Travel: Roll the dice on Atlantic City and you may be pleasantly surprised

Travel: Roll the dice on Atlantic City and you may be pleasantly surprised

- in Travel

Knowing I’m from Southern California with Las Vegas so close, several people told me not to expect too much from Atlantic City.

Sure, I heard “The World’s Famous Playground” had seen better times, but I still wanted to see it for myself. I made a trip out there last fall.

As I approached the resort city on New Jersey’s Atlantic Coast, I appreciated that it was surrounded by water, rather than a desert as I was used to.

I first visited the hotels and casinos with names I was familiar with — Caesars Atlantic City and Bally’s Atlantic City. Both were less ornate and looked older than their Vegas counterparts, slot machines included, but were pleasantly less crowded. Lunch at a buffet was reasonably priced for a wide selection of dishes and desserts, no frills.

Then I ventured outside to the famed Boardwalk. It seemed like stepping into a different world. The wood plank walkway, mom-and-pop shops and amusement park-like trams brought an old-fashioned feel. Wooden archways leading to the beach had engravings of street names that inspired Monopoly. Walking the Boardwalk was like walking on the board game — pretty neat.

Symbolic of AC’s latest transformation effort was the shuttered and fenced off Trump Taj Mahal hotel. The Indian-inspired domes and spires still stood alongside signage of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which purchased the property that closed after the hotel admitted to violating anti-money laundering regulations.

I decided I would explore AC again. And again.

A couple months later, I returned to the Caesars hotel and ate dinner at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill that caught my eye during the last trip. The upscale yet casual pub offered many decadent dishes by renowned chef Ramsay, like a seafood pot pie and beef Wellington, at a fraction of the price at one of his signature restaurants. Dessert was to die for too.

After that filling meal, I ventured to AC’s Marina District which I previously did not know existed. It being winter, a snowstorm hit but the three casinos there — Borgata, Harrah’s and the Golden Nugget — were still buzzing with clientele. These casinos were newer, ritzier and seemed to attract more millennials than the hotels along the Boardwalk.

I paid a third visit to AC in July. The Boardwalk was much livelier with people enjoying the warm weather and even the beach.

There was no trace of the Trump Taj Mahal spires and lettering; instead the new Hard Rock hotel that had opened the previous month was teeming with activity. The restaurants inside were packed, so my friends and I decided to go back outside. The Landshark restaurant with patio seating was inviting, so we got an ocean view table, ordered burgers and fries there and took in the atmosphere.

The Steel Pier across from the Hard Rock has an iconic Ferris wheel and classic American amusement park games providing fun for the whole family.

AC turned out to be no Vegas after all. It offered a perfect balance of all the entertainment one could desire from a resort city. After visiting during a few different seasons, I agree with the city’s motto: “Do AC.”

If you go

Steel Pier

A 1,000-foot-long amusement park built on a pier of Atlantic City’s Boardwalk

1000 Boardwalk



Waterside hotel, casino and spa in the Marina District

1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City

Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill

Upscale pub with a casual setting by Gordon Ramsay inside Caesars Atlantic City

2100 Pacific Ave., Atlantic Cit



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