For a couple of decades, the Showboat in Atlantic City was one of my favorite haunts. I used to love the Mansion Café, this huge restaurant with various dining rooms styled as different rooms of a 19th century New Orleans mansion. The fried chicken was to die for.
I also loved going to the House of Blues and the Plantation Room at the Showboat, and I loved all the trappings of the Mardi Gras theme everywhere you looked.
In 2009, they even had Dr. John, the Night Tripper—the quintessential New Orleans icon—perform at the House of Blues. Regrettably, I missed it. But I digress.
I liked everything at the old Showboat except for the video poker. That’s all I’d play in the old days, and Showboat was one of two casinos in town from which I never emerged a winner. I don’t know if it was just coincidence, or the result of some New Orleans Mardi Gras voodoo spell.
Probably the first. The coincidence thing.
And it was Harrah’s. I know you were wondering. Harrah’s was the other Atlantic City casino I never won in.
Harrah’s Entertainment, in fact, owned Showboat at the time. Harrah’s and Showboat were sister properties. (Mean sisters to me.)
Though the Showboat was still profitable, Harrah’s closed it, House of Blues and all, in summer of 2014—part of the general contraction of the Atlantic City industry that year. Harrah’s sold it later that year to Richard Stockton University, with a deed that stipulated the property could never again include a casino. In 2016, Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein bought it for $23 million.
Blatstein reopened the Showboat Hotel that year, its former casino floor serving as an event center of sorts—except when they plugged in slot machines again for that zombie movie in 2021, which was really cool. The film, Army of the Dead, was shot mainly in the old Atlantic Club/Atlantic City Hilton/Golden Nugget, which at the time was covered in cobwebs with big chunks of brick falling from the façade to the sidewalk. Good place for a zombie movie. Even though it was a very bad zombie movie.
But again, I digress.
This year, Blatstein opened up the Island Waterpark at Showboat, a year-round splashfest with huge water slides, waterfalls, a lazy river, a “Rip Tide Zip-Line,” the “Coconut Zero Gravity Coaster,” and the “Flow Rider,” this massive contraption that has you navigating through water going every which way while riding something called a wakeboard.
That last one is so intense they offer “Flow Rider Lessons” for $25. If you want to go on the attraction, you have to sign a “Release and Waiver” form that says you’re aware that the ride involves strenuous physical activity that you feel you will be able to handle without, you know, dying.
My wife told me immediately she wants to go. Though technically a senior citizen, she is fearless. She’s always the only grandmother up there with the kids on some hazardous ride that would surely kill me.
In fact, I’m pretty sure the Island Waterpark would kill me. I haven’t been on a carnival ride since I slipped a disk at age 34. I once took my kids on one of those saucer rides, and ended up hobbling around like some twisted freak for three days. Beyond that, I’m not good at waterparks. In the Bahamas, I got injured on the lazy river, for crying out loud.
My innertube got rammed from behind by some punk kid, and the force sent my face, sunglasses and all, smashing into the cave wall. I had to go to the on-site infirmary at Paradise Island.
Who knew they even had one?
The next day, I interviewed a vice president at Baha Mar looking like I just came from a bar fistfight.
By the way, I got my sunglasses back. They were unusable, but damn. They actually found them.
It’s actually become a tradition in my family that vacations mean some freak accident for Dad. So thank you, Mr. Blatstein, for opening the Showboat back up. Reopen the Mansion Café, and I’m there. Maybe you can open the House of Blues back up too. That would be a blast, except that Doctor John’s no longer with us. These days, though, I’m sure you can find a tribute act.
Yes, I may return to the Showboat some day. But thanks anyway, I’m not taking my relatively ancient bones in to try out the Rip Tide Zip-Line or the Coconut Zero Gravity Coaster.
And certainly not the Flow Rider. I wouldn’t even make it through a lesson.