Timeless Highlights of Atlantic City, NJ

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Atlantic City has been through many ups and downs since it was officially established in 1880 as a seaside resort. In 1921 the city hosted the first Miss America pageant, and especially during the 1930s and 40s it was a high-profile hangout for movie stars. Since the late 70s, casinos have become ubiquitous, which could be fun, or a total waste of time, depending on your personal view.

Atlantic City may be in a slump right now, and some major casinos are going under, not the least of which is Trump Plaza, but there are so many other attractions that have nothing to do with gambling.

Here’s what you have to look forward to, away from the slots:

America’s first boardwalk is truly endearing. It’s four miles long, all wood, very wide, and numerous old buildings have been preserved, giving it that grand quality from decades past. The people-watching is excellent on a summer afternoon, and there’s a ton of food and shopping, though some of it’s on the newer and tackier side. You can go buy yourself a “Sun’s Out, Guns Out” tank top, or a pound of saltwater taffy from James’ or Fralinger’s. The exact origins of saltwater taffy are a little blurry, but it’s an Atlantic City classic.

Atlantic City Beach is part of what gives the boardwalk such a nice vibe, and these white sand dunes are beautiful. Some New Jersey beaches that are too close to New York City aren’t quite as lovely, but this is several hours down the coast and feels a world apart.

The Atlantic City Historical Museum over on the Garden Pier is a tiny little gem. If you’re curious about the many celebrities and eccentric characters who’ve graced the city, including Mr. Peanut and the diving horses, go check it out for free. The Garden Pier also hosted the very first Miss America pageant; the competition was in Las Vegas for a while, but it’s now back in its original home. Another fun fact, the board game Monopoly took some inspiration from Atlantic City, so be sure to check out that portion of the museum.

The Absecon Lighthouse has been around since 1857, and offers a nice break from the hustle of the boardwalk. If you climb to the top, you’ll get a great view over the city, and there’s an adorable community garden flourishing at the base.

The Steel Pier is packed with all the nostalgic rides and carnival games you can handle, and it was once the spot where the diving horses took their plunge into the water. It’s overwhelming, but great for your inner child.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Atlantic City?

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About Author

Sarah is the North America Editor for Go! Girl Guides and she wrote the New York City guidebook. Raised in rural Texas on mesquite barbecue and barrel racing, Sarah lived in Indiana for two years before moving to New York by herself. Some of her favorite experiences in North America include snowmachining outside of Anchorage, exploring Caladesi Island off the coast of Florida, touring a Cold War bunker in West Virginia, watching the sun set over Chicago from Lake Michigan, and taking an overnight train from Montreal to Halifax.

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