New Jersey

Where sun and sand meet casinos

Gambling has changed the area, but many old attractions remain

May 19, 2006|By STEPHANIE SHAPIRO | STEPHANIE SHAPIRO,SUN REPORTER

Tucked between the cavernous casinos that have transformed Atlantic City are vintage reminders of the town's past, both quirky and glamorous. The Steel Pier, once home to the famed Diving Horse, remains a playground with games and rides, and the legendary boardwalk still smells of tar, peanuts and salty ocean residue.

If tourists head to Margate, south of Atlantic City, they'll meet up with Lucy, "the world's largest elephant," an architectural novelty constructed in 1881. But Atlantic City's oldest attractions are overshadowed by the town's towering casinos.

South of Atlantic City, each beach resort sets a unique tone. Ocean City, N.J., has a lively boardwalk; Stone Harbor is a bit more bucolic. Wildwood is a wild ride of a beach town, and Cape May is a spectacle of Victorian pomp and circumstance.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION: A calendar item in the Summer 2006 Beach Guide listed an incorrect date for the "Night in Venice" event in Ocean City, N.J. The event takes place July 22. The Sun regrets the error.

Stay anywhere in Atlantic City and you're in the thick of things. Just south of the city, Ventnor, Margate and Longport offer a range of more quiet, if less deluxe, lodging. Visit atlanticcitynj.com to get the big picture.

Tropicana Casino and Resort is smack between the beach and shopping galore (Brighton Ave. and the Boardwalk, 800-843-8767). Two towers of comfortable accommodations.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Sleek and swanky, the Borgata gets the credit for resuscitating this gambling town (1 Borgata Way, 609-317-1000).

The Carisbrooke Inn (105 S. Little Rock Ave. in Ventnor, 609-822-6392). A cozy B&B away from the fray, in a vintage residential neighborhood. Ocean City

Port-O-Call Hotel (1510 Boardwalk, 399-8812). A poolside grill. Stone Harbor

Holiday Manor Bed & Breakfast (8421 First Ave., 609-368-1133). A B&B with home-baked muffins. Wildwood

Harbor Mist Motel (511 E. 11th Ave., North Wildwood, 609-522-7282). A kitchenette in every room.

Restaurants Atlantic City

Downbeach Deli (8 S. Essex Ave. in Margate, 609-823-7310) offers a little bit of New York City's Lower East Side, with corned beef, smoked fish, knishes and other Jewish-deli delectables. Entrees: $12.95-$19.95.

White House Sub Shop (2301 Arctic Ave., 609-345-1564). The Beatles and Frank Sinatra ate here. Yard-long subs stuffed with meat balls, cold cuts or cheese steaks. Large subs: $12-$14.

Knife & Fork (Atlantic and Pacific avenues, 609-344-1133) is a restored mainstay of the city's old days. Prime steaks grilled and lavish seafood. Entrees: $25-$52.

Dock's Oyster House (2405 Atlantic Ave., 609-345-0092) has served classic seafood dishes since 1897. Entrees: $24.50-$59. Ocean City

Chatterbox Restaurant (500 9th St., 609-399-0113). Broiled fish, T-bone steaks and a kids' menu. Entrees: $9-$18. Cape May

Freda's Cafe (210 Ocean St., 609-884-7887). Global cuisine. Entrees: $16-$28. Stone Harbor

Henny's Restaurant (97th Street and Third Avenue, 609-368-2929). A casual family restaurant. Entrees: $18-$36. Wildwood

Ye Old Anglesea Pub (116 W. 1st Ave., 609-729-1133). Seafood and steaks. Entrees: $11-$25.

Nightlife Atlantic City

40/40 Club, Jay-Z's tony sports bar and lounge (2120 Atlantic Ave., 609-449-4040). Here, the phrase "upscale sports bar" is not an oxymoron.

House of Blues at the Showboat Casino (801 Boardwalk, 609-236-2583). From B.B. King to Flogging Molly, an endless roster of blues and pop.

TSOP or The Sound of Philadelphia Restaurant and Nightclub (Brighton and Pacific avenues, 609-887-2222). Live music and nostalgic references to the distinctive music of the City of Brotherly Love.

Borgata Casino Event Center and the Music Box (1 Borgata Way, 866-900-4849). A steady stream of shows in both venues.

Blue Martini at Bally's (Park Place and Boardwalk, 609-340-2709). Choose from more than 100 martini variations.

The Casbah, at Trump Taj Mahal (Virginia Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-449-5137). Dancing, Latin-music nights and body-painting parties.

Fun Atlantic City

Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum (1441 Boardwalk, 609-347-2001). A strange-but-true slice of old Atlantic City.

Lucy the Elephant (Washington and Atlantic avenues in Margate, 609-823-6473). An enormous piece of old Atlantic City.

Steel Pier (Virginia Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-345-4893). Rides and games and superb ocean views. Ocean City

Discovery Seashell Museum (2721 Asbury Ave. 609-391-0697). An enormous collection of shells from around the world. Cape May

Cape May Bird Observatory (701 E. Lake Drive, Cape May Point, 609-884-2736). Humans flock here by the thousands to see migrating birds and butterflies. Wildwood

Theme parks, arcades and amusements galore (Boardwalk in North Wildwood and Wildwood).

Shopping Atlantic City

The Quarter at Tropicana (Brighton and Boardwalk). A wealth of retail under simulated dusk in Old Havana, including Chico's, Brooks Brothers and Salsa Shoes.

stephanie.shapiro@baltsun.com

Events

May

Cape May Music Festival -- at various locations / 800-275-4278, 609-884-5404 or capemaymac.org. May 19 through June 18. The 17th annual festival features musical concerts of nearly every genre. All concerts begin at 8 p.m., except Sunday orchestra concerts, which are held at 5 p.m. Prices vary.

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