Summer in New York City is all about weekend getaways. The city gets hot, sticky and smelly. Thankfully, we’re surrounded by beaches to the north (Connecticut), east (Long Island) and south (New Jersey). But only the trip south can add something unique to your beach getaway: gambling. And that’s why thousands of New Yorkers flock to Atlantic City, NJ every summer to enjoy the sand and the slots. And a new express train service is aiming to get people out of the heat and into the action quicker than ever before.
The ACES train makes only one stop in Newark in between New York’s Penn Station and Atlantic City. The train gets you there in under three hours and it’s reasonably priced at $39 each way (with an upgrade to first class for $25 more). It only runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but that’s when most people are heading to AC anyway. I rode the ACES train round trip from New York to Atlantic City last weekend and came away with the following thoughts.
- The price really is reasonable for the ease of the trip, limited stops and traffic-free travel.
- The first class service offers a significantly more pleasant ride and is worth the upgrade.
- ACES service is 30-60 minutes shorter than any bus service.
- A free shuttle is provided to-and-from ACES partner properties (Harrah’s, Caesars and Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa)
- The trains are not scheduled at the most convenient times for maximizing weekend travel plans.
- Some ACES trains are scheduled to take two-and-a-half hours. Others close to three hours. So the time savings isn’t consistent across the schedule.
- There are huge gaps of time when no trains run, so if you want to leave Atlantic City later than 10:45am, you have to wait until 7:25pm (on Sundays).
- There’s no wi-fi internet access.
Overall, ACES is an upgrade over the cramped bus services that many people use for trips to Atlantic City. There’s no traffic and the trains are clean and comfortable. But, at present, the schedule is somewhat inconvenient. I would love to be able to leave AC after my hotel’s checkout time but early enough to get back to NYC in time to unwind before the weekend concludes. And, of course, internet access would make any ride more enjoyable.
I asked the good folks at ACES about the schedule, and they told me that they were somewhat limited by the schedules of NJ Transit and Amtrak, with whom ACES shares tracks. However, they plan to reevaluate their schedule this summer (six months after their February 2009 launch) to see what, if any, changes should be made. I vote for a northbound Sunday train around 4:00pm.
If you’re looking to escape NYC this summer and have a hankering for some roulette, waves and prime people watching, then you’re probably already planning to head to Atlantic City. ACES certainly seems like the best way to get there.