Famed Golden Nugget plans to reopen hotel-casino in Atlantic City

golden nuggetThe hotel-casino that hosted everyone from the Rat Pack to Liberace in Las Vegas plans to return to Atlantic City with a bigger, better, and more modern debut.

Landry’s, Inc., the parent company to the Golden Nugget Las Vegas, announced plans to buy the Trump Marina Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. The purchase is currently pending regulatory approvals, but Landry is already planning the design, decor and details of the new Atlantic City hotel, which will be located next to Borgata and Harrahs in the upscale Marina District.

The new Golden Nugget, which was originally a fixture in Atlantic City from 1980-1987, is being planned as a “premier resort destination” and will feature a number of Landry’s award-winning restaurant concepts including Chart House, Red Sushi, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine and Noodle Bar and the acclaimed Grotto Italian Ristorante and Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse.

According to a press release from Landry’s, the new Golden Nugget Atlantic City will include new bars and lounges with live entertainment, retail shops and boutiques and completely renovated rooms and suites. In addition to the late night bars and clubs, the resort-casino will also feature a new spa, poker rooms, race and keno rooms. Seasonal hot tubs and fire pits will grace the outside of the hotel for guests.

The Golden Nugget Las Vegas still carries the company by way of name recognition and yearly profits, but Landry’s says it plans to incorporate all the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas property into the Golden Nugget Atlantic City. Can it be done? Maybe Atlantic City will be the new Las Vegas…

Top ten overrated U.S. travel destinations/attractions

Whether or not you’re an American, there are certain places that are on almost everyone’s must-visit list. Some tourist traps, like the Grand Canyon or Disneyland, are worth joining the masses and ponying up the entrance fee (although I just checked the Magic Kingdom’s website, and Mickey and friends are bilking the parents of children under nine for $68 a pop).

Other much-lauded, highly anticipated hot-spots are simply not worth the time and expense. This is, of course, highly subjective: one man’s Las Vegas dream vacation is another’s Third Circle of Hell. It can also be fun to visit certain craptacular or iconic landmarks.

The below list is a compilation of my picks, as well as those of other Gadling contributors, in no particular order. You may be offended, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

1. Hollywood
Unless you love freaks, junkies, hookers, crappy chain restaurants and stores, and stepping over human feces on the star-inlaid sidewalks, give it a miss.

2. Las Vegas
I understand the appeal of a lost weekend in Sin City, really. And I will not dispute the utter coolness of the Rat Pack, Vegas of yore. But in the name of all that is sacred and holy, why does the current incarnation of glorified excess and wasted natural resources exist, especially as a so-called family destination?

[Photo credit: Flickr user Douglas Carter Cole]3. Times Square
A dash of Hollywood Boulevard with a splash of Vegas and Orlando.

4. South Beach, Miami
At what point does silicone become redundant?

5. Atlantic City, New Jersey
The poor man’s Vegas

6. Orlando
Toll roads, herds of tourists, shrieking children, an abundance of nursing homes, and tacky corporate America, all in one tidy package.

7. Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco
It’s hard to hate on San Francisco, but the once-glorious Wharf is a shadow of its former self. Hooter’s, Pier 39, seafood stands hawking overpriced, previously-frozen Dungeness crab cocktail, aggressive panhandling, and vulgar souvenir shops kill the mood.

8. The Washington Monument
The nation’s preeminent phallic symbol is admittedly an impressive piece of architecture. It’s also possible to get a great view from the car en route to other, more interesting historic sites and tourist attractions.

9. Waikiki
There is so much more to Hawaii, including beaches that aren’t man-made.

10. Mt. Rushmore
Faces carved into rock. Moving on…

[Photo credits: Times Square, Flickr user Falling Heavens; Waikiki, Flickr user DiazWerks]

Harrah’s, Caesars Palace create personalized trips for guests

Las Vegas is sinfully decadent in all the right places, but if you don’t know where to go or how to get your name on “the” list, you’re out of luck. News from The Strip is that Harrah’s and Caesars Palace have launched a service to fix all that. Catering to every need of bachelors, bachelorettes, divorcees, just-turned-30/40/50-mid-life crisis travelers, corporate executives, Kardashian wanna-bes and just about any other personality that visits Las Vegas, Harrah’s and Caesars Palace announce their new concierge trip planning service.

“Total Experiences” is a new, complimentary program created by Harrah’s to provide trip planning services and insider access to groups of leisure travelers staying at Harrah’s resorts in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and beyond.

Veronica Smiley of Harrah’s Entertainment is spearheading the new program and tells me it’s the ultimate planning option for all travelers.

“Each group of travelers is connected with their own Total Experiences Specialist, who handles all details of the group’s itinerary both before and during their stay, including creating VIP experiences for those guests who may not be high-rollers,” said Smiley.

The specialist can pull together everything from golf outings to private tables at the hottest clubs, depending on the guests’ needs.

“This is a complimentary service where guests pay for only what they book; the more the group adds to their itinerary, the greater the access and upgrades their Specialist can offer.” So, what has Smiley produced?You say you want to recreate “The Hangover” with your buddies (sans Mike Tyson’s tiger)? No problem. Smiley and her team can book you the “Hangover Suite” at Caesars Palace and plan a full guys night out with all the perks including tickets to see the Pussycat Dolls and a private gaming table in the Pussycat Dolls lounge, VIP passes to PURE nightclub and gaming lessons, if necessary.

Girls need a little getaway? Take a group cooking lesson with a Michelin-star chef and get backstage to meet-and-greet with Cher after her concert. Want a personal shopping tour of Caesar’s and some behind-the-scenes looks at the top jewels in Sin City? Not a problem, according to Smiley.

“We look at our portfolio of activities and make some recommendations for the guests based on what they’re looking for. We’ll find something for every budget and type of traveler.”

Here’s how it works: You and a group need to book at least five rooms and the concierge services are free. Tell your specialist what you’re interested in, your budget and whether you want to go wild and crazy or just focus on winnings. Your specialist will create a package and you’re off to Las Vegas. Smiley says the service does get discounts for group bookings but guests don’t pay an additional fee for using this service.

“You pay for what you book; you can get as much or as little as you want,” said Smiley. “Our only motivation is to create a whole new set of loyal customers.”

No more waiting in lines at nightclubs or begging bouncers to let you backstage at the Barry Manilow concert.

Atlantic City hotel vying for ‘Jersey Shore’ tourists

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the “Jersey Shore” debacle, but it’s true I can’t get enough of the super-fist-pumping-hair-bumping promotions hotels are doing to cater to wanna-be Guidos and Guidettes.

The most recent hotel vying for the attention of “Jersey Shore” fans is none other than The Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City,
site of episode 7 of the hot MTV reality show. Get your spray tan on and get a load of this deal:

The “Jersey Shore Package” includes:

– Overnight accommodations in a standard guest room starting at $878 per night per room, or $4,230 per night for the suite where cast members stayed
– One dinner at Il Verdi, the resort’s Italian restaurant
– Breakfast at Seaside Café
– Gift certificate to the Tropicana Salon, good for a “Jersey Shore Do” (for girls, guidette poufs with bumpits and for guys a guido “blow-out” ala Pauly D)
– A room service basket stocked with Italian delights, including (but not limited to) Italian cured meats, bread sticks and biscotti
– VIP admission to Providence nightclub and complimentary IN Cards which give access to nightclubs, food and beverage and parking discounts and more.

The “Jersey Shore” package is available through June 26, 2010. If you go, please take pictures of your new ‘do.

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ACES train makes NYC to Atlantic City less of a gamble

Summer in New York City is all about weekend getaways. The city gets hot, sticky and smelly. Thankfully, we’re surrounded by beaches to the north (Connecticut), east (Long Island) and south (New Jersey). But only the trip south can add something unique to your beach getaway: gambling. And that’s why thousands of New Yorkers flock to Atlantic City, NJ every summer to enjoy the sand and the slots. And a new express train service is aiming to get people out of the heat and into the action quicker than ever before.

The ACES train makes only one stop in Newark in between New York’s Penn Station and Atlantic City. The train gets you there in under three hours and it’s reasonably priced at $39 each way (with an upgrade to first class for $25 more). It only runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but that’s when most people are heading to AC anyway. I rode the ACES train round trip from New York to Atlantic City last weekend and came away with the following thoughts.
Pros

  • The price really is reasonable for the ease of the trip, limited stops and traffic-free travel.
  • The first class service offers a significantly more pleasant ride and is worth the upgrade.
  • ACES service is 30-60 minutes shorter than any bus service.
  • A free shuttle is provided to-and-from ACES partner properties (Harrah’s, Caesars and Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa)

Cons

  • The trains are not scheduled at the most convenient times for maximizing weekend travel plans.
  • Some ACES trains are scheduled to take two-and-a-half hours. Others close to three hours. So the time savings isn’t consistent across the schedule.
  • There are huge gaps of time when no trains run, so if you want to leave Atlantic City later than 10:45am, you have to wait until 7:25pm (on Sundays).
  • There’s no wi-fi internet access.

Overall, ACES is an upgrade over the cramped bus services that many people use for trips to Atlantic City. There’s no traffic and the trains are clean and comfortable. But, at present, the schedule is somewhat inconvenient. I would love to be able to leave AC after my hotel’s checkout time but early enough to get back to NYC in time to unwind before the weekend concludes. And, of course, internet access would make any ride more enjoyable.

I asked the good folks at ACES about the schedule, and they told me that they were somewhat limited by the schedules of NJ Transit and Amtrak, with whom ACES shares tracks. However, they plan to reevaluate their schedule this summer (six months after their February 2009 launch) to see what, if any, changes should be made. I vote for a northbound Sunday train around 4:00pm.

If you’re looking to escape NYC this summer and have a hankering for some roulette, waves and prime people watching, then you’re probably already planning to head to Atlantic City. ACES certainly seems like the best way to get there.