When my boyfriend told me that we were being flown to Atlantic City and being put up in a Harrah’s Suite, I got a little excited. This was because when he lived in California, his “Diamond Status” gave him access to flights on a private jet and some of the nicest rooms the Harrah’s in Tahoe had to offer (this does not include the comps we got at Caesars, Paris and Planet Hollywood, MGM and Mandalay Bay in Vegas).
Friday afternoon, we drove to Dulles Airport and upon further inspection of the invitation letter, were instructed to go to the Mexicana Air counter. Hmmm… since we weren’t flying out of the private air field, I began to think it wasn’t just us on this flight – that we might be flying a great big Greyhound bus. Sure enough, when we get to the counter, there are about a dozen people in front of us – all going to the same place (turns out there were to be 117 on the flight). And, as we found out in the security line and even more so during the wait for the shuttle to take us to the gate, we were getting a glimpse of what it will be like to live out our remaining years on Social Security (writer’s note: She realizes Social Security might be a thing of the past by the time she is 70). Just listening to those around us was frightening. Some of them take this trip monthly, using their social security checks to fund their slot machine and poker habits. Some of them have done this trip so much, they can tell you WHICH machines are the most popular. But of notable interest, was the observation of some serious health/weight issues that seemed to be plaguing about 90% of those that were traveling with us (writer will spare her opinion on health, the economy and our tax money).
After 30 minutes of griping, the double-wide shuttle that should have been obselete 15 years ago finally arrives and we herd ourselves in. We drove down the runways, past all the gates and straight to a plane that is not attached to a gate. In fact, it is so far removed from the airport it gives us the feeling as though we’re being smuggled to another land. We board the plane (that literally is a Greyhound in the sky – smells and all) and set off on our 40 minute flight.
So far, we’ve learned we are not the “only ones” being treated to a flight and a hotel stay, we’ve waited about 15 times longer than normal to get a shuttle, and my suspicion was about to be confirmed that we weren’t taking a limo – it’s a shuttle bus. Just as we did with the shuttle, we were herded off the plane and into our big coach buses. And, after a 30 minute ride, we find ourselves staring at a mini-Vegas.
Harrah’s has done some amazing renovations in the last ten years (the last time I was there). Their two new towers, complete with 4,100 linear feet of iColor® Fresco – a special lighting tube that when covering an entire building, can create light shows (click on that link for video), advertisements and possibly even show a Superbowl game – were gleaming. It definitely was impressive and switched our somber, frustrated moods to something of the eager and wanting to get out and explore variety.
When we arrived, we are ushered into another line to be given our room assignments. Sure enough, our string of unfortunate events led to something great – a room on the 21st floor, overlooking the ‘bay”. (I put bay in quotation marks, because it looks more like a swamp.) We couldn’t have been more thrilled to be able to race up to our room, change and eat (note that H Gate has NO FOOD of any kind – come packed with food if you ever end up there).
Since we had such a “harrowing” experience (4 hours worth of travel events for a 40 min. flight), we decided to treat ourselves to The Steakhouse. Now, stepping into any other steakhouse, you find a wide variety of people – young, old, thin, rotund, etc. The amusement of this place were many large men with gold jewelry, discreetly tipping waiters and staff and giving everyone a one-armed hug as they left (you’d think the staff and them were close family). It reminded me of a scene straight out of The Sopranos. Still, the food was amazing, leaving me ready for bed and the boyfriend ready to hit the Blackjack tables.
The following morning, I was up at about 8:30am (part of getting older means there’s no such thing as sleeping in) and leisurely got ready, as my boyfriend had already been up and out the door an hour prior to hit the tables (our ritual when we’re anywhere near a casino). The night before, he had told me to book some spa appointments for myself but as our luck would have it (or lack thereof), the spa had no spots available. Instead, we agreed a day of exploration was in order, including SHOPPING! We had breakfast at a little cafe (still not many young people in sight, causing me to question what I’m doing up “this early”) and took a taxi to Caesar’s Palace (side note: Harrah’s is no where NEAR anything else. I suggest staying at Caesar’s or Taj Mahal on the strip if it’s your first time).
We walked straight through the casino and out the other side, onto the boardwalk and into The Pier: Caesar’s shops. There are three whole levels of stores, ranging from luxury, on down to touristy trinkets. After walking the first deserted (and very dark) hallway, we decided to look at a map to figure out which stores we wanted to hit. We ended up in Kenneth Cole (50% off the ENTIRE store because they were closing down the following day) and MAC (because I’m addicted to their dual glimmery eye shadows). Since we had heard there were outlets nearby, we decided to peek out the third level’s rooftop deck to see the ocean.
Since the shops were built on a pier, when you look down, it’s nothing but water with the beach about a 1/2 a mile away. It looks really peaceful. When you face the beach, it looks like an abandoned beach town. Still, my boyfriend could not have been happier to see ocean.
We decided our next stop would be to walk the boardwalk, but not before taking a what I call “adult stroller ride” to Taj Mahal. While Ken played a few hands under larger-than-life crystal chandeliers, I happily played on my phone. When we left, we walked for a bit down the boardwalk and took a last minute turn into Fralinger’s - the first place to ever make and sell saltwater taffy (a favorite of my mom’s) – history can be found here.
We took another ride (the boardwalk is long and we were weighed down by bags) down to Ripley’s Believe it or Not, since it was close to the carnival pier.
As a child, I had always wanted to go in there and my parents would never allow it, saying it was a waste of money. Out of all museums (or as they call it: “Odditoriums”) I’ve ever been to – seriously – this was by far the coolest.
History: “Robert LeRoy Ripley was an American cartoonist, entrepreneur and amateur anthropologist, who created the world famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not! newspaper panel series, radio show, and television show which feature odd ‘facts’ from around the world.
Subjects covered in Ripley’s cartoons and text ranged from sports feats to little known facts about unusual and exotic sites, but what ensured the concept’s popularity may have been that Ripley also included items submitted by readers, who supplied photographs of a wide variety of small town American trivia, ranging from unusually shaped vegetables to oddly marked domestic animals, all documented by photographs and then depicted by Ripley’s drawings.”
The Atlantic City Odditorium depicted many of his travels around the world, including the tallest man, a Gypsy wagon, recycled goods to create art, foot binding (that one I found completely nauseating, yet fascinating), tribe rituals (more
fascinating than nauseating), the world’s smallest chateau (which I became fond of, especially the ladies’ room), odd wax statues, and that tube that spins around you while you try to walk over the bridge, while not falling over. It was an adult kids’ dream to be in there. Big “props” go out to the boyfriend for giving into a childhood “want”.
To shake off the foot binding (seriously, it was awful), we walked down the boardwalk with the carnival attractions. My boyfriend saw the archery game and then it was his turn to beg. He was just a hare away from winning a life-size stuffed tiger (which I would have happily given to a child, as it would need its own seat on the flight back), as he’d hit the same spot over and over again on the target. I tried two arrows – one was slightly off mark and the other… well, we’re not sure where the other went
Having had enough (plus it was windy), we took a cab to the Atlantic City Outlets. Being a huge fan of outlets, I almost keeled over when I saw how many city blocks of stores there were (144 stores on 12 city blocks to be exact and still growing!) It was a mini city all dedicated to deeply discounted merchandise! We visited Banana Republic (I could have done far more damage there if time allotted), BCBG (my new White House Correspondent’s Dinner Afterparty dress came from there), Nike, Adidas, Nine West, Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers, Nine West and the list goes on. Being more tired and weighed down by bags than anything, we decided to head back to our hotel to change, eat and then attempt to nap (“attempt” being the key word, as no lie, an entire STEP TEAM was partying in the room next to us, complete with chants, hoots, hollers and whistles).
That night, we were interested in heading to The Pool After Dark – Harrah’s answer to utilizing the indoor pool space 24 hours a day. It’s when my boyfriend got a real taste of “Jersey” – the hair, the really tight dresses that should be shirts, the fake tans, the chains, the all black outfits that somehow escaped the 90s, the “Oh my gawds”, the hair cuts on men and velour. Lots and lots of velour track suits (I think this was the part that amused my boyfriend the most). The line stretched so far that even though I dressed in my “trampiest” black sequined dress (which could have doubled as a tent, given how short the other girls’ dresses were), we decided that a) Justin Bobby from The Hills wasn’t that important b)We have a better shot of accidentally being on TV in DC (as people are used to it) and c) we really were just too old to even think about it. There were kids (that I seriously wanted to ask, “Does your mother know you’re wearing that?”) that were at least going to be in line for two hours. Instead, we agreed to change and head over to the Borgata – something more our speed and definitely more Vegas.
The Borgata is a hybrid of the Wynn and THE Hotel. It marries luxury chic with Vegas. It felt like where we belonged. Apparently, everyone else felt the same way as it was way loud and way packed. Thirty minutes later, we decided to call it a night.
Sadly, the fun had to come to an end. My boyfriend was headed to California for a week so it left me to take the three-legged trip back to DC. It was interesting to hear the chatter amongst everyone on the bus: talking about methodologies, what they lost (some even said they had just enough to retrieve their cars out of the garage), what they won, what they saw others win, how often they do this and that they will be doing it again next month. It was with that I smirked as next time, my boyfriend and I will be taking a train, renting a car (or hiring a driver) and staying at something on the boardwalk as carrying that many shopping bags is too exhausting!