any type of housing) and you will live like a local. It’s sometimes more convenient because you have a whole house instead of just a hotel room, usually for the same price, if not cheaper. New users can use my $35 off code by clicking here.
Every casino has at least a few good fine-dining restaurants inside. Most casinos usually include a steakhouse, a sushi bar, an American restaurant, a noodle bar, and some casual sandwich/burger/pizza places. Izakaya, at the Borgata, has a Monday special with a list of $7 sushi rolls, appetizers, entrees, and drinks. The Borgata also has a cafeteria for late night snacks after the clubs. Harrah’s has poolside snacks and sandwiches with happy hour prices, and a Philly Pretzel Factory. The Taj’s noodle bar has hibachi style noodles and is the best in my opinion. The Trop has famous restaurants such as Carmine’s and PF Chang’s. Caesar’s has popular Philadelphia chain restaurants like Buddakan, Continental, and Phillip’s Seafood.
Other notable restaurants in Atlantic City include White House Sub Shop. This is a must-visit restaurant when in AC. The original shop is on Arctic Avenue near Caesar’s and at the beginning of the Tunnel. Pictures of famous people who have visited over the years line the walls. There’s ALWAYS a line out the door, no matter what the day and time. A second shop has opened up inside the Taj Mahal, but the original location is the best.
Irish Pub is just as it sounds: an Irish Pub. Don’t confuse the Irish Pub with Ri Ra in the Tropicana; the Irish Pub is a dark dive bar on St. James Place and the boardwalk. It never closes and is popular with the locals and bachelor parties. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have cheap drinks.
Though I’ve never been there, Ducktown Tavern is a popular bar among locals. It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has American fare and drink specials. It’s on Atlantic Ave near Boardwalk Hall.
Chef Vola’s is an elite and prestigious byob restaurant that does not advertise. All of their customers are from word of mouth, and reservations have to be made months in advance to get a table. It’s located between Boardwalk Hall and the Tropicana in the basement of an old Victorian house and is famous with locals and people from all over New Jersey for its fantastic homemade Italian food.
There’s a restaurant called Mexico on the Atlantic City/Ventnor border that’s like stepping into real Mexico. Everyone speaks Spanish, everyone knows each other, and the food is as authentic as you can get. If you’re in the mood for a real Mexican beer and tacos, Mexico is your restaurant.
Finally, the Back Bay Ale House gets an honorary mention. It’s not a tourist restaurant but popular among locals for its dockside dining and beautiful views. It’s in the marina area next to the AC aquarium. Great drink and food specials with a fun, casual atmosphere.
Other Things in Atlantic City
Boardwalk Hall is a famous auditorium for events like Dancing With The Stars (pictured above), the Miss America Pageant (pictured below), concerts, boxing matches, and anything else you would need 20,000+ seats for. I have been to Dancing With The Stars and been a round card girl for televised boxing matches here.
The Convention Center is home to many tradeshows and conventions – all types you could think of. I have been here twice: once for a liquor tradeshow and once for Beerfest. It’s conveniently located near the outlets, casinos, Sheraton hotel, and AC Expressway.
The Atlantic City Outlets span a few blocks Atlantic City real estate and provide many, many different factory outlet stores at cheap prices. Check the Tanger Outlets website before you go for extra discounts and deals.
The Tropicana has an IMAX theater that plays the latest movies. With only one theater there aren’t a lot of movies to choose from, but it’s a good alternative when you need to get away from the gambling and drinking.
The 150 year old Absecon Lighthouse is at the north end of Atlantic City and is the country’s third tallest lighthouse. It’s open year round. It has 228 steps and costs $7 to climb (with age, resident, and military discounts). Dogs are welcome!
The Atlantic City Aquarium is on the waterfront in historic Gardner’s Basin on the marina. It’s open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It features underwater exhibits plus an exotic animal show and other rotating events. The entry fee is $8 (with age discounts), but you can save $1 off each admission up to $4 with this coupon.
Brigantine Beach is just over the bridge to Atlantic City and is a residential town with great views of Atlantic City from across the bay. The beaches are big and clean and some parts allow you to drive onto the beach. Brigantine has a few local bars and restaurants and things are much more affordable in Brigantine.
Ventnor and Margate are residential towns just south of Atlantic City. The beaches here are much cleaner than Atlantic City’s beaches and people live here year round. Many people also have summer houses in these towns, and Margate is known for being a wealthy area with million dollar houses. The biggest attraction in this area is in Ventnor with Lucy the Elephant, a six-story elephant-shaped example of novelty architecture made of wood and tin sheeting in 1881. Lucy is listed on the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks. This is an excellent choice for family fun.
There’s so much to do in Atlantic City! Have you been to this beachside casino town? Which is your favorite casino, and what do you like to do on your vacation in A.C.? Let me know in the comments below so I can try some new things in my own backyard!