Beauty queens are just some of the lovely sights in Atlantic City

September 12, 2013|By Stephanie Citron, For The Baltimore Sun

After a seven-year fling in Las Vegas, the Miss America Pageant is returning in a week to its birthplace, Atlantic City, N.J.

The pageant began in 1921 as a beachfront bathing-suit contest between beauty competition winners from eight Northeastern cities. At that time, Atlantic City was a fashionable oceanfront resort with brilliant beaches, grandiose hotels, charming seaside shops and a stylish summertime following. Droves of visitors generated success for the region until economic upheavals beginning in the1960s launched the shore town into a depression that lasted decades.

Today, after weathering a half-century of economic highs and lows, the city has undergone a decade-long series of resurgences and makeovers intended to reinstate its original glitz and glamour. Has it worked? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Those attending this year's pageant will discover that Atlantic City's most glamorous runway isn't inside Boardwalk Hall, the longtime venue for the competition, but rather the four-mile wooden boardwalk that gleams with vibrant hues streaming from casino marquees and waterfront amusements. The city's beautiful beachscape, replenished from any superstorm Sandy distress, is a worthy competitor for any of the 53 contestants (50 states plus Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia).

In the spirit of the Miss America Pageant, here's a guide to the reigning beauties and crowning attractions that make up Atlantic City.

Most beautiful beach: The nearly deserted sloping dunes just north of the Steel Pier, past the Revel resort all the way to the inlet, are dotted with newly installed native plantings, birds darting toward the waves and very few people. The entire Atlantic City shoreline, which continues south from the Steel Pier down to Margate, boasts attractive walking paths and festive beach bars.

Most beautiful place for a drink overlooking the ocean: Resorts Casino's new Landshark Bar and Grill. Folks must be wondering what took so long. Atlantic City's first year-round oceanfront bar and restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows and a giant wrap-around deck finally opened its doors this summer on the site of the old Steeplechase Pier. It's five o'clock all day here, with booze in the blender and live music. This venture is only one portion of the new Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville enterprise. There are plenty more cheeseburgers in paradise nearby at the entrance to the casino, where Buffett's signature Margaritaville restaurant has its nightly live performances, a tiki bar and and outdoor dining deck. (1133 Boardwalk, 609-431-4100, margaritavilleatlanticcity.com)

Most beautiful outdoor pool: The Chelsea. The scene is a perpetual pageant of chic peeps, celebrity DJs, elegant cabanas and crafty cocktails on the hotel's scenic fifth-floor rooftop deck. And only insiders know where to slip away for a free soothing saltwater soak — the Chelsea's Oasis Pool, by the spa. (111 S. Chelsea Ave., 800-548-3030, thechelsea-ac.com)

If you prefer to swim with a cover charge ($30 for women and $40 for men), head over to Revel's New HQ Beach Club, a daylight pool lounge with funky geometric-shaped pools flanked by sand-covered decks and daybeds, with nonstop tunes blasting from the elaborate Turbosound system. (Open Friday to Sunday. 500 Boardwalk – Revel Beach, 609-345-2211, revelnightlife.com)

Best place to spot a bathing beauty: The Deck at the far end of the Pier Shops at Caesars. Atlantic City's once-famous Million Dollar Pier has long been replaced by an ultra-modern glass-enclosed shopping mall with Vegas-esque dancing fountain light shows and glitzy common spaces. But you've seen malls before. What you likely haven't experienced is the view from this mall's outdoor observation deck, jutting out over the Atlantic Ocean for unobstructed views of the coastline and all of the bodies occupying the beach. On blustery days, head inside to the sand-floor lounge deck on the third floor, where you can still enjoy the view, stay warm and laze the day away on colorful beach chairs, without the wind ruffling your magazines. (1 Atlantic Ocean, opposite Caesar's Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, 609-345-3100.)

Best place for beauty treatment and makeup: Immersion Spa. Ascend to the 32nd floor of the Water Club at Borgata. This tranquil, 36,000-square-foot palace with rock gardens and fluty music is so Zen, you'll feel your shoulders instantly lighten and your voice drop to a whisper. Before enjoying a glam-girl Glow Facial, take a glide in the infinity-edge lap pool with panoramic skyline and ocean views. Afterward, finish your princess primp with a Coconut Lime Mani-Pedi and makeup session next door in the Borgata's Salon. (1 Renaissance Way, 609-317-7555, thewaterclubhotel.com/spa)

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