Atlantic City is a resort city on New Jersey’s Atlantic coast known for its casinos, famous boardwalk, and vast beaches, making it a sought after vacation spot.
I know if I were going to invest in a week of seeing shows and gambling, or whatever else goes on in towns like this (taking safety into consideration), I’d much rather be walking distance from the beach instead of the middle of the desert. Now don’t get me wrong—Vegas is a great place with lots of fun things to do—but sun and sand is just more fun when there’s a beach involved too.
The casinos stand alongside the boardwalk, which stretches for 4 miles alongside the Jersey Shore. Fun fact—Atlantic City has actually been the home of the Miss America Pageant since 1921.
Let’s jump right into the pros and cons of the famous tourist destination, Atlantic City.
Pro—The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is a hotel, casino, and spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey owned and operated by MGM Resorts International.
The Borgata is the largest casino in New Jersey, featuring 2,798 rooms. The hotel features 2 main towers: the Main Tower and the Water Club. There are several venues that can hold large events, like concerts or mixed martial arts tournaments. This includes the Borgata event center, festival park, and music box.
When it comes to the quality of the hotel and casino itself, a lot of people speak very highly. For instance, on Trip Advisor, a previous guest said, “This was my second time staying overnight. This was even a better visit than the first time. The Borgata is very generous with their players. We don’t gamble heavy, but we do our share. We were given a comped room Saturday and Sunday. We were given bonus slot dollars, 2 tickets to the fabulous comedy show, and a chance for 2 at their $10,000 Bingo. We swam and relaxed in the very relaxing Water Club pool.”
For the sake of contrast, another previous client says, “I’ve been coming to Borgata for my AC trips exclusively since 2002. I’d be better served playing penny slots with $100 than dropping $1,000 on a roulette wheel. Time to find a new home. Terrible table game ratings. AVOID!”
I guess you can’t please all the people all the time.
That being said, over 3,000 people on trip advisor rated it “excellent,” which says a lot. Only 200–300 had negative things to say.
The Dark Side of Atlantic City
So I am just going to jump right into what a lot of locals and tourists would call the worst part or ugly truth of Atlantic City.
From a 2018 article, in a 28 day time period in the same area, Pacific and Tennessee Ave, there were over 35 drug or alcohol charges.
Traveling down Pacific Ave at night can be pretty dangerous. First, the road has terrible lighting, making locals or tourists more susceptible crime. This is quite literally gang territory.
If you’re driving on Tennessee or Pacific Ave and you get stopped at a red light, you’ll likely have someone come up to your car and offer to wash your windows or sell you something.
You’ll also run into all sorts of weird hustles. Some people on different forums refer to Atlantic City, especially when you get out of the casino area, as a freak show.
In Forbes best places for business and careers, Atlantic City was dead last on the list at #200. Six years in a row, Atlantic City has come in last place.
In the same article I mentioned from last year, in the tourist district of Atlantic City, in just 28 days there were over 50 assaults. Not all of them on tourists, but still. There are also over 160 sex offenders living in Atlantic City, not to mention a pretty decently sized theft problem.
Theft is common, mostly at night, so you should never wander too far off the beaten path.
All of this is happening for a reason—Atlantic City never really recovered from the Great Recession. What you’ll find there now is that Atlantic City is in a state of decline similar to St. Louis or Detroit, and it may never recover.
This explains all the crime of course, but Atlantic City has another problem that these other cities don’t have—the water. Because of where Atlantic City is built and the type of land it’s built on, the city is literally experiencing structural issues due to climate change.
Right now, they’re just experiencing something called “nuisance flooding,” which is a funny way of saying some of the garages fill up with water from time to time and flood your car, but it’s only projected to get worse over the years. In fact, because of the location of Atlantic City and other local factors, Atlantic City is going to get hit a lot harder by climate change than even nearby New York.
All that means the issues I just mentioned are going to get worse over time. As buildings start being abandoned and people move away to places with more land than water, crime is going to get worse as the people who can’t afford to move away get stuck dealing with a city slowly being swallowed by the sea.
I guess you can at least take comfort in the fact that this is still about a decade away, but with climate change worsening, it may happen sooner than you think.
Many people don’t travel to Atlantic City to gamble—they come to enjoy the vast beaches with soft sand where they can spread out and not deal with huge crowds (like you’ll find at many other beaches).
Not only is the sand is soft compared to most beaches, but you’ll also find that the beaches are kept relatively clean, especially compared to beaches in other parts of the country, like California.
Most of the beaches have on-site facilities that include showers, restrooms, changing rooms, and life guards. A lot of people like to bring their kids to the beach in Atlantic City not only because of the things I have mentioned so far, but also because of the safe and gentle wave size.
You are not usually going to see anything crazy at a beach like this—just boogie boarding and body surfing.
All in all, the beaches give Atlantic City a nice contrast to all the crime and issues the rest of the city suffers from.
Of course, the beach isn’t the only great part of Atlantic City—there’s also the boardwalk.
Every travel destination site I’ve visited so far has nothing but positive reviews for this Atlantic City staple. The boardwalk runs 4 miles along the coast line. The beaches are well kept and nice, so getting to stroll down the wooden path and hear the gentle waves sounds amazing.
Plus, there’s the food—lots of food. Many famous Atlantic City bars run alongside the boardwalk, and the whole thing kind of gives off an air of nostalgia for many people. This is probably because of its popularity amongst children. There are a lot of fun souvenir shops and places to get treats, and the boardwalk also branches off to the Steel and Central Piers where you’ll find carnival rides for the kids.
The only con that’s worth mentioning is that some small areas of the boardwalk have gotten a little run down, and there’s also a possibility that you might see a homeless person that’s begging for your pocket change.
Thankfully, you’ll find nothing threatening or dangerous at the boardwalk.
Much like Las Vegas, casinos and Atlantic City go hand in hand. You’ll find all of your typical casino games in the casinos of Atlantic City. Some of the most popular casinos are at Caesars Atlantic City, the Borgata (mentioned earlier), and Bally’s and Resorts.
Bally’s and Caesars were strategically placed right off of the boardwalk in central Atlantic City, so you can walk the boardwalk, have a few drinks, loosen up, and have super easy access to two of the most popular casinos in town.
The most common complaint I’ve found amongst reviews is the smell of cigarette smoke, even in the sections that are nonsmoking. If you decide to walk to the Borgata from the boardwalk, you will have an opportunity to experience some of Atlantic City’s most fine dining eateries.
Just like most cities in the United States, Atlantic City has its benefits and its drawbacks. There are a lot of reasons to love this city, and a lot of reasons to hate it, but I think that for the gambling aficionado, it’s definitely worth at least one visit. Just like you would in any tourist destination, you should keep a close eye on your valuables, consider bringing a money belt, avoid going out at night, and stick to the most crowded areas.
Anything I’ve missed in my list that you think should be included? Let me know in the comments!