Best Summer Casino Resort, By Far
Written: Aug 26, 2002 (Updated Aug 26, 2002)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Beach umbrellas, ship-shaped bar, views of the ocean from everywhere, great service
Cons:Hard to get a room on week-ends
The Bottom Line: Absolutely the best A.C. hotel to visit in the summer, the Hilton takes advantage of its ocean front location with an exceptional beach.
The Hilton is easy to spot in the summer. It is only Jersey casino with palm trees, a beach bar, and a long, white beach dotted with bright blue umbrellas.
Last summer, after avoiding the Atlantic City boardwalk for years, thinking it just too depressing, the spouse and I took a week off in August to visit our then-favorite beach town, Cape May, which is about 40 miles south of Atlantic City. It rained that week, and after trolling the shops in Cape May and nearby Stone Harbor, we looked around for something else to do.
Heading up the Garden State Parkway, we drove into Atlantic City, parked at a casino in the middle of the parking lot, and walked to the left -- or north -- stopping briefly at each hotel, having a meal or two, and keeping our opinion that the boardwalk was a tacky, sad place. The next day -- still raining -- we parked in the same place and walked to the right, seeing nothing that we liked much, until, that is, we came upon the Hilton.
The Hilton is different. It is the only casino in Atlantic City that takes advantage of its natural setting. Its bar, the Dizzy Dolphin, is shaped like a ship. Waiters wear nautical outfits, and, best of all, white breakers are clearly visible through the glass doors. Upstairs, on the restaurant level, it is more of the same. A stunning Japanese restaurant looks directly out onto the ocean; there is an airy, outdoor feel to the coffee shop, and some of the tables in the buffet restaurant also look out on the dunes and the sea.
The Hilton beach is something special. The resort rents incredibly comfortable, cruise ship style beach chairs, big umbrellas, cabanans, and even hammocks. There is a bar between the boardwalk and the dunes where bands play calypso, and friendly beach attendants were tasteful tan and blue nautical garb.
At the southern end of Atlantic City, a mile or so from the border with Ventnor, the Hilton's beach is hard and flat enough for long walks, and its sand is powerdery enough to provide an ideal bed for sunbathing. The surf is gentle enough for children, but its waves are big enough for some serious boogie boarding. There are a number of attentive, skilled, friendly lifeguards on duty in the summer.
When we first started to use the Hilton beach, where we are now regulars, we parked in the hotel's incredibly convenient open lot across the street and walked the long way around, thinking the resort would not welcome visitors who were not stopping to gamble, but whose boogie boards and beach bag clearly pointed to a day on the beach. At first we didn't use the resort's bathrooms, either, fearing expulsion for dragging in sand. Soon we found, however, that bathers are welcome. At least one full-time employee is assigned to sweep sand off the carpets near the entrance, and another does the same in the bathroom.
While easy access to a multitude of clean bathrooms at the beach may not sound like a big deal, believe me, in New Jersey it is. Most beach towns have something like two stalls per 30,000 visitors, and post large signs warning that those using them to change their clothes will be arrested, yes arrested.
There are no such signs at the Hilton. Instead there is a multi-head outside shower and carte blanche to change clothes.
While the spouse and I consider the Hilton beach an almost unbelievable find, we like the rest of the hotel too. Since we discovered it last summer, we have stayed several times. Rooms are large and comfortable, if not distinguised in any way. The pool area is unusual in that the pool is ringed with white wicker chaises of a type I have never seen before. The pool itself is small, but adequate, and there is an outdoor sundeck with open views to the south along the shoreline. There is also a spa with a small assortment of exercise equipment, hot tubs, and a sauna.
The Hilton's casino is so small in comparison with other Atlantic City casinos that I worry about how it stays in business. High rollers, maybe? I don't know. The casino is not tiny or claustrophic, as is the casino down the boardwalk at the Claridge, and in fact is attractive and stocked with a good variety of games. Its carpets tend to black rather than purple, and it is an attractive space. It has all the usual video slot machines and half a dozen or more tables for each casino table game.
The Hilton has the requisite formal steak and Italian casino restaurants, a Japanese restaurant -- where Sunday brunch also is served -- with an innovative style, a coffee shop, a second-floor sandwich bar, and a buffet of exceptional quality.
Unlike other casinos, which require visitors to hike a long, long block to the street, past a dead landscape of parking garages, the Hilton opens directly onto the street. This makes catching a Jitney to anywhere in the city easy. Parking is easy too, in a covered garage, or in the open lot that we find most convenient on the many Sundays when we come down for a day of body surfing.
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