New Jersey

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Atlantic City

June 2003

We are going to visit my in-laws in Atlantic City, NJ (the New Jersey shore), and I am trying to make it as nice as possible for myself and my kids. Does anyone know which casino/hotels have the best pool facilities for both lap-swimming and kids water-play? Any playgrounds in the area? Fun diversions besides the boardwalk and beach? Thanks! Suzanne

One thing not to be missed: Lucy, the giant walk-through elephant in Margate, New Jersey (a few minutes by car from the casino area.) It was built as a tourist attraction around the turn of the century (the old century), and you climb up a staircase inside one of her legs and walk up into the living quarters inside, and then climb up onto a viewing platform on her back. Very silly, but very fun for kids. I don't have an address, but I'm sure the hotel concierge could tell you where it is.

Another must, especially if you want to get away from the glitzier, grimier Atlantic City boardwalk: the boardwalk in Ocean City, which is about 20 minutes south of Atlantic City. Ocean City is a very family-friendly town, and the boardwalk is much cleaner and more kid-friendly, with a great place called ''Wonderland Pier'' (around 5th Street) that has lots of fun rides for kids toddler age through teenager, including a truly giant Ferris Wheel that lets you see for miles and miles along the coast. Rides are open all day and into the night. The rest of the Boardwalk has movie theaters, shops, arcades, a couple of fun miniature golf courses, a water-slide area, etc. On Sundays (and perhaps most mornings) you can rent regular bikes or bicycle surreys (several people can sit inside, under a canopy, while an adult or two does the actual peddling) and ride up and down the boardwalk, perhaps stopping at a pancake house for breakfast. And try the Frozen Custard (there's a stand at the Wonderland Pier), the salt-water taffy at Steele's, the coconut macaroons at George's, and caramel corn at...oh, I can't remember the name...maybe Johnson's??...well, the place that sells all the caramel corn. And check out the free concerts at the ''music pier.'' It's a very sweet and innocent place--you'll feel like you've gone back in time.

As for beaches, the Atlantic City ones are fairly narrow and crowded (though still fun.) If you want a bit of relief, drive a few minutes north onto the island of Brigantine (the bridge goes right between the Trump Castle and Harrah's, so just follow the signs for those.) Brigantine has big, deep beaches with lovely sand-dunes, more like what Californians are used to, and the beaches are considerably less crowded (though they still have lifeguards.) Brigantine also has a variety of nice playgrounds (better kept up and probably safer than anything in Atlantic City.) Just drive along the main strip, Brigantine Avenue, and look for the city parks.

If you don't mind driving a bit further (maybe 35 minutes??), you can check out the New Jersey State Aquarium in Camden. It's pretty impressive (though not quite as impressive as the Monterrey Bay one...though it has more of an emphasis, naturally, on East Coast marine life.) Also, you might want to take a trip south to Cape May, which is a lovely Victorian village, more artsy than much of the Jersey shore. I hear it's good for antique-shopping, though I don't do that myself. There's an excellent sea-food place as you first come in to Cape May...can't remember the name, but it's a big building on your left as you first cross into town, and you can sit by the window and watch the actual fishing boats pull in and out while you eat the latest catch.

As for the casinos, several of them have kid-friendly activities- -I believe the Showboat has a full-size bowling alley upstairs. Ask around when you get there.

The Jersey Shore is secretly one of my favorite places on the planet.... Have fun! Elise