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The Casinos

The casino hotels are Atlantic City's big draw, luring visitors to spend nearly $5 billion in 2007. First on the Boardwalk was Resorts, at Pennsylvania Avenue (tel. 800/336-6378 or 609/344-6000; www.resortsac.com), which boasts a sharp new look, thanks to a stylish $50-million renovation. It's bright, casual, and colorful, with a beachy vibe and an active showroom with top-flight rock, country, and pop headliners. Next door is Donald Trump's Trump Taj Mahal, at Virginia Avenue (tel. 800/825-8888 or 609/449-1000; www.trumptaj.com). With its Arabian Nights architecture, the Taj has a fun, funky vibe, and swanky, modern new rooms and amenities in its upscale Chairman Tower, which opened in Fall 2008 (visit www.thenewtaj.com).

Clustered around the Boardwalk's midpoint are a number of notable casinos. A massive expansion has put Caesars, at Arkansas Avenue (tel. 800/443-0104 or 609/348-4411; www.caesarsac.com), in league with its landmark Vegas counterpart. The casino is appropriately glitzy and has a lush new spa called Qua. Expect headliners such as Tony Bennett and Jimmy Buffett. The casino offers excellent packages and special promotions, too. Next door is Bally's, at Park Place (tel. 888/537-0007 or 609/340-2000; www.ballys.com), a fun, festive casino with inviting gaming tables and lots of dollar slots. On the second floor is the Gateway mall, connecting to the Claridge next door and also to Bally's Wild Wild West Casino. The casino is very well done in a Disney-esque style, with faux red rocks and audio-animatronic figures (though we have to wonder about its obvious kid appeal, given the casino's stance on discouraging kids from entering).

All that glitters isn't gold at Trump Plaza, at Mississippi Avenue (tel. 800/677-7378 or 609/441-6000; www.trumpplaza.com), but it sure is shiny. Behind the glitz, this is an Everyman's casino. The showroom often showcases big-name stars.

The Tropicana, at Brighton and the Boardwalk (tel. 800/THE-TROP [843-8767]; www.tropicana.net), has undergone a revitalization with its "Quarter at Tropicana" addition. This glossy new shopping and dining complex with an Old Havana theme even has an IMAX theater (and a bluemercury Spa). The addition added 500 new hotel rooms, and some of the casino's old rooms have been updated. The Palm steakhouse and Carmine's, a classic Italian spot, are good dining options for families here.

Farther down, at the cleanest and quietest end of the Boardwalk, is the Atlantic City Hilton (tel. 800/257-8677 or 609/347-7111; www.hiltonac.com). The Hilton does what Atlantic City's other casino hotels don't dare (lest you leave the casino, of course): It provides full beach services to its guests, including beach chairs, cabanas, kayaks, on-the-sand volleyball, and more. It also features a headliner showroom and some surprisingly comfy rooms. It's hands-down the best casino for those who'd like to play at the beach and/or bring the kids, before returning to high-quality rooms.

At Farley State Marina, a quick drive from the Boardwalk via Brigantine Boulevard (Rte. 87), are three more casinos. Harrah's (tel. 800/HARRAHS [427-7247] or 609/441-5000; www.harrahs.com) has just unveiled a $550-million expansion that includes more than 900 new rooms, giving it a younger and hipper vibe; its sleek new Elizabeth Arden Spa, plus "the Pool," a Vegas-like scene with alfresco bars and cabanas, have added to its attractions. Trump Marina (tel. 800/777-8477 or 609/441-2000; www.trumpmarina.com) targets a younger crowd with rock-'n'-roll Muzak and headliners, but it otherwise seems like just another glittery Trump property. The best of the bunch is the Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa and its more sophisticated (and brand-new) sister, the Water Club.

In the Showrooms -- On any given night, Atlantic City's showrooms are peopled with acts ranging from Chris Rock and Aerosmith to Alicia Keys and Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band -- and the quality just keeps getting better. Check with the visitor bureau at tel. 888/AC-VISIT (228-4748) or www.atlanticcitynj.com, or contact the casinos directly for current schedules. You can also find out what's on and buy tickets through Ticketmaster (tel. 856/338-9000; www.ticketmaster.com).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.