Atlantic City is back — haven’t you heard? The truth is, even in economic calamity, it never stopped being a great town to play in — beautiful, edgy, gritty, often ridiculous. The surviving casinos are doing better than you’d think, and by next summer Hard Rock Atlantic City will take over the old Trump Taj Mahal. Revel is still closed, but owner Glenn Straub is sounding optimistic again.
Always a great booze town, A.C. is seeing a resurgence of cool places to drink, such as The Iron Room in the back of the Atlantic City Bottle Company at 648 N. Albany Ave., and Little Water Distillery, a long-awaited craft rum-and-whiskey joint at 807 Baltic Ave. open for tours and drinks and Saturday tastings from 1 to 5 p.m.
The BoneYard, open 24 hours, offers live music at 20 S. Virginia Ave. The Atlantic City Fan Expo and beer garden at Bart Blatstein’s Showboat will feature e-gaming, drinking and indoor/outdoor space (acfxpo.com).
And don’t forget The Chelsea, Bungalow and Bally’s beach bars, which preserve A.C.’s proud tradition of drinks outdoors.
Atlantic City’s tried-and-true establishments still pack them in. Dock’s, Knife and Fork Inn, Chef Vola, Cafe 2825, Angelo’s, Angeloni’s II, the Irish Pub, Tony’s Baltimore Grill, Barbera’s Fish Market, Formica’s for bread and, for knockout strawberry shortcake, Mino’s Bakery at 4100 Ventnor Ave.
As for ethnic, A.C. can take on any Philly neighborhood. Just drive up and down Atlantic and Arctic Avenues for most of these: Sabor Latino (4227 Ventnor); Sabor Savadoreno (3213 Atlantic); El Rincon Del Sabor (2501 Pacific); Mexico (3810 Ventnor); Pancho’s Mexican Taqueria (2303 Arctic); Com Ga Ninh Kieu (1124 Atlantic); Pho Sydney, a favorite of the ACPD (2323 Atlantic); A.C. Sandwiches for bahn mi (3023 Atlantic); El Charro (2430 Fairmount); and the always-festive Cinco de Mayo Sports Bar (2437 Atlantic).
Try Bill’s Gyro for a Greek omelet and a Bloody Mary (a late-night gyro also will do the trick), or the Bungalow Grill, which sets out a tiki-ish patio on the Boardwalk. Hipsters will head just off the Boardwalk to Tony Baloney’s on Oriental near the old Revel.
The resident organist gives daily half-hour recitals and tours of Boardwalk Hall’s magnificent pipe organ, the world’s largest, with a two-hour tour at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays.
Look for the Boardwalk’s 30-foot wooden heart sculpture made from Hurricane Sandy remnants; the Korean War monument; the mostly forgotten sculpture walk behind Harrah’s; and Dale Chihuly’s art glass at the Borgata.
Don’t miss the African American History Museum inside the Noyes Arts Garage, which has a Jackie Robinson exhibition through August.
The archive room at the Atlantic City Free Public Library at One North Tennessee Ave. will reveal its treasures with a day’s notice.
The Sheraton has a Miss America collection. The Chicken Bone Beach Foundation sponsors jazz at the Claridge.
Check out the surfing beaches at Rhode Island and States Avenues, or take up rowing in its back bays (novices can learn at Ventnor’s Doc Holland Viking Rowing Club, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m.). Skateboard at a hopefully completed “Back Sov” Sovereign Avenue park, to be rebuilt with leftover Love Park marble.
Fish off bridges and jetties (stop in at One Stop Bait and Tackle at 416 Atlantic Ave.), and boats (highrollerfishing.com). There’s A.C. Surf School at the Showboat, Atlantic City Parasail (atlanticcityparasail.com) at Gardner’s Basin, turf soccer fields and tennis courts near Absecon Lighthouse, and everyone’s favorite recreational vehicle: the Atlantic Ocean. Beaches are free.