Family Vacations to Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City, New Jersey Boardwalk
Atlantic City Boardwalk (courtesy, Atlantic City CVA)

Atlantic City Family Travel Tips

  • Ride, play, eat, and stroll on the Boardwalk.
  • Splash, build sandcastles, and relax at the free beach.
  • Climb the 228 steps of historic Absecon Lighthouse.
  • Pet the sea creatures at the Ocean Life Center's Touch Tank.

Glitzy gambling palaces and lavish hotels rule the roost at first glance, but underneath it all Atlantic City still retains some of its old-time allure. Perched on New Jersey's coast within easy reach of one-third of the U.S. population, Atlantic City has been entertaining vacationers for 150 years, including countless families who come for the saltwater taffy, arcades, piers, fun rides, and, of course, the beach.

The famous Atlantic City Boardwalk is a great place for family strolls punctuated with stops for shopping, cheap eats, arcade games, and rides. Steel Pier, the city's historic amusement park, attracts kids with its 23 rides, including bumper cars and a Ferris wheel. Drive a go-cart at Central Pier Arcade and Speedway, tee-up at Atlantic City Miniature Golf, and get an eyeful of gore at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum. Its newest exhibit, Medieval Madness, features Vlad the Impaler, from whom the story of Dracula evolved, and other bad boys and torture devices from the period. On the sweeter side, a roulette table made entirely of jellybeans gives this Ripley's museum an Atlantic City twist.

While most Jersey Shore beaches require a badge or entrance fee, Atlantic City beaches are free. They're also family-friendly with handicap access ramps and lifeguards on duty throughout the summer season from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. And thanks to an ongoing replenishment program, the sands remain at least 200 feet wide.

There are attractions beyond the beach and boardwalk. Walk all 228 steps up Abescon Lighthouse, the tallest in New Jersey, and you'll be rewarded with an "I Climbed the Lighthouse" sticker and a sweeping view of Atlantic City and the back bay. The Historic Gardner's Basin on the channel side has docks and restaurants, and is home to the Ocean Life Center, where petting starfish, crabs, and other sea life is encouraged. For a view of the city from the water, board one of Atlantic City Cruises' sightseeing boats, also located at Gardner's Basin.

Just across the bay from Atlantic City, the 43,000-acre Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge's footpaths and driving trail wind through coastal salt marshes, upland fields, woodlands, and tidal water areas. Storybook Land, another nearby attraction that has been part of the local scene for decades, is in Egg Harbor Township, ten miles west of Atlantic City. This family fun park is geared to young kids with rides and children's stories depicted with 3-D structures.

Tips: Get sticky with James' Original Salt Water Taffy. But don't get stuck in a casino with kids; you must be at least 21 to get on the gaming floors.

Recommended Side Trips: New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey's Cape May's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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