Atlantic City’s Quaint Spots Add to the Fun
It was the penny-pinching Fred Mertz (the I Love Lucy show) who was on my mind as I contemplated a low budget trip to Atlantic City. “Twenty dollars, Ethel? Twenty dollars?”
Well, I had considerably more burning a hole in my pocket—15 twenties in fact. But as a regular visitor to Atlantic City, I knew that you can spend $300-a-night on a hotel room (during the season) and even now, a room in a casino-hotel could eat up a good chunk of my budget. Nevertheless, I was up for the challenge. Armed with a newfound “Fred Mertz” mentality, and my agreeable husband in tow, I set off to spend three fun and frugal days in Atlantic City.
It was just about midday when James and I arrived. We headed straight for our hotel, which, coincidentally, was our luncheon spot. Built in 1903, The Inn at the Irish Pub has an international reputation that brings many overseas visitors to its doors. The restaurant itself has a strong local following and is always busy.
No need to worry about parking fees here. The Irish Pub maintains an ample lot just across the street. Located right by the Boardwalk between Resorts and the Sands, the Inn at the Irish Pub offers a nice location and an even nicer price tag—$63.60 per night for two, Sunday through Thursday, and $91.40 per couple on weekends. If you opt for a room without your own shower and bath, it’s even less. The catch? The Inn is only open from April 21 through September 10 because it has no heat.
We announced our arrival at the gift shop entrance. Frank, the hotel manager, took us through the restaurant and up a staircase. Not even the Internet photos had prepared me for the beauty of this Victorian lobby. The elaborate décor, the pretty sitting areas and the wrap-around porch were perfect spots to visit with your neighbors, and Frank attested that many people stay here for that reason.
From the lobby area, we took a tiny elevator up to our room. There are 60 rooms in the Inn and each is a little bit different. They’re all furnished with antiques and most have views of the ocean—but no televisions. There’s one in the lobby if you want to watch.
We dropped our bags and headed downstairs. The Irish Pub serves up a daily lunch special for just $1.95. Today’s selection was a meatball sandwich and minestrone soup. We ordered two, and conscious of the budget, opted for water. The portions were generous and the service friendly. We were surrounded by posters everywhere, accented by stained-glass windows, Tiffany lamps and Irish music. We vowed to return for dinner.
With the day ahead of us, we headed to the Boardwalk. The Atlantic City Historical Museum and Art Center were just a few blocks away. James had never been there and I wanted to get him a pickle pin.
The pickle pins are free at the Historical Museum, reminiscent of the time when real pickles were given away at Heinz Pier. Both venues are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily with no admission charge. We stopped in the Museum first to watch the video and browse the exhibits. Then we headed to the Art Center to check out work of the local artists.
The day was already moving too quickly, so a trip back to the Inn was in order. We were staying in the area for dinner, so we soon headed to Resorts Atlantic City. Because Uptown Club members get a discount, we joined the club and enjoyed the buffet for just $8.99. It was well worth the expense. We ate our fill of kielbasa with sauerkraut, chicken Parmesan, tortilla-crusted tilapia and baked ziti. My sweet tooth was completely satisfied at the lavish dessert buffet. We emerged stuffed, and in need of a walk.
As it turned out, we went right through the casino, and the jangling of the slot machines was just too tempting. We spent a very enjoyable hour there, and even scored free drinks! It was the perfect nightcap.
The next day we arose bright and early, as some of the Inn guests were just coming in from their late night. Hotel manager Frank had suggested breakfast at Perry’s. Said to have the best breakfast in town, Perry’s delivered with perfectly done eggs, crisp home fries and piping hot coffee.
Off to the Boardwalk again to join the many joggers, bikers and walkers at this time of day. We took a nice long walk, and landed almost an hour later at The Quarter at The Tropicana, the Havana-themed retail and entertainment complex.
James and I purchased the “lunch and a show” special for $15. While the promotion won’t be active at press time, Tropicana regularly runs specials like this one. Check their website for more details.
Our lunch was at Cuba Libre, an authentic Cuban restaurant that continued the theme of The Quarter. We had a taste of Old Havana against a backdrop of Spanish music and Cuban art. Then it was on to the IMAX Theatre for a larger-than-life show that took us to the top of Mount Everest without ever leaving our seats.
Afterward, we strolled a bit more through The Quarter, but I was quickly getting tired. I introduced James to another Atlantic City institution, the Jitney. Jitneys are small buses that travel the length of the city for a nominal amount. They used to cost a nickel, but today’s ride set us back $2 a person. We arrived at the Inn hot, tired and ready to relax.
A card game was going in the lobby as we entered and a group of people were watching TV. We headed to our room for some quiet time before dinner. We were dying to check out the Irish Pub dinner special.
It did not disappoint. I had the ham steak and James the fish and chips. He indulged in a beer; after all, we were in a pub and our budget was going well. The night crowd was lively and there was, believe it or not, a leprechaun in full costume standing in the gift shop. Later, I was told, there would be Irish music. We didn’t stay. We opted for a romantic moonlit stroll to the Showboat and the Trump Taj Mahal, where we promptly lost 30 more dollars.
The next day was check-out. With money running low, we opted for the Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast—a medium coffee and two donuts for just $2.79. A few blocks away, we parked our car at the Atlantic City Outlets—The Walk for $4. It was time for some serious window shopping and The Walk offered some of the best.
We tried on shoes at Ecco, clothes at Liz Claiborne and browsed the bargains at H&M. Ever conscious of my shrinking cash supply, I did not buy—but made a mental note to revisit. The prices were great.
By lunchtime, I was famished. I took James to an old Atlantic City Institution, the White House Sub Shop, just a few blocks away. It was too crowded to be seated but we took our subs and found some park-style seating near The Walk and the Atlantic City Expressway.
As we sat there munching, I fingered the change in my pocket—a whole dollar and three cents.
There’s still time. Maybe I should go and throw it in a slot machine.