From the Boardwalk to the Bay, Atlantic City, New Jersey has been drawing people to its shore for over a century. This major resort city, 120-miles south of New York City on Absecon Island, exudes a small town charm coupled with an international big city environment.
The home of the Miss America Pageant, Atlantic City was founded in the late 19th century as a resort destination, but it fell out of favor in the last half of the 20th century. After legalized gambling was revived in 1976, casinos began popping up on the Atlantic City boardwalk.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk, the world's first boardwalk and the backbone of this seaside resort city, served as the inspiration for the original version of the board game Monopoly. The streets in this world famous board game, take their names from Atlantic City's streets.
Atlantic City's 4-mile long Boardwalk, the oldest in the United States, is home to most of the city's casinos. While walking is the most popular way of navigating the boardwalk, there are also old-fashioned shaded surreys that can be rolled up and down the length of the Boardwalk by experienced guides. The rolling chair was introduced in the 1880's and was the only vehicle permitted on the Boardwalk at the time. It was once a sign of luxury for vacationers to ride in a rolling chair. A ride in a rolling chair on the Boardwalk is a great way to get to a particular destination or to relax and enjoy a scenic tour. National Geographic called it the "grandfather of boardwalks".
A ROLLING CHAIR ON THE BOARDWALK
Several piers radiate from the Boardwalk. The Steel Pier is a legendary part of Atlantic City history. Delivering cutting edge family fun, it features both classic and new amusement park rides, games and food, The Garden Pier is known as the arts and cultural center of the Atlantic City Boardwalk complete with Atlantic City Historical Museum and Atlantic City Art Center.
"Here she is…Miss America…" Who can forget Bert Parks crooning that song as the each new Miss America was crowned? Parks hosted the annual contest from 1955 to 1979. Today, a bronze statue of the iconic Parks in the garden fronting the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, still crowns visitors and sings his song as you stand beneath the crown he is holding.
BERT PARKS CROONS AS HE CROWNS JANET STEINBERG
Within the hotel, in the lobby rotunda, is the Miss America Dress Exhibit featuring some of the dresses (or replicas) worn by former Miss America's. Miss America 2010 Caressa Cameron has loaned her original stunning yellow satin mermaid-style dress to the exhibit.
Dress of Miss America 2014
In the second floor rotunda of the hotel is the "Shoe Bar" that displays the collection of unusual shoes worn by the contestants in the Miss America Parade. During the parade, spectators would shout, "Show us your shoes!" Their shoes are elaborately decorated with themes from the states the girls represent.
Miss America Parade Shoes
I reveled in my accommodations in Atlantic City. Revel Atlantic City Hotel gives new meaning to the word "revel". Atlantic City's newest casino hotel has raised the bar on pure pleasure. It is Atlantic City's premium destination…a luxury hotel/resort that just happens to have a casino.
Revel's futuristic design and décor makes most hotel/casinos seem outdated. Light flows through floor-to-ceiling windows…smoking areas are well-planned... rooms are high tech with drapes, lights, and thermostats all controlled by the TV remote.
This 57-story hotel, the tallest structure in Atlantic City and the second tallest in the state of New Jersey, is the northernmost casino on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Because of its location on the north end of the Boardwalk, this visually stunning venue is a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the lower Boardwalk.
THE STUNNING REVEL HOTEL, THE TALLEST STRUCTURE IN ATLANTIC CITY
Relaxing, a word that is not de rigueur at most casino/hotels, comes easily at Revel…either in the SkyGarden, an outdoor oasis 114 ft. above sea level between sand and sky…on the sandy beach…at the In-Out swimming pool that begins indoors and continues outside…or in the Spa.
Aaaahhh the Spa! Exhale, the Mindbody Spa at Revel, is a spa dedicated to elevating wellbeing. Within this stunning 35,000 square-foot sanctuary, you can socialize in the healing co-ed bathhouse, restore your mind and body in one of 32 spa rooms, and revive in the mind body studio and gym that offers a plethora of classes.
Exhale has a saying: "The deeper the inner journey, the greater the outer results." Well, let me tell you, my Swedish-based Fusion Massage provided me with an unparalleled hour of relaxation and great outer results. And my Power Facial made me feel 10-years younger…even if I didn't look it.
MEDITATION POOL IN THE EXHALE SPA
And of course, what's a grand hotel without grand restaurants? With Revel's 10 dining venues to choose from, I had major decisions to make. But I came up with a couple of real winners.
American Cut is a modern American steakhouse where Iron Chef Marc Forgione puts a delicious spin on traditional favorites in a sexy and vibrant atmosphere. The Art-Deco-inspired main dining room features an open show-kitchen and stunning views of the Atlantic.
Azure by Allegretti transports the allure and high style of the Mediterranean to the Jersey Shore. Alain Allegretti, a native of Nice, France, combines his perfect French technique with his Italian heritage to create a fresh and flavorful spin on Riviera fare.
When I finally pulled myself away from Revel's pampering paradise, I found lots of food and fun in the outside world.
The Knife and Fork restaurant has led a long and colorful life in Atlantic City for over 100 years. The distinctive four-story Flemish structure was originally established in 1912 as an exclusive men's club. In 1927, the club was converted into a public restaurant, which eventually hosted celebrities the likes of Frank Sinatra and Burt Lancaster. The Knife and Fork signature dinner of chowder, salad, and surf and turf was a winner.
SURF AND TURF AT THE KNIFE AND FORK RESTAURANT
For cheap eats, you can't beat the affordable lunches at The Irish Pub. And the food is as great as the prices. The history of the Irish Pub dates back to the 19th century and its walls display the memorabilia to prove it. It has survived wicked weather and wars. It has hosted the famous and infamous. Lest I forget, this establishment that has been called "America's Greatest Pub" has an unending array of beers and Irish coffee.
THE IRISH PUB
You can shop 'til you drop at The Pier Shops at Caesars. This upscale mall, on the historic Boardwalk, was built on what was once an industrial pier. This upscale shopping destination features such world-class names in fashion as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, and Burberry. The more budget-minded can make their way to the Tanger Outlets, right behind Caesars casino.
When it's time for a pickup and you need a sugar rush, head to Fralinger's, the most famous name in Salt Water Taffy since the 1880's. Legend has it that Salt Water Taffy received its name by accident. A young candy merchant opened a taffy stand on the first Atlantic City Boardwalk – then just two steps above sea level. One night a generous tide brought in surf that sprayed sea foam over his establishment and dampened his stock of candy. The next morning, the merchant was dismayed to find his merchandise wet and responded to a girl's request for taffy with a sarcastic but witty, "you mean Salt Water Taffy." The name stuck!
Lucy the Elephant, located along the beach in Josephine Harron Park in the nearby town of Margate, is a 6-story high building in the shape of an elephant. Built in 1881, and listed on the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks, this is a piece of Americana not to be missed. This iconic elephant, whose picture is painted on the town's water tower, survived the 2012 Hurricane Sandy. Guided tours take you inside Lucy the Elephant. If you are wondering how you get inside an elephant, the answer is simple…through her front door. If you are wondering how you see outside from within an elephant, the answer is also simple…through her window eyes. I love Lucy!
LUCY THE ELEPHANT
The 157-year old Absecon Lighthouse is New Jersey's tallest Lighthouse and the third tallest in the country. If you choose to ascend the 228 steps of the Absecon Lighthouse, you'll have breathtaking views of the Atlantic City skyline and up top you'll come face-to-face with the original first-order Fresnel Lens, first lit in 1857.
A trip to the real Jersey Shore beat watching the TV reality show of the same name. Don't take your vision of Atlantic City from that show, but rather from the Monopoly board: "Do Not Pass Go"…but do go directly to Atlantic City!
JANET STEINBERG is winner of 40 national travel writing awards and is a Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Mariemont, Ohio