Needing a weekend out of Dodge (a.k.a NYC), I headed down the Garden State Parkway to check out the new 1,898-room Revel in Atlantic City. The glittery $2.4 billion resort and casino is attracting a lot of buzz to the oft-struggling seaside gambling mecca. It's the first resort built there in nine years, and it has an enviable location right on the iconic mile-long boardwalk, still refreshing lined with fudge and taffy shops and home to Steel Pier, the 1,000-foot-long amusement park jutting into the Atlantic and dating from 1898.
Revel is big. That's the fist thing you notice as you drive in. The gleaming 47-story glass tower definitely makes an impression, as does the enormous porte-cochere where stretch limos line up to deposit bachelorette parties, groups of friends celebrating birthdays and couples out on the town from Philly, New York, all over Jersey and points elsewhere. The décor is very impressive, with large modern sculptures dominating the central atrium. After a quick check-in (I was able to arrive before the Friday night crush), I headed to my room on the 18th floor. I appreciated the large flatscreen, the phone with a removable tablet that could be used to surf the internet and the Deco-style lamps -- but the best part was the view. I had the Atlantic to my east, the boardwalk and its stalwarts like Bally's and Showboat directly ahead and off to the west, where the sun, now a bright orange orb, illuminated the marina and surrounding marshlands with a soft glow.
After a spin through the casino floor -- not quite bustling but certainly getting there -- I met up with some friends for dinner at American Cut by chef Marc Forgione (his eponymous Manhattan restaurant is on Reade Street), which was definitely one of the weekend's highlights. We started with the three-tiered seafood tray brimming with oysters, shrimp, lobster and crab followed by a phonebook sized t-bone steak (the meat is by top purveyor Pat LaFrieda). I also sampled the moules frites and Belgian beer at Robert Wiedmaier's Mussel Bar, and while I didn't get a chance to try the Spanish fare at Amada from Philly star Jose Garces, I heard great things from fellow guests. While I was checking out, I overhead four twentysomething guys still raving about the whole roasted suckling pig they had the night before (a signature dish that must be pre-ordered). There are numerous other restaurants to choose from, so going hungry is not an option -- though be warned, there is no Vegas-style buffet.
Now, I was ready to hit the casino. At 130,000 square feet it's one of AC's largest with enormous ruby red Chinese lantern-like structures suspended from the high ceiling (the casino was designed by the Cirque de Soleil team). Things were in full swing at the blackjack and craps tables with people of all ages, sizes and manner of dress hootin' and hollerin' when their number or card came up. While getting the lay of the land, I had a beer at the centrally located Social bar. Its amphitheater-style seating and huge flatscreens make it the perfect spot to watch sporting events (in fact, I joined a few other dozen screaming mimis to watch the Preakness). I was able to squeeze myself into a little nook at a roulette table and gambled for about an hour, eventually coming out even, which suited me just fine.
Aside from the gaming (there's also a large poker room on the next level), the resort boasts a hydrotherapy spa, two pool areas (one with cabanas that can be rented for the day) and set to open shortly are a beach club and a four-story freestanding nightclub with a rooftop bar that promises to be AC's hottest party spot. And finally, there's Ovation Hall, a state-of-the-art 5,500-seat concert hall where I saw the Black Keys on Saturday night. Maroon 5 performed the night before and the following weekend Beyonce was set to dazzle with four sold-out shows (there are plenty of big names on the upcoming schedule). At Revel there's always something going on.
Revel room rates start at $239.
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