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The National Road & Atlantic City

An Excerpt from Let's Go Roadtripping USA

The book provides information on eight different roadtrip itineraries.

This excerpt introduces one of the routes, known as 'The National Road' and includes area information about Atlantic City (pictured left), from where the route commences.



This page is an excerpt from the introduction to the book Let's Go Roadtripping USA.

If cross-country’s the name, the National Road is your game. This route cuts across the middle of the country, from sea to shining sea. For the first stretch, you’ll follow the Old National Road, much of which is today’s U.S. 40. Construction on this road began in 1811, and the road reached its original terminus, Wheeling, WV (p. 328) by 1818. By 1833, it had been extended to Vandalia, IL (p. 344); from the start of the route to Vandalia, Old National Road Markers, as well as Madonna of the Trails (p. 328) statues, are still visible on the roadsides.

Route Stats

Miles: c. 3000
Route: Atlantic City, NJ to San Francisco, CA.
States: 14; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California.
Driving Time: Give yourself three to four weeks to begin to experience what the road has to offer.
When To Go: Almost any time you feel like taking off for California. Go in winter and ski in Colorado (but keep in mind that driving conditions can be treacherous) or go in summer and explore the wilderness along the way (but keep in mind that prices and temperatures are higher). The bottom line? Just go.
Crossroads: The East Coast in Atlantic City, NJ (p. 91); Route 66 in St. Louis, MO (p. 470); The Oregon Trail in Independence, MO (p. 544); The North American in Ely, NV (p. 693); The Pacific Coast in San Francisco, CA (p. 941).

Route Overview

Start your trip in Atlantic City, NJ -- check out Lucy the Elephant (p. 304), but don’t spend all your quarters at the slots here; save some for Reno, NV (p. 416), still 2700 mi. down the road. From here, continue on to Philadelphia (p. 305), revered by some as the birthplace of the nation and revered by more as the birthplace of the cheesesteak sandwich, before passing through Baltimore (p. 315). Soon enough you’ll enter the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Stop at scenic Harpers Ferry National Historic Park (p. 322) before rolling through Ohio and into Indiana, home of the world’s only National Cookie Cutter Museum (p. 338) and the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway (p. 340). Continue, officially passing into the West under the arch at St. Louis (p. 346) and then through Missouri, home state of ragtime legend Scott Joplin (in Sedalia, p. 355). Next is Kansas, home of the world’s largest hairball (p. 373). By now, you’ll be on U.S. 50, another famous continent-crosser, paralleling the historic Lincoln Highway. It’s a long, straight shot to Colorado, and then from Denver (p. 379) up into the mountains, winding through the Rocky Mountains National Park (p. 387) and some of the nation’s best skiing at Vail (p. 391). This area also hosts unparalleled opportunities for summertime activities, including rafting and mountain biking.

The stunning scenery continues into Utah; our route takes you through Moab (p. 399), gateway to the spectacular formations of Arches National Park (p. 400), and then north to Salt Lake City (p. 405) and its namesake Great Salt Lake. From there, it’s on to northern Nevada, where U.S. 50 is known as “The Loneliest Road,” tracing the route of the shortlived Pony Express (p. 415). The road here is a black ribbon winding across the desert, broken by the occasional cow, cactus, or mining town. You’ll pass Great Basin National Park (p. 410) and then Reno -- ”biggest little city in the world” -- before the welcome blue oasis of Lake Tahoe (p. 419), which somehow offers pristine wilderness and casino-sponsored debauchery (p. 422) side-by-side. Continuing west, you’ll come down from the Sierra Nevada into California’s Central Valley. Berkeley (p. 429), is a bibliophile’s dream and home to Chez Panisse (p. 430), the birthplace of California Cuisine. Go west, young roadtripper, until you can go west no more, ending your journey in San Francisco (p. 432). Watch the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge (p. 435), a grand end to a grand transcontinental roadtrip.

Welcome to New Jersey


An express train and early cars once brought thousands of East Coast city dwellers to Atlantic City for inexpensive weekend getaways, and later the city gained fame as the home of the Miss America Pageant and the source of Monopoly’s property names. But the former opulence of Boardwalk and Park Place have faded from neglect and evolved into casino-driven tackiness. Gambling, legalized in the 1970s in an attempt to revive the city, brought mega-dollar casinos to the Boardwalk and restored a flow of tourists, but the casinos appear to have done little for the city itself. Highlights center on the Boardwalk, where blaring announcements invite pedestrians to step into the casinos to try their luck. .

Getting Around

Attractions cluster on and around the Boardwalk, which runs northeast-southwest along the Atlantic Ocean. Parallel to the Boardwalk, Pacific Ave. and Atlantic Ave. offer cheap restaurants, hotels, and convenience stores. Atlantic Ave. can be dangerous after dark, and any street farther inland can be dangerous even by day. Getting around is easy on foot on the Boardwalk.

The Jitney, 201 Pacific Ave., is basically a small shuttle bus. Jitneys run on four routes to all the casinos and most major points of interest. (609-344-8642. $12.50 for 10 tickets or $1.50 in cash per ride). Rolling Chair Rides appear along the Boardwalk as frequently as yellow cabs in Manhattan.
(617-347-7500. $5 for up to 5 blocks.)

Parking is available on some residential streets. Try Oriental Ave. at New Jersey Ave. near the Garden Pier Historic Museum for free 3hr. parking at easy walking distance from the Boardwalk. Be careful at night: this area is more desolate than other parts of the city. On streets farther from the Boardwalk, such as down Martin Luther King Blvd., free parking is unlimited, but be prepared to walk several blocks to the Boardwalk and casinos. Parking lots near the Boardwalk run $5-10.

Atlantic City Vital Stats

Population: 41,000
Visitor Info: Atlantic City Visitors Center (609-449-7130), on the Atlantic Expwy., 1 mi. after the Pleasantville Toll Plaza. Open daily 9am-5pm. Atlantic City Convention Center and Visitors Bureau Info Center (888-228-4748;, on the Boardwalk at Mississippi St. Open daily 9:30am-5:30pm; Memorial Day-Labor Day Th-Su until 8pm.
Internet Access: Atlantic City Library, 1 N. Tennessee Ave. (609-345-2269). Open M-W 10am-8pm, Th-Sa 9am-5pm.
Post Office: 1701 Pacific Ave (609-345-4212), at Illinois Ave. Open M-F 8:30am-6pm, Sa 8:30am-12:30pm. Postal Code: 08401.


  • The Boardwalk. There’s something for everyone in Atlantic City, thanks to the Boardwalk. On one side stretches the beach, with its bars and two piers of arcades and amusement rides. The other side is lined with gift shops, surf shops, food stalls selling pizza, funnel cakes, stromboli, and ice cream, the occasional jewelry store, and, of course, the casinos (see p. 303). There’s often live music playing, usually paid for by casinos trying to lure in gamblers. Visitors can walk, ride bikes between 6 and 10am, or take advantage of the rolling chairs. Most of the action along this 8 mi. stretch takes place south of the Showboat. Beyond this harried flurry of activity, it’s most enjoyable as a quiet walk. Those under 21 play for prizes at the many arcades that line the Boardwalk, including Central Pier Arcade & Speedway. The pier also has go-karts and paintball. (At the Boardwalk and Tennessee Ave. 609-345-5219. Go-karts single $6, double $14. Must be 12 and 54 in. tall to ride alone. Paintball $3 per 15 shots.) The historic Steel Pier juts into the coastal waters with a ferris wheel that spins riders over the Atlantic. It also offers the rest of the usual amusement park attractions: a roller coaster, a carousel, and games of “skill” aplenty. (On the Boardwalk at Virginia Ave. 609-898-7645 or 866-386-6659; Open daily noon-midnight; call the Taj Mahal for winter hours. Tickets one for $0.75 or 35 for $25. Rides 1-5 tickets.) When and if you tire of spending money, check out the historic Atlantic City Beach, pretty much the only free activity in town. For more water fun, visitors invariably stumble upon at least one of the piers occupied by Morey’s Piers & Raging Waters Waterparks. (On the Boardwalk at 25th Ave., Schellenger, and Spencer. }609-522- 3900 or 888-667-3971; Just west of Atlantic City, Ventnor City Beach offers more tranquil shores.

  • Museums. Those looking for a quieter, more cultured way to spend the afternoon can explore the Atlantic City Art Center, which displays the work of local and regional artists. (On Garden Pier at New Jersey Ave. and the Boardwalk. 609-347-5837; Open daily 10am- 4pm. Free.) On the same pier, the Atlantic City Historical Museum contains memorabilia from the history of the “Queen of Resorts,” including displays on the Miss America Pageant, Monopoly, sand art, and the role of electricity. (609-347-5839; Open daily 10am-4pm. Free.)

  • Other Sights. The tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and the third tallest in the nation, Absecon Lighthouse ceased operation in 1933. Today, it remains open as a tourist attraction, offering a small museum and the chance to climb to the top for a stunning view of the city and ocean. (31 S. Rhode Island Ave. Drive northeast on Pacific Ave. from midtown; it’s on the left. 609-449-1360; Open July-Aug. daily 10am-5pm; Sept. June M and Th-Su 11am-4pm. Call for winter hours. $5, seniors $4, ages 4-12 $2.) Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum may not be quite so historically oriented, but it does feature some pretty freaky artifacts and stories that are, well, hard to believe. (At New York Ave. and the Boardwalk. 609-347-2001; Open summer daily 10am-10pm; winter M-F 11am-5pm, Sa-Su 10am-9pm. $11, ages 5-12 $7, under 5 free.)


All casinos on the Boardwalk fall within a dice toss of one another. The farthest south is the elegant Hilton, between Providence and Boston Ave. (609-347-7111 or 800-257-8677;, and the farthest north is the gaudy Showboat, at Delaware Ave. and Boardwalk. (609-343-4000 or 800-621-0200; Donald Trump’s glittering Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, 1000 Boardwalk, (609- 449-1000;, at Virginia Ave., is too ostentatious to be missed; this tasteless tallboy and the rest of Trump’s casino holdings have been struggling with financial difficulties.

In true Monopoly form, Trump owns three other hotel casinos in the city: the recently remodeled Trump Plaza, at Mississippi and the Boardwalk (609-441-6000 or 800-677-7378;; Trump World’s Fair, on the Boardwalk (800-473-7829); and Trump Castle, on Huron Blvd. at the Marina (609-441-2000; In summer, energetic partiers go to “rock the dock” at Trump Castle’s indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant, The Deck (877-477-4697).

Many a die is cast at Caesar’s Boardwalk Resort and Casino, 2100 Pacific Ave., at Arkansas Ave. (609-348-4411; At Indiana Ave., The Sands (609-441-4000; stands tall and flashy with its seashell motif. The newest casino in town is The Borgata (866-692-6742;, a golden scintillation near the Trump Marina Hotel Casino and Harrah’s in the Marina District that has been in the works since 2000.

All casinos are open 24hr. and are dominated by slot machines.


Although not recommended by nutritionists, $0.75 hot dogs and $1.50 pizza slices are readily available on the Boardwalk, and there is no shortage of ice-cream parlors. Some of the best deals in town await at the casinos, where all-you-can-eat lunch ($7) and dinner ($11) buffets abound. Tastier, less tacky fare can be found farther from the seashore.

  • Inn of the Irish Pub, 164 St. James Pl. (609-345-9613; Locals lounge downstairs and foreign students and hostelers stay upstairs at this hostel-and-bar combo. Serving hearty pub-style food all night, it’s packed with carousers at all hours. Start off with a “20th St. sampler” (buffalo wings, fried mozzarella, potato skins, and chicken thumbs; $7). The daily lunch special (11:30am-2pm) includes a sandwich and a cup of soup for $2. Dinner specials 2-8pm ($6). Domestic drafts $1. Open 24hr. Cash only.

  • White House Sub Shop, 2301 Arctic Ave. (609-345-8599, takeout 609-345-1564;, at Mississippi Ave. Sinatra was rumored to have had these immense subs ($4-7 for half, $9-12 for whole) flown to him while on tour. Pictures of sub-lovers Joe DiMaggio, Wayne Newton, and Mr. T overlook the team making each sandwich to order. Open Su-Th 10am-10pm, F-Sa 10am-11pm. Cash only.

  • Tony’s Baltimore Grille, 2800 Atlantic Ave. (609-345-5766), at Iowa Ave. Tourists can’t resist the old-time Italian atmosphere with personal jukeboxes, not to mention the $3-8 pizza. Seafood platter $12. Open daily 11am-3am. Bar open 24hr. Cash only.


Motels are located 2-6 mi. out of town on U.S. 40 and U.S. 30, as well as in Absecon (8 mi. west of town on U.S. 30). Before dropping in the off season, rates can more than triple the week of the Miss America Pageant, usually the second or third week in September.

  • Inn of the Irish Pub, 164 St. James Pl. (609-344-9063;, between New York Ave. and Tennessee Ave., near the Ramada Tower. Spacious, clean rooms less than a block from the Boardwalk. Enjoy the porch’s rocking chairs and refreshing Atlantic breeze. The downstairs bar offers lively entertainment and a friendly atmosphere. Key deposit $7. Free parking across the street. Doubles with $45-52, with bath $75-90; quads with shared bath $85-99.

  • Comfort Inn, 154 S. Kentucky Ave. (609-348-4000), between Martin Luther King Blvd. and New York Ave., near the Sands. Basic rooms with king-size or 2 queensize beds and -- true to Atlantic City swank -- a jacuzzi. Continental breakfast, free parking, and a heated pool. Rooms with ocean views are $20 extra, but come with fridge, microwave, and a bigger jacuzzi. Reserve in advance for weekends and holidays. Singles June-Aug. $100-159; Sept.-May $59-69.

  • Rodeway Inn, 124 S. North Carolina Ave. (609-345-0155 or 800-228-2000), across from the Resorts Casino. Fairly basic motel room fare, but the rates are reasonable and the location is excellent, nestled between the pricier resort casinos and only a bit farther from the Boardwalk. Rooms $50-150.

  • Red Carpet Motel, 1630 Albany Ave. (609-348-3171). A bit out of the way, off the Atlantic Expwy. on the way to town. Be careful in the surrounding neighborhood after dark. Standard, comfy rooms with cable TV and free shuttles to the Boardwalk and casinos. Restaurant in lobby. Doubles $39-59; quads $55-79. Prices can jump to $130 summer weekends.

Lucy the Elephant 9200 Atlantic Ave.

In Margate City, off the Garden State Pkwy. at Exit 36. Follow signs to Margate and Lucy.

Originally built in 1881 by land developer James Lafferty as a marketing gimmick, Lucy has always been a sight for the public. It’s no wonder; at 65 ft. and 90 tons, she’s hardly the average pachyderm. After she fell into disrepair in the 1960s, the Save Lucy Committee convinced the city to donate land for a site and raised $62,000 to restore her and move her two blocks down the beach to her present location. (609-823-6473; Open mid-June to Labor Day M-Sa 10am-8pm, Su 10am-5pm; Apr. to mid-June and Sept.-Dec. Sa-Su 10am-5pm. Tours every 30min. $4, children $2. No public parking or restrooms; free street parking.)

Leaving Atlantic City

U.S. 40 has a humble and unlabeled beginning. Take Pacific Ave. southwest until it curves right onto Albany St. (U.S. 40).

Mays Landing

Eighteen miles along U.S. 40 from Atlantic City is well-maintained Mays Landing. Note the American Hotel on your left and the courthouse on your right, both built in the late 1830s. The American Hotel now forms part of the public library, 40 Farragut Ave., which offers free Internet access. (609-625-2776. Open M-Th 9am-9pm, F-Sa 9am-5pm.) A bit more homey than area diners, Ye Old Mill Street Pub, 6033 W. Main St., is a good choice for grub. (609-625-2466. Lunch $3-5. Open M-Sa 11:30am-midnight, Su 1pm-midnight.)


Sixty-four miles from Atlantic City, U.S. 40 passes through Woodstown. Architecturally interesting buildings line Woodstown’s leafy main streets. Locals congregate under chef photographs at the Woodstown Diner, 16 E. Ave. (856-769-1140. Breakfast $1.75-6.50. Lunch $4.50-7. Dinner $5-16. Open daily 6am-10pm.)

The Road to Camden

Leaving Woodstown, keep left to stay on U.S. 40. When you see the exit to the right for U.S. 40/Delaware Memorial Bridge, stay straight. One mile ahead, turn right on U.S. 130, and head north to Camden. Along U.S. 130, you’ll pass small Penn’s Grove. One of several depressed towns along the New Jersey shore, Penn’s Grove has little to it; most buildings are boarded up. Turning left onto Main St., about a half-mile into town on U.S. 130, takes you to the center of town, and then to the water.

Copyright 2005 Let's Go Publications

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Originally published 15 Apr 2005

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Let's Go Roadtripping USA review
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