I hadn’t been to Atlantic City for about 15 years, and when I arrived last weekend, I was impressed with the transformation. No longer is it just pretending to be a rich man in a poor man’s shirt. The aurora is truly rising behind this solid meetings destination.
The opening in 2015 of Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center in the Marina District delivered one of the largest and nicest meetings spaces on the Atlantic seaboard. Harrah’s Resort offers more than 2,500 guest rooms and two 50,000-square-foot ballrooms, that can divide into 30 sections. The pre-function space is huge, with each level offering over 25,000 square feet outside the ballroom. They also have outdoor terraces with amazing bay and ocean views. The flexibility of this venue is impressive.
“…Sleeping at the beach all night”
The guest rooms are divided among several towers; all have recently been remodeled or are brand new, and the vast majority have great water views. The elevators are fast and efficient, something that is often forgotten at a hotel of this size. All the rooms I saw were incredibly nice, with spacious, separate tub and shower, and exceptional lighting and counter space. Everything you need to put your makeup on and fix your hair up pretty. The beds were plush and the Internet was fast, there is not much else you need to have an enjoyable stay.
“…I ain’t here on business baby, I’m only here for fun”
One of my favorite features at Harrah’s is the massive indoor pool that turns into a concert venue at night. This is a perfect reception space for up to 400 people. The complex has dozens of restaurants at all price points, ranging from high-end steakhouses to grab-a-slice pizza joints. Overall, the food is high quality, and not overpriced. Several venues have live music at night, adding to the energy at the hotel. The casino is huge, but not all that noisy. They also have a large performance theater that seats 1,200, which can be used for private events or general sessions. One unique offering is Harrah’s large Viking Cooking School. This gives people the opportunity to cook their own meal and learn from professional chefs, then eat their creations in a back room with expert wine pairings. It looks like a lot of fun, and this type of experiential activity is really popular right now.
“…Rich man wanna be king”
Down the boardwalk is Caesars Atlantic City, a 1,100-room hotel smack in the center of the action. It’s a miniature version of the iconic Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, with 28,000 square feet of meeting space, crowned by a 17,000-square-foot ballroom. The hotel has some of the best restaurants on the boardwalk—Morton’s, Nero’s Italian, Phillips Seafood, and Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill. It’s a truly great spot for groups of 250–300. The rooms were upscale and large, all with nice water views.
“…Running off down the boardwalk”
Next to Caesars is the 1,200-room Bally’s Atlantic City, a nice option for groups that need something more affordable than Caesars or Harrah’s, but still a nice property. The 80,000-square-foot meeting space is all on one level, making it very convenient. They also offer the largest casino floor in Atlantic City and have a number of restaurants at all price points. Both Bally’s and Caesars are right across from a massive outlet mall. I am not a shopping fan, but this was one of the best outlet malls I have ever been to.
“…Never once gave thought to landing”
The Atlantic City airport has very limited service, and right now only Spirit Airlines flies there. However, the Philadelphia airport, about an hour away, gives you a ton of options. The airport transfer shouldn’t be a huge impediment to booking Atlantic City, since it often takes an hour or more to get from the airport to downtown hotels in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Houston. As an added convenience, one-third of the U.S. population is within one tank of gas of Atlantic City, so open up your engines let ‘em roar.
“…Can’t start a fire without a spark”
For many people, the first thing they think of when they think “casino” is the cigarette smoke that was once omnipresent. Fortunately, filtration systems are making for better days shining through. I spent a lot of time at large casinos at these three properties and never once smelled smoke in any public area. The meetings spaces are all non-smoking, as are the restaurants.
I was impressed by the transformation of the city and the hotels that I visited. It is a city I would enjoy going back to, and one I can see bringing groups of all sizes to in the future. There is still a lot of value to be found here, especially for groups booking during the week. Atlantic City has all of the amenities that my groups are looking for and is perfect for those with a big driving contingent or considering the Northeast.
All photos by Timothy Arnold, May 2018. Quotes shamelessly stolen from the immortal Bruce Springsteen.