Atlantic City Is the Most Romantic City in America — What?

A ranking by OpenTable names Atlantic City the most romantic city in the United States. While that may not be true, A.C. is plenty romantic.

Robert Barry's work at the Indiana Avenue Art Park in Atlantic City

Robert Barry’s work at the Indiana Avenue art park in Atlantic City

It was after 6 a.m., and I was still out. About five hours earlier, Sergey Kovalev had completed his win over Philly’s Bernard Hopkins, and Kovalev’s fans were still partying.

Like any good nosy person (er, journalist), I was people-watching as I sat in the hotel lobby bar, aimlessly clicking on a video poker machine and sipping a drink. The bar was full of Kovalev fans in high spirits. After all, their man had just trounced Hopkins. A man in a white Team Russia track suit was getting cozy with a woman across from me. I stopped watching — this seemed like a private enough moment for even me to stop — but eventually I noticed they went off together.

I thought of this when I learned earlier this week that Atlantic City had been named the most romantic city in America. Well, I thought of that second. The first thing I thought was, “What?”

A word on this ranking: It’s produced by restaurant reservation website OpenTable, which calculated the romantic city ranking by “the percentage of restaurants rated ‘romantic’ according to OpenTable diner reviews; the percentage of tables seated for two; and the percentage of people who dined out for Valentine’s Day last year.” It’s part of what New York Times senior software architect Jacob Harris calls a “wave of bullshit data.” It’s not science, but a list that uses data to produce some, well, bullshit ranking. The idea is to make it go viral as journalists repeat it. It doesn’t matter if it’s actual news, or if it’s true. I admit I’ve written these types of posts before, like when I revealed that Philadelphia is the best city to be a vampire last year.

It’s important to be skeptical when reading these types of stories. Fortunately, the most romantic cities list goes Atlantic City, San Antonio, Providence, Key West, Birmingham. This is silly enough on the face of it that it’s easy to be skeptical. the takes were rather skeptical already. The site where I first saw the story,, was sufficiently surprised. It linked to a poll on CBS Philly where now more than 60 percent disagree with the selection.

As it happens, I am going to Atlantic City on Valentine’s Day weekend. When we booked the trip, I thought we were being hipster doofuses, booking a decidedly un-Valentine’s Day place on Valentine’s Day. (Also, there was a good deal on a hotel on Hotwire.) Then I learn we’re literally going to the most romantic place in the United States!

Of course the ranking is silly. It doesn’t mean anything. But don’t dismiss Atlantic City as unromantic. It’s not a dead town. There are quite a few great restaurants and bars; there are a ton of good restaurants and bars. We’ll hit a bunch on Valentine’s Day weekend. Fewer people are gambling and casinos have closed, but Atlantic City’s tourist areas are often bumping. It was packed every time I went down this summer. It’s hopping during conventions. Casinos are busy before and after events at Boardwalk Hall, like people were still out at 6 a.m. after the Hopkins-Kovalev fight. Casinos are struggling because of competition and heavy debt loads. People still go to Atlantic City.

And it’s on the ocean! I’ve had romantic times in Wildwood; Atlantic City can totally pass for romance. Winning a lot of money and buying your significant other something would be romantic if I ever happened to win a lot of money. Valentine’s Day weekend will actually be our second trip to Atlantic City. The last time we walked the boards, dined at my favorite AC restaurant, drank at casino bars, then went to go see Lucy the Elephant the next day. It was simple. It was awesome. It was absolutely romantic.

Sure, AC might not be the most romantic town in the America, not that there is even a way to quantify that. But don’t tell me you can’t find some romance on the boardwalk. Or even under it — though, I guess that’s more for summer.