What’s New in Atlantic City?

Many baby boomers probably remember visiting this Jersey shore resort years ago, before it was the casino capital of the northeastern United States. I know my parents took me there once, but my memories are vague, and I have wanted to see how it’s been reinvented. Recently, I requested a visitor guide, which I have found to be a lot more helpful than any of the websites. So, if you’ve been thinking of traveling to Atlantic City, my first suggestion to you is to first request a travel guide; you’ll have a lot more sites to check out than by randomly searching hotel names or tourist links.

Atlantic City appears to be larger than what I recollect, and the growth around the Marina area (north and slightly west of the boardwalk) is the recipient of a lot of attention. I read many excellent reviews about the Borgata and Harrah’s resorts, and they are both located in this area. These casinos are removed from the hustle and bustle of the Boardwalk, but they may be exactly what some folks prefer. (For you foodies, you may be happy to hear that Borgata hosts not only a restaurant of Bobby Flay’s, but one of Wolfgang Puck’s as well.)

Moving on toward the Boardwalk, the northernmost pier has both an art gallery and a historic museum of Atlantic City, with free admission and nearby parking. Both will be on my list of things to see, along with the southern pier, home to a variety of shops and cafes. In fact, it appears that there is more than enough to do along the stretch of boardwalk that connects the oceanfront casino resort, Showboat, to the array off the last pier-such as Trump’s Taj Mahal, Bally’s, and Caesars, to name a few. Oceanfront accommodations start at a little over a hundred dollars a night for weekdays, but go up considerably on weekends and as the summer progresses. (Check for the Harrah’s family of “hot deals” for savings.)

As I flipped through the travelogue and circled possibilities, I noticed that resort entrepreneurs have managed to squeeze as many visitor sites as possible into a one or two mile area. Although not quite a tourist attraction, the lighthouse north of the Showboat seems like a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours, although I doubt I’ll make the climb. (After doing it once in Virginia Beach, I think I can say I understand the experience.) The potpourri of kid entertainment appears to be the same as everywhere, in the form of amusement parks, miniature golf and a Ripley’s Believe It or No museum. Don’t get me wrong; they are all fun, but pretty predictable, and if your kids are a bit older and have already had their share, they won’t hold anyone’s interest for too long. But some of the live entertainment might be worth checking out: Elton John will be performing there on July 19th, and Celine Dion on September 20. Jay Leno and Crazy Al Yankovic are also on the show agenda, and if you can wait until October, you can even see Anthony Bourdaine. We have the American Idol Concert coming to my home town of Pittsburgh in July, but if you don’t, you can catch the top 10 contestants in Atlantic City on the 2nd of August 2, and Parrot Heads won’t want to miss Jimmy Buffett on August 24.

It’s not surprising that there is a wealth of culinary experiences within the famous resorts, but as always, so much food; so little time. Should I opt for the Cajun Buffet at the New Orleans-themed Showboat, or hold off and visit Patsy’s, the place supposedly made famous by Frank Sinatra? (Not really in my generation, ole’ blue eyes is still famous, and for that I must acknowledge his opinion of good Italian cuisine.) There seems to be a lot of Asian eateries, and I noted one Mexican, one Indian, and a few barbecue joints inside the elegant casinos, so you must say they try to meet as many tastes as possible. Of course, there are probably more casual diners along the boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue than a hungry guest can shake a stick at, but obviously no magazine can list all of them. I’ll just have to get there to find out.

It’s always hard trying to plan any trip without first hand familiarity of the location, but between the internet and good reference material, I’m making progress. I’m excited about this trip, as it seems to offer that which appeals to my family members; where else can we find the ocean, casinos and top entertainment, fancy surroundings for when we’re in the fancy mood, an interesting history, and within a 6 hour drive of home? As always, I’ll keep you posted!

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