Rediscovering Atlantic City: Music, Meetings and Monopoly

August 15, 2019
Atlantic City

Atlantic City has a long and rich history. The New Jersey city has been home to the Miss America pageant since 1921, and its 5-mile boardwalk, constructed in 1890, is the oldest in the country and the longest in the world.

Best known for its casinos, boardwalk and beach, the city also has much to offer in the way of teambuilding activities. From beach yoga on to spa experiences, a waterfront cruise, beer pairings and chocolate making, there are plenty of options to suit any group’s needs.

Music, Pampering and Dining at the Hard Rock Hotel

Hard Rock AC

My window at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City looked out over Steel Pier, the city’s oldest theme park that extends 1,000 feet from the boardwalk over the ocean. Its Observation Wheel, which lights up in changing colors at night, has become an iconic landmark that offers views over the city and the shore. 

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City has more than 150,000 square feet of meeting and event space, and nearly 2,000 guest rooms to hold meeting attendees. Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena can host general sessions of 7,000 people or more than 300-booth trade shows and expo events, as well as music performances.

Music is of course a key component of the Hard Rock brand, and you’ll find it showcased throughout the property. Guests can request a record player and LPs delivered to their rooms for the duration of their stay, and music memorabilia is everywhere, including one of Bob Dylan’s guitars, Elvis’ Rolls Royce, a glittering glove from Michael Jackson and clothing that adorned stars such as Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.

Vibe manager Adam Zengel curates 38 different playlists that are specially designed for different areas within the resort. Groups can work with Zengel to build custom playlists for their events, or can work with the Hard Rock to book one or more of the many local musicians or bands who often perform on the property.

Even the spa features music. Guests can listen to their choice of tunes on headphones while sipping complimentary champagne during salon appointments, and specialty spa treatments include the Rhythm & Motion massage, which incorporates music and vibration. The Rock Spa & Salon at the Hard Rock Atlantic City offers 31 treatment rooms, a salon, pool, hot tub, steam and sauna. 

Want a special group experience that will help give attendees some spiritual energy? Our group started off the day with our own yoga session on the beach in front of the Hard Rock Beach Bar, right across the boardwalk from the hotel. 

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City has a wide variety of casual and fine dining restaurants as well as a food court. I tried a delicious half-size Philly cheese steak from White House Subs that was so large it could have fed me for three meals. Also memorable was Kuro, a Japanese restaurant where groups are encouraged to try “menu mapping.” You tell the waiter what you like and don’t like, and the chef sends out selections based on your taste preferences. 

The Orange LoopWhite House Subs

The game of Monopoly as we know it today (it was based on an older game) was invented in Atlantic City and features the city’s streets and landmarks. Located in the new and upcoming Orange Loop — the three blocks encompass Tennessee Ave., St. James Place and New York Ave. — is Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall. The restaurant, which opened in late 2018, features a rotating choice of 40 beers on tap and more than 60 more in bottles. The soft pretzels with warm beer cheese sauce are a must-have, and the Kentucky Avenue chicken sandwich with Japanese pepper-spiced chicken, kimchi and sweet chili aioli is outstanding.

Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall also features an outdoor patio with a bar and games that  would be perfect for a group outing. In the summer, free classic movies are shown and live bands play Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights.

During our visit, builders and decorators were putting the final touches on new dining and live music venue Rhythm & Spirits, which opened its doors in late July.

Just a couple of doors down from the beer hall is MADE Atlantic City Chocolate Bar, where visitors can buy homemade chocolate and enjoy craft cocktails. Owners Mark and Deb Pellegrino make the chocolate on-premises, but plan to move production to another facility to support business growth. MADE AC has only been open for a little over a year, but the couple has already sold more than 200,000 chocolate bars. 

Groups of any size can order chocolate bars with customized stickers, and small groups can book a chocolate experience. In the latter, the Pellegrinos explain how chocolate is made, allows participants to hand-grind a cacao bean using a mortar and pestle, and show how each piece of equipment works. And of course, you get to enjoy both the chocolate and the cocktails!

Just under a mile away is Little Water Distillery, the first legal craft distillery in Atlantic City. Groups can book a tasting and a tour, learn the history of distilling in Atlantic City (hint: the city wasn’t big on following Prohibition laws) and try some fresh-made cocktails using ingredients grown right outside the building. 

Historic Gardner’s Basin

When you’re in an oceanfront city, it’s natural to want to see what it looks like from the water. Atlantic City Cruises takes visitors out on the water for one- or two-hour cruises from Historic Gardner’s Basin. While there is a dedicated Dolphin Tour, our group saw several dolphins and some manta rays, along with learning more about the history of the city and its shoreline, during a one-hour Morning Skyline cruise. Groups of up to 100 can reserve a boat for a private cruise. 

If you’re planning a morning cruise, you can grab breakfast at Gilchrist next door and try the famous New Jersey pork roll, also known as Taylor ham. Or, have lunch or dinner and a beer or two at the Back Bay Ale House. Historic Gardner’s Basin is also the home of the Atlantic City Aquarium, which can host meetings and after-hours special events.

Back Bay Ale HouseGetting Around

Depending on where you’re coming from, there are various options for getting to and around Atlantic City. Atlantic City International Airport (ACY) is just a 12-minute drive from downtown, and Philadelphia (PHL) is just over an hour’s drive. Amtrak and New Jersey Transit also offer rail service.

Within Atlantic City, jitney service is an easy way to get around. “Jitney” was slang for a nickel, and that’s how much it used to cost to ride these small buses. Today the cost is a little higher, but at $2.25 a ride, it’s still affordable. AC Jitney Association has service from the rail terminal as well as downtown. Jitneys run on a regular route, but groups can also book 13- or 24-seat buses for private and event use.

If you want to ride in comfort, Joe’s Limousine Service is a family-owned business that has operated since 1967. My driver, Frank, acted as an unofficial tour guide during the rides to and from PHL. That’s how I knew to try White House Subs, learned the origin of the jitney, and discovered that I might be considered a “shoobie,” a term that originated back in the days when out-of-towners who wanted to escape the heat of the city would take the trains down to Atlantic City, carrying their packed lunches in shoeboxes.

For more information on holding meetings, events and teambuilding activities in Atlantic City, contact MeetAC.

Photo credits: Meet AC

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.