2 Days in Atlantic City

I have never researched a place that has so little to do. Ever. I did my usual; googled for info, scrolled through pictures on pinterest & dug up articles from numerous sources. All I came up with was: casino and boardwalk. Nonetheless, I decided to go with Sahar anyway who was heading there for a work conference. I’d actually been to Atlantic City 9 years before with my aunt and wanted to see how it had changed. All I did then was lie on the beach drinking homemade lemonade! 

Initial impressions were not good. Driving along Pacific Avenue you could see the city was very run down, people loitering on corners (despite the signs that America so loves to display in great numbers) and it was eerily empty, even for a Tuesday afternoon. We’d been booked into Resorts Casino Hotel by Sahar’s boss which reeked of stale perfume, cigarette smoke and denial. 

The casinos in AC have themes, following the trend of the more successful older sister, Las Vegas. Tropicana- Old Havana, Borgata- Tuscany, Resorts- Roaring Twenties. We were treated to towering ‘marble’ pillars, chrome plated elevators, stainless steel tables & art deco patterned carpets. It looked like they’d raided every props warehouse in a 100 mile radius.

The boardwalk is the main attraction in Atlantic City and also has claim to being the first one in the United States. Originally constructed in 1870 as a temporary feature to keep sand from blowing into the ocean side lobbies. Stretching for 8.8km along the shore, it’s host to numerous arcades, chain restaurants, tacky souvenir stores & of course, the obligatory casinos. 

Speaking of casinos, they’ve had a rough ride over the years. Since 2014 five have closed their doors for various reasons, ranging from bankruptcy to demolition. Many lots are currently empty and eagerly awaiting offers of development that probably won’t ever materialize. The boardwalk is riddled with covered up shop fronts, empty restaurants and half finished buildings. Being only June, the season hasn’t really started yet but it’s hard to imagine AC full of bustling crowds and happy families. It was slightly busier by Friday morning but just as depressing. 

Atlantic City wasn’t always so forlorn. In 1853 developers saw the potential for the land to become a seaside resort. They timed the building of the first hotel with the construction of the Camden & Atlantic Railroad. 20 years on and 500,000 visitors hopped on the train every year to spend their summer vacation in AC. The real boom began in the early 20th century when two hotels (The Traymore & The Marlborough-Blenheim) were built to cater for the crowds. Many more followed, becoming larger and more extravagant than the previous. Sadly many of these buildings were razed to the ground in the 80’s.

Yet the world was changing and AC couldn’t keep up. People now owned cars and didn’t need to spend weeks at the beach as they had before, they had their own swimming pools in suburbia and were flying to more exotic places like the Bahamas. Hence why the idea of legal gambling was brought forward in 1967 to rejuvenate the city to it’s former glory. But it just wasn’t to be. The tourist board refused to branch out from gaming and consequently the city has ended up like it has today. Nothing to offer but outdated smokey casinos, salt water taffy and the Miss America Pageant legacy. 

In reflection I’m glad I went back to Atlantic City but I wouldn’t bother again. The beach does have some nice spots if you get far enough away from the crowds & the boardwalk is pleasant enough to walk along if you plug in your headphones. But my favourite thing about AC was undoubtedly the people watching. I witnessed a man feeding his pet squirrel named Bilbo whilst chatting to a lady who was looking for her cats who had disappeared 5 years ago..

I really hope that Atlantic City manages to get back up on it’s feet in the future. I personally think it would be wise to take a large step away from the gaming world and explore different avenues of what it could potentially offer. Good luck AC! xo