Upping the Ante
The area doesn't exactly conjure thoughts of luxury, class and glamour. Its casino roots are kind of hard to shake. (Insert images of smoke-filled rooms, gold chains, exposed chest hair and hideously cheap outfits.) The MTV show "
And now comes HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," a TV drama that paints the city with gangster stripes. The miniseries is set in the Prohibition era, so needless to say there have been a lot of changes in
I wasn't expecting much when I headed to
I wound up eating a late lunch at Mia, an Italian- and Mediterranean-themed restaurant in Caesars Atlantic City Hotel and Casino. The restaurant was breathtaking. Roman columns, towering ceilings, golden, maroon, and orange lighting, and colorful draped fabric gave the restaurant a
If Mia doesn't quite have you convinced, Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay's upscale restaurants are further evidence that this is not the
"Our casinos are offering more high-level gaming, dining and entertainment options today," said Jennifer Weissman, regional vice president of marketing for Harrah's Entertainment Inc. "
The city has come a long way. Ten years ago,
"Most of the new products have been focused on the luxury end, and it has not disappointed," Vassar added.
In addition to more upscale restaurants,
The Borgata Hotel and Casino headlines the high-end offerings. The hotel, designed in a classic Italian style, features rooms, suites and two 5,000-square-foot residences. Nearby is The Water Club, a $400 million luxury boutique hotel also owned by the Borgata, that features a two-story spa, five heated pools and rooms with a water view. One evening, I took in the hotel's Sun Room, a tropical-feeling bar/restaurant filled with tons of lush plants, modern-feeling furniture and plenty of signature drinks. The atmosphere was appealing, but the service by the bar staff left something to be desired.
Vassar attributes the luxury surge to the Borgata, which opened in 2003.
"People had doubts [that] a property that was focusing on the luxury segment would survive," Vassar said. "The Borgata opened and certainly demonstrated that there was a luxury segment in
While I didn't stay at an "upscale hotel," during my peak-season visit, the Fairfield Inn by Marriott was clean, offered a complimentary breakfast and was a 10-minute drive away from the heart of the city. And staying there allowed me to spend more money on clothes shopping, which was one highlight of my trip.
First off, there is no sales tax on clothes. That means a lot when you are doing high-end shopping at stores such as Burberry, Baccarat, Juicy Couture, Gucci and Tiffany & Co. And, yes, they're all in
The Pier Shops at Caesars also has upscale designer names like Betsey Johnson, Michael Kors, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta and Louis Vuitton.
For luxury lovers who want to save money, Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic, Guess, Kenneth Cole and DKNY all have outlet stores at The Walk, a group of nearly 100 national chain stores and restaurants run by the Baltimore-based The Cordish Cos. The weekend I went, the stores were all having end-of-season sales, and I racked up — so much so that I received a call from my credit card company asking whether my card had been stolen.
"To see [
And there are plenty of places besides the casinos to show off your new duds. Entertainment options in
The Borgata features clubs MIXX and mur.mur, a cavernous club that has featured acts such as Keri Hilson and Jason Derulo. The night I went, the club was bumping. There were wall-to-wall folks grooving to the latest top hits. The 40/40 Club is an upscale bar and lounge owned by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and partner Juan Perez. The swanky spot also has locations in
Before hitting the club, visitors can enjoy world-class concerts and shows. So far this year, Lady Gaga has performed at Boardwalk Hall, where Justin Bieber arrives in November. Jay-Z and Rihanna took the stage at the Borgata. Robin Thicke rocked the Tropicana Casino & Resort and Alicia Keys brought her Grammy-winning act to the Trump Taj Mahal Casino and Resort. Aretha Franklin is scheduled to perform at Caesars next month.
I might make plans to head back to