By Dave Grossman, Hotel Magician
This weekend, we took a drive down to Atlantic City to check out some of the city's latest offerings. For sure, in the last few years Atlantic City has been on a major upswing, cleaning up a sizable swath of land between the convention center and the boardwalk (called the Walk, it's an almost Disney-like set of stores, restaurants and outlet mall outposts). More recently, the boardwalk has been getting the attention, with the opening of the Steel Pier amusement area by the Trump Taj Mahal and the gorgeous Ocean One Mall near Wild West.
So what of the nightlife? The Borgata hotel remains our reigning favorite with its Mixx and MurMur nightclubs, Borgata babes serving drinks in the casino, and its overall upscale vibe.
A recent entrant to the mix is The Pool at Harrah's Atlantic City. A gorgeous, glass dome pool for hotel guests by day, it is a nightclub at night. Since Harrah's won't make it clear what the dress code is, and we don't want you to arrive inappropriately dressed and get turned away, the deal is this: dress like you are going to Mixx at Borgata (or any trendy nightspot). Bring a bag with a change of clothes if you'll want to go swimming. For whatever reason, you have to "dress to impress" at the door, but then once inside you can change into swimming attire. It appears there will be a cover charge as well, but it hadn't been implemented yet on our recent visit.
The Pool area is quite stunning - an oasis really - that would be a lot of fun if you are staying in AC for a couple of days and want a really nice pool to enjoy. As for the nightclub side of things - it may be too early to call. The staff was, in general, disorganized. Perhaps they still just need to work the kinks out. The waitresses serving drinks were beautiful and the Borgata Babes had nothing on them.
One thing The Pool does to step up the game is offer private cabanas - at $200 a night as of this writing (pictured at left). With your own private lounge area, a flat screen TV and extra attention from the waitresses, it definitely steps the game up a bit.
Back on the boardwalk, Bally's Atlantic City has opened their Bikini Beach Bar. We really loved the setup here - right on the beach serving both food and drinks, again with some nice looking staff. No blackjack on the beach, though. You could really spend hours hanging out there on a sunny day and you can literally walk right onto the public beach before or after as it is connected. We also noticed the beach is looking nicer than we ever remember it - perhaps also part of the ongoing clean up of the city.
Without question, if you are visiting Atlantic City at a peak time like a Saturday night in summer, rooms will be expensive. Expect to pay from $350 and up at any casino in town. One way to save a few bucks and still get a nice room is the Sheraton Atlantic City, where we ourselves stayed on this trip. While the rack rates get as high as anywhere else, they have AAA rates as low as $229 + tax that may be available if you are a member. The downside is there is no casino but it's at most an $11 cab ride anywhere in town including the Borgata and you can walk from the Sheraton to the boardwalk at Bally's via the Walk we mentioned earlier. It's about a mile.
Other Atlantic City hotels:
Econo Lodge Boardwalk
Tropicana Casino and Resort
Harrah's Atlantic City
Showboat Atlantic City
Holiday Inn Boardwalk
Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort
Caesar's Atlantic City
Sheraton Atlantic City Hotel