Tag Archives: Atlantic City

The Beautiful Jersey Shore

New Jersey, that great state I call home, suffers a less than stellar reputation. When I’m out of state, whether at Northwestern or traveling, I find I spend a lot of time defending its largely unwarranted notoriety. (“Where else can you live that you’re one hour from New York City, one hour from Philadelphia and 40 minutes from the beach?!” I always say.)

The stereotypes were already bad enough, I thought, when this little show called “Jersey Shore” debuted. Forget that only two members of the cast hail from the Garden State — it still cemented and created new stereotypes about my beloved NJ. But the truth is, one of our main reputation saboteurs is also one our top attractors.

People from up and down the East Coast flock to the Jersey shore coastline every summer from states as far south as Virginia. “Jersey Shore” features Seaside, one of the grittier beach towns we boast, but there is a reason people choose to make the Jersey shore their lovely summer home year after year. The following beaches, which are some of top in NJ, are all reasons why.

Atlantic City

Atlantic City, courtesy of NJCasinoDealer.com

Before I start, a caveat: Don’t go here solely for the beach, because it’s definitely not our nicest. Still, Atlantic City is like Las Vegas on the ocean. Get your night started early with a walk on the boardwalk, or detox post-gambling on the beach. There’s even a cultural draw here, which Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame mentioned in a recent Budget Travel article.

Cape May

Cape May, courtesy of BestofTimesTravel.com

Cape May, which is in the south of the state, is undoubtedly the most charming of New Jersey’s shore havens. The architecture is Victorian, and the beaches picturesque. Cape May also claims Avalon, a hamlet with a slew of private beaches and some of the most expensive real estate on the East Coast.

Belmar

Belmar, courtesy of Wikimedia user Girdi

Belmar is a favorite day-trip spot and the beach I have frequented most, so I feel obligated to include it. Belmar is one of the more accessible NJ beaches for a day trip, and you might lay your towel next to a sweet family or a gaggle of gossiping tweens. Hang around 16th street and you’ll see a watered-down, daytime version of what MTV exploited in “Jersey Shore.” There’s no obnoxious boardwalk, though, and only a subdued nightlife so things stay pretty low-key.

Island Beach State Park

 

Island Beach State Park, courtesy of the official site

The near 10 miles of beach on this barrier island are close to nature; they’re populated with ospreys and more than 400 types of plants. The shore is sheltered and serene, and on a walk you’ll find marshes and well-preserved sand dunes.

Spring Lake

Spring Lake, courtesy of TheNewYorkCityTraveler.com

Apparently, Spring Lake morphed into a prime destination for the high society folk of neighboring New York and Philly during the Gilded Age, leaving some lasting architecture. I remember Spring Lake as one of the most serene beaches I’ve ever visited. Many of the beaches are reserved for people who own homes shoreside, but swaths are accessible to day trippers.

Karina for TKGO

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Winning Big in Atlantic City

Well, relatively big.

In a moment that perhaps sealed my entrance into true adulthood, I gambled for the first time this past week. By now all of my close friends from home are now 21, so society therefore has given us all permission to be reckless with our money. We decided to do it together and took a road trip down to the East Coast Las Vegas: Atlantic City.

We secured a room at one of the larger hotel/casino resorts on the strip, the Tropicana, for much cheaper than I had expected. (Check online for A.C. hotel rates in January; it’s super cheap to get a room for the night!) The ride also was much shorter than I had thought it would be — only 1.5 hours from our town in Central New Jersey. So far this quick one-night trip was turning out pretty good! We didn’t spend any time really outside of our resort, because when you have multiple restaurants, clubs, shops, and IMAX theater and a casino under one roof, why would one need to go anywhere? Also, while the Trumps and Caesars of Atlantic City shine bright in their glitz and glamour, it’s a stark contrast to the streets and life of the city itself, which could really use the revitalization the casinos were supposed to bring.

After settling in, we headed down to the casino. We knew we were walking dollar signs for these casino operators, so we all tried to keep each other in check when gambling. I, one of only a few first-time gamblers, decided to bring only $20 cash (no credit cards) downstairs. My friend and I plopped down in front of two slot machines to try a few bucks. Maybe I’m disillusioned, but I had romantic visions of level pulling and coins spilling out, of which there was none. All slot machines nowadays operate on a bunch of buttons you push, and they only take paper money. From there you can play smaller denominations, but still! Tricky tricky. The other sneaky part of the slots I discovered was that you don’t really know when you’ve won, and you never know how much. After spinning a couple sets of sevens in a row and seeing some lights blink, I decided to cash out to see how I had done. The receipt the machine printed read $53.And I had only played $2!

As I headed over to the cashier station, I was thinking that had been my big win for the night. I took my cash and went to rejoin more of my friends. I soon realized less than an hour had passed, the night was young and friends were still at tables and machines. How could I be done gambling already? I couldn’t just sit and watch all night! Peer (and environmental) pressure won out and some of us decided to claim spots at a roulette table. I wasn’t familiar with the game, but a friend gave me a quick breakdown and deciding it was an objective game that didn’t require much thinking, I placed my $25 minimum down on the table to play. Sure, $25 is a lot, but I didn’t come to A.C. expecting to win, so if I lost $25 I was still up a nice little $25. Plus, there were cute guys at this table!

I arbitrarily placed my chips on the board and somehow maintained enough winnings to play a few times. Then after one round in which I continued my joke of a strategy (there really was none except spreading my chips out somewhat evenly and choosing a few favorite numbers), the dealer looked at me, laughed and said, “You just won big.” Then he pushed stacks of $25 and $5 chips at me. I was elated. I have no idea how much I had at that point, but I stashed most of the chips in purse to become untouchables and left out enough for another round or two. In the end I lost the chips that remained on the table and was able to pull myself away when that happened. I walked upstairs that night with a net gain of $150 and feeling like a pro.

My night in Atlantic City was a fun foray into the gambling world, but not one I’m allowing myself to think my winnings could become regular. Because as hard as it is to walk away when you’re winning, it’s even worse to walk away realizing you just lost a lot.

Tropicana
Tropicana Casino & Resort, courtesy of destination360.com

Karina for TKGO

I apologize for the lack of multimedia on this post, but for obvious reasons cameras are not allowed in casinos.