Atlantic City Surprises

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Atlantic City, meetings
Back Bay Ale House in Gardiner’s Basin, a neighborhood minutes from the Atlantic City Boardwalk

Atlantic City exudes the feeling of a quintessential Atlantic Coast summer, with its rambling Boardwalk, historic amusement park, saltwater taffy maker and open-air jitneys that transport people from here to there—or just nowhere for fun.

A must-do for groups is historic Steel Pier, an amusement park set on a dock that extends far out into the ocean. It can be rented in its entirety for groups, and will be adding a 200-ft observation wheel this fall that will transform the city skyline. Also transforming that skyline will be a new Polercoaster, a vertical roller coaster that will sit 350 ft high.

The city’s resort feel lends itself to activities such as morning yoga on the beach and, at night, a beach party featuring small bites from local restaurants, with a sand sculpture as the focal point. The Boardwalk changes dramatically as you stroll from one side to the other, with the more historic section made up of booths hawking beachwear and saltwater taffy and the newly developed area near Bally’s and Caesars featuring outdoor beer gardens, a Margaritaville complex and the waterfront LandShark Bar & Grill. Indoors, the dining options are first-rate, with all of the top chefs—from Gordon Ramsay to Guy Fieri—having outposts here. A shopping outlet complex just steps from the casinos stretches for blocks and offers all the brand names attendees look for, from Ralph Lauren to Donna Karan.

Beyond the Boardwalk and the well-known attractions, this seaside town is full of surprises. The Noyes Art Garage at Stockton College features a variety of shops and open-door studios, where guests can watch local artists at work. Nearby Gardiner’s Basin feels more like San Diego than New Jersey, with its own little aquarium, restaurants serving up freshly caught fish and craft ales and plenty of sightseeing and charter fishing cruises departing from the docks.

Meet the New AC

Atlantic City has historically been known as a vacation and gaming destination, home to Caesars, Trump Taj Mahal, Bally’s and other sprawling casinos along the waterfront. Until two years ago, that is, when Meet AC was formed to re-create the city’s image into a meetings destination. “We’re upping our game and reintroducing Atlantic City to the meetings world,” said CEO Jim Wood during MPI’s WEC (World Education Congress), held this week at the Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center.

This brand-new facility, which will celebrate its first anniversary in September, has been a game-changer, with two 50,000-sf ballrooms that can be configured 200 different ways. “We’re hopeful that one of our competitors will build another facility like this…One isn’t enough for us to becoming a major meeting destination in the Northeast,” said Mike Massari, senior vice president for national meetings and events at Caesars Entertainment at the MPI press kickoff.

The city is well on its way, with MGM Resorts’ acquisition earlier this month of the Borgata. That resort is investing in an additional 250,000 sf of meeting space, as well as undergoing a massive renovation that will include a Roman–style pool, new nightclub experience and restaurant by celebrity chef Michael Symon. Resorts Casino Hotel, a Mohegan Sun property, finalized the first phase of a $25 million room renovation in its Ocean Tower and last year added a new convention center, with 12,000 sf of meeting space for a total of 64,000 sf. Both Showboat and Revel have announced reopening plans, with Revel’s new owner promising to bring back 1,800 rooms and a spa, and to add a zip-line obstacle course, while Showboat will become an 852-room non-gaming property. The historic non-gaming Claridge Hotel is building a 15,000-sf conference center as part of a $3 million project that also includes a rooftop bar, while Tropicana just completed a $40 million renovation that included a redesign of its entrance and Havana Tower rooms.

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.