Boy and girl boogie board in ocean.

Waves break on Atlantic City’s shoreline. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

From Beaches to Casinos, Here’s How to Have the Best 72 Hours in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City, New Jersey has long been a favorite destination for city dwellers looking for fun in the sun. But beyond the beaches and Boardwalk, this East Coast destination has a history that dates back nearly 150 years, and more recently, it has played host to the Miss America pageant.

Though it may have been the beaches that drew you in, take some time to visit the places that call back to the city’s past. And don’t forget to leave some time to hit the slots — AC is known as “America’s Playground,” after all.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Find Your Beach

Absecon Lighthouse during the day
Absecon Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey. (Photo: Getty Images)

Before you lay out your towel and set up your umbrella, there are a few things you need to check out. Start at the Absecon Lighthouse — a nearly 165-year-old fixture that happens to be the state’s tallest lighthouse — on the far east side of town for a bit of maritime history. Climb the 228 steps to the top to be treated to unobstructed, 360-degree views of the city and ocean.

After that workout, make your way down the Boardwalk to find your beach spot for the day — a good opportunity to scope out some places to visit during your stay, as well. The neighborhoods closest to downtown (Ducktown and Chelsea) are nearest to the action, but with nearly 12 square miles of beaches, it won’t be hard to find the spot that suits your needs.

When you’re ready for a break from the sun, it’s time to explore the shops and restaurants that line the 4-mile stretch of Boardwalk. At dinnertime, if you’re looking for a side order of history with your meal, it’s Dock’s Oyster House you’re after. The restaurant has been a staple for more than 120 years and serves some of the best seafood around. Another, more upscale choice: Amada, which is famed for its tapas-style Mediterranean dishes.

Saturday: Get In On the Action

Today, it’s time for more action — and Atlantic City is filled with attractions. Start by strolling the Boardwalk, where you can pop into shops for souvenirs. From Metropolitan Avenue to South Morris, there are dozens of gift shops selling every commemorative knickknack you could imagine.

Slow your day down a bit in the afternoon with a calming stroll on the AC Waterfront Sculpture Walk. The 1.1-mile path connects a number of classic casino resorts that offer great places for lunch, such as Bill’s Bar & Burger or H2O Bar & Grille, and it’s dotted with manicured gardens and sculptures made by local artists — a nice break from the more crowded areas of town.

Sunset over Steel Pier Atlantic City
The sunset over Steel Pier. (Photo: Getty Images)

To finish out your day, head to the famed Steel Pier. It’s the city’s oldest amusement park, built on a 1,000-foot-long pier. It’s best to go right before sunset so you’re there in time to see it both before and after all the bright lights are turned on. And for an extra special end to the day, snag a ticket for the Wheel — a 227-foot-tall Ferris wheel that affords panoramic views of the city and ocean.

Sunday: Get Off the Beaten Path

It’s time to check out spots that are farther afield. Ventnor City Beach is about 3 miles south of Atlantic City’s downtown but still just off the Boardwalk. While you won’t have the beach to yourself, it’s generally quieter than the areas around Ducktown and Chelsea. Spend your morning and afternoon enjoying the water, while reveling in the fact that you have nowhere else to be.

Fancy dinner plate with steak, vegetables, and wine
There are good eats around every corner. (Photo: Getty Images)

When it’s time to leave the beach, take a walk down the Ventnor City Fishing Pier to a section of the Boardwalk that’s much more sedate. Wrap up your trip with a hearty meal at Knife & Fork Inn, a fine-dining restaurant that’s been serving up surf-and-turf dishes for more than 100 years.