Our Guide To Spending 24 Hours In And Around Atlantic City

Written By Stephanie Loder on October 4, 2023 - Last Updated on October 5, 2023
aerial view of atlantic city, which features casinos, arcades, restaurants and plenty more to do all year-round

The morning rays of the sun glisten over the Atlantic Ocean waters and joggers are already on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

Some are making the run from Jackson Avenue in Chelsea to Maine Avenue in North Beach, and then back.

On the beach, early in the morning, are some visitors with metal detectors hoping to find something left behind by a beachgoer or washed in by the surf. One man points out he found some coins in the sand, along with some metal cans.

Atlantic City is the perfect pit stop on a road trip. It can be a destination for a family looking for movies, arcades, and good pizza and hoagies. Couples find dining and nightlife go on all evening, followed by breakfast or brunch the next morning, a spa, and pool.

Even if you just want to cast fate to the wind and head to Atlantic City for the day, there is something for everyone.

What ISN’T there to do in Atlantic City?

The area features nine Atlantic City casinos. There is a convention center. Each August the annual Atlantic City Airshow brings in more than 750,000 visitors each year, many of whom fly by plane to the Atlantic City Airport in Egg Harbor Township, just 7 miles outside of the city. Others drive, take a bus from New York or a train from Philadelphia.

AC’s gaming and conventions bring in more than 27 million visitors a year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations for around-the-clock entertainment.

It is located an hour from Philadelphia and two hours from New York.

Visitors will find that 24 hours spent in the Queen of Resorts will go quickly as they realize all there is to do in AC.


AC mornings mean brunch, boardwalk & beach time

On Sundays, there’s only one place to be for brunch (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays) in Atlantic City: The Chart House at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City offers a champagne buffet, complete with the perfect combination of breakfast and lunch specialties.

Sip on mimosas and bloody marys while you take in the waterfront views. There are endless options of fresh seafood and carved meats or build your own meal or waffle with an award-winning chef.

Hit the AC Boardwalk and beach, free to visitors during the summer, to walk off some calories. The Boardwalk starts at Jackson Avenue and continues for 4.8 miles to Madison Avenue at Gardner’s Basin in the Inlet. Total steps? More than 10,000 because it’s a 9.6-mile roundtrip.

Take a walk through the Historic Steel Pier, founded in 1898, which features arcades and a 227-foot tall Ferris wheel with temperature-controlled gondolas. It can seat 240 passengers and is the third-largest wheel in the nation.

Getting hungry? It must be time for lunch.

Food, history and iconic AC restaurants

A trip to AC wouldn’t be complete without a stop at White House Subs on Arctic Avenue. Opened in 1946 by Anthoy Basile along with his Aunt Basilia and Uncle Fritz Sacco, the store is one of the most popular sub shops in the country. (No joke, White House Sub fans have orders shipped to them out of state.)

The submarine sandwich, otherwise known as a sub or hoagie, is served on a roll with Italian meats, matballs, and Italian sausage – half or whole. Orders are taken in the same sub shop patronized by The Beatles when they visited Atlantic City in 1964. There’s even a photo on the wall of the Fab Four holding a 72-inch hoagie.

It’s a locals spot, but visitors have included Frank Sinatra, Oprah Winfrey, Rocky Marciano and Joe DiMaggio, just to mention a few. If you don’t want to walk off the Boardwalk, stop at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, where White House has a second location.

Or grab some fish tacos at The Rainforest Café, on the Boardwalk between Missouri and Mississippi avenues near the site of the former Trump Plaza hotel, demolished in 2021.

Dive into the ambience of Rainforest Café

Each Rainforest Café restaurant is designed to depict the atmosphere of a tropical rainforest, including plant growth, fog machines, and waterfalls. The ceiling and walls are lined with artificial foliage while other areas are decorated with faux rock.

They’re known for their decorative jungle motif with animatronics, seats painted to look like giraffes and plastic palm trees overhead. But they’re also known for a really big yum – soups and salads as well as fajitas and Korean stir fry and Jungle Steak and Shrimp.

The Hard Rock Café at 1000 Boardwalk offers an an extensive menu of food and a drink menu that includes hurricanes, margaritas, and “Alternative Rock,” which are alcohol-free beverages. (Drinks are available in various Hard Rock collectible glassware in case you want to take home a souvenir.)

Visitors get to view handpicked pieces of memorabilia from Hard Rock Café’s iconic collection. Lady Gaga’s hand-embellished outfits and Prince’s multicolored long-sleeve chiffon shirt worn during his “Lovesexy” tour, are among the list of belongings showcased at the café.

Climbing Absecon Lighthouse or take in the movies?

After eating lunch, it’s definitely time to do more walking in the afternoon.

If you visit Atlantic City, you have to climb the Absecon Lighthouse, opened in 1856 and located at the North End of AC and overlooking Absecon Inlet. At 171 feet tall, it’s the tallest lighthouse in the state of New Jersey and the third-tallest masonry lighthouse in the nation.

There are 228 steps, but the view of the island is amazing. Just ask New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who climbed to the top of the lighthouse on Memorial Day Weekend 2022. One lighthouse keeper, Buddy Grover, who just turned 96 in September, guides visitors to the top.

If steps aren’t your thing, there’s the IMAX theater at Tropicana Atlantic City. It’s the only movie theater in Atlantic City and it offers IMAX DMR – digital media remastering, the most advanced film technology in use. IMAX at Tropicana is also the only Giant Screen Certified IMAX Theater in southern New Jersey.

Science fiction movies are on the bill through the start of October, with matinees at 2:30 p.m. or after dinner at 8 p.m. IMAX features horror movies like “The Exorcist” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” through Halloween.

How about a trip to the arcade or surfing or TopGolf?

The Lucky Snake Arcade in AC offers an 875-linear-foot, state-of-the-art, indoor electric go-kart track and sports bar at Showboat on the Boardwalk. While there’s no casino gambling at the hotel, the arcade also offers old-school pinball for a chance to hit the lights and pumpers. Other things, like virtual reality games or a skee-ball competition, can eat up hours of your time if you’re competitive.

If swimming and waterslides are more your thing, there’s year-round fun at Island Waterpark at Showboat, which opened during the summer. The 120-square-foot oceanfront waterpark offers 11 slides and a 1,000-square-foot Wild Wave FlowRider surf simulator.

Watching is almost as much fun as seeing kids trying to stay on their surfboards for as long as possible. There’s even an adults-only pool, which is more of an oasis for anyone who wants to relax.

Having fun Wednesday through Sunday means TopGolf Swing Suite at Ocean Casino, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary this summer. There are 11 Swing Suites, which each accommodate up to eight people, and they’re ideal for families or a late afternoon with friends. TopGolf features baseball, hockey, golf, and zombie dodgeball.

Before you know it, all this exercise is making you hungry again. Time for dinner.

Dinner the AC way: Where locals eat

Whether you’re looking for pasta or oysters, there’s a restaurant in AC that no visitor should fail to find.

Dock’s Oyster House, owned by the Dougherty family since 1897, on Atlantic Avenue or the dining level inside Resorts AC, offers an array of seafood.

Izakaya by Michael Schulson is a premiere Japanese restaurant destination located at Borgata Atlantic City, which also offers a buffet from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. each weekday with seafood, Asian cuisines, carving and dessert stations.

Harrah’s Atlantic City celebrity chef restaurants include Chef Ramsay, Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri experiences.

  • Gordon Ramsey Steak offers dishes like Beef Wellington and seasonal seafood.
  • Bobby’s Burgers By Bobby Flay means burgers and fries, onion rings with a side of Bobbys
    Special Sauce.
  • Chicken Guy! Is Guy Fieri’s flavorful, crisp chicken restaurant offering signature sandwiches,
    tender combos and 22 signature sauces.

Late night in Atlantic City

Clubbing is alive and well, and disco dancing isn’t a thing of the past.

If you want to get on the dance floor, Boogie Nights at the Tropicana brings back the magic of music from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s every Friday and Saturday night.

The dance floor is packed and there is no dress code, even though many people opt to dress “hip” for dancing. This is a high-energy retro dance club, and participants take their dancing seriously. They’re listening to “Let’s Groove” by Earth Wind and Fire, “Wake Me Up Before You GoGo” by Wham, or “Dancing Queen” by Abba.

They’ve also got one of the largest disco balls you’ve ever seen.

If you are ready for beer, food, and music with an indoor-outdoor appeal, Bally’s The Yard is a beer garden-style venue offering live entertainment, a gastro-pub menu and a tap list featuring local brewers.

Patrons must be at least 21 and the doors in Bally’s Courtyard open to nightlife at 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. There are also 1990s-themed arcade games.

Atlantic City with plenty of available and open bars

Only a handful of cities have bars that stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not common to have bars open 24 hours a day. But Atlantic City has 5 of them:

  • B Bar at the Borgata, 1 Borgata Way
  • Carousel Bar at Bally’s Atlantic City, 1900 Pacific Ave.
  • The Gallery Bar, Book & Games at Ocean Casino Resort, 500 Boardwalk
  • Irish Pub, 164 St. James Place
  • Tony’s Baltimore Grill, 2800 Atlantic Ave.

Looking to eat with the locals? Then plan to stay up late.

Visit the vintage interior of Tony’s Baltimore Grill, a locals hangout where everyone knows your name, looks pretty much the same inside as it did 50 years ago. There are red leather seats, coat hooks and small jukeboxes to play a song at each table.

Tony’s is a trendy late night pizzeria that dishes up classic pies and Italian comfort food in an old-school interior. There’s a bar side, and a restaurant side with dinner seating. The bar is one of few that remain open 24 hours in the resort, so even after the kitchen closes there’s a place to watch television.

The Irish Pub & Inn on St. James Place at the Boardwalk, also 24 hours, is a must-see in AC.

Owner Cathy Burke greets visitors each night. She opened the pub in the 1970s with her husband Richard. She’ll rent a room to you upstairs at the Inn, and she’ll also make you the best corned beef special you’ll ever eat.

Locals hang out at The Pub, but also some of the famous, like actor Kelsey Grammer of “Frasier” and “Cheers” fame. Known also for voicing Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons, Grammer has been a celebrity bartender at The Pub this year after opening his Faith American Brewing Company.

Stay the night in Atlantic City

It’s a lot of fun and games spending 24 hours in AC. It’s also worth spending the night.

Each Atlantic City casino offers hotel rooms, many with different packages depending on the number of nights you stay or the time of year.

It’s difficult to find a room that doesn’t have a great view, either on the Boardwalk in Midtown or Uptown, North Beach, or at the Atlantic City Marina.

And then, you wake up and do it all over again.

Highly recommended.

Photo by Mike Groll / AP Photo
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Stephanie Loder

Stephanie Loder is a freelance writer for PlayNJ. She provides coverage of New Jersey's Atlantic City casinos while also focusing on the beach, boardwalk, and special gaming events. Prior to writing for PlayNJ, she covered Atlantic City government, breaking news, and casinos for The Press of Atlantic City in Pleasantville, N.J.

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