Like a seaside Vegas, Atlantic City may boast about its concerts and boxing matches, but let’s face it – gambling is the main draw. The casino capital of the East Coast, Atlantic City attracts partying bachelors and bachelorettes who share the blackjack tables with at least as many retirees.
Always teetering between prosperity, decline and reinvention, Atlantic City first opened as a beach resort in the 1850s. It boomed during Prohibition as a center of debauchery (HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” is based on history) but crashed after WWII. Gambling was legalized in 1978 to revitalize the town, to mixed results.
Huge casinos line the eight mile-long historic boardwalk, along with shops selling ice cream, saltwater taffy and souvenirs. The Steel Pier offers thrill rides for all ages and overlooks Atlantic City’s wide, white sand beach.
Some of the best beach towns on the Eastern seaboard are just down the Garden State Parkway, like family-friendly Ocean City, rowdy Wildwood and quaint Cape May. The desolate Pine Barrens are a quick drive north.