From top: Izakaya, a restaurant at Atlantic City casino Borgata; the Immersion Spa at the Water Club, a non-gaming hotel
I admit it: I'm attracted to slot machines. My ears perk up each time I hear that addictive ding that signals a winning spin. Of course I don't hear it very often when I play — OK, never — but nonetheless it's as fetching as a siren's song. That's why I like to visit Atlantic City, N.J.
My most recent trip to this gaming Mecca had me seeing more than symbols on a slot machine. Atlantic City is in the midst of reinventing itself as a seaside destination. Sure, there are still rows of casino hotels lining the beachfront, but there are also new hotels opening that don't offer gaming, like the luxurious
Water Club ( 800-800-8817 or thewaterclubhotel.com ) . The gleaming 43-story resort is just steps from the trendy Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa ( 866-692-6742 or theborgata.com ) , with which it shares an owner. The Water Club bills itself as the city's "first cosmopolitan hotel," with rooms that feature iPod docking stations and 40-inch flat-panel high-definition televisions, as well as comfortable, plush beds specially designed for the hotel by Sealy.
I somehow found time to relax at the hotel's Immersion Spa. Situated on the 32nd floor, the spa has sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, especially from the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround its indoor pool. My Swedish massage was 80 minutes of total bliss.
As always, food is a high priority on our adventures. First up on the list: the legendary, family-run White House Sub Shop ( 609-345-1564 ) . Everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles has stopped in for an Italian hoagie — a trio of thinly sliced Italian meats topped with provolone, lettuce, tomato and onion, then sprinkled with oregano and olive oil — all on fresh, homemade bread. The Italian sub loaves are delivered six to eight times a day from the Formica Bros. Bakery & Café ( 609-344-8723 or formicabrosbakery.com ) across the street.
For dinner we headed to Izakaya ( 866-692-6742 ) , a restaurant in Borgata. I opted for tempura fish and chips and tempura shrimp along with robotayaki asparagus grilled in butter, while the rest of the family devoured the calamari and Kobe strip steaks.
We topped off the evening at Borgata's Music Box Theater, with a little stand-up by comedian Brad Garrett, who's probably best known as the long-suffering brother of the title character on the hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.
The next day, Gold Tooth Gertie's Buns & Bagels at Bally's Atlantic City ( 609-340-2000 ) was the perfect breakfast option. The bakery produces everything from cinnamon buns and chocolate-chip cookies to bagels and to-die-for crème doughnuts. The bakery is so popular — producing almost 8,000 doughnuts a month — that you can count on a line in the mornings.
After the doughnuts, we tried to negate the calories by cruising through The Walk ( 609-872-7002 or acoutlets.com ) , a large outdoor outlet mall in the middle of the city. Along with the outlets, The Walk also houses a huge H&M, where I dropped more money than I did in the slots.
That evening we stayed at The Chelsea ( 800-548-3030 or thechelsea-ac.com ) , a new boutique, non-gaming hotel on the boardwalk. The hotel's fifth floor is its entertainment core, with a terrace pool that includes cabanas, a fire pit and bar, a game room, a lounge, and Chelsea Prime, a spectacular ocean-view restaurant from famed Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr, all on the fifth floor. The hotel's ground floor houses a 10,000-square-foot luxury spa.
Before heading home, we drove down to Ocean City so my husband, who vacationed there as a child, could walk the boards and grab a slice of thin-crust pizza, the kind you can fold in half, and devour a cone of Kohl's frozen custard. I couldn't resist the urge to hit the slots one last time. I walked away with a $10 win and just enough of those energizing dings to entice me back for another visit.
The Russian-themed restaurant Red Square at The Quarter at Tropicana ( 609-344-9100 ) specializes in vodka (169-plus varieties) and clandestine meetings — check out the velvet-draped booths in the back that are so private the wait staff has to knock before entering. Be sure to slip on one of the restaurant's minks or Russian Navy coats and sip your vodka in the vodka freezer/locker.