Monday, July 7, 2014

Atlantic City for Levelers

Diving horses are gone but the streets made popular by Monopoly game boards are still there. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Atlantic City, which may have been America's first beachfront resort, has been supplanted by newer, glossier destinations but it still offers visitors an interesting stay. After all, this city of 487,000 welcomes and entertains 20 million of us a year.

The good news for Levelers: It's flat.

The bad news for Levelers: Casino hotels are like airports with flashy decor and electronic slot machines. In other words, you will have to walk a lot to get wherever you want to go unless you are content to stay in the casino.

 Apologies to casino owners' bottom lines, but that would be a shame.

The city

Nucky's hotel home. Photo © by Judy Wells.
First there's the iconic resort as portrayed in the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire." As city fathers will tell you, the show would be a lot better if it had been filmed in Atlantic City, but they also point out the hotel Nucky Thompson called home.

Hard to miss the Steel Pier. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The Steel Pier hasn't been steel for a long time (it's concrete) and no horses dive into tiny tanks, but you'll find midway-type games and rides, including helicopter spins over the area.

Games are popular but pricey - $5 a go. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The view of the Boardwalk from the end of the pier is pretty impressive.
Atlantic City shoreline at night as seen from the end of the Steel Pier. Photo © by Judy Wells.

Strolling the boardwalk is a must. Photo © by Judy Wells.
 The Boardwalk itself is wide and infinitely stroll-able. The rolling chairs to save you steps are still there as are salt water taffy shops and assorted kitsch. Speaking of the taffy, it comes in more flavors than Ben & Jerry's and the two original competitors, James' and Fralinger's, are now made under the same roof.

A new museum on the boardwalk.Photo © by Judy Wells.
New this summer is the Historical Museum at Garden Pier, a small but fascinating collection of Atlantic City artifacts from an original wicker rolling chair and Mr. Peanut costume to the champagne bottle with which Frank Sinatra christened Resort's International.

Mr. Peanut was a popular regular on the old Boardwalk. Photo © by Judy Wells.




Ducktown and Southern Italian cuisine are synonymous. Photo © by Judy Wells.

Head to Ducktown for southern Italian fare. The once marshy area where ducks congregated is where Italian immigrants settled, bringing with them those rich, dense tomato sauces. 

That's also where you will find popular bakeries and the results of efforts by the city and Richard Stockton College to revitalize downtown. The Stockton Noyes Arts Garage is home to dozens of artisans and their work. The Dante Hall Theater, once the gymnasium and hall for St. Michael's Catholic Church, has been renovated and turned into a performing arts center.





Seafood Zuppetta at Capriccio. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Tip: For Northern Italian, head for the exquisite Capriccio at Resorts. 

Other arts installations have been introduced to revitalize the downtown but are dwarfed by casinos.

Absecon Lighthouse. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The 1870 Absecon Lighthouse is hard to miss. It is New Jersey's tallest, the third highest in the U. S. That means 228 steps to the top. Tip: I recommend Levelers just look at it.

Gardner's Landing and the back bay.

 Absecon (Ab-SEE-kin) is the original name of the island now known as Atlantic City and you will find a far less flashy world as you head away from the ocean.

Blocks of pristine, pastel-toned Victorian Modern homes - attached, single, condos - are a successful example of city revitalization and gentrification.

Boats, breakfast and the view are highlights of Gardener's Landing. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Gardner's Landing is another stab at it in one of the more historic areas. The excursion and fishing fleets anchor here accompanied by a small aquarium, gift shops, a pub and another Atlantic City institution, Gilchrist Restaurant, where locals flock for breakfast and lunch.

Yum. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Tip: Ask for a table outside to enjoy the view and order the blueberry pancakes. Locals also recommend the spicy Italian sausage.

Bootleggers' paradise. Photo © by Judy Wells.
While you are sitting there, note the two older, brown shingled houses across the basin. This was once a hotbed for bootleggers as you know if you've watched "Boardwalk Empire," and these houses are the remnants of that. Speed boats could outrun revenuers, tuck into the covered slips and the booze would be off premises and on its way in minutes.

Dale Chihuly greets you with a splash at Borgata Water Club. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Across the basin you can't miss the highrise casino hotels. The most tasteful is Borgata's Water Club with Chihuly chandeliers, a dream of a spa and a knockout view. It's a resort first, casino second and one place where you don't have to walk yourself to death.
Good view from Water Club's Immersion Spa. Photo © by Judy Wells.i

Getting around. 


The better casinos have door-to-door limo services from the Philadelphia International Airport. In town, the jitney service goes just about everywhere for $2.25.

#satwac

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