Atlantic City's casinos frame most of the landscape in this beach town near the southern end of New Jersey, but aside from gambling, this resort town has plenty to offer families on vacation. Easily accessible by car from the Atlantic City Expressway, it's also a short drive from Philadelphia and about two hours from New York City.
In the summertime, families will find no better place to relax and play in the sand and the ocean than the beach. Atlantic City (atlanticcitynj.com) is one of the few beach towns on the Jersey Shore where guests get free access to the beach. Nearby parking lots and street parking allow people to park near the beach with access at every street corner, as well as places along the boardwalk. Beachgoers can kayak, windsurf and surf at various beaches along the Atlantic City shoreline. Guests can also rent beach chairs and beach umbrellas at several stands along the beach.
Many New Jersey coastal towns feature ocean fishing excursions, and Atlantic City is no different. High Roller Fishing (highrollerfishing.com), located on the bay behind Atlantic City on the inlet, runs charter fishing trips for any age. Guests can catch a variety of fish including fluke, flounder, weakfish, blues and striper. At the time of publication, the boat runs two trips daily -- one from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. A crew on board the boat will clean each fish guests catch and bag your catch to take home. Fishing begins in early May, and you can rent the boat for all kinds of functions, including bachelor and birthday parties. The rate for adults is $25, kids 12 and younger $20 and senior citizens $20. Rod rentals are $5. Bait also is included.
Exploring Atlantic City's history begins with touring the Absecon Lighthouse (abseconlighthouse.org) at Pacific Avenue and Rhodes Avenue. Families can take the 228-step walk to the top and take in breathtaking views of the Atlantic City skyline and the ocean. Times vary throughout the year. At the time of publication, admission for adults is $7, children 4 to 12 is $4 and children 3 and younger are free. The Atlantic City Historical Museum (acmuseum.org) displays its history from the Miss America Pageant, its casino history and beaches. It is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. year-round.
Atlantic City's four-mile boardwalk stretches from the Absecon Inlet to Atlantic City's limit to the south; an additional one-half mile extends into neighboring Ventnor. The boardwalk features souvenir shopping and restaurants, as well as access to several of Atlantic City's casinos. For families, The Steel Pier (steelpier.com), located right across from the Trump Taj Mahal casino, features a Ferris wheel and more than two dozen rides, helicopter rides, games and concessions. Guests can buy tickets for the attractions and on Thursday, at the time of publication riders can get an unlimited pass for $40.