Atlantic City: A Brief Chronology
1853: Atlantic City’s first commercial hotel, the Belloe House, opens. Others soon follow suit. Developers can’t resist the city’s waterfront location and nearness to Manhattan. * 1870: A boardwalk is installed to help keep sand out of hotel lobbies. It will eventually become one of the most famous walkways in the country. * 1920s: Prohibition ushers in a boom era of speakeasies, backroom gambling, and organized crime. Atlantic City develops a carnivalesque atmosphere and becomes a capital of illicit thrills. On a more wholesome front, the Miss America pageant is born. * 1976: After years of decline, New Jersey voters legalize gambling, leading to a glut of new casinos and hotels—the Tropicana, Trump Taj Mahal, and, later, the Borgata—and an Atlantic City resurgence.
On the Boardwalk
A stroll along this iconic wooden sidewalk is a must. As you make a tour of the casinos, be sure to stop for some saltwater taffy, Atlantic City's classic candy. In addition to the hotels, there are souvenir stores, restaurants, and kid-friendly attractions galore. Across from the Trump Taj Mahal hotel, you’ll find Steel Pier, an amusement park that juts out into the Atlantic.
Where to Stay
A parade of hotels and casinos lines the Boardwalk, offering rooms to suit any taste, from kitschy to luxurious. In keeping with its namesake’s more-is-more aesthetic, the Trump Taj Mahal hotel has golden elevators, crystal chandeliers, and rooms with sweeping views of the sea. The highest-grossing hotel in town is the Borgata, which stands out thanks to its 43-floor, gold-tinted glass tower. Other options include the Vegas-y Tropicana Casino & Resort, and Bally's, located at Park Place and Boardwalk—an address dear to players of the Atlantic City-themed Monopoly.
Beyond the Casinos
- Lucy the Elephant: This six-story wood-and-tin pachyderm has stood in nearby Margate City since 1881. Climb a spiral staircase to the carriage on her back for a view of Atlantic City and the ocean.
- Absecon Lighthouse: If you still haven’t had your fill of ascending to the top of 19th-century structures, take the stairs up to the lantern room of New Jersey's tallest lighthouse.
- The Quarter: For shopping, head inside the Tropicana’s Havana-themed area, which features more than 40 shops and restaurants.