Travel

By Kelley Granger

The Pool After Dark goes off at Harrah’s

Atlantic City.

Chances are when you hear those words you will think of at least one of these things: Slot machines. The boardwalk. Wheelchairs and oxygen tanks. That’s clearly different from the glitzy and glamorous reputation that Las Vegas enjoys, even in spite of a notoriously seedy side. Still, with increasingly lauded nightlife venues and multimillion dollar property renovations, our East Coast version of Sin City is certainly stepping up the cool factor. Here’s what I discovered on my most recent trip.

Know Your Nightlife…

While nightlife spots like Caesar’s Dusk, Tropicana’s Rumba Lounge, and Borgata’s Mixx (whose resident DJ is Jazzy Jeff, by the way) are brightening up the after-hours scene, you’ve got to know where to go and when to go. For example, just before 11 pm on my first night in AC, I got dolled up and rolled up to Caesar’s to check out Dusk – only to find that it’s not open on Thursday nights. It’s easy to assume in a city where gambling and booze are pervasive that business hours like Vegas’ 6:30-pm-to-whenever will be enforced, at least Thursday to Sunday. Not so. We even missed out on cocktails in front of The Continental’s swanky indoor fire pit (my boyfriend and I enviously eyed the girls lingering over their wine at a table next to the fire while the bartender closed out her cash register) and Buddakan, a hip red and gold hued Asian restaurant which offered to seat us, but we foolishly declined, in search of something better. We rambled, parched and in need of alcoholic beverages, through Caesar’s and into Bally’s, where we were overcome by feelings of despondency and the smell of cigarette smoke.

Back to The Pier, the enclosed upper floor of Caesar’s that’s built overlooking the beach and features the string of restaurants and bars previously mentioned. Though it was chilly and rainy outside, it was nice to get a view of the ocean while staying warm and dry (there are even beach chairs and sand if you want to plop down in front of the floor to ceiling windows that overlook the Atlantic). Ultimately, we ended up having a quick beer at The Trinity, an Irish pub just off the Pier’s main walkway. And it was quick, because we were the only customers there and we felt silently urged by the cocktail servers to hurry up.

Nix the wandering and make your plans ahead of time by finding out which hot spots go off when (check online or on the calendar page of a local mag – we found a good one behind the door at Trinity, but all too late). The next evening was spent much more successfully at our own hotel, Harrah’s. Though it’s off the main drag, we found that we preferred to avoid the hassle (and the $26 round-trip cab fare) of heading downtown by just staying in our own resort. The Pool at Harrah’s, part of a multimillion dollar expansion the resort recently undertook, is bumping on Friday nights. By day, this area is an oasis of poolside palm trees, tropical greenery, and curtained cabanas under a huge glass dome, an exceptional place to laze the day away. By night, the pool pulses with electronic remixes, the tropical foliage is backlit by multicolored lights, and the dome gives a bird’s eye view to the light show that illuminates the faà§ade of the resort’s most modern accommodations, the new Waterfront Tower. The place gets packed, so show up early to stake out some turf and also see if you can score a free admission ticket from promoters that troll the area prior to opening.

Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars

…And Your Other Options

If hardcore clubbing is not your scene, Harrah’s Eden Lounge was a fun place to have some colorful cocktails. Located off the gaming floor, the lounge had nothing spectacular to offer in the way of ambiance, but we had a blast listening to a cover band crank out a mix of reggae and classic tunes and watch a dance floor full of revelers from our table. You may not see a guy get kicked out for taking his pants off and dancing on a platform in the water (as we witnessed at The Pool After Dark), however, there’s no shortage of dancers taking themselves too seriously at Eden. One over-zealous Dancing with the Stars/Saturday Night Fever fan provided all the entertainment we needed, spinning, sliding, and scaring females across the dancefloor – all with a stone straight face and a bit of perspiration on his button-up shirt. The way he manhandled that dance floor, we’re pretty sure he’s a Thursday night regular.

Also in located in Harrah’s is a Red Door Spa, which offers Spa Week specials if you happen to be visiting during the appropriate period (stay updated at http://www.spaweek.com). If you’re a Red Door regular, you might want to jump ship and check out Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars for something different like, let’s say, their 80 minute Ayurvedic Journey. The treatment begins with a diagnosis of your particular dosha, and then the application of a custom mask to treat it – mine was made up for Vata (generally a fit for fair people with dry skin), and the grainy texture felt good as it was sloughed on but became a bit itchy as it dried. After it was removed, the therapist performed a full body massage (with above par back work, I must say) and then the pièce de résistance, a shirodhara treatment. During this extremely relaxing phase of the process, oil trickled over the center of my forehead, awakening the nerve endings the way a brush of a feather might. The oil slowly trickled through my hair and across my scalp, and was then massaged in by the therapist. This treatment may take three to four washes to rinse clear, but was well worth the extra suds. If you’ve got company at the spa, or even if you’re alone, make sure you pencil in some time before your appointment to take advantage of the facilities – three pools of varying temperatures, a Cedarwood sauna, and an herbal steam room. What would a Roman-themed spa be without its baths?

The Red Door Spa Suite at Harrah’s new Waterfront Tower

Don’t Play Roulette With Your Room

After an day full of spas, gambling, and cocktails, Harrah’s Waterfront Tower offers some stellar accommodations. The standard rooms are a sumptuous size and bathrooms have a spa-like vibe and ample space. If you’re traveling with a group of girlfriends and want to take that idea up a notch, chip in for a Red Door Spa Suite and invite the therapists up to your place for a treatment. They’ll meet you in your own private therapy room (which they access from the hall, so they never have to enter your private accommodations). The living room features crisp white couches with signature red pillows, dark hardwood floors, marina views, and much more. Plan to drop a few thousand for the evening – but what’s that divided between friends? For budgets that are a tad tighter, Waterfront standard rooms are a great option. When booking your stay at Harrah’s, make sure to specifically request these rooms so you’re guaranteed a stay in the most contemporary and attractive area of the resort.

Originally published December 2009
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