Atlantic City, NJ: Travel Adventures For the Fun of It! by Bonnie and Bill Neely

The first site of real tourism in the United States is also “America’s Favorite Playground,” and you’ve probably toured this city many times: You’ve been to Boardwalk, Park Ave., Pennsylvania and Kentucky Ave., St. Charles Place, St. James ….maybe even taken a “ride” on the railroads… where are you? You’re in Atlantic City, NJ, where the game of Monopoly was invented during the Great Depression by Charles Darrow to help people get away from their financial woes. But the first property developers and tourists came here in 1854 when the railroad from Philadelphia completed the line for city dwellers to go to the coast for the sun, sea air, and sea water, believed to be good for health. Recreational resorts were soon to follow, and the development of Absecon Island grew rapidly. Now there are 29 NJ Transit trains a day from Philadelphia, and about 33 million visitors flock to Atlantic City each year. I recently discovered many reasons why when I was fortunate enough to be there for the very first bus ride on the new Causeway which will bring traffic more easily to this playground of the Atlantic Coast. The city authorities have wisely planned to make it easy for visitors to get around town without traffic jams and parking problems. The modern “Jitneys” and busses are easy, cheap, and run every few minutes from all major tourist attractions.
The famous world’s first Boardwalk was built in 1870. It is on concrete and steel pilings and made of thousands of two by fours of Bethabara hardwood from Brazil and Longleaf Yellow Southern Pine. It extends about four and a half miles over the sugary white sandy beaches. It was started by the railroad officials who didn’t want the sand tramped into their railcars. Atlantic City also has the world’s premier amusement pier- The Steel Pier, which opened in 1898 but has state-of-the-art rides today. Click here. And when you’re there you will have to sample their famous Salt Water Taffy which originated on the Boardwalk in 1883 when a huge wave washed over the taffy factory’s candy, giving birth to the delightful new taste which became a hit. (And even if you have many fillings in your teeth as I do, you can enjoy this taffy,as it does not seem to pull on them! You’ll be quickly addicted, as we were.)
If you didn’t come here by car or train, you may have flown in to the world’s first “Airport” because the word was coined here. And of course the Miss America Pageant was started here in 1921 in order to extend the summer holiday season beyond Labor Day. The Pageant is held at Boardwalk Hall, (1-888-222-3638) which is currently being restored to its 1929 magnificence when it was recognized as the world’s largest free-standing building without column support and is now on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. Click here. The Miss America Pageant grew out of a Flower Festival which originated a century ago in 1902. Be sure to see the showcase of contestants’ dresses and shoes in the Sheraton. The Sheraton is also home of Tun Tavern Brewery. Click here The beer made with Atlantic City water has won several awards. The Tun (meaning keg or cask) is said to be the firs brewhouse on the Philadelphia waterfront and is acknowledged as the birthplace of the United States Marine Corps in 1775. You may also wish to tour Renault Winery; 130 years old, it is the oldest working winery in the country. It is located in the Historic Gardner’s Basin and features guided tours, wine tasting, gift shop and gourmet restaurant (609) 965-2111.
How long has it been since you just PLAYED! It’s time to feel like a kid again and run in the sand, ride the rides on the famous Pier, jump the waves of the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, crack crabs and lobsters, go to a clam-bake, lie in the sun. But you also get to enjoy activities and entertainment you couldn’t enjoy as a kid.
Gaming is strictly controlled by New Jersey laws and has been successful in keeping the underworld out, by contrast to the history of teeming underworld escapades here in the 1920’s when some institutions blatantly defied Prohibition with speak-easies and the playground for gangsters. Visitors come here for excellent gaming of all kinds. Atlantic City features a dozen of the most elaborate Hotel-Casinos in the world, which offer beautifully appointed rooms and five star restaurants, top entertainment in revues and lounge shows. Click here . You can’t miss Donald Trump’s opulent Taj Mahal Resort with its white elephants and guilded domes. To get show and entertainment information for the Taj Mahal venues.

But the City is not just about gambling. The Comedy Stop at the Tropicana is the place where many stars have been discovered inlcuding Rosie O’Donnell, Tim Allen, and Ray Romano. Another club to visit is Club Harlem on Kentucky Ave. which has historical significance of presenting African American entertainers in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s, many of whom became famous: Ray Charles, Sammy Davis, Jr., Pearl Bailey, and James Brown to name a few. In July each year the Kentucky Avenue Renaissance Festival is the source of much fun, music, and food.

Noyes Museum of Art (609-652-8848) offers exhibitions and special programs year round with “Meet the Artist” gallery talks, concerts, hands-on projects for families.Click here for more info. Atlantic City Historical Museum and Art Center highlights over a century of seaside mania and the many promotions that hit the City over the years. These are captured in the historical video Boardwalk Ballyhoo. (609-347-5839)

You’ll enjoy a myriad of wonderful restaurants from which to choose. One of the best known is the Knife and Fork Inn, an Atlantic City landmark near the intersecton of Albany and Pacific Avenues. Started as a private men’s club in 1912, it defied Prohibition until Federal Agents in the Roaring Twenties destroyed it and all its contents. It reopened in 1927 as a restaurant and has been owned and operated by the Latz family for four generations. On the roof you’ll see a weathervane with a 24 karat gold coating. If you can dine there, select their signature Seashore Dinner of lobster stuffed with crabmeat, and delicious corn fritters from the owner’s great grandmother’s recipe.

Shopping is a unique experience at Ocean One Mall, which looks like a cruise ship and is located 900 feet out over the Atlantic Ocean!…on the Boardwalk across from Caesar’s Hotel & Casino. You’ll also find eateries and strolling entertainment here and 120 specialty shops.

On the new Grand Boulevard you’ll see a 180 – foot long, simulated boardwalk and a 90-foot tall lighthouse replica. You’ll want to pass this at night when the dazzling laser light display is featured and announces all the major shows in town. Beautiful fountains shoot 30 feet into the air with huge rocks and boulders completing the effect. The city is currently underway with a multibillion dollar renaissance. This attractive display is part of the Corridor project, which will total $286 million dollars as part of the NJ Casino Reinvestment Development Authority taxes from Casinos to fund projects around the state.

If sports are your interest you are in the right place! The new community sports facility The Sandcastle Stadium is home of Surf Baseball minor-league professional baseball team with games May through September and fireworks on many Friday nights. Call 609-344-8873 for tickets, which are just $3 – $12 for a fun family evening. You can also enjoy exciting basketball games by the Atlantic City Seagulls who perform in the Atlantic City High School. Call 1-888-HOOPS-97 for times. World Championship boxing matches are frequently held in Atlantic City also. Philadelphia Flyers professional National Hockey Team also sponsor a community ice-skating rink called Flyer’s Skate Zone and offer training camps by team members and coaches. There are also nine member golf courses and 30 hotels with golf packages, making this a golfers’ dream year-round. In fact, the term “birdie” was coined at the Atlantic City Country Club, and Sam Snead won his first big PGA tourny at Marriott’s Seaview Resort. The Sand Barrens Golf Club was recently featured as one of the Top 10 in Golf Magazine. And the Cape May National Links are around a 50 acre bird sanctuary. You can call 1-800- GOLF-222 to book tee times or learn more about any of the courses.

It’s easy to know where you are in Atlantic City, which is located on the four square mile Absecon Island. The street signs all display a symbol to denote which section of town you are in. Downbeach is denoted by a sun. Uptown in the northern part is marked with a seahorse. The lighthouse on the signs signifies the midtown section. And the marina section boasts sailboats.

The City is not just for adults either. The Oscar E. McClinton Jr. Waterfront County Park has a natural environment at water’s edge for children to play and to learn from the educational signs. The statue of King Neptune signifies that you are in Historic Gardner’s Basin, a waterfront park and marina. There you’ll soon find a wonderful three-story, interactive, educational Ocean Life Center. Click here. The Basin also hosts education programs including “Introduction to the Salt Marsh” tours, and the “Classroom on the Ocean” education cruises. Call 609-348-2880 for more information and schedules.

There is also a charter boat called “Cruisin One” for lovely tours of the Atlantic City skyline and backbays, marine mammal adventure cruises and sunset calm water cruises. Captain Applegate’s finest and fastest party fishing boats also sail from the Basin. Click here for information. You’ll not want to miss the Marine Mammal Stranding Center and Sea Life Museum which has a 1,5000 gallon observation tank, research lab, public seining sessions and much more. You’ll learn about many mammals that are saved here. Call 609-266-0538 for hours. Youngsters will love the daytrip just ten miles west of Atlantic City to see Storybook Land. Call 1-609-641-7847 for more information. TW Sports Amusement Park (609-484-8080) is in the nearby Egg Harbor Township and offers go-carts, miniature golf, batting cages, bumper boats, and kiddie rides for family fun.

Other must-sees in the area include the restored historical landmark “Lucy the Elphant,” a 65-foot pachyderm on the beach which you can climb in and walk through to view artifacts. You will also want to visit the Absecon Lighthouse, built in 1857, located at Rhode Island and Pacific Avenues.There are so many other attractions nearby you will want to return again and again, with fun for every one and every pocketbook. Contact 1-888-AC-VISIT for more information. Contact 1-888-222-3638 for help in planning your trip.