Do people go to Atlantic City for any reason other than
Sure they do. The city is a major draw for conventions,
corporate meetings, and morale-building events. Atlantic City is
also a major wedding destination. The city offers a combination
of nightlife perfect for bachelor parties. Women love the town’s
upscale beauty, which makes it an ideal wedding backdrop.
Atlantic City is in the middle of a massive suburban and even
rural population, but it’s only a short trip by car or train
from New York City, Philadelphia, and a few other major cities.
Not everyone who comes to AC is coming to gamble. In fact,
increasingly, fewer people who arrive on Absecon Island are
planning to gamble at all. This is a big problem for the
casinos, but a big help for people who are visiting or moving to
the city who have no interest in placing bets.
Atlantic City was originally a resort town, a natural
landscape of beaches, dunes, and bays at the southern tip of New
Jersey. Once, the area was dotted with tiny health spas and
resorts catering to the wealthy. Though legalized casino
gambling (a product of 1970s economics) changed the face of AC
forever, the now-$3 billion industry did nothing to wipe out the
natural beauty of the place where it was built. As the casinos
disappear, you have an opportunity to enjoy the area for its
original purpose as a haven from the big city.
Yes, Atlantic City is a small town of just 39,000 people or
so. It has a certain small-town appeal, especially if you travel
a mile or two south. Attached to the city (mostly to the south)
are several small suburban neighborhoods that function as
independent cities. Towns like Ventnor City and Margate swell
the local population and provide a lot of places of interest to
26 million people visited Atlantic City last year, and fewer
than forty percent of them placed a bet in a casino. They got to
the city mostly by car, though some arrived on a plane or by
rail. Tourism is still a major part of the local economy – which
is why the city is perfect for visitors who aren’t planning on
darkening the door of a casino.
So how do you decide what to do in AC if you aren’t
interested in gambling? You can start by reading the tips
offered on this page. You can also take a look at some of the
activities we recommend, in four separate categories. If you
want to jump straight to one of these categories, please use the
relevant button below.
The easiest way to figure out what to do in Atlantic City is
to answer four simple questions.
What time of year is it?
What age groups are taking part?
How much time do you have?
How much do you want to spend?
The answers to these questions help narrow down your choices.
You can add questions if you want – that’ll narrow down your
choices even more. The answers to these particular questions do
tend to get people on the right track toward picking an activity
in the AC area that’s not in a casino though.
What time of year is it?
Atlantic City has the Atlantic Ocean for an eastern border.
It’s also located in a fairly active part of the country,
weather-wise. Ice and snow in the winter months mean that your
best bet in terms of weather is the months of May to September.
The average high for the months of November to February is 44
degrees; the average low for those months is a chilly 29
degrees. It’s not a great time to do anything BUT sit in a
casino and place bets. But if you’re there between May and
September, you’ll find warm days, temperate nights, and lots of
If your visit is during the cold months, you’ll want to stick
to lots of indoor activities. AC gets about 20 inches of snow a
year, so you might find yourself snowed in. Don’t worry. There’s
still plenty to do in AC indoors besides sit at a slot machine.
If, on the other hand, you’re in the area during the warm
months, you should DEFINITELY set some time aside for the many
outdoor activities available in the area.
What age groups are taking part?
Your options for entertainment and activities vary depending
on if you have any kids in the crowd. If your group is made up
mostly of adults, you have a lot more choices. Atlantic City is
family-friendly, but many of the options are geared more for
grown-ups than kids.
How much time do you have?
Do you need entertainment to fill an hour? Do you have an
entire day to kill? The amount of time you need to kill also
plays a role in determining what activities you choose. Much of
AC’s charm comes from the part of the country where it lies, so
some of these activities require a journey. If you have extra
time, you have a wider range of activities to choose from.
How much do you want to spend?
Did you come to AC looking to spend big and experience a
little luxury? Plenty of activities are right for your budget.
Do you have a day to kill and not much money to spend? We can
help you there, too. The trick isn’t spending a ton of money.
It’s matching your budget to activities that are available and
having the best time you can for what you want to spend. Most
activities below cost some amount of money, though we’ve
intentionally included both inexpensive and high-dollar options
on purpose to show range.
Now that you’ve thought about the four most important
factors, look through the lists below. They contain a great
selection of recommended activities in the Atlantic City area,
and none of them involve gambling. These ideas may inspire you
to think of your own activities – that’s great! So long as you
stay within the parameters of your answers to the questions
above, you’ll have a great time.
Best Luxury Activities
Even after a spate of casino closings and a general downturn
in the city’s economy, Atlantic City still appeals to big
spenders who don’t want to make the cross-country trip to Las
Vegas for their casino gambling, wining, and dining. The
following activities are designed for guests to the city that
are expecting some of the finer things in life, regardless of
This is not your father’s steakhouse. Bobby Flay’s steakhouse
at the Borgata serves $50 steaks like they’re appetizers. They
also have specials, rare wines, and multi-course tastings
available at three and four times that price point. You’re going
to spend some coin for a meal at this spot, but it’s the
glitziest of AC’s many steakhouse-themed eateries. It’s also the
place where you’re most likely to see celebrities grabbing a
bite before or after a show at the casinos.
AC’s newest boutique hotel is actually part of Borgata – a
very successful part. You can take your pick from gigantic lofts
to smaller guest rooms, all built around a theme of “luxurious
elegance,” according to the Borgata’s website. You can pay
anywhere from a few hundred to well over $1,000 a night at this
smaller and ritzier cousin to the popular Borgata next door. As
an added bonus, you’ll be as far away from the gambling as you
can get and still be in a five-star hotel in AC. Make a
reservation online for special deals and offers to local
The place where the continental shelf meets the deep part of
the Atlantic Ocean is called the Canyons. During the summers,
canyon runs are the main fishing event in an area known for its
excellent fishing. You can charter an overnight trip for a small
group to “run the canyons” for tuna, shark, and other big
predators, but you’ll pay for the privilege. At the cost of
around $6,000 per day, you can have the run of a 60 foot ship, a
crew that knows how to run the canyons, and breakfast, lunch,
and dinner. Several companies make these runs – so take a look
locally and make your pick.
Make a reservation early. The Knife and Fork Inn tends to
fill up, especially during peak tourist season. The Knife and
Fork is special – it’s probably the closest thing to a
traditional gourmet restaurant that’s available in or near
Atlantic City, not counting the lovely restaurants up Atlantic
Avenue in the “suburbs” of Ventnor and Margate. The Knife and
Fork is home to a world-class sommelier, as well as a library of
300 rare and connoisseur-level wines. Drinking in a place
popular among Prohibition-era gangsters? Nothing’s more AC than
We’re going to use Immersion Spa as our example here. It’s at
the mega-popular and mega-ritzy Borgata, and because they have
luxury packages for couples that will set you back as much as
$1,400 a night. Atlantic City has always been a big area for
spas, resort treatments, and natural beauty. They have high
prices, but if you’re on a budget, you can book treatments at
rates much lower than this. If you want to give Immersion a try,
you can reach them at.
Because AC is so close to a lot of different big cities and
interesting parts of the country, you can take day tips by car
to have a number of different experiences. All of the ideas
below are within a day’s drive of Absecon Island, and many of
them are built around family-friendly activities.
Take a thirty-minute drive south from the city (and pass over
two toll bridges) and you’ll find yourself in historic Ocean
City. Ocean City is a family-friendly seaside resort. There’s no
drinking in public on the island that the city is built on, and
most activities are designed with the entire family in mind.
Frequently rated the top family beach in the country, Ocean City
is a hidden jewel just a short drive from the hustle and bustle
of AC’s casino industry.
If you arrive in AC by plane or train, you may not realize
just how close Philadelphia is. An hour by car, a little longer
by a special express train, and you and your family or friends
can be checking out the Liberty Bell. If driving isn’t your
thing, revel in the awesome public transit system in AC and
Philly, and spend about 90 minutes total getting back and forth
from the City of Brotherly Love. The ticket will only set you
back about $12. Philly is a cultural hotspot with live music,
amazing food, museums, and other big-city attractions.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the epicenter of the Pennsylvania
Amish country, is less than three hours from AC by car. You and
your group could easily travel, see the sights, grab a bite to
eat, and be back in Atlantic City in plenty of time for evening
activities. If you don’t think Amish Country is cool, think of
it as a giant outdoor bazaar and amusement park, and bite your
tongue. Most people in your group will have a blast, and you’ll
spend next to nothing.
Okay, so it’s an eight-hour round trip. And yeah, that eats
up a good chunk of your day. But if you can grab a nap on the
way to and from the city, you’ll steal those hours right back.
Let’s face it. NYC is the epicenter of everything cool about
America. Live music, theater, art, amazing food, and that
beautiful skyline – all this can be yours for a $30 ticket and a
few hours napping next to a stranger.
Some of the best bass fishing in the world is right in
Atlantic City’s backyard – along the inlets of the back bays of
the Atlantic Ocean that lie on the other side of the city from
the Atlantic. During the spring and summer months, the back bays
are a hotbed of wildlife activity, including world-class bass
and flounder fishing. You can easily spend a day seeing the
wildlife, taking photos, and doing a little fishing. All you
need is a willing guide – the area has plenty of fishermen
willing to help you tour the area for a small fee.
Cities built around gambling are not known as great places to
be broke. Sure, you can find cheap buffets and earn comps at the
casinos… if you’re a gambling customer. What can you do in
Atlantic City for free? The ideas below should get you thinking
in the right direction.
Few American beaches have boardwalks. None of the others are
as long as the one in Atlantic City. Designed with people in
mind, the boardwalk is wide enough to accommodate bikers,
walkers, and people-watchers. You can get amazing views of the
surrounding seaside and dunes from the boardwalk, or use it as a
home base for a beach adventure or a stroll through downtown.
Similar to the Bellagio Dancing Fountains of Vegas, Caesar’s
Atlantic City puts on a fantastic water show set to music. The
entire show is seven minutes, but it only takes place once an
hour, so getting a good seat is half the fun.
Gardner’s Basin is a tiny waterfront community located along
the inlets of the back bays of the Atlantic Ocean. These days,
it’s mostly a string of restaurants built over the water and
with emphasis on outdoor seating. You can sit and eat and watch
the boats pass, but you don’t have to buy anything to enjoy the
view. There is also an active artist colony and lots of wildlife
to watch along the way.
A totally free tour of the Absecon Lighthouse would be the
perfect free trip for a family with kids, or even a romantic
trip for a couple. You can see amazing views of the AC skyline
and check out an interesting little museum, including the
worlds’ first-ever Fresnel lens. It’s a short trip from the city
and they’re open all year long.
During the summer, AC has a very active Swim and Surf club
that hold competitions for about a four-month span. Local
surfers don’t quit when the water gets cold, either – you can
see surfers in wetsuits tackling the surprisingly-good local
waves all year. You can find out about upcoming events on social
Vegas has been rebuilt into a family vacation destination.
Gone are the days when the casinos were smoke-filled caverns
filled with desperate men gambling away their rent money.
Today’s Vegas is a kinder, gentler gambling Mecca. That change
never really came to Atlantic City – at least not to the
casinos. Look and you can find plenty of family-friendly
experiences in and around AC.
The famous boardwalk and beaches of Atlantic City are too
often overlooked by casino customers. The city’s entire eastern
border is made up of beaches. Some five miles of the city is
bordered by the boardwalk, which was the first of its kind in
America. You won’t spend a dime to hang out on the beach, swim,
get some rays, read a book, and explore the boardwalk. It’s a
huge part of the city’s heritage that can’t be missed. And it’s
Key Information Address: Atlantic City, NJ
Visit the Steel Pier
The Steel Pier is a historic site where an amusement park and
concert hall and boxing arena once stood. The Steel Pier has
been revived and renovated to make it a more family-friendly
environment. And it’s being expanded all the time. Future plans
include the world’s tallest Ferris wheel and further expansion
of its restaurant and retail shops. Your kids can enjoy a few
amusement park rides and other kid stuff, while the adults do a
Fralinger’s is a local candy shop with history. Salt-water
taffy was accidentally invented at Fralinger’s in the early 20th
century when a batch of taffy candy was ruined during a flood.
The candy is still served worldwide. Your family can hit up the
same location where it was invented. If you’re lucky, you’ll get
a special quick tour of the facilities. Sure, your kids will get
a sugar high, but they can walk it off at the nearby shops while
you and the other adults do some window-shopping.
Lucy the Elephant is a classic family-friendly attraction
just outside of Atlantic City. She’s also the world’s only hotel
shaped like an elephant. You have to see Lucy to believe it.
Basically, it’s an old-school hotel from the area’s golden days
in the 1920s, and she’s still standing. You can tour inside of
her, and eat at a couple of nice restaurants nearby, but the
thing you absolutely MUST do is get a picture of you and your
group with Lucy in the background.
The Cape May County Park and Zoo is cooler than you might
expect, considering it’s a smallish county zoo. The zoo and park
are well-maintained. It’s a popular area, so it’s well-supported
by locals. The park and zoo are clean, the animals are active
and healthy-looking, and they’ve done maintenance to make the
park an amazing experience for all visitors. We can’t recommend
it enough, especially if you go on certain Saturdays during the summer,
when all admission is free.
Key Information Address: 707 Route 9 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Atlantic City has fallen on hard times. You can’t write about
the city without writing about the decline of the tourism and
casino industries. But it’s still a hub for entertainment. And
lots of business meetings, conferences, and get-togethers take
place here on the Jersey shore. Yes, the casinos are struggling,
but that doesn’t affect the quality or amount of non-gambling
activities available at all. If anything, the city is reaching
out for non-gambling visitors more than ever. They’re also
looking for new forms of revenue through things besides casino
As the city looks for new revenue, it’s going out of its way
to welcome guests regardless of their gaming preference. If you
find yourself in Atlantic City, or just an hour away in
Philadelphia or any of the other population centers nearby, the
city is worth a look, even if you’re not a gambler. We’re sure
you’ll find that some of the twenty non-gaming activities
suggested above work for you and for the needs particular to
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