Atlantic City, NJ…a winter weekend!
(minus the casinos & night clubs)
If you have 3 days to spare and haven’t yet been to Atlantic City, NJ go ahead and hop in your car, on your bike, in a plane, or on a bus and head on over!
Recently, my parents had to relocate to Atlantic City, New Jersey for a job and now that I have had a chance to visit them & explore I am excited to share my experience with you. I have always vacationed at Ocean City, MD and in my mind, the two towns were too similar to ever bother going there; boy was I wrong. Yes they both have beaches, restaurants, shopping, bars, and plenty of sunshine, but there is a very different atmosphere between the two locations.
The biggest difference are the casinos. They are literally placed all over the city and they are the first think you see as you enter the city on the Atlantic City Expressway (after the 400 billboards tempting you with free spins, coins, & points at their corresponding casino). I was shocked by the lack of tall buildings, this was supposed to be a city after all right? My image of a city is Pittsburgh, which is located 40 minutes from my home. Needless to say, this does not look anything like Pittsburgh, or Ocean City, MD for that matter.
We stayed on Brigantine Island which is located right over a bridge from the city. You wouldn’t think it would make much of a difference being not even a mile from the city, but take a look at the view below. I was able to step out of my condo and go right across the street to the beach and walk my dog, Novella.
Speaking of dogs, this is a great place to take them during the winter months. The beach is packed sand and has plenty of room for them to run. Novella played fetch on the beach for hours & made friends with other dogs who were there to play too! *I must make a note that dogs are only allowed on the beach on Brigantine during the months of October – April.
3 Day Timeline:
We did not arrive until after midnight.
8:00am – The best way to start a day at the beach is by making a delicious breakfast. We made scrambled eggs, salmon with mango pineapple salsa, and black rice cooked in coconut water (eaten cold it tastes like a dessert); served with tea & orange juice, it was the prefect start to our morning.
11:00am – Its time to take Novella to the beach to play! Unfortunately it was very windy; we had to cut our time short at the beach. *If you take your dog near the dunes or the beach, be on the look out for burrs – we had a horrid time picking the burrs out of Novella’s fur; they have 1 inch spikes on them.
1:00pm – Lunch time! If you are like me, you have a craving for sushi about 88% of the time so let’s head over to Souzai Sushi & Sake ($) located in the Playground on the boardwalk. I drove around for about 20 minutes just trying to get the layout of the city and to find a parking spot. I ended up parking in the Bally’s parking garage (it felt the safest and in closest range to several places that I wanted to walk to). You can access the Playground through the bottom level on the boardwalk or by going up a flight of stairs in the Caesars casino and walking across the sky walk. I had a traditional Spicy Salmon and shared the traditional Tuna Asparagus roll with my father. They were both delicious. We were able to sit by the window and eat while looking out over the ocean. It was a very relaxing atmosphere & I wish I would have had time to return. Next time!
While you are in the Playground be sure to explore all 3 floors. There are shops on all floors and while most are out of my price range, it was fun to window shop. Head out the bottom entrance onto the boardwalk and start exploring! If you go to your left, you will head towards the Miss America Statue (fun fact: the first Miss America pageant was held on September 25, 1920 in Atlantic City, New Jersey) and go ahead, take a fun photo with her!
You will also pass by the Kennedy Plaza & Atlantic City Mini Gold. If you make it down to the Tropicana casino, stop inside the shops on the bottom floor and pick up some sweets from James’ Original Salt Water Taffy ($). There are about 500 flavors and you might go in sugar shock just from looking at them all – but I can honestly say this is the best salt water taffy I have ever had (and I use to live at the beach).
If you turn around and head back up the boardwalk, you will pass Brighton Park, Central Pier, and the Steel Pier. I didn’t have too much time to explore these areas because it is winter and the sun goes down at 4:30pm.
10:00am – If you are looking for a good church to attend while in Atlantic City, head over to St. Andrews By The Sea on 936 Baltic Ave. During the summer (May-September) they host a 7:30am service on the beach at the 16th Street Beach Pavilion in Brigantine.
12:00pm – It’s time for lunch! (I bet you are quickly learning that this is my favorite time of the day). Before we left for Atlantic City, I did a little research on local restaurants and found one called Vagabond ($$$). It caught my eye because of the craft beer selection and my dad likes to consider himself somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to beer so my husband and I decided to treat him to lunch. Upon entering, you quickly learn that it is a popular location for sports fans; they have over 20 TVs just in the bar area for fans to set up camp and watch the big game. We were seated in the back seating area where it was quiet enough to have a conversation but you were still included in the atmosphere of the restaurant. We started the meal off with some drinks and an appetizer. I ordered the Pinelands Evan John Porter NITRO to go with our East Coast Fries. It was a very rich beer and the perfect pairing for my meal – the Three Way sandwich; brisket, pulled pork, and smoked maple pepper bacon topped with citrus slaw on a brioche bun. And HOLY COW (pig) was it good! Just look at this monster:
It is safe to say that I was only able to finish half of my meal but man was it good. (It tasted great heated up the next day too). The rest of my family wasn’t too keen on the price, especially since one of the sandwiches came out wrong but if you are looking for a local restaurant with great food & friendly service, this is your place. Did I mention that Guy Fieri ate here on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives?!
2:00pm – It’s time to head downtown! My biggest surprise when I started driving around was that half the city was Tanger Outlets. Now, I am not complaining because I do love to shop, but it was unexpected. There is a garage called The Arts Garage that is right across from the Columbia store, which just happens to be my favorite outlet to shop at. I would recommend parking there if you plan to spend the majority of your day shopping at the outlets, which we did.
4:30pm – It’s time for a dessert beer at Wingcraft ($$$) in the Tanger Outlets; they have a wide variety of craft beer & a locally sourced menu. I tried their Kane Fall Saints on tap and it was a delightful mix of butternut squash, sweet potatoes, & nutmeg. This beer was created at the Kane Brewing Company in Ocean Township, NJ. It was perfect with our Fried Sweet Bread & Cannoli Dip (you will begin to see a pattern with my dessert choices). Unfortunately we had a waitress who seemed to be annoyed with everything in life that day but the host made up for it. He was beyond accommodating and very personable.
Monday morning was personally my favorite morning. We woke up late to the sound of the rain hitting our balcony. It was relaxing and soothing to just lay in the bed together and listen. But, we both knew we had to get up and get moving since it was our last day here.
10:00am – We finally got to try Aversa’s Italian Bakery ($) on Brigantine Island.
We saw the bakery Friday night when we first drove on to the island and were so excited they were open the day after a holiday. They have an array of pastries, cookies, bread, cakes, and other bakery items as well as several appetizer & lunch items. I settled for a cannoli, a pistachio macaroon, & an almond torte. All were delicious but I must say that this is the only macaroon that I have eaten and thoroughly enjoyed! The flavor was perfect. My husband got the vanilla dipped star cookies, a cheese danish, a cannoli, and an elephant ear. What can I say, we were really hungry that morning. After we stuffed ourselves with pastries, we had to go back to the condo and pack up to leave. We had a long, 6 hour drive ahead of us and wanted to make it home at a decent time to prepare for work the next day.
Now because I am on a budget, it is winter time, and a holiday, I spent a lot of time in the condo with my family playing board games, reading, & just catching up with one another. I did not visit any casinos or night clubs on this trip but I plan to in the future when I return in the summer months.