Brad and I recently went to Atlantic City for a mini-summer vacation. I have to admit, I was a pretty reluctant traveler. My vision for my few days off of work included doing DIY projects, laying on the couch and watching Doctor Who, and not much else. But Brad wanted to go somewhere new together to get away, and for some reason locked onto Atlantic City as the only reasonable option.
I finally gave in, and I am glad I did! It may not have been the vacation I was looking for, but it was loads of fun and I actually think we may go back there one day. Unless you’re looking for gambling Atlantic City doesn’t have the best reputation – but I think it is underrated, especially if you are willing to go along with the campy aspects and enjoy it for what it is. I didn’t think it would be my “vibe,” but ended up having a really nice time. It has beaches, the boardwalk, restaurants, shows, and more.
But let’s also be real about what it is. It is a city of about 40,000 permanent residents which houses about 13,000 hotel beds – a place that was a sought-after resort town before air travel made Florida or the Caribbean a viable option for the east coast, and before home air conditioning eliminated the drive for extremely long beach vacations to help families get out of the heat. It is a place that bet big on gambling to save it, but lost as demand couldn’t sustain as many resort casinos as were built, and more and more casinos opened in communities around the country.
Casino after casino has been closing, hitting the city tax revenues and leaving empty buildings and up to 20% of the workforce without a job. It is a place where gaudy consumption sits right next to vacant lots. If you walk one block back from the boardwalk, it is a whole different town.
Hopefully the city will diversify beyond the casinos and reclaim some of its reputation and grow its tourist revenue. As it is, it was a good place to go for a short vacation. Here are a few things I liked about it:
Atlantic City was Affordable
It was easy for us to get a hotel room in a nice, centrally located place for a reasonable cost at short notice. There were definitely reaonsably priced food options, and the “nice” dinners we went out to were not exhorborant. If you wanted to eat well but cheaply, you could definitely find spots to do so. There was also a lot to do that was free, from going to the beach or walking along the boardwalk.
Atlantic City had Diverse Crowds
I didn’t feel like I was vacationing in a bubble. There were all sorts of people and families vacationing there – all races, religions, shapes, etc. We heard loads of different languages spoken all around us and it was a friendly atmosphere.
Atlantic City Had a Lot To Do
Even though we didn’t gamble or spend much time in the casinos, there was a lot to do! Just walking the boardwalk was fun, watching the people and checking out the strange shops and scenery. It was so easy to access the beach, and we definitely could have spent more time just enjoying the water and sun. There was Steel Pier (an amusement park/carnival set over the water) and we could have done boat tours or parasailing if we had wanted to/had time. The casinos have a bunch of different shows, and we went to see a comedy performance which was pretty good. There was even a six story elephant named Lucy.
What I kept coming back to while I was there was that this would be really good for kids. The beach was so close to the boardwalk so things like supplies, food, and bathrooms are ever-acessible, and had lifeguards along it for safety. There were playgrounds and the amusement park and lots of kid-friendly attractions. Further, beyond the very-fancy restaurants, nothing seemed too “precious” such that you’d be worried kids would mess it up. There were a lot of families there!
Well, that is probably more about my vacation than you really wanted to know! However, I just had to share my impressions and urge you to check it out, even if you don’t think it would be your “vibe,” like I didn’t.
Have you been to Atlantic City? Would you consider going?