Our annual rundown of the greatest summer events in Atlantic City
By Marjorie Preston
It’s July, and the seasonal migration is well under way. From now until the last summer wind, the eastbound Atlantic City Expressway will be bumper-to-bumper with landlocked tourists escaping “down the shore.”
As always, Atlantic City has put out the welcome mat, with top-flight entertainment, dining, shopping, and a year-round resident named Lady Luck. Whether you’re here to play a few hands of poker, dance the night away, or sample the menu at a world-class restaurant, the fun is nonstop.
Haven’t done AC in a while? You may notice some changes. The city is jazzing things up with a new arts district complete with studios, galleries and cafes on the first level of the Wave parking garage near the legendary neighborhood of Ducktown. Citywide improvements include enhanced lighting, streetscapes and building facades at Boardwalk casinos including the Tropicana, Trump Taj Mahal and Resorts. Everything’s spic-and-span for the busy tourist season, so come on down and join the crowd.
Some things haven’t changed, like the action―gambling and otherwise―at Atlantic City’s famous casinos. Here’s what’s going on.
Tropicana Casino & Resort
There are always plenty of reasons to visit the Trop, chief among them The Quarter, a vast entertainment district with an Old Havana theme. The Quarter has just added several new eateries that will be familiar to folks from Philadelphia. Straight from Oregon Ave., it’s Tony Luke’s, with South Philly cheesesteaks that could only be made by a guy named Tony. Also in the house: Chickie’s and Pete’s Crab House and Sports Bar, a two-story, 16,000-square-foot hangout with 50 big-screen TVs and Play2 “amusement pods,” which allow patrons to create their own interactive entertainment. The Quarter has recently also welcomed Perry’s Pizza, Casa Taco & Tequila Bar, Broadway Burgers, Marketplace Express and Lick, described as “the ultimate candy shop.”
After all that conspicuous consumption, better get your groove thing to Boogie Nights, the ’70s disco that migrated from Resorts to the Trop in 2011. It’s the kitschiest place in town with its trademark mirror ball, light-up dance floor, celebrity impersonators (Michael Jackson and Madonna, among others) and hostess-on-wheels Roller Girl. During the summer, Boogie Nights is also open Thursdays with the music of the ’90s—think Janet Jackson and the Spice Girls. Instead of a hand stamp or wrist band, club patrons will get “slapped” with a true relic of the era: “slap bracelets.”
On August 25 at the Trop, it’s the annual Taste of the Quarter food fest. Past participants have included Carmine’s, FIN, P.F. Chang’s, Red Square and Rí Rá Irish Pub, so bring your appetite.
With summer in full swing, The Deck at the Golden Nugget is party central. This perennially popular outdoor club overlooking the Frank S. Farley Marina has it all: hot music, cool cocktails and plentiful summer fare, right at the water’s edge. You can dress up or down; The Deck is a favorite among boaters who come in from the marina in shorts, T-shirts and of course, deck shoes.
And if you love live bands, get to the Nugget when Fake Fest comes to town. It’s a three-day celebration of the best tribute bands on the East Coast. July 13-15, see and hear these uncanny imitators, including Unchained (Van Halen), KISS Army, 52nd Street (Billy Joel), Head Games (Foreigner), Dookie (Green Day), Queen of Hearts (Heart), Black Dog (Led Zeppelin) and The Otherside (Red Hot Chili Peppers).
New at the Nugget this summer: Haven Night Club, a sprawling subterranean beat-box which made an impressive debut last month with DJ Havana Brown and special guest Ke$ha, and the H20 Pool & Bar, a contemporary outdoor lounge with hot tubs, plush private cabanas and sizzling fire pits to set the mood.
Here’s a cool combo: Bloody Marys, a delectable brunch, and the sweet sounds of jazz, all with a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Sunday, the Jazz Brunch at Ono features live performances by some of the best musicians on the planet including piano man Donald Vega, trumpeter Warren Vache and noted saxophonist Michael Pedicin, a local favorite.
Want to skip the buffet? The Bar & Lounge in Ono will also feature “Jazz Bites,” including $5 Bloody Marys and Mimosas and select half-price Ono appetizers
While you’re at the Atlantic Club, be sure to make drop anchor at the Dizzy Dolphin. An AC staple since 1999, this friendly bar has a nautical backdrop that features an authentic schooner bar with soaring masts. Feeling lucky? Play a little bar-top video poker. And there’s always live entertainment. On Fridays, Hibernians come out for half-price Jameson cocktails and groove to the music of Irish band Flip N’ Mickey’s.
Feel like getting some sand in your shoes? Stop in at Atlantic Club’s Beach Bar, set between the Boardwalk and the dunes. Along with live entertainment, summer snacks and exotic drinks (try a Man Overboard, Midnight Pass or South Beach), the Beach Bar hosts plenty of special events and prize giveaways throughout the summer. Remember, parking’s always free at the Atlantic Club.
When it opened in 2003, Borgata broke the mold and redefined the Atlantic City resort experience. This month, the glistening golden tower will mark its 10-year anniversary. The party starts July 1 with an all-star concert featuring the Roots, Jill Scott, Guns ‘N’ Roses guitarist Slash and “Dangerously Delicious” comedian Aziz Ansari. It will be followed by a full week of property-wide events, special promotions, social media contests and the nightlife for which Borgata is justly renowned.
Meanwhile, the entertainment lineup at Borgata includes something for everyone, from sexy nightlife to saucy burlesque and more.
The Burlesque Show is a comic tribute to ’40s-era burlesque that’s fun, in-your-face and oh-so sexy. The tassels fly in this fast-paced revue that includes vaudeville-style blackout skits along with hubba-hubba choreography. The show runs at the Music Box Thursdays through August 29.
After-hours, be sure and stop by Borgata’s fabulous two-story MIXX nightclub, renowned for its cool vibe and nonstop thumping beat courtesy of celeb DJs like Tiesto, Vice, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5 and David Guetta. Club goers willingly stand in line to cross this velvet rope, and they also fork over big bucks for premium bottle service.
For those who don’t know a merlot from a pinot, Borgata presents the Wine Classroom, an introduction to fine vintages with Borgata’s expert sommeliers. Tuesdays and Wednesdays through July at 5 p.m., you can learn about wine pairings and sample some exceptional varietals at this hour-long class, held at Vintage Wine Boutique at The Shoppes at The Water Club.
The Bay-Atlantic Symphony, under the baton of Maestro Jed Gaylin, will present a series of five concerts in July and August featuring the strains of Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven and Prokofiev. The series will kick off July 7 with a patriotic program: Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” followed by the marches of John Philip Sousa, and then the ultimate classical gas: Tchaikovsky’s spectacular “1812 Overture” (which is usually accompanied by live cannons.) Subsequent concerts are July 14 and 21 and August 4 and 18. Thanks, Borgata, for being one of the few casinos to offer classical music and opera.
Resorts Atlantic City
In 2008, Jimmy Buffett fans were ecstatic when a deal was announced to transform Trump Marina into a Margaritaville casino. Alas, that deal fell through. Trump Marina ultimately became the Golden Nugget, and Parrotheads have never gotten over it.
Now Resorts, Atlantic City’s historic first casino has opened several Buffett-inspired venues. The happy hour started Memorial Day with the debut of the Margaritaville Café, Buffett’s 17th location, joining the flagship café in Key West and eateries in New Orleans, Charlestown, Jamaica, Cancun, Myrtle Beach and elsewhere. Expect fruity cocktails, Caribbean-style music, a laid-back atmosphere and nonstop dolce vita.
Can’t get enough of Buff? Resorts has also opened the LandShark Bar & Grill―right on the beach―along with the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Casino Bar, and even Margaritaville-themed gaming areas. There may be more to come: a Resorts rep says we can also look forward to retail shops with a Margaritaville theme. So find your lost shaker of salt and head to Resorts, where the island vibe is alive and well.
A sale of Donald Trump’s first Atlantic City casino was announced in February, but the transaction has been stalled by the senior lender, who thinks the $20 million price tag is chump change. That hasn’t affected things at the Plaza, which is open as usual with its popular Liquid Bar, a great place to grab a drink and watch the game. For cheap eats, starting this month Trump Plaza offers a “Back in the Day” buffet: just $7.98 for lunch and $11.98 for dinner with a Trump One Card.
Trump Plaza’s Beach Bar, a 21,500-square-foot outdoor party, is back with Breakfast on the Beach as well as lunch and dinner menus for kids and adults. You don’t have to wait until dark to enjoy chilled cocktails and DJs will alternate with live music.
Speaking of music, check out “Beatlemania Now” at Trump Plaza in July and August. The faux Fab Four will perform note-for-note renditions of Beatles’ classics spanning their entire incredible career. Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Trump Taj Mahal
What do you get when you combine an acrobat with a comedian? Why, an “acromedian,” of course. Rudi Macaggi―who’s appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno in the “Don’t Try This At Home” segment―blends both crafts in his “Daring World of Wonder” show Fridays through Sundays in the main concourse at the Taj, located at the center of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Each show lasts approximately 25 minutes and is free to the public.
Almost Angels continue their sexy show and dance party at the Taj. Now in their fourth year of residency at the Ego Bar & Lounge, this hot high-energy band performs music from artists like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and more.
Foodies from near and far will flock to the fifth annual Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, July 25-28, sponsored by Atlantic City’s quartet of Caesars Entertainment properties: Caesars, Showboat, Bally’s, and Harrah’s Resort.
The four-day culinary and spirits festival will feature celebrity chefs Robert Irvine (“Dinner Impossible), Rocco DiSpirito (“Rocco Gets Real”) and Pat and Gina Neely (“Down Home with the Neelys”), among others. Festival guests will have access to events at all four resorts, as well as the beach.
Festival highlights include the Grand Market, a three-hour “tasting village” featuring foods, wines, craft brews and liquors from around the world. The Blues Brews & BBQ will serve up scrumptious ribs, chicken and brisket―and a beer chaser or two. New this year is the Beach Soirée, an evening beachside party with refreshing cocktails, gourmet appetizers, live entertainment and dancing with your hosts, Robert Irvine and the Neelys.
On Sunday, get your praise on at the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues at Showboat. As a gospel choir raises the roof, guests can savor a home-style Southern buffet with hickory-smoked bacon and sausage, homemade biscuits and country gravy, homemade waffles, an omelet station, fried chicken, shrimp jambalaya and much more.
Bring your appetite to the Island Luau at the popular Pool at Harrah’s Resort. Hula dancers and flamethrowers will provide the entertainment, and the Neelys will preside over this Hawaiian feast.
DJ Pauly D of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” will continue his residency at The Pool After Dark at Harrah’s, named one of the Top 100 clubs in 2012 by Nightclub & Bar. The Pool is the place for star-watching; the endless line of celebrity hosts has included Paris Hilton, Diddy, Kendra Wilkinson, Pauly D’s former castmate, Snooki and assorted Kardashians.
If you love Lucy―and who doesn’t?―don’t miss the Atlantic City debut of “I Love Lucy Live On Stage” at Harrah’s Resort. More than six decades after it went off the air, “I Love Lucy” remains one of the most beloved sitcoms in America; this zany send-up takes audiences back to 1952, as an episode of the show is filmed at Desilu Studios. Get a front-row seat to the antics of the Ricardos and Mertzes both in their New York apartment and at the Tropicana nightclub. TV Guide’s William Keck called this show “the most entertaining stage production I’ve seen in years―including Broadway.”
Here’s some good news: while Sammy’s Beach Bar at Bally’s is gone (along with its host, Van Halen guitarist Sammy Hagar), the venue has reopened as Bally’s Bikini Beach Bar & Grill. As the name suggests, you’ll enjoy splendid views of the ocean along with cocktail servers in skimpy swimwear. Drink specials include the Jersey Fist Pump and Girls Gone Wild. Along with reggae and Latin theme nights, the bar will also feature name acts including the Sugar Hill Gang (“Rappers Delight”) on July 27.
Bally’s is also home to Jim Beam’s Wild West Bar, a “24-hour happy hour” with two-buck beers and shots, a mechanical bull, beer pong, arcade games and a chorus line of sexy Vixens dancing on the bar. For guys, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The Worship Surf Bar at Showboat is the ultimate place to eat, drink and be merry this summer. Open to the beach and Boardwalk, AC’s only surf bar offers daily drink specials and plenty of good eats, including wings, tacos, sliders and sandwiches.
Atlantic City’s newest casino has seen its share of speed bumps―conceived during the casino boom it stalled during the Great Recession and debuted during a still-sluggish economy. But who can fail to root for this fabulous oceanfront resort, with its distinctive “Daily Planet” orb? Not us. Especially with an entertainment lineup like this:
Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly nightclub, inspired by his Forty Deuce clubs in Hollywood and Vegas, kicks off at 10 p.m. with a DJ and dancing, followed by the best in burlesque performed to the sounds of a live jazz trio. If you’re still standing at 2 a.m., things really heat up with a live rock band and dazzling laser light show till 4 a.m.
Here’s a first for Atlantic City: a summer surf camp for casino visitors. Revel has partnered with Stacey’s Surf Camp of Margate to offer group, private or semi-private lessons for all ages and skill levels.
There’s more indulgence in store for Revel guests: Wine Garden Wednesdays (fine vintages, appetizers and classic movies starting at$20 per person in the SkyGarden); Dive-In Movies (watch a favorite flick under the stars, Thursday nights at the In-Out Pool); S’mores After Sunset (sweet drinks and the classic campfire treats on Fridays, $20 in the SkyGarden); and Champagne Sundays (unlimited bubbly for $25, also in the SkyGarden).
This summer, Revel introduces its HQ Beach Club, a “day-to-night party” and pool lounge overlooking the Boardwalk. HQ features a central triangular pool, two bars with bottle service, plus cabanas and bungalows for extra privacy.
And dog-lovers will feel right at home at Revel, because this summer, they can bring their best friends with them. Mutts up to 30 pounds are welcome and will be treated to gourmet treats, a plush dog bed, and access to the 12th floor “Bark Avenue” dog walk area.
Also new at Revel: the recently unveiled *Pearl High-Limit Lounge*, a dramatic complement to the resort’s Poker Room with leather upholstered walls, granite counters and gleaming red-oak floors under an opulent pearl-finish chandelier ceiling. The high-limit lounge offers plenty of high-end amenities: bar-top slot machines with special in-game jackpots, a complimentary bar with custom bottle storage, and a fine dining area with exquisite petite buffet. Relax in style at the Pearl High Limit Lounge, open to Pearl cardholders each day and Beach cardholders on select days as part of the Revel Card program.
All Summer Long…
Absecon Lighthouse and more. Climb 228 steps to the top of New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse (it’s the third tallest in the U.S.). At the summit of the restored 1857 beacon, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the city; down below, visit a reproduction of the 1925 keeper’s house containing antique photographs and memorabilia. The lighthouse offers a “Wacky Wednesday” program for youngsters with a Victorian tea party, pirates and mermaids, gardening and more. For extra thrills and chills, make this breathtaking climb at night. “By the Light of the Moon” climbs will be offered Monday, July 22 and Wednesday, Aug. 21.
For family-friendly fun, take the kids to the Atlantic City Aquarium, also known as the Ocean Life Center, at Historic Gardner’s Basin. The little ones will be thrilled to pet a live stingray, visit the giant sea turtle and aquarium mascot Grohman, and enjoy live diver shows as a wet-suited aquarist joins the fish in their massive tank for feeding.
While you’re there, take in the Gardner’s Basin Waterfront Park with its eclectic mix of boutiques, souvenir shops, restaurants and of course, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Feeling adventurous? Enroll in the AC Surf School or head out onto the bay aboard the Cruisin’ One sightseeing boat. If you’re lucky, you may be escorted by a pod of dolphins. A happy hour cruise is a great way to end the day and start your evening. Sit back, savor your favorite fruity drink, and watch the sun slide into the bay.
Artlantic: Becoming. In 2006, the legendary Sands Casino in the center of the Boardwalk was imploded to make way for a multibillion-dollar casino resort. The recession deep-sixed that project and ever since, the seven-acre city-block has been little more than an empty lot―until last year, when internationally known art curator Lance Fung proposed an ambitious project to breathe new life into the vacant parcel. Fung and a team of noted artists and landscape designers have transformed the lot between Indiana Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard into an evolving outdoor gallery. Fung describes it as “a place for community to gather” and an “art playground.”
“Boardwalk Beat” 3D Sound & Light Show. This multimedia extravaganza, playing nightly at 9 p.m. at historic Boardwalk Hall, chronicles eight decades of musical history made right here in Atlantic City, from the ragtime of the 1920s to the fabled jazz era of the 1930s and beyond. (Did you know that in the 1940s, Atlantic City was a tryout town for musicals headed to Broadway?) Watch and listen as Boardwalk Hall is transformed into a gigantic jukebox featuring generations of popular American music, including the surf sound of the ’60s, the disco beat of the ’70s, and the pop and hard rock of the ’80s and ’90s. The show is free and open to the public, and is shown every half hour from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on weekends and from 9:30 p.m. until midnight midweek throughout the summer.
The IMAX Theatre at the Tropicana features a six-story screen and wraparound sound to stagger the senses, all for less than $15 admission. What better place to see summer blockbusters like “Man of Steel” in 2D and 3D? (Grownups, don’t forget to take the kids.)
Lucy the Elephant. This pulchritudinous pachyderm graces the beach along Atlantic Avenue in Margate, just south of AC. The famous elephant-shaped structure, built in the Victorian era, offers a matchless view from the “pane in her butt” as well as the howdah on her back. Listed on the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks, Lucy stands in a fenced park with picnic tables, and volunteer-assisted tours are offered every half-hour.