Atlantic City Vs. Las Vegas: Battle For The Better Summer Vacation Destination

Written By David Danzis on May 30, 2023
new jersey shore atlantic city boardwalk at night

Atlantic City is a better summer vacation destination than Las Vegas.

Okay, before you start laughing, hear us out.

We here at PlayNJ discourage comparisons between Atlantic City and Las Vegas. While the urge to do so is understandable, the two cities have very little in common besides casinos.

Most variations of, “Well, Las Vegas does (fill in the blank), why can’t Atlantic City have (fill in the blank)?” shouldn’t be taken seriously.

With that being said … we’re fans of lists and rankings about Atlantic City, as well as quasi-controversial takes that get people to read our work.

We also don’t take ourselves too seriously here at PlayNJ. After all, we write about gambling for a living.

So here are five reasons why The World’s Playground is a better summer getaway than Sin City.

Point 1 for Atlantic City: the beach and boardwalk

In reality, this list could probably end right here. The beach is the only genuinely objective edge Atlantic City has over Las Vegas.

Being a seaside resort has always been AC’s biggest draw. Even before Atlantic City casinos, people would flock to AC to escape city life and reap the health benefits of clean ocean air.

The World’s Most Famous Boardwalk is both the first and the longest. Recent upgrades and additions to the Boardwalk now stretch from the north end of Absecon Island south past the city limits. Whether looking for a brisk morning jog or an evening of rides, food and thrills, the boards are a unique vibe that even The Strip can’t replicate.

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer at the Jersey Shore, and Atlantic City celebrates accordingly. With four casinos celebrating milestone anniversaries this summer (Resorts, 45; Borgata, 20; Hard Rock and Ocean, 5), summer 2023 in AC will be epic.

Which summer weather would you prefer, really?

The weather in New Jersey is downright terrible for about seven-and-a-half months of the year. The cold, grey, dreary, windy days begin in October and seem to last until Mother’s Day every year. It’s the number one reason people flee the state to move down South or out West.

But starting around the last week of May through the middle of September, few things in life are better than Jersey weather. Our summers are about as close to perfect as you can get.

The locals may tar and feather me for revealing this secret, but the weeks after Labor Day are the best. Empty beaches, traffic-free highways and streets, sales at every seasonal business, late sunsets and warm ocean water are the stuff summer dreams are made of.

Especially when compared to summer in Southern Nevada.

An asphalt jungle in the middle of the desert is torture in June, July and August. And, considering everywhere you go in Vegas wants to charge $10 for a bottle of water, you might actually die (okay, we’re exaggerating a bit for effect, but you get the point).

This segues nicely to our next point…

Value: The edge goes, again, to Atlantic City

You don’t have to be a high roller to get comps in either AC or Vegas. Hotel rooms, dinner and drinks, spa services or show tickets are all perks even modest players can get comped by a casino.

For those who don’t know, a ‘comp’ is short for complimentary or something you get free of charge.

Since nothing in life is free, it stands to reason that neither are casino comps. Gamblers are well aware that the win-loss scale is tipped toward the casino. That doesn’t matter to them.

That’s because AC and Vegas are about value. Whether that value is real or perceived is entirely in the eye of the beholder. But the point is: the two gambling towns give you a good bang for your buck.

So, how does AC have the edge over Vegas in terms of value?

Honestly, it’s not that AC is necessarily a more affordable summer destination. In fact, AC casinos charge more in summer because…well, they can.

This one is more about Vegas and what has happened there since COVID-19. Long-time visitors, locals, and even Vegas social media influencers have all noted that prices in Sin City are out of control.

Spending money is part of the deal when going to either AC or Vegas. But there’s a difference between feeling like you got something for your money and feeling like you’re getting ripped off.

AC still feels like a value. Especially in the summer. Vegas … not so much.

More family-friendly: Not beating AC

Long before Atlantic City was a casino city, it was a family destination. Folks from Philadelphia, New York City and every corner of North Jersey would flock to AC for long weekends or annual summer trips.

We won’t bore you with a history lesson here, but the rise of commercial airlines in the 1950s and 1960s led to more vacation options for middle-class Americans, meaning fewer people to AC, which ultimately led to legal casinos in the late-’70s.

Despite some half-hearted attempts, Atlantic City has never really been a family destination since.

But, as AC casinos continue losing ground to nearby competitors, some people in the area are pushing for a return to a family-oriented locale. Construction on a $100-million indoor waterpark will be done by July, and a new Dave & Buster’s is opening this fall.

It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that a place nicknamed Sin City isn’t going to win our vote for a family destination.

Families and casinos are an odd mix, and there are plenty of opinions on all sides of the issue. However, the reality is most AC and Vegas casinos don’t mind hosting families as long as a portion of the vacation budget ends up on the blackjack table at some point.

Things to do around the city, day trip

No one will argue that there is already plenty to do in AC and Vegas.

But, if you’re a traveler who likes to explore, Jersey is a better bet than Nevada.

The Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire are incredible. No disrespect intended. But that’s a lot of dusty rocks and empty space to look at.

Without even venturing far from AC, a visitor’s options are plentiful.

The Jersey Shore is dotted with unique beach towns, each with its own identity and vibe. Sea Isle City is a totally different experience than Seaside Heights or Wildwood. Same with Ocean City and Long Beach Island or Asbury Park and Brigantine.

A 30-minute drive from Atlantic City is like traveling to another state. There is wide open farmland in Hammonton, AKA the Blueberry Capital of The World. Or dense forest trails for hiking, biking, camping and hunting in the Pine Barrons.

The countless lakes, rivers, streams and tributaries in Atlantic County are great for canoeing, kayaking or swimming. Boaters and anglers have no shortage of options either.

Philadelphia, one of America’s great historic cities, is an hour away. New York City is a two-and-a-half-hour car ride up the Garden State Parkway.

Photo by Shutterstock
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David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting and online gambling. David lives in Mays Landing with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, a golf course, or snowboarding, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers and Knicks.

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