12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Atlantic City, NJ

Written by Bryan Dearsley
Updated Dec 22, 2023
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Atlantic City is perhaps the best-known seaside resort in New Jersey, if not on the East Coast of the USA. Founded in the 1850s, Atlantic City offers vacationers long sandy beaches and an immense range of entertainment and things to do.

It's also widely known as the "Las Vegas of the East," largely due to the numerous revue theaters found here. These usually bustling destinations provide glitzy stage shows around the clock, as well as one-off events such as rock and pop concerts, boxing matches, and even beauty pageants.

Most restaurants, boutiques, and entertainment venues are located on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. This five-and-a-half-mile-long, 60-foot-wide seafront promenade is also the place to go for a pleasant stroll and some people-watching. The city has grown tremendously since the boardwalk was added in 1870, with an average of 27 million people spending many millions of dollars at its top attractions each and every year.

Although Atlantic City started off as a quiet fishing village, by the late 1800s, it had blossomed into one of the USA's leading oceanside resort destinations. For decades, it has also been a popular place to visit for water sports such as surfing, swimming, and sailing.

To learn more about one of the best places to visit in the US for a fun seaside vacation, be sure to read through this list of the top things to do in Atlantic City, NJ.

See also: Where to Stay in Atlantic City

1. Enjoy a Seaside Stroll along the Boardwalk

The Boardwalk
The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is the most famous and most popular attraction in Atlantic City, and is packed with a wide array of fun things to do. Just about everything worth seeing in the city lines the original four-mile-long stretch of wood that was built in 1870, most of which survived 2012's Hurricane Sandy.

It's a wonderful place to see and be seen as you catch a gentle sea breeze, and can easily be explored on foot. Other fun ways to explore the boardwalk include on the city's iconic electric tram, or with a ride on one of the famous "rolling chairs," large wicker chairs pushed like a rickshaw.

Other things to do on the Atlantic City Boardwalk including taking in a show, enjoying a meal, or getting in some shopping. And for the kids, there's plenty of opportunity for them to blow off some steam at one of the many arcades that line the waterfront.

Among the attractions on the boardwalk is the famous Entrance to the Stars. Atlantic City's version of Hollywood's Walk of Fame, it's here you'll see handprints from such stars as Johnny Carson, Cher, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, and many more.

Address: 3109 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey

2. Enjoy the Rides at the Famous Steel Pier

The Steel Pier
The Steel Pier

The Steel Pier is Atlantic City's answer to Coney Island in New York. Built in 1898, this wonderful old amusement pier was once even ranked one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions. Still incredibly popular, it juts out 1,000 feet into the Atlantic and has found a new lease on life after being completely rebuilt in 1993 after a devastating fire in 1983.

There are a variety of rides for all ages, including teacups and tiny trains for kiddies and more adventurous rides like the swing carousel and roller coasters for older kids and adults. The most daring visitors will get a thrill on rides like the Flyer, the MIX, or the Slingshot.

Those who want to catch amazing views over the Boardwalk and Atlantic City will want to ride the latest addition, The Wheel. This impressive Ferris wheel stands at a height of 227 feet and carries 240 passengers in its temperature-controlled gondolas, allowing it to be operated year-round, weather permitting. Admission to rides are ticket-based, and there are also plenty of carnival-style games for the whole family to enjoy.

A little farther along the boardwalk is another old pier, Playground Pier. Formerly known as Ocean Pier, this historic pier has been attracting visitors since 1906, when Captain John Young opened his famous Million Dollar Pier at this location. The pier has since become home to a high-end shopping mall, the Pier Shops at Caesars. A highlight of a visit is seeing its spectacular musical fountain.

Address: 1000 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Official site: https://steelpier.com/

3. See the Views from Absecon Lighthouse

Absecon Lighthouse
Absecon Lighthouse

Located at the north end of Atlantic City, the 228-step Absecon Lighthouse is notable for still having the original First-Order Fresnel lens installed when the structure was built in 1857. At 171 feet, it's the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and the third tallest of its type in the US.

Renovated to commemorate New Jersey's 300th anniversary in 1964, the lighthouse is made of granite blocks, brick, and iron, and painted in its original black and yellow. The climb is well worth it for the superb views over the Atlantic.

Other highlights include the lighthouse keeper's quarters and an interesting museum that includes exhibits about the history of lighthouses and their keepers. It also features exhibits relating to local maritime history and shipwrecks.

For a truly memorable experience, check out the attraction's Keeper Sleeper sleepover events. These unique experiences also include a nighttime climb to the lantern.

Address: 31 South Rhode Island Ave, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Official site: www.abseconlighthouse.org

4. Visit Ocean City

Ferris wheel at Ocean City, New Jersey
Ferris wheel at Ocean City, New Jersey

Just 11 miles south of Atlantic City, Ocean City is an extremely popular place to visit for those traveling with kids. Not only does this seaside destination offer some of the best beaches on the Atlantic coast, it has been completely alcohol-free since its establishment by church ministers in 1879.

Like its big cousin to the north, Ocean City also has an excellent boardwalk. Though not quite as long, this one stretches for two-and-a-half miles, and features an eclectic mix of shops and dining options in a picturesque downtown core. Attractions include several amusement parks, as well as theaters.

Family-Friendly Ocean City
Family-Friendly Ocean City

A must-visit is the Ocean City Historical Museum. Housed in the Ocean City Community Center, it's here you'll find many interesting displays depicting the city's early history through period furniture, artifacts, and vintage clothing. There are also interesting displays of old photographs and postcards.

Other fun things to do in Ocean City include bicycling on the city's numerous bike paths or playing some golf at the 12-hole municipal course. Popular water-based activities include fishing, boating, and water sports rentals, from kayaks to kiteboarding.

Address: 1735 Simpson Ave, Ocean City, Maryland, New Jersey

5. Climb aboard Lucy the Margate Elephant

Lucy the Margate Elephant
Lucy the Margate Elephant | Danita Delimont / Shutterstock.com

Few seaside attractions are as iconic as Lucy, a 65-foot, six-story-high wood and tin elephant built in the small coastal town of Margate in 1881 to attract prospective buyers to summer homes in the area. Since then, Lucy has been a tavern, a summer home, and an observation deck.

After being rescued from near demise in the 1960s, today Lucy stands proud in Josephine Harron Park and has been listed on the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks. Highlights of a visit to the oldest surviving novelty architecture in the US includes climbing the spiral staircase up to the "howdah," the small cabin-like structure on her back, with its wonderful panoramic views. Fun guided tours are available.

Traveling with kids? Try to time your visit for July 20, when Lucy's birthday is celebrated with a free party kids are encouraged to attend.

Address: 9200 Atlantic Ave, Margate City, New Jersey

Official site: www.lucytheelephant.org

6. Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall

Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall
Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall

If you're planning on staying in Atlantic City, be sure to check the concert line-up at the famous Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. Opened in 1929, it remains the city's most popular concert and event venue, and is particularly famous as the home of the Miss America finals.

This historic venue is also where you'll find the largest musical instrument in the world, a pipe organ with 33,000 pipes, eight chambers, and 1,000 stop keys. Visitors can enjoy a listen to this recently renovated organ every weekday at noon for a free 30-minute concert.

Address: 2301 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Official site: www.boardwalkhall.com

7. Take the Kids to Atlantic City Aquarium

Atlantic City Aquarium
Atlantic City Aquarium | jareed / photo modified

The Atlantic City Aquarium has many fun hands-on, interactive exhibits showcasing marine life from across the world. Highlights include sea life from the New Jersey coast, such as sea bass, sand tiger sharks, and northern stingrays to creatures from coral reefs, as well as predators.

Kids love the tropical shark and stingray touch tanks, as well as the numerous species of reptiles and amphibians on display. Twice daily, there is an exotic animal show that introduces some of the aquarium's more interesting residents and provides information about their eating habits, habitats, and more.

Address: 800 North New Hampshire Ave, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Official site: www.cityofatlanticcity.org/pages/acaquarium/

8. Explore the Past at the Atlantic City Historical Museum

Located in the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, the Atlantic City Historical Museum chronicles the history of the city's conversion from a small fishing village to one of the busiest resort destinations in the US.

Exhibits include artifacts, costumes, photographs, song sheets, postcards, and an array of Miss America memorabilia. There are also archival Thomas Edison beach shots and fascinating footage of the Miss America Pageant from years past, as well as of the world-famous high-diving horse of Steel Pier.

Also of interest is the Atlantic City Experience. This free attraction consists of a series of collections and research materials related to the city's unique development, all of it on display at the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.

Address: 600-698 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Official site: www.atlanticcityexperience.org

9. Pay Your Respects at the Atlantic City War Memorials

War Memorials
War Memorials

Perhaps surprisingly for a city with a reputation for fun, Atlantic City is home to two excellent war memorials. The oldest is the World War I Memorial, built in 1922 and dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Great War of 1914-1918. It features an impressive rotunda that houses Liberty in Distress, a nine-foot bronze statue.

The other notable monument is the New Jersey Korean War Veterans Memorial. Constructed as a reminder of those who died in the name of democracy while fighting in the Korean peninsula from 1950 to 1953, ensuring a better future for the people of South Korea, it's a lasting tribute to those who died in the conflict.

Official site: www.state.nj.us/military/korea/

10. African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey

The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey provides an important and fascinating look at the struggle of African Americans through the centuries. Highlights include interesting displays and more than 11,000 historical and cultural artifacts.

The museum also houses a collection of memorabilia of soldiers from Atlantic County spanning WWI to present day conflicts. Permanent exhibits include a look at how stereotypes in media and marketing have had a lasting negative effect on African Americans.

Also of interest are its collections of furniture and housewares from early African American life, and the story of the African American entertainers who held prominent roles during Atlantic City's glory days.

Address: 661 Jackson Road, Newtonville, New Jersey

Official site: www.aahmsnj.org

11. Historic Gardner's Basin

Gardner's Basin
Gardner's Basin | Ken Marshall / photo modified

Historic Gardner's Basin is a maritime village and waterfront park with a variety of interesting features that make it a worthwhile destination for travelers. Highlights include original maritime exhibits such as the Steel Pier Diving Bell, once used to lower guests to the seabed.

Gardner's Basin is also a popular spot from which to embark on a fishing or dolphin-sighting cruise, or just to explore as you visit the unique shops of the Crafters Village. It also offers waterfront dining with fine views over the Atlantic, and is where you'll find the Atlantic City Aquarium.

Address: 800 North New Hampshire Ave, Atlantic City, New Jersey

12. Get Creative at the Atlantic City Art Center

The Atlantic City Art Center, once the country's only gallery built on a municipal pier, has also moved to the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. Despite having relocated, the gallery is a popular attraction and is noted for its exhibits of art from both national and regional artists.

A respite from the commercialism and excess of the city, the museum features constantly changing exhibits that include photography, sculpture, and paintings among other media.

The Art Center also offers concerts, gallery talks, artist demonstrations, and literary readings throughout the year, so be sure to check ahead to see what's on.

Address: 2301 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Official site: www.acartcenter.org

Where to Stay in Atlantic City for Sightseeing

Where to stay in Atlantic City really comes down to personal preference. Some people may prefer to stay near the ocean for easy access to the boardwalk with its Walk of Fame, the Steel Pier, and, of course, the beautiful sandy beach. Alternatively, hotels nearer the main marina offer exceptional amenities and are closer to attractions like the aquarium. Below are some highly rated hotels in good locations:

Luxury Hotels:

  • The Borgata Hotel & Spa is one of the newer hotels in Atlantic City, and is located near the aquarium. This hotel features modern rooms with upgraded bathrooms, including oversized showers.
  • Nearby, The Water Club by Borgata offers an upscale accommodation option with luxurious rooms and one of the finest spas in the city.
  • Caesars Atlantic City, right on the beach, has exceptional rooms with beautiful ocean views, and the boardwalk is right outside the front doors.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • The Resorts Hotel is a good beachfront option in this category. A short stroll from the Steel Pier and all its attractions, this smaller hotel has comfortable rooms and an indoor/outdoor pool.
  • Recently renovated, The Claridge - A Radisson Hotel is an iconic Atlantic City property that has hosted famous celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra.
  • The hotel restaurant has a 1920s theme. Also recently upgraded is the Club Wyndham Skyline Tower. The hotel is set back from the beach but offers large one- and two-bedroom suites, some with balconies.

Budget Hotels:

  • In the center of the action, just a block off the beach, is the BEST WESTERN Atlantic City Hotel. Rooms come with a complimentary breakfast.
  • The Quality Inn Flamingo is a low-rise hotel and has standard rooms, some with mini fridges, and also provides a complimentary breakfast.

Map of Attractions & Things to Do in Atlantic City, NJ

Atlantic City, NJ - Climate Chart

Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Atlantic City, NJ in °C
5 -2 6 -1 9 3 14 7 19 13 24 18 27 21 27 21 23 18 18 12 13 6 8 1
Average monthly precipitation totals for Atlantic City, NJ in mm.
87 73 96 83 80 63 85 106 77 69 75 81
Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Atlantic City, NJ in °F
41 29 43 31 49 37 58 45 66 55 75 64 81 70 80 70 74 64 64 53 55 43 46 34
Average monthly precipitation totals for Atlantic City, NJ in inches.
3.4 2.9 3.8 3.3 3.2 2.5 3.4 4.2 3.0 2.7 3.0 3.2
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