Saturday, February 1, 2014

Making Challenge Atlantic City a family friendly event

With registration now open for Challenge AC 2015, I have started plotting my vacation for this event. Although I am not ready to tackle the full 140.6, I plan to do the newly added 70.3!  There are also AB options!

Atlantic City might not scream.. "Family Friendly" but I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts on how to make your trip something for everyone.  Many of you that have not vacationed there, may think of the Jersey Shore in not the best light... i.e. Gym Tan Laundry... but I assure you.. there is much to do beyond that and you can turn your Swim.Bike.Run vacation in a perfect family trication!

I have vacationed 11 miles from AC since I was a kid and love going to "the shore" every summer.  Like my Cedar Point-ers, I will break this post into segments so people have reference points for all of the aspects that go into planning a tri-cation.

Depending on your hometown, there are two major airport options for travel. 

1. Atlantic City Airport (ACY) - is going to be your closet option and ~13 miles from the race.  This is a very small airport with limited airlines and flight paths but Spirit is in the "discount" airline category so you can normally get good fares.  Once you land, you can either rent a car or take a jitney to your lodging.  I would recommend getting a car unless you plan to stay at a boardwalk hotel and be ok not driving around (this would include not having a car to drive the course).

2. Philadelphia Airport (PHL) - Depending on traffic, this can be a 60-120 minute drive.  Many people from Philly will go "to the shore" on the weekends so Friday and Saturday travel will be heavier.  If you fly into Philly, definitely rent a car and consider hitting up some sites before you make the drive the sea. You are able to visit Independence Hall and Liberty Bell at no charge.  If timing is tight, you are able to reserve specific times for $1.50 each.  This might be worth it if you are doing as a quick stop before you go to NJ.

If you don't have a bike box, contact TriBike Transport for bike transportation options. 

The host hotel, Caesars Palace, is one of the nicest hotels in AC.  Staying here is a great option for people happy to stay close to all the action.  If you want to make a week out of it and/or want to give your older kids a bit more "room to roam" without being concerned, consider blending your hotel stay with a rental house/apt. {as an example:  I plan to stay at the host hotel for 1-2 nights and then spend a week at my family's vacation home in OCNJ}

Ventnor City, Margate City and Ocean City are also options for those looking to rent a house and have a bit more room than a hotel room.   Get a feel for rentals in OCNJ (for example) at:

Things to Do:
Obviously, you are going to be busy with triathlon focused events during race week, but what about your family? Unless they plan to be at you beckon call the entire time, here are some ideas for them to have fun.  Breaking them up into cities:

Atlantic City:
  • Steel Pier- (right on the AC Boardwalk) is now an amusement park filled with rides and games but once with the location of the famous diving horses
  • Beaches and Pools-  Most casino hotels will have a pool and AC beaches are open to the public.  You will need to pay to gain admittance and will receive a beach tag (either 1 week or 1 day pass)
  • Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum - If you have been to one, you have been to them all.. but an option for those interested.
  • Boardwalk - Will be filled with snacks, shops and sundries for you to mosey up and down on through the day and evening.  
  • Shopping - Tanger Outlets and The Pier Shops at Caesar's Palace are two non-gambling options where your money might disappear just as fast. :)
  • Shows/Concerts/Tours  -  Visit DOAC site for updates on tours and events
  • Gambling... of course
Margate City:
Lucy the elephant
Ocean City:  As my family's vacation home is in Ocean City, I am going to go into depth about this location:
  • Ocean City is an island that began as a Church retreat island and now is a flourishing community that boasts the title "America's Favorite Family Resort".  It is a dry island (meaning no alcohol) and although there aren't many bike lanes, the place is bike friendly.  Families can rent bikes for the week and/or many rentals will have a few rusty beach cruisers in the garage.   OC has a 2.5 mile boardwalk that has lots of entertainment for kids  (putt putt, arcades, rides, lazer tag, bounce houses and lots of shopping). Days consist of "Beach and Boards."  Beach during the day and boardwalk at night.  Because the island is dry, it is a safe place and many teenage kids will roam the boardwalk on their own.  
10 cent skee-ball = hours of cheap entertainment
  • With the boardwalk being one of the main areas for the children, there is also a downtown area that provides other options.  Highlights include: local bakery, Hoys Five and Dime, non-touristy clothing stores, gym and a great bead store where people can design their own jewelery and make it right there. 
  • Calendar of Events on the tourism site will include specifics about family nights on the boardwalk, family day downtown and any visiting events that might be happening. 
  • Also, the OCSC meets every Wednesday and Saturday for OWS if you are there for the week.  I went last year, and it was a great experience, ESPECIALLY for those new to ocean swimming. There are buoys and someone on shore monitoring activity. Everyone i met was super nice and great place for some warm up or cool down swims post race
On AC, there will be endless food options... from celebrity chef restaurants to boardwalk fries, elephant ears and NY style pizza but that might not suffice as the best pre race food for you and your family.  Here are a list of traditional supermarkets to stock up on your "regular" food.

Atlantic City:  
-  Save-A-Lot Store #221   - 1501 Atlantic Avenue,  Atlantic City NJ 08401
Margate City:
- Casel's Marketplace    8008 Ventnor Avenue,  Margate, New Jersey 08402 
Ocean City:
- Acme Market, 34th & Bay Ave.
- Super Fresh, 800 West Ave.

Perhaps not the healthiest.. but oh so tasty

Hope these thoughts help plan your trip to Challenge AC.
I cannot wait for next June to come around!

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