Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Atlantic City: Vegas of the East

As you know, I spent my New Years on the shores of Atlantic City, NJ with my good friends Curt and Diana.  On New Years Eve, we met up with 6 other friends and had a fabulous time bringing in the new year.  Since I already documented the drunken happenings of that celebration, I'd like to take some time speaking generally about Atlantic City and what it has to offer.
Source: gamblersdata
Timeframe: As I mentioned in my Las Vegas post, it is always debatable how much time is needed when spending time in a city that boasts gambling as its cornerstone.  However, when it's warmer out, Atlantic City has a bit more to offer than just gambling.  For instance, you can take in the Boardwalk scene, stopping at a myriad of stores, eateries and candy shops.  You can also take in the Steel Pier in front of the Taj Majal.  The Steel Pier, which originally opened up in 1898, was famous in its heydey for showcasing the nation's most famous entertainers.  After a 17 year hiatus, Steel Pier reopened in 1993 and now offers patrons 24 rides, many games, snacks and affordable helicopter rides.  If you're also brave enough to bear the cold Atlantic Ocean, you can also of course take in the beach itself.  If without a beach chair, the city's website indicates that there are a number of stands offering daily chair rentals.

To be fair, I should warn you all to stay in the more busy/populated areas of the Boardwalk, because it has some more seedy, run-down areas that should be avoided.
Source: curlybearproductions
Flight options: Atlantic City is home to a small airport (code ACY).  There are only a few well-known airlines that serve the airport, namely AirTran and Spirit.  Spirit actually offers a non-stop flight from Boston to Atlantic City at reasonably priced fares.  In fact, I actually just saw a fare on Bing for $85 round-trip.  The airport offers parking for $1 per hour ($13 max) and is about a 20 minute drive to the casinos.  For more flight options, you could also choose to fly into Philadelphia airport and make the one-hour drive to Atlantic City.  Newark airport is about a two-hour drive.

Hotel options: There are a variety of casino/resorts in which to stay in Atlantic City, including Bally's, Caesars, Showboat, Tropicana, Trump Taj Majal, Trump Marina, Trump Plaza, Harrah's and the Borgata.  The general consensus seems to be that the most updated hotels are Harrah's and the Borgata. As I told you in the NYE post, our friends Curt and Diana were able to score the most amazing deal ever for us at Harrah's for the weekend.


    Source: flickr
    Harrah's atrium on the way to the front desk
    To remind you all, our room in Bayview tower was clean and spacious, especially considering the price! The highlight for me was the large bathroom which had both a standing shower and large whirlpool bathtub.
    Having spent our first night celebrating the new year at Harrah's, we were eager to venture out to a new spot on our second night.  Since Curt and Diana think so highly of the Borgata, we happily jumped in the car and made the 5 minute drive.
    Source: theatlanticcitycasinos
    Borgata lobby
    Our plan was to grab dinner and do some gambling, but we took our time reveling in all of the ornate displays.  It is definitely the nicest casino I've walked through in the city.  They had a great winter display which I believe they update with each season.
    Restaurants: There are a number of restaurants in all of the casinos I mentioned above.  Curt and Diana spoke highly of a number of restaurants at the Tropicana.  They also mentioned that McCormick and Schmick's was great for seafood. On this occasion and being in the mood for some asian fusion, our radar was permanently set on eating at izakaya at the Borgata.
    The restaurant was dimly light and highlighted a number of sexy geishas throughout.  I thought it was a really cool vibe.
    We ordered a number of small plates, including edamame, kobe beef fried rice, chicken robatayaki and a few choice specialty maki rolls.

    Nightlife: Each of the casinos boast nightclubs that (at least on the internet surface) seem to be popular.  I can attest first hand that the Pool After Dark at Harrah's is a great time.  Other popular clubs include mur.mur at the Borgata, Game On! & dusk at Caesars and Casbah at the Taj Majal.

    Overall, if you're looking for a getaway that isn't overly expensive and you do not have expectations for a 5-star resort, I would recommend spending a weekend in Atlantic City sometime.  Stay at the Borgata or Harrah's, enjoy good food & drink, take in the spa, do some gambling and check out the Boardwalk with friends in good weather.  Having been to Vegas, I would still rank the debauchery there as more fun, but Atlantic City is definitely better than its occasional reputation as its ugly step sister of the East.

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    New Years Around the World

    Over the past week, as I recounted my own New Years in Atlantic City to friends and family, I kept thinking it would have been cool to have a birds eye view of all the celebrations that took place around the world that night.  Intrigued by the thought, I dug into the world wide web to satisfy my curiosity.

    The first major city in the world to ring in the new year officially is Auckland, New Zealand.
    Source: Daily Mail
    Two hour later, Sydney, Australia puts on an amazing display over Sydney Harbour and the famous Opera House. Over 1.5 million visitors were present this year.  It must be nice to enjoy New Years fireworks in the pleasant mid-summer air.
    Source: Daily Mail
    The display in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia lights up the sky over its iconic Petronas Twin Towers.
    Source: Daily Mail
    Singapore's pyrotechnic show over Marina Bay is a wonder.  Wouldn't it be nice to watch from the Marina Bay Sands casino and resort?
    Source: Daily Mail
    Revelers release balloons in front of Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, Japan.  This picture was taken at Zojoji, a 600 year-old temple in the center of the city.  Inside the balloons are notes containing the people's hopes for the new year.

    Source: Toronto Sun
    The International Flora Expo is the place to be in Taipei, Taiwan to celebrate the country's centennial.
    Source: Toronto Sun
    A massive fireworks show is needed to make a splash across Hong Kong's sprawling skyline.  Visitors can celebrate in the city's Times Square
    Source: valerieheck
    In the Middle East, no one tops the celebration in Dubai, UAE.  I mean this literally since fireworks are set off from the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa.
    Source: Daily Mail
    Moving to Europe, partygoers flock to the Red Square in Moscow, Russia for display over St. Basil Cathedral.
    Source: Daily Mail
    In Prague, Czech Republic, the city along the Danube looks like a dream.
    Source: blog.requestrooms
    In Berlin Germany, gatherers enjoy a light show at the renown Brandenburg Gate.
    Source: Daily Mail
    In Venice Italy, take in the fireworks from a gondola.
    Source: veniceinfosite
    In Florence, Italy, the picturesque skyline is highlighted with vibrant colors.
    Source: firenzeviva
    In Paris, France, could there be a better backdrop to a fireworks show?
    Since any night of the week is lively in Barcelona, Spain, it is no surprise that the city's New Years celebration is a truly brilliant display.
    Source: thebollywoodactress.com
    In London, England, a quarter of a million people made their way to the London Eye for eye popping show over the Thames River.  The second picture is me being indulgent, but how can I show pictures of London's celebration without showing Big Ben?
    Source: Daily Mail
    Everything was grand in Edinburgh, Scotland for the Hogmanay celebrations.
    Source: Toronto Sun
    In South America, the most fabulous celebration is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where two million people joined together for a giant beach party on Copacabana Beach.  Make sure to wear white, because it is tradition!
    Source: Daily Mail
    In the good ol' US of A, New Englanders can take in First Night in Boston, MA.  There is a midnight fireworks show over the Charles River and their are a series of events throughout the day that are outlined on www.firstnight.org.  The ice sculptures are always a highlight for locals.
    Source: FirstNight
    In Chicago, IL, the fireworks over Lake Michigan are a sight.
    Source: whmsoft
    Lastly, New York City, NY is home to the world renown ball-dropping celebration in Times Square.  This year, one million people were on hand to see the confetti fly after the crystal ball with 32,000 lights dropped down marking the start of 2011.
    Source: Daily Mail
    So here's the big question: if money was no object and there were no issues taking time off from work, where would you choose to take in the new year?

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Counting Down to 2011 by The Pool

    I was so happy to arrive in Atlantic City for our New Years celebration!  I was giddy as we checked into Harrahs a little before 3pm and made our way to our room in Bayview Tower.  It was also great to see that the room was nice, highlighted by a huge bathroom.
    Despite how genuinely nice the room was, it felt that much nicer knowing that we got the best deal in the city.  You see, rooms in Atlantic City at all the major Casinos (Harrahs, Borgata, Taj, Caesars, Tropicana, etc.) go for $699 per night on New Years Eve.  However, Curt happened to be on Harrahs website in November and noted rooms for $69.99.  Not stopping to even think about it, he booked a number of rooms and told all his close friends that they should go on and get a room themselves.  The very next day, Harrahs phoned Curt telling him there had been a pricing mistake on the website for a short period of time the day before and that they'd be willing to comp him 2 free rooms if he would just give up his room on NYE.  Clearly, they forgot to enter an extra "9"!  Curt decided to give up one of the rooms he reserved in exchange for a free night on New Years Day and another one at his leisure.  What this all means is that we shared a room with Curt/Diana for the full New Years weekend all for $40 per couple!  Insane right?!

    That evening, our room served as the central point for pre-gaming.  Our table went from fairly well stocked....
     ....to a fully stocked bar.
    Before we left for the night, I noticed the hotel's cute twist to the typical "Do Not Disturb" sign and wondered just how true it would be for us the next day....
    Already feeling a little lit up after pregaming, the 10 of us headed down to The Pool Bar.  Due to the large dome overhead, The Pool is touted by Harrahs as an "indoor oasis".  By day, one can take a dip and grab lunch and a cocktail.  
    By night, the pool turns into The Pool After Dark, where guests can reserve private cabanas and hot tubs.  We opted for a standard ticket, which included entry, free h'orderves from 7:30pm-9:00pm, open premium bar from 9:00pm - midnight and complimentary champagne at midnight.   

    I was loving the atmosphere and snapped a bunch of pictures right away.  Good thing I documented early and often since things got sloppy fairly quickly.
    The h'orderve menu included:
    • Sushi (California Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, Philly Roll)
    • Mediterranean Tapas
    • Sliders (turkey w/ granny smith apple and onion compote on whole wheat rolls; crab cake sliders w/ red brick remoulade on sour dough rolls; angus sliders w/ cave aged cheddar on mini kaisers)
    • Strozzapreti in Grey Goose vodka sauce w/ crispy pancetta
    • Fusilli in black garlic and EVOO w/ micro chicken meatballs
    • Orange and miso glazed crispy chicken w/ jasmine rice
    Everything I tried was very yummy! I was glad we got there early enough to enjoy.
      There is a balcony section to The Pool that we scoped out.  Unfortunately, everything seemed reserved so we decided to head back downstairs to stake out a spot close to one of the Grey Goose open bar stands.
      We did successfully claim a spot by one of the stands, which is where we spent the majority of the night.  We had a great bartender that always seemed to have our choice drinks ready for us before we could even spout out the order.
      Unfortunately for us, all of this meant that we went from sober-to-slightly buzzed people to out of their mind drunk people.
      Me and Dave, BEFORE
      Me and Dave, AFTER
      The ladies, BEFORE
      The ladies, AFTER

      Curt and Diana, BEFORE
      Curt and Diana, AFTER
      The guys, BEFORE
      Some of the guys, AFTER
      Even though I was all a bit gray to me, I did manage to snap a picture of the countdown.  Seriously, what is it about open bar that just causes you to go nuts?!
      I hope you all had a great time ringing in the new year!  Hopefully for you, it didn't result in the massive, next-day hangover like mine did!  Here's to a fabulous 2011!