Welcome to Atlantic City. Photo Source Dana Rebmann
My favorite trips are the ones that require a passport. When going somewhere I’ve never been, there’s the promise of the new and unknown. There’s excitement and a sense of adventure that starts when you make the first reservation and lasts until the plane touches down at home. But trips are not always vacations. There’s a big difference, especially when kids are involved. My favorite vacations involve sandy beaches and warm water, and one of my favorite sandy stretches is the New Jersey Shore.
If you call the East Coast home, you probably understand what I mean. West Coasters, before you decide I’m nuts, hear me out.
Atlantic City beach
Atlantic City with Kids
Location, Location, Location
Part of the beauty of the Jersey Shore is its location. It’s easy to get to even if you don’t live in the Garden State. Folks from areas surrounding New York and Philadelphia can jump in their car and in most cases, have their toes in the sand just a couple hours later. If the kids have a soccer game on Saturday, you can go to the beach on Sunday. Day trips are doable budget friendly options for families. Pack a picnic and go. With dozens of seaside destinations to choose from, everyone has their favorite getaway, but probably the best known locale is Atlantic City.
Gambling on the Beach
It’s kind of like gambling in the desert, but with a worn façade and much less bling. Unlike other beach towns, when you go to Atlantic City, you go for the casinos and the entertainment they provide. Most of it is geared at the 21 and over crowd, but families aren’t left out of the equation. It seems as though there’s always a Cirque show at the Trump Taj Mahal. At Caesars it’s all about ancient Rome, but your kids might be much more entertained by the water show the hotel puts on at the end of the Pier Shops. On a hot and humid summer day, you can cool off while you window shop your way to the end.
The neat thing about the high-end mall is built on a 900 foot pier over the Atlantic Ocean. And for those who love looking at the beach, but would rather not be on it, there is a stretch along the pier where you can sit in Adirondack chairs and take in the full effect without ever getting sand between your toes.
Life’s a Beach
But for those of us who aren’t afraid of sand, Atlantic City has wide beaches, and though there’s usually quite a crowd, it always seems as though there’s plenty of room for everyone. Lifeguards patrol the beaches from 10am to 6pm daily throughout the summer. An added perk, Atlantic City beaches are free. You don’t need to buy a beach tag to enjoy a day in the sand. And for those who are accustomed to West coast beaches, you’re in for a real treat. The Atlantic Ocean is warm! Think 70+ degrees, orhigh 60’s on a cold day.
Soft pretzels on the boardwalk
Hit the Boardwalk
The Boardwalk ties together seaside Atlantic City. It’s showing signs of age and could use a little sprucing up, but the spirit is still there. In between the casinos, there’s dozens of touristy shops selling everything from t-shirts to beach toys to pet hermit crabs. You’ll also find your fill of junk food. Salt water taffy, soft serve ice cream (known as custard), fried Oreos and funnel cakes. My kids like to watch soft pretzels being made and then indulge. Ten pretzels are just four dollars – a Boardwalk bargain. Be sure to get plenty of mustard to dip them in as you walk. If your kids are thrill seekers, Steel Pier is the ocean front amusement park for ride and game lovers.
If you’ve got a car, the Absecon Lighthouse is worth a visit. (Though called the Absecon Lighthouse, the Lighthouse is located in Atlantic City.) A small museum provides a basic history, then if the kids have the energy you can climb 228 steps to the top of one of the country’s oldest lighthouses. It’s a good way to burn off all the Boardwalk junk food.
Just like Las Vegas, Atlantic City has its family friendly side, you just have to look for it. But make sure to save some time to splash around on some of New Jersey’s other beaches. My favorites include a 65-foot elephant, warm carmel corn and family surfing lessons. More next week.
Ciao Bambino’s United States family travel guide