Atlantic City, located within about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia via the Atlantic City Expressway, is one of the more-accessible Jersey Shore towns for locals looking to get away for a day or long weekend for some sun, sand and all the cheesy fun on the Boardwalk. But an influx of folks inevitably means crowded beaches, higher prices and screaming kids. Could it be that the way to get the most out of Atlantic City is to go during the offseason—roughly October through May? Here, we’ve put together a guide for how to tackle this flashy casino city by the sea, laying out the best spots for sleeping, eating and partying in and outside the casino fray.
Where to stay in Atlantic City
When looking for a place to stay in Atlantic City, everyone automatically thinks of casino hotels, but the best spot is the Water Club at the Borgata. It offers a quieter atmosphere than that of its gambling counterparts, and most rooms overlook the idyllic marina. For an extra splurge, its gorgeous Immersion Spa offers every indulgent treatment you could ask for, including an entire slate tailored just for men. (Bonus: super-fluffy robes.) Its facials rank up there with anything offered by fancy spas in New York and Philly, and will leave you with a shimmering glow even if you do end up losing your shirt at the Borgata’s casino tables next door.
Where to eat in Atlantic City
The casinos all offer suitably filling (and expensive) restaurants (the Borgata’s new Angeline, opened by Michael Symon this past summer, is worth a try), but offseason go for the old Italian gems still here from Atlantic City’s glory days: The pizza at Tony’s Baltimore Grill is as tasty as ever; Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern in Ducktown boasts a lively, convivial bar, a “we’re all at Mama Gina’s for Sunday dinner” vibe, checkered tablecloths, red sauce you’ll want to bathe in, and the best meatballs you will ever have. Then there is the legendary Chef Vola’s (pictured), which is hidden like a speakeasy in the middle of the residential Chelsea neighborhood. You will basically have to beg to get a table, but it’s worth it.
What to do in Atlantic City
A brisk bike ride on the Boardwalk on a chilly morning is tremendous and uncrowded. (Offseason bike rentals can be tough; ask your concierge.) The marina offers chartered boat rides offseason that allow you to see the beauty of the sea in a whole new way that is spartan and soul-reaching. (Try Atlantic City Cruises for the best experience). The Road to the Crown Miss America Exhibit at the back of the Sheraton is kitschy and fun and a toast to the annual event that has defined the city every September. Absecon Lighthouse, has been beautifully restored and offers regular tours and a breathtaking view of its namesake island.
Where to shop in Atlantic City
All of the casinos offer high-end stores. But the best is the Quarter at the Tropicana, a Disney-fied mall injected with some Spanish flair. It's just a fun place to walk around, especially if the weather is cold or inclement. The ultimate bang for the buck is the Tanger Outlets, which features Brooks Brothers, Cole Haan, Ralph Lauren, Coach, and other such tony stores, all offering mind-blowing discounts. Bonus: Michigan Avenue, where these stores all live, is lined with old plaques embedded in the sidewalks, each featuring a Miss America titleholder and her story, starting with Margaret Gorman in 1921. You can literally walk history. Afterward, pop in for a margarita (or several) at Los Amigos, still standing in its skinny, wildly colorful brick townhouse.
Where to party in Atlantic City
Excellent nightlife is where the casino hotels deliver. The Borgata nightclubs are fizzy, fun and feature some of the most stylish servers and bartenders in town. But if you only have one night out, spend it at the infamous Pool at Harrah’s, where the indoor tropical environment and steady rotation of celebrity DJs keep everyone lubricated and happy. If you are over 35 you might feel a bit... old. But it's worth it for one drink and the whole "best seats at the show" vibe. Drink up, baby. You’re in AC!