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Meet in Atlantic City for a Summer Destination

By Keith Loria

When people hear Atlantic City, thoughts of the boardwalk, blackjack tables and top entertainment usually come to mind. Of course, the weather has played havoc with the coastal town of late, with Hurricane Sandy and other storms hurting casino business and causing major damage to the area. Still, residents say things are looking up and there’s a positive energy in the air.

Jim Wood, president and CEO of Meet AC, says Atlantic City has always been one of the East Coast’s best places to hold a meeting and it’s no different in 2015. “This couldn’t be a better time for meetings, conventions and special events to be held in Atlantic City,” he says. “We are seeing a great deal of interest and our future booking numbers for meetings and conventions are at an all-time high.”

Where to Stay

Resorts Casino Hotel is centrally located on the boardwalk and the beach, and is known for its grand lobby, luxurious and spacious guest rooms and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville entertainment complex, offering a great mix of business and pleasure. Bill Jackson, sales executive, notes Resorts offers 24 meeting and function rooms, including 14 with natural lighting and ocean views. “Resorts totals 64,000 square feet of flexible space designed just for meetings and events,” he says. “Our professional meeting services staff are prepared to help plan and execute any event and anticipate a guest’s every need.” Resorts will be opening its new conference facility in July, featuring 11 breakout rooms on the same floor and adjacent to its 13,000-square-foot Ocean Ballroom, 17,000-square-foot Superstar Theater and 4,000-square-foot Horizon Ballroom.

In August, Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center will open and with two 50,000 square-foot ballrooms, it will be the largest convention center-hotel complex from Baltimore to Boston. “There are so many Fortune 500 companies in the area that do large product launches and have national sales meetings and are forced to go to Dallas or Orlando or Las Vegas,” says Michael Massari, Caesars Entertainment senior vice president of national meetings and events. “These are all fine destinations, but we want to see them be able to stay here at home in the fine state of New Jersey.” The ballrooms can be divided into 30 individual sections and will offer state-of-the-art, technologically advanced meetings space that can be utilized by up to 5,000 attendees.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is the market’s leading casino-resort, offering everything from two AAA Four Diamond hotels (Borgata, 2,000 rooms; The Water Club, 800 rooms), five celebrity chef restaurants (Bobby Flay Steak, Wolfgang Puck American Grille, Fornelletto Cucina & Wine Bar, Izakaya Modern Japanese Pub and Old Homestead Steakhouse), two destination spas (Spa Toccare at Borgata and Immersion Spa at The Water Club) and two award-winning entertainment venues (The Event Center and The Music Box). Additionally, there are 88,000 square feet of event space. “Borgata offers the unique experience of being in the center of it all, with everything under one roof—including highly appointed guest rooms, a variety of meeting and event space, restaurants by some of the country’s most renowned chefs and exciting entertainment options,” says Mark Vanderwielen, Borgata’s VP of hospitality. “Guests visiting for meetings and conventions can enjoy all that the resort has to offer without ever leaving the front door.”

Where to Eat

Back Bay Ale House is in the inlet section of Atlantic City, in the heart of Historic Gardner’s Basin, and offers charming bay views, a great menu and an outside bar. Owner Kyle Williams likens the restaurant to being in Key West. “We are a casual local craft beer Key West-style pub in the middle of the park with an outdoor dining venue serving great seafood and cocktails,” he says. “We handle groups from 500 outdoors and 75 indoors for private events and have the most beautiful views in Atlantic City, with spectacular sunsets.”

When one enters Buddakan AC, a highend modern Asian eatery at the Pier Shops at Caesars, eyes will immediately be drawn to the huge, glowing Buddha in the center of the restaurant, but it’s the food that keeps people coming back. It’s also a unique place to hold a small or large event. “Buddakan Atlantic City transports guests to another world with elegant décor and breathtaking dining spaces including a grand communal table in the heart of the restaurant that accommodates up to 26 guests and several other private and semiprivate dining rooms that accommodate 12-500 guests,” says Cara Rice, director of special events. “Buddakan AC also offers a private mezzanine level for groups up to 50 with its own bar.”

Inside the Tropicana Hotel and Casino is one of Atlantic City’s top Italian restaurants, known for its family-style meals and Italian ambiance: Carmine’s. “We have great food, all our sauces are homemade, and the smells are terrific,” says Maria Lewis, special events sales manager. “We can host private events and groups from 30-300 people between two levels.” With a magnificent 25-foot bar as the centerpiece, the dining area can accommodate up to 200 seated dinner guests à la carte, 300 for a buffet-style meal and 350 for cocktail receptions. Additionally, multiple cozy alcoves with red velvet draperies for ambiance provide intimate accommodations for smaller events.

What to Do

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium in Atlantic City is known for its collection of odd and bizarre exhibits, including many relating to the local area, such as an exhibit relating to the legend of the Jersey Devil, a miniature, hand-carved castle that was previously displayed by Ripley’s on the Steel Pier in the ’50s. In addition to being a unique tourist attraction, it also offers 12,000 square feet of space throughout the museum. “Ripley’s is different than any other venue because there is so much to see and do during the reception or party,” says Chris Connelly, manager. “Guests can browse through the museum while enjoying appetizers or a beverage, and interact with each other in a fun and casual environment.”

On the waterfront in Historic Garner’s Basin sits the Atlantic City Aquarium, complete with a 25,000-gallon tank, plus 100 varieties of marine species including a loggerhead sea turtle and stingrays. Lisa Schall, assistant executive director, says it offers spectacular views and a memorable setting for any meeting or special occasion. “We have one 1,000-square-foot meeting room called the Harborview Room and can accommodate anywhere from 30-90 people,” she says. The entire facility can be rented out after hours as well. “During their breaks, people can walk around the aquarium or walk outside by the water. It’s a unique place and people always have a fun time.”

The Atlantic City Convention Center is a tremendous event venue with expansive, multilevel meeting space and ample garage and outdoor parking options. It’s also connected to a 502-room Sheraton Hotel and is at the doorstep of the Tanger Outlet Mall. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind facility,” says Jim Wood, presi- dent and CEO of Meet AC. “In the first half of 2014, the 91 events held at the Atlantic City Convention Center attracted nearly 220,000 delegates, who used more than 46,000 room nights and generated delegate spending of $68.5 million.”