Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Day in Atlantic City

We recently stayed in Atlantic City at Harrah's Casino/Hotel. They must be getting desperate in that gambling mecca since the room and buffet dinner were comped. We used to go down more regularly and could almost always get a free room, but lately, we have been frequenting the casinos that are closer to home like Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World in Queens. A few weeks ago we made a day trip to Atlantic City and shortly thereafter received an offer of the free room and dinner. The competition must be cutting into their profits. Anyhow we decided to go for an overnight stay...have a nice dinner, play some slots and walk the boardwalk.

When I called to book, all the boardwalk hotels were full so we took a room at Harrah's which is maybe a couple of miles away near the beautiful Borgata Hotel complex. (They recently shut down their poker room as a cost-cutting measure...not a good sign.) Because Harrah's is away from the main drag, they run a shuttle service so gamblers can get to the boardwalk in-between bouts of donating money to the Casino Employees Pension Fund. Since check-in time wasn't until 4 pm, we drove over to the Showboat Hotel on the boardwalk to play some slots. After a few hours we were down just a few bucks between us, and decided to do some people watching. We stepped out of the surreal air-conditioned darkness of the casino into the bright New Jersey sunshine.

The variety of people to be seen on the Atlantic City boardwalk is mind-blowing. There's a couple sitting on a bench who weigh 400 lbs. each; here comes a guy with a purple Mohawk hairdo; there are senior citizens pulling oxygen tanks behind them on wheeled dollies; the crazy lady who serenades passers-by with gospel songs; and the tourists from Nebraska in the cheap Atlantic City t-shirts who can't wait to tell the folks back home in Omaha about this "freak show", not realizing that they are part of it. There are the usual food stands, rigged amusement games, souvenir joints, the Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" theater, stores selling salt-water taffy that nobody ever eats, and a curious shop that sells 500 lb. metal sculptures...hope they deliver!

We finally drive over to Harrah's and wait in the inevitable check-in line. It moves pretty fast and I keep reminding myself that I'm not paying a dime for this stay. We take the elevator up to our room in the Harbour Tower and find it to be just lovely...clean, well furnished, and with a great view of the bay below. There are a number of good restaurants in the hotel, and we make a dinner reservation at a Mexican place called Dos Caminos. Turns out to be a good call. The hostess seats us at a window table overlooking the water and our meal is everything we hoped for including a big bowl of the best guacamole I ever ate. A nice bottle of Malbec with dinner and then dessert rounds out the experience. 

We head down to the casino to work off some calories. They have a variety of slot machines here we've not seen in other casinos, so that's fun. I usually play video poker, and do so for an hour or so with mixed results. I then switch to these crazy, multi-bet machines that are so complicated that I never know when I've won. A run of good luck helps to erase some earlier losses, and at the end of the night we're down just a few bucks between us, well worth the investment for a great day. We have another free room coming that we need to use before October, and I'm sure we'll go back. I know people knock casinos but for better or worse, they are here to stay. We enjoy the excitement and after working all our lives, feel we are entitled to spend our money how we see fit.

So thanks Harrah's for the room, Dos Caminos for the dinner, and the boardwalk denizens for the side show. We shall return. 

Children's Craniofacial Association