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Forget what you recall about Atlantic City—especially if your whole impression of it is based on that ridiculously cheesy girls-trip episode of Sex and the City (you know the one!). With luxe new openings, a revived culinary scene and big-name entertainers constantly passing through, the historic resort town will impress even the most skeptical New Yorkers. Plus, you don’t even need a car to visit, with multiple bus options in and out of town each day. Here’s how to spend one incredible weekend there—gambling optional.

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atlantic city guide boardwalk lighthouse
Driendl Group/Getty Images

Hit the Boardwalk

There’s a good reason Atlantic City was planned as a vacation spot: the beaches. Access the wide stretch of sand via the adjacent boardwalk, which links most of the casinos in town by foot and features a lot more than your standard Jersey Shore offerings of frozen custard, pizza and fries—though there’s plenty of that too. Indulge your inner kid with mini golf, go-carts, a vintage-style arcade and a pier full of amusement rides complete with an observation wheel, or take a short stroll to climb a historic lighthouse. Don’t fret if you visit during the off-season, either. In fact, it’s one of our favorite times to go, with a full-on Oktoberfest celebration, a holiday light show and a polar bear plunge on New Year’s Day.

atlantic city guide angeline borgada meatballs
Courtesy of Angeline by Michael Symon

Dine Like a Boss

Just like Vegas, Atlantic City’s food scene has exploded into a smorgasbord of celeb chefs and quality local eats. In fact, the Borgata is home to the most restaurants by Iron Chefs in the area, from Bobby Flay to Wolfgang Puck. If we had to choose, though, we’d recommend going to dinner at Angeline by Michael Symon, an Italian restaurant with new twists on old classics. We think about the meatballs, spicy lobster and cavatelli with Sunday meat sauce often, to be honest. Or go to Izakaya by Michael Schulson for contemporary Japanese fare, like edamame dumplings, “hot oil” yellowtail and cauliflower with yuzu aioli.

Be sure to keep these other restaurants on your radar too: Breakfast at Gilchrist is a must—its famous blueberry pancakes are capable of curing any hangover. At lunchtime, you can’t beat White House Subs, an A.C. sandwich institution since 1946. For dinner, take your pick of Council Oak Steaks & Seafood, which serves a seafood-focused menu that includes wood-fired octopus and shellfish pots; Kuro for fresh sushi and an impressive sake list; Old Homestead Steak House, an outpost of the NYC fine-dining staple; or Sugar Factory, a brasserie and candy store mash-up known for its insane milkshakes and giant, rainbow-colored cocktails.

hard rock hotel room atlantic city
Courtesy of Hard Rock Atlantic City

Stay in a Music Shrine

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, which opened in 2018, houses more rare, historic memorabilia than any other outpost, making it as much a music history museum as a resort. Many of the upscale rooms boast ocean views, and you can customize your stay with the hotel’s “Sound of Your Stay” program, which offers guests complimentary vinyl records or a Fender guitar to jam out on while in residence. You’ll also find an all-seasons pool and food opportunities at every budget to keep your belly happy. If you’re looking for a little vice, there’s Daer, a mega nightclub with an outdoor patio overlooking the boardwalk, as well as 2,200 slots and 120 sparkling new table games to keep you busy. Or bliss out at the massive spa that syncs its relaxing treatments to music (more on that below).

guide to atlantic city borgata spa
Courtesy Immersion Spa at Borgata

Relax at the Spa

Yes, you deserve a spa day, and yes, you’ve got options. Top of our list is the Immersion Spa, which sits on the 32nd floor of the Water Club at the Borgata. Take in the sweeping views as you relax before your treatment, be it a Sole Revival foot massage or a traditional Swedish massage. Then keep those chill vibes going at the indoor lap pool, which is reserved for spa guests. Order an Iron Chef–approved smoothie to your lounge chair, and feel a world away from it all. If you really want to get in tune with yourself (see what we did there?), book a rhythmic massage at the Rock Spa & Salon at the Hard Rock. You’ll feel bass vibrations through the massage table and hear music from speakers above for a fully immersive—and totally unique—experience. There’s also the Bluemercury Spa at Tropicana, which has classic treatments paired with the product expertise you’re used to. And the Exhale Spa and Bathhouse at the Ocean Casino Resort includes a Himalayan salt grotto. Deep breaths now.

atlantic city guide brandi carlile concert
Brandi Carlile
Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Catch a Show

Need a concrete reason to make the trek to the shore? Get tickets to a show. The impressive concert lineup includes Grammy winners like Brandi Carlile (May 30), John Legend (August 22) and Chris Stapleton (October 9). Or have a few laughs with Chelsea Handler (March 14), Jerry Seinfeld (April 11), Whitney Cummings (July 11) or Trevor Noah (August 14). Whether it’s during the height of summer or the calm of the off-season, you can’t go wrong catching one of these acts. (Just ask us about that time we saw Céline Dion at Boardwalk Hall in February.)

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