• Kristin Zeller

Casino Properties for Holiday Parties

With the end of 2018 drawing near and the holiday season fast approaching, everyone is looking to unwind and celebrate. Now it’s up to event planners to figure out the perfect location for their end of year event or party.

Planners always want to create an event experience for their group that’s unique and fresh. So what better destination than Atlantic City, NJ, where the bright lights, music and a beautiful backdrop are sure to set the stage for a memorable time while also shaking up old notions as to how the annual end of year get together is supposed to be?

In Atlantic City, there are several exciting facilities with fantastic amenities that can help set the stage for some truly unique holiday party experiences.

Jessica Kasunich, communications manager for Meet AC, offers some insight as to why Atlantic City is such a great option for planners who are looking to move away from the “traditional” holiday party routine.

“Atlantic City is a hidden gem along the New Jersey shoreline, offering visitors much more than a seaside destination. As Atlantic City has gone through numerous transitions, the destination is in the midst of the dawn of a new era, drawing from its rich history to meet the demands of the future,” says Kasunich.

Atlantic City boasts more than 17,500 first-class hotel rooms that can serve as the perfect accommodations, including at casino resorts with full resort amenities, and the settings can range from adults-only to a family-friendly atmosphere. The hotel and casino properties also feature meeting facilities and a plethora of unique event spaces.

Kasunich notes that numerous venues are able to offer ample space for holiday parties. “Here are my recommendations for fun and unique: Dock’s Oyster House; Knife and Fork Inn; Hard Rock Café; The Palm at The Tropicana; Little Water Distillery; or One Atlantic.”

With ocean views, casino and non-casino atmospheres, as well as unique themes to play off of, Kasunich explains that Atlantic City has a great deal to offer for a unique and interesting holiday events.

At the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Tim Louie, public relations manager, says this new facility can host some truly unique holiday events. “Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, located on the famous Atlantic City boardwalk, offers 150,000-square feet of meeting space that is comprised of 87,000-square feet of configurable event space, as well as the 63,000-square foot Hard Rock Live at the Etess Arena.”

With the unique music-themed setting and backdrop of the AC boardwalk, guests are sure to have a memorable party at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino any time of year.

“Whether your next performance is big, small, work or play, it is sure to be a hit when you let Hard Rock set the stage,” says Louie. “In addition to catered events, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City offers superstar entertainment and a world class casino. Enjoy a variety of dining options with more than 20 dining experiences, along with DAER Nightclub - not to mention ‘365 Live,’ which offers live entertainment every day.”

What better way to wrap up a long year than by celebrating with the team at a live show, or by hosting a private catered function and playing some games of chance on the casino floor!

One of the things that sets a holiday party apart at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City is its interesting exhibits that guests enjoy during their event. “Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City has over 4,000 pieces of music memorabilia on-site, including John Lennon’s hand-written lyrics for his song ‘Imagine,’ Frank Sinatra’s piano, and Elvis’ Rolls Royce,” says Louie.

Its large display of music memorabilia serves as a fascinating addition for a fun and unique party.

Regardless of whether a holiday party incorporates a music theme or not, Louie recommends that planners turn up the dial and amplify their guests’ entertainment experience.

Among the favorite casinos of meeting and event planners no matter the season are the three Atlantic City properties of Caesars Entertainment (Caesars, Bally’s and Harrah’s).

Director of citywide catering sales for Caesars Entertainment, Michele Polici, offers an overview of the brand’s locations, as well as of the three Atlantic City properties, specifically.

“We have 40 properties across the U.S. in 20 destinations, and dipping our toes into being international shortly,” Polici exclaims. In addition, opening in Las Vegas in 2020 will be the exciting Caesars FORUM, a new conference center with 500,000-square feet, which will include the two largest pillarless ballrooms in the world.

“Atlantic City has three great venues that continue to awe me every time I am there,” says Polici. “The Waterfront Conference Center at Harrah’s Atlantic City is a beautiful space that has so much flexibility in its function space. The Foyers have windows. To be able to see out to the bay area is great! There is a lot of great meeting space, whether your group consists of five or 5,000 people. When we built it, we wanted to have the flexibility for small or large groups.”

Polici also notes that the property is repositioning itself with a lot of great food and beverage outlets, and everything is customizable.

Polici advises that, when it comes to putting on a holiday party, the most important thing to ask a group is what the holiday season represents to them?

“Companies still have year-end celebrations, but maybe it is not holiday focused,” she explains. “Some have changed from the standard party to more of a community service event. Thank your employees and give back at the same time. Maybe your group can take those funds and give back with a toy drive... building bikes, or donating to a food bank.”

Adds Polici, the key is that one-size does not fit all, so figure out what your goal is and then ask a lot of questions in order to find the perfect fit.

For more traditional holiday celebrations, Polici notes that people still love to get dressed up. “Theme parties can be great. Choose a monochromatic look for a party, or a special moment in time to celebrate,” she suggests, adding that Caesars Entertainment looks forward to helping with a theme by doing things like creating a specialized menu to go along with it.

“We did a ‘70s party and researched ‘70s food for the menu,” she continues. “We went and bought TV trays to serve from and had macaroni and cheese, chicken a la king and a Jell-O mold… it added a fun flair to the holiday party.”

When theming a party with a monochromatic look, Polici says that can be very interesting from a visual perspective, and planners are able to incorporate it into everything - from the food to the vessels it’s served in and even to the ice.

“Red is my favorite theme for this year, and a few weeks ago we did a ‘bet on red’ party,” recalls Polici. “We had all red candy stations, served red gazpacho, strawberry lemonade, Red Vines, Red Hots and Mike & Ikes. Everything was in clear vessels, which really made the red ‘pop’ [visually].” Polici adds that candy bars are still a hit and serve as a nice takeaway for guests. “If you’re not doing a raffle and people want something to bring home or to eat, a candy station is a unique way to end an event, and it can be given out in branded bags.”

A rather spectacular facility available year-round, but also perfect for a non-traditional holiday party, is The Pool at Harrah’s Atlantic City. “There’s nothing like it,” exclaims Polici. “It is the most spectacular backdrop for an event. It is like a tropical oasis covered by a dome.”

While inside this tropical environment, guests can view the night sky and enjoy the feeling of being in a truly unique space.

“We have done DJs, bands, night time activities, a holiday swim party and more,” says Polici. “It holds up to 2,000 guests, but you can host an event with fewer. There is so much going on aesthetically - with cabanas and natural areas. No matter what the size of group, it is a really cool atmosphere.”

She adds that, since there is so much going on at The Pool at Harrah’s, planners don’t need to invest in a lot of props and decorations because the tropical surroundings serve as the decor.

Located along the boardwalk, in between Bally’s and Caesars, is Wild Wild West, which features a California Gold Rush and Old Western theme, along with high ceilings and a built-in stage.

“The beach bar is right outside, and in-season the area can be rented right off the sand for private functions,” explains Polici. “Inside, at Wild Wild West, groups can really have an interactive party with games, a mechanical bull, corn hole and more. We can bring in additional games or have a DJ and band. Your group can have all of these experiences and then step outside right on the boardwalk to grab some fresh air.”

Polici says that the team at Caesars Entertainment is available to help customize group experiences and is happy to use their expertise to set up an event that will best suit those who will be attending.

“Ask questions,” she advises. “Do you want to dance or not? Do you want to be seated or not? A lot of human resource people are in the planning capacity for holiday parties and it may be the only event they plan all year, as they are not a ‘traditional’ planner. Take them by the hand and ask them - what do the guests like to eat? Do they want to be interactive? You have to know one size doesn’t fit all, but asking all of these questions will help to make sure guests are satisfied.”

Yet another popular Atlantic City destination for meetings, events and parties, including during the holiday season, Tropicana Atlantic City is perfect for hosting a unique holiday event. Vice president of hotel sales, Jim Ziereis, explains, “Tropicana Atlantic City is conveniently located on the Atlantic City beach and boardwalk and has just under 2,400 luxury oceanview hotel rooms and suites as well as 120,000-square feet of meeting and event space that can accommodate groups from 10 to 2,000 people.”

Continues Ziereis, “The Havana Tower, located in The Quarter, features 45,000-square feet of function space, including 20,400-square feet of executive meeting space on the fourth floor. The 68th floor features four Apex Board Rooms, each measuring 780-square feet. Each board room offers: seating for up to 14; high-speed Internet access; striking views of the ocean and city; boardroom tables with built-in audio and video controls; recessed ceiling mounted video projectors and screens; high-tech audio and video systems; and video teleconferencing equipment.”

Additionally, Tropicana Atlantic City offers 54,000-square feet of space in the North and South Towers, including a 20,000-square foot Grand Exhibition Center, which is ideal for trade shows, and the 18,000-square foot, pillarless Royal Swan Ballroom.

“Our combined towers encompass 122,000-square feet of flexible function space. The Tropicana Showroom with over 2,000 seats also is used for meetings and conventions and the IMAX Theatre®, with 300 seats, can be utilized for presentations,” notes Ziereis.

For those planners who are looking to book a unique holiday party, Tropicana is a great option because it blends work with fun through seasoned expertise.

“Tropicana’s staff of Certified Meeting Professionals is specially trained in all aspects of meeting planning and its experienced catering staff will help create the perfect fare for any function,” notes Ziereis. “Our staff is ready to make your holiday party special.”

“We also are home to more than 25 places to dine, 25 places to shop and 20 places to party,” he continues. “Most of our restaurants can accommodate groups within a larger restaurant setting. In particular, Olón and Okatshe, both creations of celebrity Chef Jose Garces, as well as Chelsea Five Gastropub, are gearing up for the holidays with delicious a la carte menus.”

Decorations aren’t needed at Tropicana, as the resort has already done all the work needed! “As soon as you arrive you will be in the holiday spirit, as Tropicana transforms The Quarter into a Winter Wonderland with a 35-foot decorated tree and a free daily holiday musical light show,” explains Ziereis. “From November 25 through December 21, the Tropicana Showroom will host ‘Jingle: A Magical Holiday Spectacular,’ which is a perfect addition to any group’s holiday party.”

“Additionally, anyone attending a holiday party booked for Saturday, December 8 should not miss our annual Holiday Sing-Along on the Boardwalk at 5 pm,” he adds, noting that Tropicana has a tremendous amount of options to make a holiday party fun and memorable. “Many groups have started out in our AC Escape Rooms for a team building session, gone to their banquet or one of our restaurants for dinner, and then kept the party going by attending our holiday show in the Showroom or dancing the night away at Boogie Nights: The Ultimate ‘70s and ‘80s Dance Club.”

Tropicana has a variety of other places in which to party throughout the property, and Ziereis notes that the casino is happy to work with groups on discounted room rates for those who wish to stay the night.

But Atlantic City isn’t the only place to find great casinos that can accommodate holiday events and parties

SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, PA, for example, is a premier gaming and nightlife location. A recent $164 million expansion has added new amenities, six restaurants, a new event space, a seven-story parking garage and more.

An elite dining experience awaits at Hugo’s Chop House & Frog Bar inside SugarHouse Casino. Part of the legendary Gibsons Restaurant Group, the only restaurant group in the nation to have its own USDA certification, Hugo’s serves USDA-certified above prime beef. Gibsons Restaurant Group also serves as the exclusive caterer for the SugarHouse Casino Event Center, where they boast customizable menus.

Located on the second floor of the casino, The Event Center is tailor-made for corporate events, receptions, black-tie galas, and of course, holiday parties. It also is home to performances by stars like Trevor Noah and LeAnn Rimes. The center features floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the riverfront and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

For those in search of a little help, SugarHouse Casino’s sales team can guide planners through the process of putting together their holiday event.

The Event Center is 10,000-square feet, and features an outdoor balcony and pre-function space, plus a green room. It offers the ability to subdivide the space into smaller, more intimate sections, and is accessible to all ages.

Another great space for a holiday party is the High Limit Lounge at SugarHouse, which features an outdoor patio, a view of the bridge, as well as private gaming parlors. The High Limit Lounge offers a vast selection of top shelf liquors, beers and wines in a setting that is ideal for small to medium corporate groups. Guests under 21 years of age not permitted in this area.

What’s more, now through December 29, 2018, groups who book a holiday party of 100 guests or more at SugarHouse will receive a complimentary DJ, dance floor, up-lighting enhancements, choice of colored linens, plus $25 Hugo’s Chop House gift cards for each guest (minimum purchase required).

For those in Northeastern Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, right in their backyards are the gorgeous and unique Mohegan Sun Pocono and also the flagship Mohegan Sun property in Uncasville, CT. In addition, Mohegan Sun manages Resorts Atlantic City, as well, and all three of these properties have much to offer when it comes to meetings, events, and holiday parties.

John Washko, VP of exhibitions and convention sale for Mohegan Sun, offers an overview of the flagship Connecticut location.

“Mohegan Sun celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2016 as one of the largest casino and entertainment destinations in the world. Since that celebration, Mohegan Sun has added a second 400-room hotel to join the iconic Sky Tower, which has more than 1,200 luxury rooms and suites, and added a sprawling 125,000-square foot Expo Hall as part of a major $80 million convention expansion.”

“In all, Mohegan Sun is now home to three incredible entertainment venues, including the award-winning 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena, nearly 1,600 hotel rooms, two world-class Mandara Spas, around 90 dining options and retail experiences, and 275,000-square feet of flexible meeting and event space,” Washko notes.

Mohegan Sun offers nearly endless opportunities for private parties and events, such as holiday celebrations, all in various size, scope and style.

“There is the 38,000-square foot Uncas Ballroom in the Sky Convention Center, which is just a short walk from the Sky Tower lobby,” says Washko. “This ballroom breaks down into multiple rooms as well, though if the holiday party is big enough, it can hold upward of 5,000 people and can be decorated and set-up perfectly to the client’s preference. Everything from a live band, service from one of the best in-house catering teams you’ll find, and special gaming activities can be accommodated.”

All of these offerings can be matched within the newly opened 20,000-square foot Earth Ballroom, as well, which is just a short walk from Mohegan Sun’s second hotel, Earth Tower.

“If a party is remarkably large, then look no further than the Earth Expo Hall, which spans 125,000-square feet and features endless customization opportunities and natural light pouring in along the northern section of the venue,” exclaims Washko.

Alternatively, he adds, groups looking to hold a holiday party outside of Mohegan Sun’s meeting and convention space also could reserve space at various Mohegan Sun restaurants and nightlife locations, including BALLO Italian Restaurant, COMIX Comedy Club, and the Lansdowne Irish Pub and Music House.

“Mohegan Sun has hosted various holiday parties for guests with imaginative themes like Winter Wonderland, Ski Lodge and Starry Night. There also is a larger holiday party we host every year in the Uncas Ballroom called ‘Big Little,’ where smaller companies can reserve a block of tables to be a part of bigger event with lavish buffets, a DJ and great activities,” notes Washko. “One of the more recent holiday Big Little events had a Dr. Seuss theme.”

Whether large or small, groups have plenty of options and a variety of opportunities when it comes to holiday events at casino resort properties. In choosing a casino for a holiday event, the planner can provide their attendees with an all-in-one destination that features everything from great event space to fine dining to exciting nightlife and more.

The excitement of gaming, the unique atmosphere and theme of the casino, as well as the fun of being somewhere unique for the annual holiday event, is sure to be very appealing and attractive to attendees.

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