Long before Atlantic City became the popular tourist destination it is today, its first European settlers knew they were on to something. With its location hugging the Atlantic Ocean between marshlands and islands, Atlantic City was viewed as prime real estate with the potential of becoming a hot resort spot by early developers as far back as 1850. (Even before those settlers arrived, the Lenape Native Americans understood the value of the area too, using it as their summer home.) In 1853 the first commercial hotel, the Belloe House, was built.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, Atlantic City is full of glitzy casinos, award-winning restaurants and dazzling hotels, to say nothing of its historic boardwalk, amusement parks, and wide, beautiful beaches. With its location on the Jersey shore just a few hours south of New York City and east of Philadelphia, Atlantic City is easily accessible by car, bus and Amtrak. Here, we spotlight three not-to-be-missed places to help get your Atlantic City trip planning started.

Home to many firsts and historic events, the Atlantic City Experience is Atlantic City’s historical museum. Photo courtesy of Visit Atlantic City

 Atlantic City Experience

Looking for way to get an introduction to the rich history of Atlantic City? Head to the Atlantic City Experience at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, a multimedia exhibit that includes photographs, memorabilia and videos tracing the city’s development. From its days as a fledgling tourist destination after the Civil War to its rise as a gambling and nightlife center, Atlantic City is home to many first and historic events, many of which are documented at the Atlantic City Experience, which replaces the Atlantic City Historical Museum and offers a more central location for visitors. Displays highlight the city’s moments on the national stage, including a period when it served as a wartime military training base with hotels transformed into barracks and medical facilities. Other displays highlight the resort’s role in the Miss America pageant and the 1964 Democratic National Convention as well as the famous entertainers who performed in Atlantic City.

Atlantic City Boardwalk

As boardwalks go, they don’t get much more historic than the one in Atlantic City, which is the first one in the U.S. Stretching five miles along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the wooden boardwalk is Atlantic City’s most iconic attraction. Home to lively artists and musicians, as well as boutiques, local restaurants and tasty regional specialties (saltwater taffy, anyone?), the Atlantic City Boardwalk serves as the main artery of the city, offering easy access to the area’s casinos and hotels as well as several piers that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean. First built in 1870 as a way for hotel owners to keep sand out of their hotel lobbies, it didn’t take long for the Boardwalk to become a popular attraction all its own.

Did you know? The Absecon Lighthouse is New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse, averaging 171 feet tall with 228 steps. Photo courtesy of Visit Atlantic City

Absecon Lighthouse

First lit in 1857 as a beacon to Atlantic Ocean seafarers, the Absecon Lighthouse is the tallest one in all of New Jersey and the third tallest in the U.S. Decommissioned in 1933, the beautiful black-and-white structure still draws plenty of visitors who enjoy taking in the views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Boardwalk. That is, once they’ve climbed the 228 steps to the top. While there, be sure to visit the onsite museum and the replica Lighter’s dwelling, where you’ll learn more about the daily lives of the men that helped guide ships home. Hungry after climbing all those steps? Pack a picnic to enjoy in the lovely grounds surrounding the Absecon Lighthouse. Ahoy matey, indeed.

All photos courtesy of Visit Atlantic City

Atlantic City Group Tours
Heather Colache, 609-318-6097,,