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The AC

Casino parking is available, but you pay $4 or $5 at each garage. You can, however, use your receipt once to park at another boardwalk or marina casino garage.

THE QUARTER AT THE TROPICANA: Restaurants at the Quarter include the Palm, known for its pricey surf and turf; Cuba Libre, which dishes up Cuban cuisine; P.F. Chang's, serving mass-market Chinese fusion; the Sound of Philadelphia, serving "soul fusion"; and Ri Ra, for Irish pub grub. I had dinner at the Adam Good Crab Shack & Sports Bar; a mound of peel-yourself shrimp and a beer was about $15.

Atlantic City is cleaning up its act, and resorts are drawing younger crowds with new public spaces, such as the Tropicana's Fiesta Plaza in the Quarter. (Tropicana)

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Report Card: Grading Atlantic City Casinos

Nighttime activities include dancing at Cuba Libre and the Sound of Philadelphia, schmoozing at Ri Ra and Red Square, listening to karaoke at Planet Rose and catching a comic at the Comedy Stop. No cover charges at the bars and clubs, but tickets for the Comedy Stop start at $22. Other lounges throughout the resort feature live entertainment; upcoming acts in the Tropicana Showroom include BB King and the O'Jays. Check the Trop's Web site (see below) for times and prices.

Daytime diversions include the Imax theater (from $9.95) and spa treatments at bluemercury (www.bluemercury.com).

General info on Tropicana: 800-THE-TROP, www.tropicana.net.

AROUND TOWN: Live music is much more common in casino lounges than it was even a year ago, but the best shot is Thursday through Saturday nights. Check casino Web sites (see AC tourism below for links) for lounge schedules and upcoming acts in arenas and showrooms.

Bally's (609-340-2000, www.caesars.com/ballys/atlanticcity) features a "Legends in Concert" show (daily except for Fridays) starting at $15, while Borgata (609-317-1000, www.theborgata.com) in coming months will be hosting such big names as Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello. Green Day and others are heading to the Trump Taj Mahal (609-449-1000, www.trumptaj.com).

At the Boardwalk Hall (www.boardwalkhall.com), where Miss America gets crowned each fall, you can catch everything from the Boardwalk Bullies ice hockey team to the Eagles and Rod Stewart.

Mixx at Borgata and Casbah at the Trump Taj Mahal are among the top clubs; both are open on weekends. The rest of the time, Mixx is a restaurant serving Latin/Asian fusion cuisine. Off the boardwalk, the Club Tru Entertainment Complex (9 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 609-347-3500, www.clubtru.com) comprises two connected clubs with tons of dance floor space and more than a half-dozen bars; it opens at 10 p.m. on weekends and closes at 11 a.m. or noon the next morning. Cover charge starts at about $10; weeknights feature special events and themed entertainment.

For smaller clubs and other entertainment around town, pick up one of the free tabloids spotlighting AC, including At the Shore (www.pressofac.com; click on "Entertainment") and Atlantic City Weekly (www.acweekly.com).

WHERE TO STAY: Despite the hype, rooms in the Trop's new Havana Tower are nothing special, with single sinks in the bathrooms, fridges, coffeemakers and uninspiring decor; rates start at $99 double midweek. Rooms in the resort's older towers start at $58 double. For snazzier digs, consider Borgata, whose rooms include marble baths, floor-to-ceiling windows and plush linens. Rates start at $149 double midweek.

Elsewhere, casino rooms are almost always less expensive midweek (Sunday-Thursday) and can easily top $200 a night on weekends. Casinos with newer towers include the Showboat (609-343-4000, www.harrahs.com/our_casinos/sac) and Resorts (800-336-6378, www.resortsac.com). The Sheraton Atlantic City (2 Miss America Way, 609-344-3535, www.sheraton.com/atlanticcity) is one of the newer non-casino hotels in town; midweek rates in April start at about $109.

Away from the boardwalk and marina, you can find respectable, moderately priced chain hotels just across the bay. I stayed Friday and Saturday nights at the Hampton Inn Bayside (7079 Black Horse Pike, 609-484-1900, www.hamptoninnbayside.com) in a surprisingly nice room with a bay view and breakfast included; the total, including tax, was $204.

INFO: Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, 888-AC-VISIT, www.atlanticcitynj.com.

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