Atlantic City is often synonymous with gaudy casinos and adult nightlife. But there’s more to the story. A side of the city not defined by flashing lights or noisy slot machines. As a lifelong local who has experienced this seaside town, I’m here to offer genuine a soul-enriching recommendations.

Despite the common narrative that Atlantic City lacks green, nature-friendly options, here’s a treasure trove of summertime delights. If you love to splash and play in summer wellness, these are for you. Whether you’ve paddled through serene waters, biked along scenic paths, or soared above the ocean’s expanse, each activity adds a healthy memory to your travel journal.

Expansive, clean beach with ocean views, featuring peaceful and relaxing atmosphere, adding to Atlantic City summer fun
Even though Atlantic City has beautiful beaches, this post focuses on other summer attractions in the city.

This guide is crafted especially for women who, like myself, find healing in the embrace of nature and thrill in adventure. From hidden trails perfect for a morning hike to tranquil spots for meditation by the sea, I’ve explored them all.

But first, a few logistics:

Getting There:

The nearest airport to Atlantic City, New Jersey, is the Atlantic City International Airport (ACY). This airport is located about 12 miles northwest of downtown Atlantic City in Egg Harbor Township. It offers limited service but includes flights from several major and regional airlines.

Another major nearby airport is the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), which is approximately 60 miles west of Atlantic City. Philadelphia International Airport provides a much wider range of domestic and international flights.

So join me as we uncover the peaceful, exhilarating, and absolutely fun summer activities that Atlantic City has to offer, proving that our beloved city is much more than its casinos. Because you don’t have to be shiny and loud to be a hidden gem. That’s the Atlantic City I offer to you in the list below:

1. Art Garage 

The Art Garage in Atlantic City, located at 2200 Fairmount Avenue, is a progressive and inclusive up-and-coming little museum. In their creative space, they house an array of artist studios, galleries, and shops.

They also  provide a platform for local artists to showcase their work (my son performed in a Poetry Slam open mic night). They feature programs for children and adults, from easy Printmaking hosted by Stockton Professors to serious displays of renown photographers and sculptors.

The venue hosts art-related events, workshops, and exhibitions. It’s perfect for getting a taste of the artsy side of AC. 

They showcase unique art pieces if you’re looking for a traditional art museum experience, and highlight the talent here in and around Atlantic City. 

However, why not participate in an art class to learn something new and expand your cultural knowledge of AC Art? Even if you just browse, it’s nice for getting out of the summer heat and humidity. Check for pricing details.

2. Gardner’s Basin

A banner image for Gardner's Basin, showcasing an inviting view of Atlantic City that highlights attractions other than its famous beaches and casinos.

Located at 800 North New Hampshire Avenue is a charming waterfront area located off the beaten path of the city’s more famous attractions. This scenic spot offers a tranquil escape with panoramic views of the water, marina, and skyline. 

Gardiner’s Basin offers so much. Besides craft shops, walking paths, picnic areas, and the location of the Aquarium, it also provides waterfront dining with fresh seafood. While you enjoy a meal you can view the marina with the large variety of boats.

Scenic view of Gardner’s Basin in Atlantic City featuring panoramic views of the water, marina, and skyline under a clear blue sky. Distant view of the United States Coast Guard Air Station across the water from the bustling marina area.
Besides boats and casinos, the United States Coast Guard Air Station sits across the water.

Adjacent to the eateries on the water, it also happens to be home to Kammerman’s Marina filling station.  So you may catch an up close glimpse of a million dollar yacht filling up for a day of luxury cruising.

 Exterior view of Gilchrist Restaurant at Gardner's Basin, noted for its friendly service and great food, with a casual dining setup.
Gilchrist Restaurant at Gardiner’s Basin – freindly service and great food

3. Margate Memorials Lifeguard Races

This year held on August 2, 2024 6:30 pm, The Margate Memorials Lifeguard Races are a free annual event held on the beach in Margate City. 

Ok so technically not in Atlantic city but still on Absecon Island, the local favorite lifeguard races are a must-see. Located about 15-20 minutes from  Atlantic City, this exciting competition brings together lifeguards from various beach patrols along the Jersey Shore to demonstrate their skills in swimming, rowing, and other lifeguard disciplines. 

This event shows the serious side of lifeguards, and the pride they take in beach safety. Spectators can watch teams compete in a series of challenging races and events, showcasing strength, endurance, and teamwork. The Margate Memorials Lifeguard Races are not only a thrilling sports event but also a tribute to the lifeguards’ commitment to protecting beachgoers.

In addition to the Margate Memorials, The John T. Goudy Memorial Rescue Races  will also take place on Friday, August 16 at the Suffolk Avenue Beach in Ventnor. The lifeguard races begin at 6:15pm and on that same day a music concert featuring The Rockets is scheduled to begin immediately following, at approximately 7:30pm.

4. Beach Combing

This free activity is collecting sea glass. If you’ve already checked out Gardiner’s Basin from the list above, then you’re close to the secret spot. Maine Avenue in the Inlet of Atlantic City and park your car. A short walk, less than a block, will bring you to a tiny rock scramble. You’ll lower yourself from the boardwalk ramp down to the boulders to each the beach. It’s not particularly difficult, but if you have mobility issues, you might want to stick to gazing at the ocean from the pier.

Makeshift ladder made from wooden pallets leading down to a rocky beach area, used for beach combing activities.
You can see the makeshift ladder made out of pallets. Remember these are recs from a local, not tourist traps.

Once you have gathered all of your accessories, the only thing left to do is stroll along the beach and pick up beautifully polished sea glass. If it’s a good day, you’ll find that you have quite a collection.  The sea glass can be used for all types of art projects, or just display small vase. What makes it extra special is when you look back, you’ve not only found treasure, but made lovely memories at the Jersey Shore…even in the winter! If you combine this activity with mindfulness, you’ll also find beauty and tranquility in the simple act of engaging in nature. Peace will be another treasure you take along with you. 

Sea glass collected after about 20 minutes of beach combing
Sea glass collected after about 20 minutes of beach combing

5. Bike Riding

Did you know Atlantic City is the exception to the rule with boardwalk bike riding? It’s true…AC bicycling on the boardwalk is permitted May 15 through September 15 from 6:00 am to 12 Noon year-round. Most area communities restrict biking after 10am. 

It gets even better…from Jackson to Albany Avenues, bicycling is permitted from 6 am – 12 Noon on Saturdays and Sundays. And from July 1 through Labor Day.. From Connecticut Avenue to Gardner’s Basin, bicycling is permitted 24-hours, year-round. So if you love to ride your bike, this is the city for you!

Ending section of the Atlantic City Boardwalk with ocean views, featuring benches and a relaxing atmosphere. Distant view of the United States Coast Guard Air Station across the water from the bustling marina area.
When you come to the end of the Boardwalk, you’re rewarded with sea breezes and friendly seating,

A Boardwalk bicycle adventure is one of the best ways to experience what makes the boardwalk so great, such as sea breezes, leisurely atmosphere and great people watching.

Don’t have a bike? Rent one! Although not free, Cycles of Life,  located at 3015 Boardwalk in Atlantic City has rentals available.  

6. Atlantic City Aquarium

I’ve been here lots of times over the years and was sad when it closed. Thankfully, it’s reopening with a new and improved set up. Located in the historic Gardner’s Basin, the aquarium is an affordable attraction with a variety of marine life and exhibits. There is an admission fee, but it’s reasonably priced.

Exterior view of the Atlantic City Aquarium showcasing a variety of marine life exhibits and interactive areas for visitors.

The aquarium offers a fun experience for visitors of all ages. It’s small but cozy, and  features a variety of marine and freshwater species, including local and exotic fish, sharks, rays, and even a touch tank where guests can interact directly with sea creatures like starfish and horseshoe crabs. 

Highlights include live feeding demonstrations and informative talks. The aquarium’s scenic waterfront setting enhances the visit, making it a perfect family-friendly attraction that combines learning and wildlife. Prices weren’t released at the time of this writing, so check the website for information.

7. Free Summer Concerts

Again, not technically Atlantic City, but still very close by at Dorset Ave & Burke Ave

Ventnor, you’ll be treated to a world-class music experience. I attended a concert at this free  outdoor venue with the music of Motown and it was fabulous. Very happy people danced and sang as the sunset over gorgeous SkiBeach. There’s a reason Ventnor City won the very competitive Best of The Best Concert Series for 2024. 

Water views of Ski Beach bay where concerts take place.
Water views of Ski Beach, where concerts take place. Sunsets over the bay are some of the best in the city.

Taking place twice a week beginning May 25 and continuing til August 31, you can catch free concerts on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting at 6pm. 

Outsiders might not be aware of the fact that most families that reside in the towns of Ventnor, Margate, and Longport can trace their generational roots back to the city of Atlantic City. Therefore, seeing the races through the eyes of the locals gives a good flavor of hometown camaraderie.

8. AC Parasailing

Looking for a bit of a thrill? Try this really fun and low-key adventure. Im did this activity with my kids (who were school-age) and it was a blast! You head out on a speed boat with maybe 2-3 other participants.

Author and family preparing for a parasailing adventure, with the boat and gear visible against a backdrop of the ocean.

When it’s your turn, the boat slows and so you can situate yourself on a small seat and hold onto a bar slightly above your head. As the boat begins again, you slowly lift into the air.  

It’s an exhilarating way to experience the beauty of the ocean and the city from above and relive childhood excitement.

You are out on the boat for about an hour and soar up to 500 feet in the air. One unexpected bonus was viewing the stingrays and small sharks from high above. Don’t worry, they don’t bother you. AC Parasailing offers experienced and friendly captains and crew who prioritize safety and fun.  AC Parasailing offers rides from morning until evening in Atlantic City and although it is costly ($95 a person) it really is worth it. I promise it’s as close to skydiving as you’ll get without the serious risk of danger while having fun making unforgettable memories.

Final Thoughts On Atlantic City Summer Fun

Growing up in Atlantic City offered many unique opportunities to experience historical landmarks like the Diving Horse and the amusement piers of the 1950s and 1960s. My parents and grandparents talked about Steel Pier, Million Dollar Pier, Garden Pier and Central Pier often. Seeing pictures and hearing stories growing up made me feel happy. It reminds me that my parents, just like Atlantic City, can have their serious problems, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still love the good parts and receive joy.

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