Atlantic City is famous for its oceanside Boardwalk. As such, most of the casino resorts in Atlantic City are located right on the Boardwalk. The other major resort section of Atlantic City, called the Marina District, is home to three resort-hotels that do not have immediate beach access, and can’t easily be accessed walking. The question is, how do you decide where to stay?
Boardwalk vs. Marina District
Atlantic City is home to America’s first boardwalk. It is the centerpiece of Atlantic City, and perhaps of the entire Jersey Shore. It is the jewel around which the rest of Atlantic City is built. Therefore, it is no surprise that today the Boardwalk hosts more of Atlantic City’s attractions than any other part of town. If you stay and play on the Boardwalk, you are in the middle of all the action. The resorts here have the major advantage of having direct Boardwalk and beach access. In addition, many of the resorts are interconnected in such a way that you can explore them without ever setting foot outside.
On the other hand, the Marina District compensates for a more remote location by having generally upscale amenities. Atlantic City’s best overall resort, The Borgata, is located in the Marina District. The other two resorts in the Marina District are Harrah’s Resort and Trump Marina. Every other resort is on the Boardwalk a few miles away.
What to Look For in a Resort
With so many resort choices both on the strip and off the strip, how does one choose where to stay? While the resorts vary on some key points, they are largely similar in the amenities they may offer.
Price – Most people start to look at accommodations based on their price, which surprisingly don’t vary as much from resort to resort, but rather from night to night. Winter weeknights can be very cheap, and summer weekends can cost many hundreds of dollars. If price is your primary concern, you can probably find good deals at all resorts during off-peak times. The Borgata is generally the most expensive overall.
Size – Atlantic City resorts are large, and generally range between about one and two thousand guest rooms divided into one or more “towers”. The minimum guest room count to obtain a gambling license in New Jersey is 500, but most resorts more than double this requirement. The Borgata, Tropicana, Trump Taj Mahal, and Bally’s are among the largest resorts.
Casino – A large casino can be impressive but very daunting. Moreover, larger casino floors don’t tend to have different games, but rather more of the same games. Therefore, a 60,000 square foot casino probably has the same kinds of games as a 100,000+ square foot casino, just on a smaller scale. Casino loyalty programs are also popular reasons to choose a particular resort. If somebody has complimentary bonuses at a particular hotel or hotel chain, they may wish to visit that casino. Bally’s casinos combine to make the largest overall casino floor in Atlantic City.
Food – Gambling is the main attraction in Atlantic City, and unfortunately dining options take a back seat. However, all resorts have several (sometimes more than five or six) dining choices, running the gamut from buffet or cafeteria to upscale fine cuisine. Though there are a few highlights for restaurants in Atlantic City worthy of resort-hopping, visitors can stick to the restaurants in their resort, as they will likely have a fine selection. The Borgata has some of the finest restaurants in the city.
Shopping Options – While most resorts have only a basic number of shopping options, mostly gift shops and sundries, there are a few diamonds in the rough. A few resorts have elaborate shopping centers reminiscent of Las Vegas, with many upscale shops featuring clothing, jewelry, accessories, and other such merchandise. Caesars Atlantic City has The Pier Shops and Tropicana has The Quarter, two of the best shopping options on the Jersey Shore.
Pool, Spa, and Fitness Center – Unlike Las Vegas (and many other gambling destinations), Atlantic City has a beautiful stretch of Jersey Shore Beach. Because of this, the pool and fitness centers in the resorts are less important, and markedly smaller. Nonetheless, each resort has its own style of fitness center and, sometimes, a pool. Access to these facilities may not be included in accommodation price. Harrah’s Resort, Borgata and Bally’s Atlantic City all have fine pool and spa areas.
Shows and Attractions – Most resorts in Atlantic City have one large entertainment venue or showroom and several smaller venues, often within bars or clubs. Though there are occasionally resident shows in a resort, these are normally off-season, the resort showrooms are most often used by traveling performers and tours during their east coast visit. For example, Trump Taj Mahal is across from Steel Pier, a classic Jersey Shore amusement pier.
Remember that each resort has something about it that makes it unique. In many cases, the theme of the resort will translate into some kind of attraction; be it an on-property museum, roller coaster, video arcade, or other such specialty.