Atlantic City is loaded with fancy (and pricey) restaurants, nightclubs with expensive covers, and costly hotel suites. But guess what? You don’t need any of that to have a perfect date in AC. Check out these free and cheap ideas to keep the romance – and your bank account – alive and well.
“Thunder Over the Boardwalk”
The Atlantic City airshow roars through town every summer, and it’s a spectacular day to spend with someone you love. There are skywriters, fighter jets, and flybys of all kinds in the air and catamaran races on the water. It’s one of the city’s most popular events, and there’s nothing that says “great date” like oohing and ahhing together over things that go fast.
Stroll the Boardwalk
The AC Boardwalk is a great place to walk and talk – and you can stop along the way to play arcade games, grab a snack, or detour onto the beach to dip your toes in the water. From May through September, you can take a leisurely bike ride down the boards between 6 am and noon, and during the offseason, enjoy a sunset ride between 4 pm and 7 pm.
Catch a concert
On Thursday nights in July and August, set up a blanket and enjoy jazz on the beach at Brighton Park, Park Place & Boardwalk, courtesy of the Chicken Bone Beach Concert Series. Bring snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, and make it a romantic picnic with a live jazz soundtrack. There’s a history lesson here, too: back in the 1950s, Atlantic City had a vibrant jazz scene and the clubs were full of patrons of every race, every night. But when the sun came up, black beachgoers were relegated to a small stretch of sand that became known colloquially as “Chicken Bone Beach.” The free jazz concerts that are today attended by hundreds, and sometimes thousands, started as a way to honor the legacy of black musicians in Atlantic City, and the music that brought folks together.
Take a hike
Visit the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, just outside of Atlantic City in Galloway, where there are 43,000 acres of protected coastal habitat criss-crossed by nature trails. Animal lovers may catch a glimpse of white tail deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, muskrats, otters, mink, and tons of species of migratory birds. If strolling through the marshland isn’t your thing, you can stay in the car: a wildlife drive offers the chance to go on safari, New Jersey-style.
Cost: $2 per person for walkers/bikers; $4 per vehicle.
Cool off at the rink
Get a little taste of winter at the beach with a visit to the Flyer’s Skate Zone. Admission to the ice rink is cheap, and so are rentals, so you and your date can have a great day full of slipping, sliding, and fun, even if you’re on a budget.
Cost: $10 admission, $3 skate rental
Flyers Skate Zone, 501 N. Albany Ave., Atlantic City, NJ, USA +1 609 441 1780
You’ll be so freaked out you’ll want to hold each other close after a visit to Haunted Tales, the special effects theatre that’s basically a year-round haunted house. With tales about the Jersey Devil and local pirate legends that come to life right there in the theatre, you’ll be just scared enough to have a good time.
Cost: $7.50 per person; $14 per person for coffin ride
Catch a movie
There’s nothing quite as classic as a date at the movie theatre. In the heart of AC’s Tropicana Casino & Resort, you can put a unique spin on this typical date idea by seeing the latest release on a larger-than-life (think five stories tall) IMAX screen equipped with the latest 3D technology. The experience is so immersive, you and your date will feel like you’ve escaped to another world.
Cost: $16 per person
IMAX at Tropicana, 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ, USA +1 609 340 4000
To the lighthouse
The Absecon Lighthouse, that is, the oldest (and tallest) lighthouse in New Jersey and the third-oldest in the country. The building is open for climbing, but with 228 stairs you’ll want to take your time getting to the top. Once you’re up there, though, the views are extraordinary. Your date, once they’re done huffing and puffing, will thank you.
Cost: $7 per person
Check out the other fish in the sea
Revisit a childhood love for all things scaly at the Atlantic City Aquarium. You’ll have all day to bond over your love of Groman the Loggerhead Sea Turtle and dare each other to touch sharks and stingrays.
Cost: $10 per person
Play 18 holes – in miniature
Get in touch with your competitive side at Atlantic City Mini Golf. The 18 holes just off the Boardwalk offer a challenge for put-putters of all skill levels, and you and your date can celebrate a hole-in-one, or laugh off a terrible shot or two.
Cost: $10 per person
Get the best view in town
You’re never too old to have fun at an amusement park, and Steel Pier, Atlantic City’s oldest amusement park, is no exception. If the roller coaster or the slingshot seem like a little too much excitement, head for the 225-foot-tall observation wheel, which features climate-controlled gondolas and unbelievable views of the coastline and the ocean on a 30-minute ride that’s the perfect way to cap off date night.
Steel Pier, 1000 Boardwalk Atlantic City, NJ, USA +1 609 345 4893