Two hours by car from Manhattan, Atlantic City isn’t often a New Yorker’s first choice for an exciting and indulgent weekend getaway. The beaches are overcrowded, it’s too hard to get around, and the resort fees will eat you alive. But a recent refocus on dining and entertainment has made AC more than just a cluster of gambling palaces. (There’s even a nascent, yet impressive, campaign to add more public art to the boardwalk.)
Night is when this city comes alive, but there’s so much more than bottle service and floor shows. We hit the town and found five places that help explain why AC is called “America’s Favorite Playground.”
1. Start out the evening on Resorts‘ 13th floor, where the celebrity-impersonator spectacle Divas Do AC draws a stead crowd (and is well worth the $25 cover). The show has recently been renewed for another year–and when you see “Dolly Parton” perform “Jolene,” you’ll know why.
2. When the show ends, stroll down the hall to Prohibition Bar, which opened in may 2011 and is billed as the first gay bar located inside a casino. That’s a lot of hype to live up to, but the kitschy plastic-palm decor gives gays a good central spot to meet up and dance.
3. Want something more low-key? Head over to the recently opened Rainbow Room, a cozy gay dive situated between the Tropicana and Trump Plaza: On a recent Sunday night, we drank beers with friendly locals, and even got treated to lap dances from a troupe of go-go boys.
4. As casinos go, none are as shiny-and-new as the $2.4 billion Revel, a glass-enclosed mega-resort that opened in May 2012. In addition to a state-of-the-art spa, 1,400 gorgeous oceanfront rooms (rates from $159) and the beachfront hotspot HQ Beach Club, the hotel is cranking things up with a new weekly LGBT party, Out At the Shore. Every Wednesday starting at 6pm, guests and non-guests alike are invited to The Social for cocktails, piano singalongs and a rotating lineup of entertainers. (The kickoff event featured Chippendale dancers Jaymes & James from CBS’ The Amazing Race.)
5. A good way to end your night is at the gay-friendly Ducktown Tavern, whose late-night happy hour from 3am-5am include half-priced appetizers and dollar-off drinks. The 24/7 sports bar has a prime location on Atlantic Avenue, making it a popular stopping point for after-hours casino workers, adventurous out-of-towners and an array of other colorful characters.