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Only having been to Atlantic City once, I was sadly under the impression that the city was little more than a bunch of casinos, clubs, and a beaten up post-Sandy economy. Unbeknownst to me was that Atlantic City is much, much more. A lovely city full of lively people, Atlantic City is a great weekend getaway for anyone in New York City or nearby. Here’s what to do in Atlantic City:

Stay at The Sheraton Atlantic City

Photo courtesy of Sheraton Atlantic City.

Upon arriving at The Sheraton on Friday afternoon, I had a little time to unwind and relax in my room. The hotel has an impressive collection of Miss America memorabilia, including tiaras and dresses on display from past queens right in the lobby. (There’s even a Shoe Bar upstairs, named for the Miss America shoes display!) I loved that there was a mini Starbucks downstairs, and a couple of places to eat in the hotel for convenience. The staff are friendly here, and the rooms clean and cozy. I loved the little amenities like the iHome radio clock and the option to opt out of housekeeping service as part of their “green” initiative in exchange for a $5.00 voucher to one of the restaurants. (Free Starbucks!)

Overall my stay here was really lovely, and it’s a great location (walking distance to the Tanger Outlets and Boardwalk!). I’d say the only qualm I really had my entire trip was the lack of refrigerators in every room. It seemed like only some rooms had them, and I was given the option to “rent” one to store some leftovers as my only other option. Also as a heads up: WiFi isn’t free here, unfortunately, but the rates are reasonable.

Explore The Quarter at The Tropicana Casino and Resort

Around mid-evening, the bloggers convened for a tour of The Quarter at The Tropicana Casino and Resort (pictured in feature photo). My first impression: It’s way more than a hotel! The place is really gorgeous and has a dreamy feel of what Havana might have looked like when Ricky met Lucy. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, The Quarter is having some fun activities taking place right now — a massive tree lighting is happening soon!

What really surprised me about The Quarter and The Tropicana, in general, was the number of retail and entertainment options right next door to one another. You can literally go shopping to watching an IMAX movie (the only theater in town, by the way!), to eating and clubbing without leaving the complex. Super spacious and beautifully designed, it’s a great place to hang out!

Try Cuban Food at Cuba Libre

Oh. My. Gosh. I don’t think I’ve been in a food coma the way I was after dinner this night! Firstly, it’s a beautiful space! Very Old Havana-esque, it’s softly lit and airy and matches the Tropicana’s theme very well. And now the meal.

As soon as we sat down, we were greeted by some crazy delicious Cuban bread with a side of mango butter. Needless to say, I was ALL over that! So unique and so good, I really had to calm down and save room for the apps and entrées . We also got a side of these delicious chips made from plantains to munch — and they were not only delicious, but also really impressive to look at — they were the size of my entire Sangria glass! (Also very good and seemingly bottomless…)

Now, as a vegetarian, I knew I’d be at a little disadvantage, but not as much as I expected. The staff was really friendly and great at suggesting my meatless options. A big plus: LOTS of veggie apps, and one very good veggie entrée. One after another, I got a chance to try all delicious vegetarian appetizers — and they did NOT disappoint! Seeing as I really have a soft spot for savory, carb-a-licious foods, I was in pure heaven.

Following that was a vegetarian paella, which I LOVED — and had to take home mostly uneaten. I’ve never had paella, which is usually made with seafood, so I was really pleased that they had this on the menu.

And then there was dessert…

There are two things I love more than a lot of things: flan and tres leches. As a Texas girl, I had a lot of GOOD flan and tres leches back home, and Cuba Libre does them both DELICIOUSLY!

I was absolutely in love with the Cuban Flan with dulce de leche and whipped cream and Tres Leches Cake with mocha mousse. Seriously, I don’t think I could have eaten any more that night, and I gobbled these up in a heartbeat.

Find Entertainment at the Borgata

Fortunately, we had the opportunity to laugh off all the food after dinner. Wanda Sykes was performing at The Borgata, so we hopped on the Jitney (love this alternative to a taxi!) and headed on over. What a great show! I have to say the ability to go from one hotel to the next quickly for a host of different activities is super convenient and really user-friendly. Needless to say, it was a jam-packed first day, and I was more than happy to head to my comfy bed and call it a night. Read more about what GMF did on Day 2!