New Jersey

Atlantic City Restaurant Week starts soon!

It’s that time of year again. Time for Atlantic City Restaurant Week. For all my peeps down in the Garden State, this is an awesome time, especially if you’re into the whole restaurant and culinary experience. Similar to Winterlicious (and its summer counterpart, Summerlicious) here in Toronto and of course New York Restaurant Week, participating restaurants in and around Atlantic City offer special menus at special prices in the hopes of showcasing what they have to offer – and maybe earning a few new regular patrons along the way.

My only problem with Atlantic City Restaurant Week is… it’s only one week.  And yes, I’m also 500 miles away from it right now. But even if I was down there (which I am certainly planning to be for next year’s event) seven days is not nearly enough time to sample all of the amazing places that are on the list.  Even if you did one restaurant for lunch and another for dinner, you can’t possibly try them all. Might I suggest to the folks down at the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority that they add a second restaurant week, perhaps in the fall?

I really love things like this, coupled with the fact that it takes place in a city that is near and dear to me. It’s good for the hospitality industry and the city’s tourism.

Atlantic City Restaurant Week runs from March 4 until March 10.

Vote for my hometown (Sea Isle City)

Just thought I would toss a little love out to my hometown as the New Jersey’s Top Ten Beaches contest gets underway this week.  Tourism season is just around the corner (yes, I know it’s still February… but believe me, Memorial Day will be here soon.) and a vote for a local beach town makes a great deal of difference when it comes to local economy and tourism.

Now, despite what the worst show in the history of television might have you believe, seaside towns in Jersey are not filled with ginos and grease-ball losers getting drunk every night. South Jersey has some of the most beautiful and picturesque shore towns in all of the United States.

And I come from one of them.

So do me a favor and vote for my hometown, Sea Isle City. There are three categories you can vote in; Day Trips, Family Vacation and Eco-Tourism.  And if you’ve never been down to the Garden State, you can always start planning your next getaway.

Lots of writing… and WrestleMania in Jersey

It’s been a busy week for me this week. Aside from all the writing I’ve been doing for my so-called “grown-up job”, as just about everyone knows by now, I’ve been going through all my old blog posts and putting them on line. All of 2003 and 2004 are up and hopefully 2005 will be done soon. Posts from 2000 to 2002 are harder to come by, not to mention the fact that I didn’t write as many entries back then, yet interestingly enough, a lot was happening in my life.

In the Happy News Department (and Lord knows that department has been lacking a few entries as of late) I was pleased to see that WrestleMania will once again be held in New Jersey, this time at MetLife Stadium in Meadowlands, which of course is home to the New York Giants and New York Jets. But I’m also a little bummed out by this news.

The reason being is that I was really hoping that WrestleMania would make its long awaited return to Toronto. It’s been ten years since it was last hear, so I had my fingers crossed that it was coming back next year. (And with WrestleMania 30‘s location yet to be determined, you can bet that the WWE won’t be putting a massive anniversary show like that in Canada either.) (more…)

Going to the Revel opening

From the looks of things, I’ll be sneaking away from Toronto for a few days in April and heading down to Atlantic City for the opening of the new, highly talked about Revel casino resort.  The complex is supposed to open May 15, but the big day is being pushed up by a few weeks, since everything seems to be going smoothly with the construction.

I take every chance I get to visit my home state and I’ve been curious about the Revel since it was first announced years ago. I won’t get to spend too much time back home, though. I’ll most likely take two or three weeks this summer when things are a little less busy in my life.

I’ve been watching casinos get built since I was young. It’s always exciting to see what they will do and how they will change the city. And now that I’m old enough to actually enjoy them, it makes it that much more entertaining.

hard rock casino coming to atlantic city

It’s amazing how a little bit of good news can really turn my day around. Just on Monday I was complaining about how Atlantic City was in a tail spin and I wondered how long it would last.  And now it seems I have an answer: at least a few more years — and then some.

The Hard Rock International (the folks behind that famous restaurant with all the guitars on the wall) announced that they will in fact go ahead with plans to build a casino hotel on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. If all goes well, it will be finished and opened by spring of 2014.

This is great news for A.C. because Hard Rock is a big name and it will (hopefully) bring in big entertainment. And while Hard Rock Atlantic City will be a smaller-scale hotel/casino compared to the massive Borgata that opened in 2003 and the Revel which opens next year, it’s still a sign of good things to come.

But I’ve learned not to get my hopes up. Many casinos have talked about moving into the Atlantic City area and have never shown up. Pinnacle is just the latest along with MGM Grand, but the Hard Rock is a step in the right direction and will hopefully help stimulate things.  And it makes me happy to see that my “downtown city” is hanging in there.

will atlantic city die?

When I was growing up, to me, Atlantic City was “downtown”. For a lot of South Jersey folks, Philadelphia is the “big city” where you go for a good time. But for me, I called “America’s Favorite Playground” the big city. And why not? It had bright lights, tall buildings, a bustling downtown, and everyone wanted to go there.  I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to be able to play my first game of Blackjack or pull the slot machine handles and hopefully win millions. (In case you’re wondering, it never happened. And by the time I was 21, I had already moved to Canada.)

Then something happened.

While I would love to say it was a direct relation to me moving away, I don’t think it really was.  Some time in the mid 90’s Atlantic City started to decline.  Tacky t-shirt shops and palm readers started to dominate the once famous Boardwalk, outnumbering the stores and restaurants. Casinos started to lose money and the State didn’t seem to care.

Then Las Vegas was reborn as the tourist destination, other states legalized gambling in the U.S. and AC continued to fall.

Sure, there was the promise of big name casinos that would come to town.  But so far, only two have come and many more have pulled out.  And yes, the recent rescission sure didn’t help. But how come Vegas continues to grow and Atlantic City, month after month, continues to struggle along on life support?

The answer is of course that Vegas is Vegas. Atlantic City had that chance too, but failed to grab the brass ring.  It has what Vegas doesn’t have: a shore line.  In the 90’s, the city should have done a massive overhaul, tearing down anything that wasn’t geared to help grow the economy and made cuts, tax breaks and incentives that would lure the casino owners to the coast instead of the desert.

Atlantic City has a great history, but that is almost all forgotten now.  And in the 80’s thanks to Trump and Tyson, the resort town enjoyed a small sporting boom and even hosted WrestleMania twice. (Laugh if you want to, but that event now brings in 50 million bucks to the host city each year) but hardly any big names come to town any more.

There was also the loss of the Miss America pageant and other setbacks including crime and the lack of decent jobs that has kept investors from heading east.  Sadly, no sales tax on clothes and shoes isn’t enough to bring them back.

Small advances have been made over the years.  The addition of The Walk and The Pier at Caesars have helped stir the local and tourist shopping interest, but it isn’t enough.  The question still comes up “why would I go to Atlantic City when I can go to Vegas?

Sad but true.

And every time I read an article from the Press of Atlantic City talking about the decline in business or loss of revenue the casinos are reporting, it breaks my heart because in the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder “will this be the final blow?”

Good Jersey folks like author Jen A. Miller try to remind everyone that southern New Jersey and Atlantic City are great vacation destinations.  They try hard to fight the negative Jersey stereotype brought on by the crap that is Jersey Shore and other heavily scripted ‘reality’ shows.

I doubt the remaining casinos will all pack up and leave together, but will there be an Atlantic City in 50 years from now?  It may not seem like a huge deal to everyone, but to me and many other Jersey people, it’s a scary thought.

happy memorial day

I think, in addition to The 4th of July and Thanksgiving, Memorial Day is my favorite “American” holiday. For me growing up in Jersey, it was always a special holiday because it meant the end of the school year was just around the corner and it was the unofficial/official kick-off to Summer — especially for a tourist friendly town like Sea Isle City.

Actually, the entire shore enjoyed Memorial Day weekend because it mean increased summer rentals, beach traffic and support for local business. Unfortunately it also meant more car traffic on the Garden State Parkway as well as getting in and out of town and of course the occasional rowdy group of jerks who would treat my hometown as their own private litter box. (Thankfully, I can tell you that NO ONE in Jersey behaves like those ass-hats on that overly scripted “reality” show Jersey Shore. And why does nobody behave like that? Because the show is NOT REAL.)

Anyway, as soon as Memorial Day was done, it wouldn’t be long before the real summer season was in full swing and things really began to heat up. Tourists would come to town for the weekend, one week or two week stays and it would always be nice to meet new people and occasionally make new friends.

But before I knew it, the summer was over and I was looking at Labor Day weekend and the end of summer.  And really, there aren’t that many days in-between when you think about it.  Summer is all too short.

Of course Memorial Day is more than just fireworks and beach parties. It’s a chance for Americans to remember and salute the brave men and women who keep the United States free. And over the past ten years they, along with many brave soldiers from other countries, have been fighting a brave battle in the War on Terror. And even though bin Laden is dead, the war is far from over.

So hopefully those Stateside and those like myself who are Americans living in Canada,  take a moment to remember why we’re able to celebrate Memorial Day.