The Jersey shore becomes a hot-spot for many New Yorkers and New Englanders during the summer time. White sand beaches, clean waters and summer time temperatures after a long winter are all the more reasons thousands flock this summer time destination. My husband and I took a weekend break to check out what all the fuss is about!
Our first stop was Atlantic City…the idea of the Vegas of the east coast ON the beach sold us on this destination. There are many places to stay…popular Vegas style hotels can be found along the famous Boardwalk; while, more cost efficient chain hotels can be found just a block over that are still conveniently located to the luxurious casinos and hot sand beaches. We opted to stay at Trump’s Taj Mahal just along the boardwalk. The rooms and bathrooms are spacious even for the basic standard rooms and fit all our needs. I requested a room with a view and low and behold, they gave us a room with a view! While we saved a few bucks by staying at this hotel as opposed to the newer, more popular, Revel hotel, we quickly learned why… The hotel décor in the casino is a bit dated and drab looking but that can be easily overlooked. The real problem I had with this particular hotel was that the low ceilings and lack of proper ventilation system caused the common areas and casino areas to reek of smoke. Also, this hotel is riddled with slot machines (read: money eaters) and we did not find any card tables.
Although Vegas has implemented smoke free casinos, Atlantic City has NOT. Even in the popular Revel Casino which had a more updated and modern look with high ceilings, we could not smell a trace of smoke but clearly saw some people indulging in the habit. Of course, we chose wisely where we sat… My point here is that no matter where you stay, all casinos are in rather close proximity to allow you to drop in any that you choose. We also found that Revel had many card tables…even a hand full of $5 minimum tables which was more our speed vs. the $10 or $25 tables (what do you expect from accountants?!).
The beaches were rather packed but not outrageously so. As we took a morning jog along the boardwalk, we noticed those die-hard sun gods/goddesses staking out their prime beach real estate for the day. The later afternoon still had plenty of good beach space but prepare to have some neighbors.
We only enjoyed a lunch during our time in Atlantic City and had opted for Amada in the Revel hotel that had a gorgeous view of the beach. We requested a beach view and were seated at a table within what resembled a bird cage. This restaurant serves tapas style dishes. However, the sandwiches are a fuller meal. After sharing a couple appetizers and entrées, we left with a rather steep lunch bill and not-so-full bellies. We would give this restaurant another try but probably opt for the sandwiches instead for a more reasonably priced and portioned lunch.
Getting out of the American hustle
Just 30 minutes outside of Atlantic City you will find the more relaxing atmosphere of Renault Winery. This winery consists of the Tuscany House hotel, the winery, several acres of vineyards and a beautiful golf course. This hotel has done an excellent job of recreating the Italian feel with the decadent lobby, Italian style furniture, and even the Italianesque sculptures peppered around the pool. The rooms themselves could use a little sprucing up in terms of new mattress and eliminating that just-cleaned bleach smell in the bathroom but overall, this hotel has a lot of character.
The winery and tour were great. This tour was very different than the tours we attended in France in the various wine regions. You won’t see rooms with filled barrels and as this is outside of harvest season, we didn’t see filled vats with fermenting grape juice, etc. However, the history provided on this tour is vastly different than that you would experience outside of the US. We found the survival of the vineyards through prohibition quite interesting. Through connections with the MOB, the winery was able to obtain a wine making permit that allowed the production of wines for religious and medicinal purposes. The Renault Wine Tonic had an alcoholic content of 22 percent and became the vineyard’s primary product that was sold in drug stores throughout the US. It contained a label warning “not to chill the tonic, as it would turn into wine which is illegal.” Perhaps that warning came with a ::wink::wink::
During the tasting, we were able to sample 6 different wines. This particular winery produces 20 wines using a variety of 12 different kinds of grapes. Many of which are award winning wines. We found the traditional table wine called “Burgundy” the best and purchased a case (as the winery does not ship outside of New Jersey).
The winery also offers a beautifully kept golf course, though the bunkers on the holes could use a little weed pulling, the geese and vineyards scattered throughout the course made up for it.
The hotel and winery offer two restaurants. We had a breakfast, lunch and dinner at Joseph’s Restaurant though the gourmet restaurant, appropriately called Gourmet Restaurant was recently renovated and located at the winery offers a very popular Sunday Brunch. However, our tee-time didn’t allow us to try it. The food at Joseph’s restaurant was good; however, due to the business of the restaurant, the service was sub-par. The high-school students waiting on us were trying really hard so we spared them any grief. We also quickly learned not to sit next to the window as those tables include additional guests…flies!
Overall, we would recommend the experience of Atlantic City and the neighboring vineyards to anyone looking for a night of fun followed by some relaxation.