I did something last weekend that few people I’ve talked to apparently know you can do. I had known for a while that it was possible, but I’d just never gotten around to it. It’s something a little bit unintuitive, but in the end, pretty rewarding.
I took a train down the shore. Tucked behind the ShopRite on Route 70 in Cherry Hill, there’s an NJ Transit stop for their Atlantic City rail line that runs between Philly and the shore town. There are nine stops in all: the line begins at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and hits Pennsauken (which features a link to NJ Transit’s Riverline between Camden and Trenton), Cherry Hill, Lindenwold (which has a transfer to PATCO), Atco, Hammonton, Egg Harbor City, Absecon, and finally Atlantic City. The trip took about an hour from Cherry Hill, which is comparable to driving, or shorter if there’s bad traffic on the roads.
Now, it’s not for everyone. It only goes to Atlantic City; shore staples like Ocean City or Wildwood remain at the mercy of Expressway and Parkway traffic. But being able to get to the shore on a train was liberating. There was no hunting for expensive parking in a casino lot or garage, no fighting everyone else on the road who had the idea to go down the shore on a nice day. We got off the train right in the thick of the city’s attractions. Once you leave the station, you’re presented with The Walk, an outdoor mall of over 100 regular and outdoor shops and restaurants. You’re just a few blocks from Ducktown, home of the famous White House Sub Shop, which gets its bread from the also-famous Formica Brothers bakery located across the street. If you’re down there to gamble, a decent selection of casinos are close by. The boardwalk is just past that, with its usual New Jersey shore town boardwalk things. There’s also the Pier Shops at Caesar’s, a three story mall on a pier with a restaurant level that includes Steven Starr’s Buddakan and The Continental, where we had dinner. A few blocks south is boardwalk hall, which has concerts and the occasional hockey game or circus. And of course, there’s the vast beach, complete with lounges and bars.
Honestly, Atlantic City is a great day trip destination even if you don’t like gambling. And as NJ Spotlight reported last week, Atlantic City is in fact looking to expand its DO AC campaign to include promoting as many non-gambling attractions as possible, and with good reason. Since several of the states that surround New Jersey have legalized gambling, the city can no longer rely on its exclusivity for a constantly high revenue stream. And now that New Jersey itself has legalized online gambling, it’s about time the city started focusing on other ways to support the massive tourism industry the city was founded on. If you decide to go down this summer, I know a great way to get there.