I will just come right out and say it: Atlantic City has the greatest "WOW" factor of any city or town in New Jersey.

The seaside breezes. The free beaches. The world-famous boardwalk. The world-class casinos. A wide variety of stores and restaurants. And ever-expanding family-friendly entertainment. Atlantic City is perfect for a day trip, weekend getaway, or extended staycation.

Spring is a particularly wonderful time to "DO AC" as the weather warms up. Of course, Atlantic City has really grown and blossomed into an all-year, all-ages destination. It is impossible to list every excellent thing Atlantic City has to offer. But I am excited to share some of my favorite "WOW" hotspots around town, which extend way beyond the streets of the classic Monopoly board game.

This article is part of a special series brought to you by the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism.

Dan Zarrow
Dan Zarrow and his wife, Amy, at the Hard Rock Casino. Credit: Dan Zarrow

Great Gaming

Let's be honest: Unless you're looking for a very specific game or amenity, you will not go wrong with any of Atlantic City's nine casinos. They all offer modern technology and amenities, a wide variety of slot and table games, and robust rewards programs.

I do want to highlight AC's newest gambling hall, Ocean Casino Resort, which opened in its current stylist, modern form in 2018. And the oldest of the bunch, Resorts Casino Hotel, was actually the first legal U.S. casino outside Nevada when it opened in 1978.

filet mignon steak with lobster tail surf and turf meal
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Great Food

There are so many fantastic restaurants throughout Atlantic City — across all cuisines, categories, and price points — it can be hard to decide exactly where to eat.

A nice dinner in AC is a favorite date night option for my wife and me. Sometimes we go for steak, sometimes seafood, sometimes both. I can personally highly recommend Old Homestead at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Chart House at Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, and Dougherty's Steakhouse & Raw Bar at Resorts Casino Hotel. Away from the hustle and bustle of the casinos and the boardwalk, at the corner of Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, is the legendary Knife and Fork Inn. Advice: Grab that reservation early, because these places can completely book up days and weeks in advance.

Of course, sometimes you want a simpler (and cheaper) meal. And there are plenty of options there too. Including Atlantic City staple White House Sub Shop on Arctic Ave. or inside Hard Rock Casino & Hotel. It's everything you could possibly want from an NJ sandwich shop including the freshest meats, cheeses, and breads.

Left: Atlantic City Marina, Right: Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino. Credit: Dan Zarrow
Left: Atlantic City Marina, Right: Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino. Credit: Dan Zarrow

Great Events

Atlantic City plays host to some of the biggest and best special events in the state and even the country.

The Atlantic City Airshow — Thunder over the Boardwalk — is definitely one of them. Held since 2003, attendance estimates for some years have exceeded over a million spectators.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has multiple event spaces to host some big-name shows and concerts. Scheduled to appear this Spring: Dionne Warwick, Motley Crue, Kelly Clarkson, Penn & Teller, Steve Martin and Martin Short, Heart, and Patti LaBelle with the Commodores.

And let's not forget the iconic Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. Conventions, sporting events, commencement ceremonies, and large-scale events find a home here. And its ultimate claim to fame, Boardwalk Hall is home to the world's largest musical instrument, a 33,000-pipe pipe organ.

Dan Zarrow and his wife, Amy, at Steel Pier
Dan Zarrow and his wife, Amy, at Steel Pier. Credit: Dan Zarrow

Great Family Activities

Looking to take the family out for a day (or night) of fun thrills? Steel Pier is a great option. Originally opened in 1898, Steel Pier's prominent location on the AC Boardwalk has made it one of the premiere seaside amusement parks in the world. And they keep on building and expanding — two new roller coasters are expected to open in 2024 and 2025.

Just a few blocks north is Island Waterpark at Showboat, which opened last summer. This fully indoor facility features 11 thrilling waterslides, four fantastic restaurants, three lively bars, and access to the world's largest arcade.

For a more peaceful adventure and some incredible views, check out Absecon Lighthouse just two blocks in from the oceanfront between Vermont and Rhode Island Ave. Built in 1857, it is the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey, standing at 171 feet. There is a museum and gift shop at ground level. And if you can stomach climbing the 228 steps to the top, you will be treated to amazing views of the entire Atlantic City skyline.

Dan Zarrow's son, Jackson, at the Atlantic City Aquarium Credit: Dan Zarrow
Dan Zarrow's son, Jackson, at the Atlantic City Aquarium Credit: Dan Zarrow

Great Don't Miss

I reserved this final section for some notable hot spots around Atlantic City that don't necessarily fit into another category.

The Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City not only offers over 2,300 rooms and nearly 130,000 square feet of gaming space, but also The Quarter — an outstanding shopping, dining, and entertainment hub. Offering dozens of restaurants, shops, and nightlife venues. They also have an IMAX theater, special events and concerts at the Tropicana Showroom, and the Escape AC Escape Room. Something for everyone? I'd say so.

A prominent sight as you reach the end of the AC Expressway, Tanger Outlets Atlantic City boasts over a hundred storefronts. Sprawled out over several city blocks, you will find tons of familiar clothing brands and some eclectic merchandise offerings.

While the Boardwalk is easily the hot place to be in Atlantic City, do not sleep on the marina side of the island. Specifically, Historic Gardner's Basin. Check out the boats sailing by, grab a quick bite to eat, and check out the newly renovated Atlantic City Aquarium (scheduled to reopen in July 2024).

Whether you walk the boards, sit on the beach, have a mind-blowing meal, or win big at the casinos, I hope you have a fantastic getaway to Atlantic City. Enjoy the WOW!

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