Some of my colleagues (I’m talking about you, Norie) got to safari in Africa and traipse around European capitals with their kids this summer, but I only got my act together enough to accomplish two nights in Atlantic City before school started this week.
The surprise: Despite Atlantic City’s rep as a resort town for casinos and nightlife, we had a better experience there with our three-year-old than the first time my husband and I visited on a last-minute weekend whim several years ago B.K. (Before Kid).
Here are some of the top toddler-tested attractions at this Jersey Shore destination.
Rolling Chairs: Introduced in 1887, these chairs pushed by young men and women were a great way to tour Atlantic City’s four-mile-long Boardwalk. Go for the vintage-looking wicker chairs. Our chair attendant turned out to be a university student from Romania, where my husband is from, so they chatted away in Romanian. A half-hour tour cost us about $25 (plus Stefan ended up tipping his fellow countryman very generously). Our daughter loved tooling along, saying “beep beep” to pedestrians who wandered into our path, while eating a messy soft-serve ice cream cone from one of the Boardwalk vendors. A magical time to do a tour is at sunset or dusk when the beach is quieter and the light softens.
Monopoly: Trini was too young to notice the Monopoly board game signage all along the Boardwalk, but I got a kick out of it. Charles B.
Darrow invented the game in 1929, naming the game’s streets after those in Atlantic City, where he had a summer home on Park Place. Park Place now houses a Bally’s casino.
Rainforest Café: Gigantic jungle animals peer from the roof of this theme restaurant next to Caesars casino on the Boardwalk, daring parents to pass the place by without at least stopping in. Resistance is futile. The lobby area is a retail goldmine of rainforest-themed toys. Colorful fish swim in towering water tanks. A “thunderstorm”
takes place every half hour. The kids’ menu serves as activity booklet while waiting for food to appear. Authentic AC? If the mission of this longtime resort town has always been to entertain, a place like Rainforest Café might be as authentic a local attraction as the beach and salt water taffy.
The Pier Shops at Caesars: This upscale mall on the Million Dollar pier across from Caesars has shops like Apple and Gucci and chic restaurants like Buddakan, but all my daughter cared about was It’s Sugar, a candy shop brimming with M&Ms, lollipops, jelly beans, and penny candies.
Steel Pier: First opened in 1898, Steel Pier was the first to be built on iron pilings and steel girders. In its golden age, the pier attracted up to one million visitors each season, with attractions like the High Diving Horse who jumped 40 feet with a woman on its back into a pool of water. Now many of the rides seem quaint and mellow, perfect for a three-year-old. She especially enjoyed a double-decker carousel painted in yellow, pink, and mint green.
Atlantic City Outlets, The Walk: We bought back-to-school clothes at this easily accessible outlet-shop village. A good place to grab a bite is Cavo Crepe Café in front of H&M. Run by a friendly Greek man, the casual spot with outdoor seating offers savory and sweet crepes, including a S’mores Crepe with Nutella, marshmallow, and graham cracker crumbs.
Cruisin 1: This boat company runs daily cruises from either Gardner’s Basin or Trump Marina. Their most popular excursion is a dolphin-watching cruise on the ocean, but we opted for a sunset cruise on the calm bay side of the city–which remarkably stayed pretty calm despite a sudden lashing of rain halfway into our one-hour cruise. Trini spent the time pointing out buoys, seagulls, and people fishing off sand spits.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Water, water everywhere: Like some kids, Trini has developed a slight sand phobia so we didn’t bother taking her to the beach this time around. But AC hotels often have pools, and we definitely took advantage of the one at Resorts hotel, where we stayed. Its third-floor terrace pool has a retractable cover and a good view of Steel Pier.
As for adults-only time, I made sure to book a spa morning at the newish, handsome Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars. And my design-loving husband appreciated the breakfast we had at retro-hip diner Teplitzky’s
in the Chelsea Hotel. Now if only we could’ve found a babysitter so we could hit the casinos…
Photos: Amy Alipio