History Meets Fun in Atlantic City

If you’re planning a trip to the Mid-Atlantic region, you might be thinking New York City is where all the action is. Not so fast. The Big Apple’s cousin to the south, New Jersey, is a great vacation hot spot in its own right. In particular, Atlantic City is steeped in history and teeming with activities, making it a fun-filled destination for couples and families alike. Incorporated in 1854, the seaside resort city has gradually blossomed into one of the country’s go-to places for casino action, vibrant nightlife and relaxation, thanks in part to its prime location along the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the area’s biggest draws is the historic Atlantic City Boardwalk, whose history stretches back to 1870 and along which travelers will find a host of shops, resorts, hotels, piers, arcades, museums and much more. (The Boardwalk is a whopping 60 feet wide and more than 4 feet long.) Among the Boardwalk’s notable attractions are the Atlantic City Aquarium, with more than eighteen exhibits including a 25,000 gallon tank; Gardner’s Basin, a bayside park boasting everything from fine dining to sightseeing cruises; and the Garden Pier, which now houses the Atlantic City historical museum and Art Center. The annual Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival – slated to run July 29 through August 1 – features four jam-packed days of events, celebrity appearances and food and wine tastings. Even if you’re not an aviation junkie, you’ll enjoy “Thunder Over the Boardwalk,” where impressive aerobatics maneuvers and flybys that reach up to 150,000 feet and as low as 50 feet over the water are sure to hold spectators spellbound.

Boardwalk Hall, declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1987, once held one of The Beatles’ largest-ever concerts and currently hosts the Miss’d America Pageant and men’s college basketball games. Lovers of the outdoors can commune with nature at Wharton State Forest while boating buffs will feel right at home at the Farley Marina, whose 640 floating slips can accommodate yachts as long as 300 feet. If traveling from New York City to Atlantic City by train, travelers can take advantage of Atlantic City Express Service (ACES), which runs Friday through Sunday and takes passengers from New York’s Penn Station to Atlantic City Rail Terminal in less than 3 hours on average.

The Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort is conveniently situated at the top of the Boardwalk. Though you’re more than 2,000 miles away from Las Vegas, you’ll feel immersed in the excitement Sin City gaming while inside the casino, which offers slot and table games including Blackjack, Poker and Roulette. The resort also has a state-of-the-art theater built to showcase the talents of such noted celebrities as KC & the Sunshine Band. Plus, the resort’s 13,000 square-foot Health Spa comprises a steam room, sauna, hot tub and indoor swimming pool.

Affording splendid views of the Atlantic City skyline are Travelodge Bayside and Comfort Bayside Inn. Though a little further from the world-famous Boardwalk – two and four miles away, respectively – both properties suit business travelers and pleasure seekers alike. Travelodge Bayside features an expansive outdoor swimming pool and meeting rooms, while Comfort Bayside Inn offers free Continental breakfast and complimentary shuttle service to the Tropicana Casino on Fridays and Saturdays.

Half a block from the Boardwalk and adjacent to the Tropicana lies the Ascot Motel, a great option for the budget-minded. The outdoor pool is open seasonally (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend) and guests can start their day off right with complimentary coffee in the lobby. Though the property might be thinner on amenities than its hotel counterparts, that doesn’t mean travelers will have to sacrifice comfort, let alone good service – the front desk is open 24 hours a day. La Renaissance, meanwhile, is synonymous with family-friendly. Its One and Two Bedroom Suites, all with balconies, feature separate living and dining areas and are spacious enough to sleep anywhere from four to six people.

Though New York City may still lay claim to the title of most popular destination in the Mid-Atlantic, there is no denying Atlantic City holds its own as a place where couples and families alike can lap up a profusion of great attractions.