Perched on the coastline of New Jersey, Atlantic City has been a firm favourite of east coasters since the nineteenth century; and not too much has changed. With loyal visitors and enough saltwater taffy to feed a nation, it’s the kind of city that’s great for a weekend trip away. In fact, there are so many of the best things to do in Atlantic City that you’ll likely want to stay longer.
You’re in for a treat if you’ve never been to Atlantic City before. Yeah, it’s a little kitsch but that’s all part of its charm. Yeah, Atlantic City is the kind of place you’ll either love or hate; but whatever the case it’s certainly worth the experience, especially if you’re visiting the best places in New Jersey.
Embrace the cheesiness, enjoy its kitsch outlets and have fun screaming the evening away at the fairground.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Atlantic City. Have fun!
1.) Absecon Lighthouse
Being New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse (at 171 feet high), visiting Absecon Lighthouse is one of the best things to do in Atlantic City if you want to explore some of the cities historic spots.
Constructed all the way back in 1857, it is one of the city’s historical landmarks and offers some stunning views of Atlantic City and the magnificent Atlantic Ocean beyond.
Now, getting to these views can be a little bit of a challenge, especially as you’ll need to climb up 228 steps (give or take a few). Yes, the climb sounds daunting at first but you will be rewarded with unparalleled vistas of the city’s skyline that are well worth the climb.
Oh, and don’t forget to visit the exhibit of the original Fresnel lens.
2.) Atlantic City Boardwalk
Probably one of the United States’ most iconic coastal walks, the Atlantic City Boardwalk is something you can’t miss whilst in the city.
Trust me, your visit to Atlantic City will not be complete without strolling through the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Connecting the string of casinos, hotels and local stalls and food joints, it’s a totally easy and pretty chilled way to stroll the coastal region of the city itself.
Now, it’s pretty chilled to walk along the four-mile stretch; especially over a lazy weekend. That b being said, you can also rent a bike, rollerblades, or a rolling chair to explore the wider area.
Just don’t forget to pop in the Central Pier Arcade for all their retro amusements and slots.
3.) Steel Pier
One of the best things to do in Atlantic City, Steel Pier is well worth a gander for its thrills that’ll have you screaming in no time at all.
Located along Atlantic City Boardwalk, Steel Pier is an amusement park that extends for more than 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean.
With heaps of rides and enough food kiosks to satisfy the sweetest of sweet-toothed visitors, it’s the kind of place that’s totally fun to visit. The Ferris Wheel is so much fun, but if you really want to scream you should head on the Slingshot. It’ll catapult you into the air, so be prepared for a totally white-knuckle induced scream.
4.) Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall
Known as Atlantic City’s most famous venue for huge concerts and events, the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall is a must-see spot in the city. It is the home of the Miss America pageant, with the final round of competition almost always being held here.
So if it is included in your itinerary, check out its scheduled events ahead of time to see what’s in store when you’re in the city.
Aside from the events, the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall is also frequently visited because it houses one of the biggest musical instruments on the globe. Its pipe organ, currently undergoing restoration, features 33,000 pipes, 1,000 stop keys, and eight chambers in total. It’s huge!
5.) Atlantic City Historical Museum
Long ago, before the casino and Boardwalk arrived, Atlantic City was a small fishing village. Nowadays, the resort city is a fun-filled place that’s filled to the brim with history and kitsch avenues.
If you’re something of a history buff, check out the Atlantic City Historical Museum. Inside, there’s a pretty big array of displays and exhibits that’ll satisfy any visitor. With items, including; song sheets, artefacts, costumes, postcards, and plenty of Miss America footage and memorabilia. Not only that, several of Thomas Edison beach shots are also archived here.
The Atlantic City of Experience is another area of interest. Housed at the Atlantic City Free Library, this is a collection of items and research materials telling the history of how Atlantic City is developed. It’s all pretty interesting, especially if you’re interested in the development of the city.
6.) Atlantic City Art Center
The Atlantic City Art Center is a major artistic hub in the city, once built on the municipal pier but has long since relocated to the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. It is a well-known spot that promotes the works of regional and national artists and is easily up there as one of the best things to do in Atlantic City.
Featuring constantly evolving exhibits, the Atlantic City Art Center is a welcome escape from the heat of summer (or the chilly breeze of winter). Exhibits include sculpture, paintings and photography to boot! Best of all, events are held throughout the year, where you can join gallery talks, concerts, literary readings, and art demonstrations depending that are all seasonally available to join.
7.) Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium
Love it or hate it, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is something of an icon in Atlantic City. It’s a treasure trove of curiosities.
Each and everyone exhibits on display here will tingle your imagination. With more than 12 galleries are showcased in this museum, from quirky crafts made of strange materials to engineering geniuses such as the smallest production car in the whole world. It’s the kind of place that’s totally fun for the whole family.
Offering a fun break from the beaches and casinos of Atlantic City, this Odditorium will make you feel the excitement that can go from “wow!” to “eww!”. Trust me on this… some things are just pure icky.
Oh, there’s even a roulette table made entirely of 14,000 jellybeans, and the popular Jivaro shrunken heads from the Amazons of Peru, too!
8.) Lucy the Margate Elephant
Just off Atlantic Avenue, seeing Lucy the Margate Elephant is easily one of the best things to do in Atlantic City; especially if you want to see a piece of history from the city.
You see, it was built-in 1881, and is regarded as the oldest standing roadside tourist attraction in all the United States.
Long ago, James V. Lafferty built this 65-foot high elephant made of wood and tin for us all to enjoy. It has seen most of the history of Atlantic City and has gone through different transformations, too — a summer home, a tavern, an observation deck — to now being protected in the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks.
Once here, you can also take guided tours and know more about the history of Lucy and Atlantic City.
9.) Ocean City
Ocean City is one of the rare places on the Atlantic coast that is entirely alcohol-free. You can travel 11 miles from Atlantic City to get here and enjoy most of the things that Atlantic City offers but in a more chilled tone.
Boasting a bustling Boardwalk that goes on for more than two miles. Fishing, kayaking, and kiteboarding are some of the most fun water-based activities here and it’s great to take a dip on a sunny day.
Aside from the beaches, attractions in the area include the Ocean City Historical Museum, theatres, and a range of amusement parks that can fill a whole weekend.
10.) Historic Gardner’s Basin
Known as a welcoming maritime village, the Historic Gardner’s Basin features maritime exhibits, including the original Steel Pier Diving Bell which was then used to bring down guests to the seabed.
Not only that, but it’s also a popular waterfront park hosting a wide gamut of attractions for you to enjoy.
Oh, and if you want a unique experience in Atlantic City, try a fishing expedition or dolphin-sighting cruise that are booked at Gardner’s Basin. It’s totally lovely.
11.) Atlantic City Airshow (Thunder Over the Boardwalk)
Held annually in August, Atlantic City Airshow (Thunder Over the Boardwalk) is totally amazing to see, especially if you can time your visit well.
With USAF carriers, crafts and helicopters; it’s pretty amazing to see; especially if you’re something of an AV geek like me.