The glittering casino resorts and the Atlantic City Boardwalk -- the longest boardwalk in the world -- draw over 35 million visitors to this seaside resort each year. Add to that its sandy beaches, world-class shopping, dining, and nightlife, and you've got a resort that will keep the whole family entertained day and night.
The Birth of a Resort
Visitors have been enjoying the island's fresh sea air ever since members of the Lenni-Lenape tribe began hunting and fishing here 1,000 years ago. When Dr. Jonathan Pitney, a graduate from a prestigious New York college, realized Absecon Island could become a major tourist attraction, he encouraged a group of businessmen to build a railroad from Camden (near Philadelphia) to Absecon Island, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk, the world's first, was built in 1870 to keep people from tracking sand from the beach into the seaside hotel lobbies and railroad parlor cars. But that's not the only thing Atlantic City is so well-known for.
Some Things to Chew On
In 1880 a young candy merchant's stall, a few feet from the ocean, flooded during a storm. Frustrated, when a child came to ask for some taffy, he replied, "You mean Salt Water Taffy, don't you?" The child's mother said that would be a great name for his candy, and when he began to add salt to his ingredients, the name for this sticky treat stuck.
When Charles Darrow chose Atlantic City as the setting for the game of Monopoly, he never dreamed this resort would become what it is today. Synonymous with Atlantic City for more than 70 years, the board game uses Atlantic City's real street names.
Another Atlantic City icon, Mr. Peanut, was "born" in 1930 as the mascot for the Planters Peanut store across from the Steel Pier. Steel Pier itself, while mostly amusement rides today, was once a world-renowned destination, famed for the Diving Horse Show.
World-Class Shopping, Dining and Entertainment
The romance of yesteryear still exists today in the traditions that abound along the Boardwalk. Stroll on foot, by bicycle or rolling chair, then relive the city's rich heritage at the Atlantic City Historical Museum on Garden Pier, where Rudolph Valentino taught tourists how to tango before becoming a celebrity.
Then, for more up-to-date information on the city's accommodations, shopping, restaurants and entertainment, stop in at the tourist information center at Boardwalk Hall. This National Historic Landmark was the home to the celebrated Miss America Pageant until it left for Las Vegas in 2006.
Explore the many glamorous casino hotels and romantic restaurants along the Boardwalk, or, for non-gambling entertainment, visit the sultry, exotic, old-time Havana atmosphere of The Quarter at the Tropicana Casino & Resort. In this vibrant, three-storied streetscape you'll find everything from spy equipment to spa products, as well as an IMAX theater, the Comedy Stop Café & Cabaret, and the a multitude of restaurants.
Shoppers will also enjoy The Walk, a popular outlet mall, or if you prefer, catch a show or exhibition at the Atlantic City Convention Center, then dance the night away at one of the city's exciting nightclubs. Or take a Jitney to the Marina where you'll find several casino hotels that offer panoramic views of the Atlantic City skyline.
Take to the Sea
Historic Gardner’s Basin, near the Marina in uptown Atlantic City, is a good place to set sail on a variety of popular dolphin watch or sightseeing cruises. Nestled among streets with names like Spinnaker Way, Lighthouse Court, and Sextant Drive, you can't help but want to take the helm and head out to sea.
However, if you're a landlubber don't worry, you can get a glimpse of ocean life up-close at the Atlantic City Aquarium, or dine in one of the many restaurants here that offer great views of the water.
Outside of the City
When you're ready for a change, you don't have to travel far to discover the charm of the rest of the Jersey Shore region. In Absecon, outdoor lovers have many opportunities to get out into nature in the nearby Pine Barrens and Edwin B. Forysthe National Wildlife Refuge, a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking and hiking.
Just watch out for the Jersey Devil, a creature who, according to local legend, has prowled the Pine Barrens since about 1735.
The nearby Historic Town of Smithville has more than 60 colonial shops and eateries to explore, or you could travel south from Atlantic City to enjoy the peaceful beaches of Ventnor and Ocean City.
Marvel at the world's only 63-foot pachyderm when you visit Lucy the Elephant in Margate. This six-story tourist attraction was built in 1882 to lure tourists to the shore. Further down the coast, you'll find the Wildwoods, known for their Doo-Wop motels, long beaches and wild amusement rides.
Cape May, at the southern tip of the Jersey Shore, has the distinction of being the oldest seashore resort in the United States. Renowned for its picturesque Victorian architecture, this tranquil, romantic town is a must-see. Take the Cape May Trolley Tour to learn all about the town's history, then, when you're hungry, dine in one of Cape May's quirky restaurants. Later, explore the town's unique shops and tour the Emlen Physick Estate to see how wealthy Victorians lived. Finally, don a colorful Victorian hat while you take tea at the Carriage House Tea Room on the estate grounds.
Opportunities to experience nature at the Jersey Shore abound in the area's many parks. There are also excellent golf courses, wineries and amusement parks, including Storybook Land, where the little ones can walk or ride through their favorite stories and nursery rhymes in a pretty, park-like setting.
Atlantic Ave & Pacific Ave