I’ve been visiting Atlantic City long enough to see it go through many transformations. I came of legal age shortly after Borgata opened, when The Quarter and The Pool After Dark were the hot spots, long before The Pier at Caesar’s became a vacant shell of its bustling former self. Fast forward about a decade and a half, and Atlantic City seems to be having itself another renaissance. This time, it’s evolving into a well-rounded family summer vacation destination for all ages. While still catering primarily to adults, there are family-friendly activities popping up all over town. Carnival and arcade games, rides, mini golf, kid-friendly dining options, and an expansive beachfront waterpark all line the boardwalk, these days. We decided to bring our 4-year-old daughter to find the best activities for families in Atlantic City. You’ll find the results in this 30 Hour All Ages Atlantic City Escape Plan.
Ocean Casino Resort Atlantic City
We chose Ocean Casino Resort as our home base, over other Atlantic City family friendly hotels, for a number of reasons. The entire property is pristine, and the hotel doesn’t feel like it’s attached to a casino. Many of the rooms were recently renovated, and those that haven’t been are still in great shape. Our daughter loved having a view of the beach and the Big Wheel from our room. Of course, the beach is the focal point of a summer vacation to Atlantic City. Like the hotel, Ocean’s beach is clean, quiet, and well-maintained. The indoor/outdoor Eclipse Pool is a great place to cool off after a morning at the beach or to escape inclement weather. Also, Ocean is conveniently located right on the boardwalk. Without intending to, we composed this entire itinerary within a 0.8 mile walk from the resort. It’s worth mentioning that it is situated directly next to the brand new Island Waterpark at Showboat. Keep an eye out for our parents-only visit to Island, later this summer. Our daughter still has some growing to do before she can join us on the slides.
Best Breakfast Options In Atlantic City
Before checking in at Ocean, you’ll have a couple of quick stops to make on your Atlantic City family getaway, the first of which is Hayday Coffee. There is a free parking lot adjacent to the building, which is the next best thing to a drive-thru. We tried the lavender honey cold brew on this trip, and like all of their seasonal specials, it was delicious. They have a few items that will appeal to children, like lemonade and pastries from Kizbee’s Kitchen. We especially like bringing our daughter here because the baristas always go out of their way to make her feel special.
After picking up coffee, you’ll collect your mobile breakfast order from Hot Bagels and More. We recommend placing your order when you arrive at Hayday. Hot Bagels can be very busy, and you don’t want to waste precious beach time standing in line. They have their own parking lot, which makes mobile pick up a breeze. The grown-ups in our party come here for the breakfast sandwiches and the preschooler adores their strawberry bagel with cream cheese. They pack everything really nicely, and a handheld breakfast is ideal for eating on the beach after a brief detour to check in around the corner at Ocean.
After you check in and change, you’ll head to your choice of the beach and/or pool for a couple hours of fun in the sun. We’re beach people, so we only use the pool briefly in the summer season. The lounge chairs at the pool tend to get claimed quickly, and it’s best to visit as close to opening hours as possible. Ocean has a lunch truck at the porte cochere, right outside the boardwalk entrance, just steps away from the beach. The Eclipse Pool sometimes sells food, and the lunch truck is still pretty accessible from there. Regardless of your preference, you’ll want to check out our Amazon page to stock up on all of our favorite lifesaving summer products.
Afternoon Activities in Atlantic City with Kids
After you’ve had a little lunch and changed out of your beach attire, you’ll be on your way to your next couple of family fun activities at North Beach Mini Golf (120 Euclid Avenue, about ½ mile north of Ocean via the boardwalk). First, you’ll rent a surrey to tour the boardwalk. You’ll have a bike lock so you can stop and shop along the way. The rentals are $40/hour for a vehicle that seats up to 2 adults and 3 small children. The 2 row surrey seats up to 4 adults and 3 small children and is $65/hour. The website includes discounts for combining mini golf and a surrey rental. This was one of our favorite new experiences, when we visited. We had never been so far north on the boardwalk before, and the views were incredible. When your rental window is over, you’ll play a round of miniature golf at the Atlantic City themed course. Golf is $12/adult and $10/child. Snacks, soft drinks, and ice cream are available for purchase, and you can also BYOB. A trip to North Beach Mini Golf will be a summer tradition for our family now.
Dinner in Atlantic City with Kids
Pedaling a surrey and playing 18 holes of mini golf will help you work up an appetite. You’ll have dinner at Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall. The menu has options for even the pickiest little eaters, and there are yard games in the outdoor beer hall. It’s a little more than ¾ of a mile from Ocean to Tennessee Avenue, so we recommend taking the boardwalk tram. Sometimes on a busy summer afternoon, there might be a bit of a wait for an available seat. The tram is ideal if you aren’t on a tight schedule and don’t mind waiting a bit in
exchange for inexpensive transportation. At Tennessee Avenue, your family will have many, many food and beverage options. From 40 beers on taps, to cans and bottles, to wine, cocktails, and mocktails, there is something new and exciting for every taste. We recommend the peach thyme lemonade cocktail for adults and the blueberry smash mocktail for kids. While they don’t have a kid’s menu, there are plenty of safe appetizers and entrees to choose from. We recommend the mac and cheese, American Beauty (standard cheeseburger with LTP), or Don’t Pass Go Dog (plain Hebrew National on a buttery split-top roll) for younger diners. Adults will enjoy the lobster roll and Kentucky Ave chicken sandwich. The whole family can and should upgrade to tater tots for $3 each. The portions are enormous, well worth the upcharge, and the tots are far superior to the (still delicious) chips. Depending on the day and time you visit, you might hit their 2 for $12 lunch special or their amazing happy hour.
Activities in Atlantic City
Steel Pier is a ½ mile walk from dinner, or you can take the tram again if you purchased an all-day pass. There are a wide variety of rides and carnival games to choose from. Single tickets are $2, a book of 50 tickets is $65, and a book of 80 tickets is $85. Tickets never expire, which made discovering a sheet of leftover tickets from last summer almost as exciting as a handpay at the casino. The carousel and other kiddie rides (teacups, bumper cars, etc) are 4 tickets each. Rides for bigger kids and adults, like the swinging carousel
and Flying Dutchman, are 5-6 tickets. Thrill rides are 7-8 tickets. If you visit on a Tuesday, all rides are 2 tickets, one of the best family summer vacation deals around. There is special pricing for the slingshot ($32.50/person), helicopter rides ($75 for shoreline tour, $150 for city tour), and the Wheel ($9.99/rider). Every year, we make a point to ride the carousel and the Wheel, which is the enclosed Ferris Wheel with views of the entire beach and boardwalk. See pricing/ticketing info here. Of course, you can’t leave Steel Pier without indulging in ice cream, funnel cake, or cotton candy. There are multiple eateries throughout serving standard boardwalk fare. If you purchase a book of tickets, you’ll also receive coupons for discounted food and beverage items.
By this time, most of the family is probably ready to call it a night. Take one last look at the neon signs and the lights of the Steel Pier from your window before getting some much needed rest.
Day 2 Breakfast and Absecon Lighthouse & more things to do in Atlantic City with Kids
We recommend packing a light, portable breakfast like protein bars or Pop-tarts to fuel you up for another trip to the pool. We opted for the pool over the beach on day 2 so that we could freshen up and change before the 11am checkout.
If you visit on the weekend, we recommend going to Rhythm & Spirits or Cardinal for brunch. Since ours was a weekday stay, we opted to go to Gilchrist, where we all enjoyed blueberry hotcakes. Of course, one cannot dine on hotcakes alone. We suggest pairing a short stack with one of the Hungry Man combos or the creamed chipped beef. It doesn’t feel like summer until we’ve had breakfast overlooking the bay, watching the boats sail by.
You’ll need every ounce of energy from that hearty brunch to walk up the 228 steps of the Absecon Lighthouse. We’re fans of history, and unparalleled views, so we were glad to finally mark this attraction off our Atlantic City to-do list. The guides are friendly and knowledgeable, the grounds are impeccably maintained, and each visitor gets an “I saw the light” card at the top of their ascent. Our guide paid special attention to our daughter, making sure she was in the exact right position to peer up and marvel at the light.
If you’ve escaped with us before, you know we absolutely must pick up takeout from Tony Boloney’s before we get out of town. On this trip, we tried some new-to-us items that are great for grown-ups: the Miss Siam, a chicken pad thai sub, and the crustacean fries, garlic butter and crab loaded cheese fries. Kids will love the classic NJ cheese pizza and shoobie sub (fried chicken, cool ranch dressing, BLT, mozzarella, and potato chips).
Some may say that Atlantic City isn’t for kids, but it really is an all-ages resort, if you just know where to go. We wish you and your family a memorable escape to the Jersey Shore. We know, just like us, you’ll be back again next year for an Atlantic City family vacation.
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