The Atlantic City Boardwalk is home to six casino hotels:
- Ocean Casino Resort
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
- Resorts Casino Hotel
- Bally’s Atlantic City
- Caesars Atlantic City
- Tropicana Atlantic City
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With another sold-out summer blessedly in the books, I decided to take a short shoulder-season road trip in New Jersey.
My first stop was the city that gave us Monopoly, the Miss America Pageant, and the earliest known mob-boss summit in the United States.
I’ve been to Atlantic City many times with friends since college, and even celebrated a few birthdays there, but this was my first visit since lockdown, and my first solo visit ever.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City comped me a cozy room with a big bathroom, a king bed, and a refrigerator.
The upscale hotel opened in 2018 in the building that once housed the Trump Taj Mahal, before that monstrosity went out of business like its sister property the Trump Plaza.
Like every other Hard Rock property, the large hotel today features a music theme. Memorabilia on display include Elvis Presley‘s Rolls Royce, Elton John‘s suede wingtips, and a rhinestone jumpsuit worn by Glen Campbell on the Donny & Marie show. The hotel is glitzy rather than gaudy now, and gone is the seedy vibe from the Trump days of bankruptcies, shootings, and accusations of money laundering and involvement with organized crime.
The hotel has several restaurants including Il Mulino New York, Fresh Harvest Buffet, and of course a Hard Rock Café. My favorite spot for a quick bite is the White House Sub Shop, an off-shoot of the Arctic Avenue original frequented by Frank Sinatra.
Once the bellman delivered my bags, I headed out for a stroll along Atlantic City’s famous Boardwalk.
I walked about two miles, east by southeast, past the souvenir shops, beach bars, and larger-than-life Miss America statue.
There are six casino hotels along the Boardwalk. Over the next day, I would visit each of them.
I started with Tropicana Atlantic City, the furthest from Hard Rock. The midscale hotel opened in 1981 in the building that once housed the Ambassador Hotel. Even in a city whose hotels often have colorful histories, the Ambassador stands out. On one occasion, in 1922, Arthur Conan Doyle’s second wife Jean conducted a seance in an ostensible effort to communicate with Harry Houdini’s late mother Cecelia Weiss. And in 1929, the hotel housed the notorious Atlantic City Conference, when mob bosses like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano made deals that shaped the direction of organized crime for decades.
Today the enormous hotel features an Old Havana theme. It has dozens of restaurants; my favorites include The Palm and Cuba Libre. Its centerpiece is The Quarter — basically an enormous Cuban-themed mall with lots of shops, chain restaurants, and an IMAX theater. Tropicana became a Caesars property in 2018. I played some video poker and moved on.
Caesars has more than a dozen restaurants; my favorites are Morton’s the Steakhouse and Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill. And I’ve enjoyed some of the best massages of my life at the hotel’s Qua Baths and Spa.
In 2020, the hotel acquired the Wild Wild West, a campy Western-themed entertainment venue with live music, a sports book, and table and arcade games. Originally part of Bally’s, the Wild Wild West sits between the two hotels.
I played some video poker and moved on.
Bally’s Atlantic City is a midscale hotel that opened in 1979 on the site of two previous hotels: the Marlborough-Blenheim and the Dennis. But the location’s main claim to fame is that it’s at the corner of Boardwalk and Park Place, the premium properties in Monopoly.
Bally’s used to be a Caesars property, but it was purchased in 2020 by the newly named Bally’s Corporation, which currently owns more than a dozen casino properties, including several where I’ve played in the past: Bally’s Dover (formerly Dover Downs) in Delaware, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi in Mississippi, and Tropicana Las Vegas. Since I no longer had a working player’s card, I skipped the video poker and headed out. (Yes, I could have obtained a new card, but I didn’t want to spend the time.)
Back at Hard Rock, I slipped onto a barstool at Il Mulino for a light dinner of a pricey Caprese salad and an excellent Amarone wine.
Then I slept well until the sound of a driving rain woke me in the morning. I worked on a couple of Web stories and then went down to play, and earn my keep, at Hard Rock. When the rain let up, I headed out.
Resorts Casino Hotel opened in 1978 on the site that used to hold Chalfonte-Hadden Hall. The Hall had begun life as two Quaker rooming houses, became for a time the largest hotel in Atlantic City, and served as a military hospital during World War II. It was acquired in 2012 by Mohegan, which owns several properties, including Mohegan Pennsylvania, where I played once when it was called Mohegan Sun Pocono.
I played some video poker and moved on.
Ocean Casino Resort opened in 2018 in the building that once housed Revel Casino Hotel, which went bankrupt in 2014.
The upscale hotel today not surprisingly has an ocean theme. It’s an elegant property with a refined vibe, lots of open space, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the beach and boardwalk. I’ve stayed there before and considered doing so again, but Hard Rock comped me and Ocean didn’t, so that was that.
The hotel has several restaurants. My favorite is Ocean Steak, where the bar offers views of the water. I stopped in for a satisfactory lunch at Wahlburgers in the food court before playing video poker.
In the morning, shortly before Hard Rock’s 11:00 check-out time, I hopped into Mercy B, my silver sedan, and continued north, stopping for gasoline at the Frank Sinatra Service Area. I’d made a rookie error and forgotten to fill up before entering New Jersey, so I had to pay for full-serve. But at least my room was comped.
I fell in love with travel on a trip to Mexico when I was nine years old. Since then, I’ve travelled the globe from Israel to El Salvador. I’ve skied the Swiss Alps and hiked national parks like Acadia, Zion, Shenandoah, and Virgin Islands. I’ve marvelled at masterpieces in the Prado, the Uffizi, the Huntington, and the National Gallery of Art. I’ve stayed in a cabin on a mountaintop in Norway and on a kibbutz along the Sea of Galilee, and been kicked out of the Ritz at the Place Vendôme. I’ve taken cooking classes from New England to the Caribbean, and watched a chef prepare traditional shakshuka in the kitchen of his restaurant in Tel Aviv. I weave historical research and my personal experiences together in writing this blog. I hope you find it helpful. Read more …