The Fourth is over, Gay Pride is over, and you’re sick of your summer share. So where to head to next when you want to gather up the boys and have a sun-filled weekend including gyms, drinks, great restaurants, beach time, pools, and a gay bar to boot?
Asbury Park is hot, but travel a little farther south and hit Atlantic City—yep, that Atlantic City. Like Vegas before it, AC is turning up the heat with gay appeal (Madonna and Lady GaGa at Boardwalk Hall, anyone?). I’ve hit the iconic city a few times in the past couple of years, and loved it; the slight seediness, the unpretentious casinos, the vendors, and the pure honesty of an older time. After Hurricane Sandy, however, my heart sank, as I read that much of the famed boardwalk had been swallowed up by the sea.
As any journalist can tell you, don’t believe everything you read.
AC had minor boardwalk damage from the hurricane, and is 100 percent back in action. While it’s not a gay Mecca (yet), the city attracts those of us who want more than just drinking and soaking up sun (though, in the summer months, that’s available). Go for a day or spend a weekend, and you’ll find tons of activities, salt water taffy included!
If you’re staying overnight, the first thing you need to do is pick a homo-centric hotel. I strongly suggest Caesars Palace, as it’s on the Boardwalk and has a gay-friendly vibe. Also, play your, ahem, cards right, and you can get a great ocean view. All the accommodations are clean and on the Spartan side and, surprisingly, quiet.
No one batted an eye as my date and I checked in for a room with one bed (this is the second time I’ve done this, and the second guy!), and no one noticed when we dined side by side at Mia restaurant. (Situated in the main lobby area, it’s a great people-watching spot, with deliberately overdone décor that includes those grand columns we expect from the Palace.)
Caesars has a couple other notable amenities, including a gorgeous, mid-size concert hall, the Caesars Maximus Theatre—Johnny Mathis, Liza Minnelli, Donny and Marie are all bookees—and you don’t need to leave the grounds to get inside. There’s a mini-mall of shops to browse through and, my favorite, the above-ground Pier Shops. Take a stroll here and you go over the water to find an array of bistros and bars and so much ambience you’ll sneak a kiss at your guy. Trust me on this one.
On our first evening, exhausted from a show and dinner and gambling (they have the Grease slot machine!), my date and I ended up plopping down on the couch at the hotel’s “straight” bar, 21 Sports Bar, for a breather, and ended up staying till two. The bar was jammed, and when a group of local dudes hustled up to the bar for drinks and babes, they looked us over and…shrugged. Such are the new times we are living in. Had we stayed any later they probably would have offered us shots.
Caesars has the standard buffet, but we veered just right of there for the more intimate coffee shop, Slow service, huge helpings. When my friend high-tailed it across the street to check out the retail stores that are plentiful, I hit the ritzy gym and spa and managed to get a full workout. If you hit AC on a nice day, do the boardwalk. The pedi-cabs, the hokey souvenir shops, the joggers and skateboarders, and that salt air blowing? No wonder they named it Boardwalk Empire. And no wonder Monopoly got its names from these streets.
Skip the casinos that look dull, or have the name “Trump” plastered on them, and check out something new, like Revel, the first AC non-smoking casino that is now smoking; bankruptcy will do that to you. Regardless of the resort’s troubles, it’s a great place to take a break from the older AC, with a casino floor that looks out onto the ocean and hoity-toity bars right out of Big Brother Vegas.
If you want to get off the strip for lunch or dinner, be cautious: Atlantic City proper has some cute bars and restaurants, but it’s not exactly a Chelsea Bitch Brunch. Should you decide to hit Harrah’s or Borgota, neither of which are on the strip, you’ll have to take a cab or the local shuttle. The former has the coolest indoor pool ever, and the latter contains another concert spot where luminaries like Kathy Griffin are known to bring in the boozers and the boys.
When nighttime arrives, all the gay workers and all the gay locals and pretty much all who are gay head to Resorts, where Pro-Bar, the only gay bar on the Strip, presides 13 floors above the city, with outdoor balconies that have fantastic views of the Strip. Yes, you’ll find lesbians there too—you’re not in Manhattan anymore—and you’ll also find a cool, local vibe that’s always the case when you’re in a spot that’s not dotted with gay bars. Across the hall is the drag show “Divas Do AC,” which brings the homo vibe full circle. Once inside, you’ll forget you’re in New Jersey and think you’ve hit The Duplex in Manhattan.
Speaking of those off-the-Strip spots, before you leave Atlantic City, hit Maria’s Luncheonette, on 2319 Atlantic Avenue. It’s a local hangout, with wonderful food and better service. I spoke to Maria, and told her she needed a Facebook page. She said she’d gotten lots of requests but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I guess you don’t need to worry about social media when your restaurant’s not a gamble.
For travel information to and from Atlantic City, visit Gay Orbitz. I’m betting they can help you.