Girlfriend Getaways: Atlantic City

Soak, shop, sip, stroll and roll the dice at NJ's gambling mecca.

A cloverleaf-shaped Jacuzzi awaits at the Chelsea Hotel's Sea Spa.
A cloverleaf-shaped Jacuzzi awaits at the Chelsea Hotel's Sea Spa.
Photo courtesy of The Chelsea Hotel.

Atlantic City may be navigating troubled waters, but make no mistake, there is still plenty to see and do at this primo seaside spot. Whatever your getaway plan, the casino atmosphere is lively, the restaurants are fun, and a jackpot of shopping, nightclubs, shows and spas make this escape a winner.

Stay: The Chelsea, a 331-room nongaming hotel, is located a short Boardwalk stroll from the casino action. Channeling retro glam with cushy velvet couches and shimmering chandeliers, AC’s premier boutique hotel features a saltwater swimming pool, diner-style restaurant and pampering spa. If your group is small, consider booking a suite. The Rock Star has it all: a sunroom with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the Atlantic Ocean, a fireplace, 11/2 baths, and full-size living and dining rooms. Book the two adjoining rooms to really party like rock stars.

Play: After dropping your bags, head to the Chelsea’s 10,000-square-foot Sea Spa. The generous treatment menu makes it easy to spend a day. Try the Spa Sampler; it’s a real deal with a mini-facial, mini-massage and express manicure for $119 (for $80 more, you can upgrade to the 50-minute facial and massage). Spa treatments give you all-day access to the fitness center, Jacuzzis, sauna, steam room and outdoor pool. Climb into the Jacuzzi with your gal pals and plot the rest of your day. Should you hit the shops first or roll the dice in the casinos? Playground (1 Atlantic Ocean) opened last year at the oceanfront site of the old Pier Shops; it’s a fun stop with retailers like Apple, Tiffany, L’Occitane and Burberry, and restaurants (Phillips Seafood, Stephen Starr’s Buddakan, and more) all under one roof. At the Tropicana (2831 Boardwalk), The Quarter is another self-contained center for shopping and dining—ideal for (dare I say it) a rainy day. Designed to conjure a street in Old Havana, shops and restaurant facades are flanked by palm trees and feature retro architectural details and bright colors. In addition to several enticing clothing boutiques, you’ll find Bluemercury Apothecary for a trove of cosmetics and skin-care products; Hat Emporium; Godiva chocolate shop; and the charming Old Farmer’s Almanac General Store. Tanger Outlets the Walk (1931 Atlantic Avenue) is two blocks from the Boardwalk and has more than 90 shops to peruse, including J. Crew, Chico’s and Coach.

For a dose of culture, stop by Stockton University’s Noyes Arts Garage (2200 Fairmount Avenue). Housed in a cavernous industrial space, it hosts multiple galleries, artist studio spaces and an eclectic boutique. At the Claridge Hotel, the Atlantic City Ballet has a vigorous schedule of performances. You can also peruse the Holtzman Gallery, a fine-art showcase with more than 50 artists.

By this point, you should be ready to stash your shopping haul at the hotel and try your luck at one of the casinos, where plenty of restaurants and nightlife await. Not a gambler? No problem, you’ll find world-class people watching and lots of places to enjoy cocktails.

Eat & Drink: Check out the daily happy-hour menu (4 to 7 pm) at Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse at the Golden Nugget Casino. High-end martinis go for $7, specialty and imported beers are $5, and oysters on the half shell are just $1 each. You can nosh and chat here until the closing bell. Or head over to the Gypsy Bar at the Borgata—a hip place to sit and sip. Here, the specialty is tequila. Prices range from $9 for your standard variety to $275 for a rare top-shelf pour. You can try a tequila flight, margaritas or a variety of other mixed drinks while listening to live music. There’s even a dance floor if the tequila makes you want to move. AC has a small feast of celebrity chefs, so deciding where to have dinner may be the toughest part of your day. The headliners include Bobby Flay Steak at the Borgata; Guy Fieri’s Chophouse at Bally’s; and the most recent addition, the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars. Other great options: Izakaya (Borgata) and Buddakan (the Playground) for inventive Asian; traditional Italian from Chef Vola’s (111 S. Albion Place; make reservations well in advance); the Knife & Fork Inn (3600 Atlantic Avenue), a mainstay for American fare; Cuba Libre at the Tropicana for Latin cuisine and memorable mojitos; and Atlantic City Bottle Company’s Iron Room (648 N. Albany Avenue) for terrific tapas and craft beer.

Don’t Miss: You might not be in the tropics, but the pool at Harrah’s serves as a reasonable Garden State facsimile. Complete with lush foliage and 82-degree water, this respite has five secluded hot tubs, plus food and beverage service—now that’s a getaway! Daytime admission is free for hotel guests, $10 for non-guests Sunday through Friday, and $20 on Saturdays, when a deejay brings a party vibe from 1 to 6 pm. On Thursdays, the music, food, drinks and revelry go from 6 pm to midnight, so you can keep the party going.

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