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I’ve been going to Atlantic City ever since I was old enough to chew salt water taffy. Back then, I was too young to play the slots, so my family would walk down the boardwalk to the Steel Pier for the carnival games (even there, the house always wins). But through the years, what’s become more fun (besides winning—or really, just breaking even) is hotel-hopping, especially now that the city is in the midst of yet another renaissance, thanks to two new resorts. But they’re not the only places to stay in Atlantic City. Here are some sure bets.
This resort opened only a year ago—it took over what was once Trump Taj Mahal—but it’s already become a mainstay on the boardwalk, especially since it’s right in front of the famed Steel Pier. Hard Rock spent more than $500 million renovating the property, and it shows. The casino floor is big and bright (and usually packed), all 2,000 rooms are playful and modern, and the Fresh Harvest buffet is one of our favorites. But the focus here, of course, is on music—whether it’s the memorabilia on display—including Elvis’ 1963 Rolls-Royce Phantom—or allowing hotel guests rent a Fender guitar. Plus, there’s nearly a show playing a day here (upcoming is a four-week Jersey Boys residency).
While situated on the boardwalk, this resort is a bit farther away from the bright lights of Steel Pier—literally and figuratively. It’s set up like a little Havana, with faux cobblestone pathways, palm trees and a stucco façade (the ceiling is even painted to look like a bright sky, so don’t be surprised if you lose track of the time). The 2,400-room hotel, one of AC’s biggest, is spread out over four towers; the Havana Tower is the most recently updated, and has long been my go-to. But what I like most are the endless restaurants options, from Carmine’s and Cuba Libre to Il Verdi and some 15 more.
Another one of Atlantic City’s newer resorts—it re-opened in June 2018 in what was once the doomed Revel—Ocean is less focused on gambling and more on the luxurious extras. So the crowd here skews well-to-do Millennial. As the hotel’s name implies, all 1,400 rooms boast an ocean view. It also features the world’s largest Topgolf Swing Suite. And because Ocean is near the end of the boardwalk, its beach strip (reserved only for its guests) isn’t overcrowded. But really, you’re here for the pool party at HQ2 beach club, which is on both day and night.
Borgata isn’t near the boardwalk, so it doesn’t have the frenetic feel of some of the hotels on the ocean—but the crowd here is ready to play. The casino floor is spacious with lots of action, with a focus on high-stakes table games. The rooms (which have muted beige tones) exude elegance, and most feature floor-to-ceiling windows. In addition to consistently great entertainment acts and packed clubs on weekends, chefs like Michael Symon and Wolfgang Puck have popular restaurants here.
A boutique hotel connected to Borgata, The Water Club is more about unwinding than betting big. There’s a two-story Immersion spa with floor-to-ceiling windows, along with a year-round indoor infinity lap pool that offers incredible views of the shore. And if you’re more into retail therapy, head over to Hugo Boss, Tumi or another one of The Water Club’s luxe shops instead.
Another resort on the boardwalk, Caesars is an Atlantic City classic. There are 1,150 rooms and suites (all with names linked to the Roman Empire) and the casino is always buzzing. It also has a Qua spa—like its sister property, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas—and several good restaurants, including Morton’s Steakhouse and Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill. It’s also close to the the Atlantic City Convention Center, the longtime venue of the Miss America pageant, if you’re visiting for business rather than pleasure.
If you’re of the mindset that it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, you’ll want to head to Resorts. It’s home to Atlantic City’s first casino—and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Across the boardwalk, you’ll find LandShark Bar & Grill, which is also linked to the laidback musician, and is the city’s only year-round beach bar. And don’t worry if you forget to pack your Hawaiian shirt—head over to the Tanger Outlets, just a short walk from the hotel.
This is one of Atlantic City’s smaller hotels, with just over 700 rooms. It’s also one of its more secluded as it’s right on the marina, where it was once part of Donald Trump’s Atlantic City empire. Still, the upside is that you’re able to rent a boat for the day. But if boats aren’t your speed, you can also charter a helicopter from New York to the Golden Nugget.
Another resort that’s not along the boardwalk, it’s worth heading to Harrah’s for the pool alone. By day, it is a tropical oasis where guests can reserve a cabana or daybed. By night, the terrarium-style space transforms into The Pool After Dark, where DJs like Pauly D and Kristian Nairn (also known as Hodor from Game of Thrones) spin sets into the early hours of the morning.