What the world knows as Atlantic City is actually just a 5.75-mile strip of beachy land on tiny Absecon Island connected by bridges to mainland New Jersey. This little bit of land is now home to about a dozen mega casinos and tons of hotels, B&Bs and nightclubs, making it party central for the Jersey Shore. It's easy to walk between most of Atlantic City's major attractions, as many are located along the water. Monopoly players will immediately recognize the streets: the board game is based on Atlantic City names and places. Most people simply refer to the entire urban swath as Atlantic City—and the bulk of its famous sights are in the city proper.
Less of a neighborhood and more of a destination, historic Smithville is nonetheless a popular enclave that attracts a lot of Atlantic City foot traffic. It's just a short 20-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of AC as you head toward sandy Cape May. Folks regularly pop in to browse the small stores—called shoppes in colonial-minded Smithville—that sell old Irish lace, sea shell art, homemade candles, fudge, maple candy and more.
It's a curious name to give to the neighborhood known as Atlantic City's "Little Italy," but that's how it is. Ducktown stretches from Missouri Avenue to Texas Avenue in downtown AC, historically populated with Italian and Italian-American families. When the first immigrants arrived in the 1900s, they built little poultry shacks along the bayfront where they raised chickens, geese and ducks—hence the name "Ducktown." After WWII the neighborhood went into a bit of a decline, but by the late-1990s an influx of new families, many Asian and Hispanic, brought it to life again. You'll find an intriguing ethnic mix here, with old houses sporting Italian flags next to Asian and Mexican restaurants.
A small enclave within Atlantic City, Gardner's Basin runs between New Hampshire Avenue and the bay. This is the spot from which many of Atlantic City's seasonal whale and dolphin watching cruises depart, as well as morning boat cruises for those who want to watch the sun come up on the AC's ever-changing skyline. It's also a budding arts district, so you'll find galleries aplenty and ateliers to explore—not to mention street artists in action. The neighborhood's main attraction has to be the city's family-friendly aquarium, where you can easily spend the whole day.
Several of the city's flashiest hotels and casinos are set up around the AC marina, a district known for its nightlife, courtesy of the upscale Borgata and Water Club hotels. The nearby Harrah's also adds to the area with its ultra-hip Pool party at night. The marina area isn't particularly residential, so most businesses are located within the big hotels dominating the waterfront. Yachts, powerboats and even big cruisers can be seen coming and going at all hours, either docking in the casino marinas or pulling into the city-owned slips nearby.
Otherwise known as southern Atlantic City, Margate's a small pocket of sandy dunes and marsh close to Egg Township. It houses Lucy the Elephant, probably its most famous attraction. Margate runs between the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby bay for about eight blocks, and that's the sum total of the city. Around Lucy the Elephant are shops, beachfront restaurants and plenty of summer fun, including a popular garden—Marven Gardens —that's featured in the Monopoly board game.