The Borgata Celebrates Its 15th Birthday With A Yearlong Celebration

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is the largest hotel in New Jersey and the top-grossing casino in Atlantic City, so it's only fair for it to celebrate its 15th anniversary in style. We recently had the opportunity to visit the property at the management's invitation, and after spending a weekend there, it's clear why it's such a popular destination.

The Borgata, which is located away from the boardwalk in the city's Marina District (along with Harrah's and the Golden Nugget), is absolutely massive. It's home to 2,000 guest rooms, 161,000 square feet of gaming, 11 retail shops, five fine-dining restaurants and 10 casual dining options, a 20,000-square-foot pool and garden, and a 54,000-square-foot spa. Its sister hotel, the luxurious, casino-free Water Club, offers an additional 800 guest rooms, a 36,000-square-foot spa, and five pools. If all this seems a little intimidating, well, the best option is to dive right in.

We stayed at the 43-story Water Club, which opened in 2008 and is connected to the Borgata through a short shop-lined hallway. Our room was nicely appointed, with a super-soft bed, a chaise longue, high-end bath products, and a spectacular view. We took some time that afternoon to go exploring, which we suggest you do; it's easy to spend a weekend at the Borgata without ever even venturing down to the boardwalk. The newest casual dining option is the Marketplace, which is home to food court-style options like chopped salads, burgers and fries, tacos, pizzas, and Philly cheesesteaks, but the Wine Bar, with its full market of Italian meats, cheeses, and other imported products, is the real standout. And if you're eager to get outside for a cocktail, the Borgata Beer Garden offers a full canopied bar, lawn games, and plenty of room to spread out. It gets crowded, however, and we didn't stick around after waiting more than 20 minutes without having our order taken. A solid lesser-known lunchtime option is Sunroom, a small bites-focused restaurant located inside the Water Club's lobby lounge; it's run by chef Geoffrey Zakarian and offers breakfast, snacks, tacos, sandwiches, charcuterie, and other light bites (Zakarian has also created the menu for The Water Club's in-room dining.

In order to celebrate its 15th birthday, the Borgata hosted a series of special dinners and events, including a poolside party with Wolfgang Puck, a carnival-style Birthday Bash with Michael Symon and Geoffrey Zakarian, a 15th anniversary dinner at Old Homestead Steakhouse, and Bulleit- and Patron- sponsored tasting parties. We had the opportunity to attend two events while we were there: a Jack Daniels "barbecue" in the long bar, complete with small plates from chef Brian Perry and Jack Daniels cocktails; and the 10th birthday party of Philadelphia-based chef Michael Schulson's Japanese-inspired restaurant Izakaya, which was a rollicking, multi-course feast complete with oysters, sushi, quail and lobster robatayaki, nori-crusted filet mignon, seared scallops, and strawberry panna cotta, each paired with cocktails and sake.

While most of the events have already taken place, guests can still book the Borgata Birthday Hotel Package, which includes an overnight stay, a complimentary daybed rental for two at the pool, a $50 dining credit, and two keepsake T-shirts, through September 27.

On our second night at the Borgata, we had the opportunity to dine at chef Michael Symon's Angeline (which, along with Izakaya, Old Homestead, Bobby Flay Steak, and Wolfgang Puck American Grille, comprise the Borgata's fine dining options). Angeline is Symon's ode to classic Italian-American fare (his mother's name is Angeline), and its menu is full of red-sauce favorites, including several family recipes. We started with a light shaved fennel salad, given a bright citrusy kick thanks to the addition of orange, olives, mint, and a lemon vinaigrete; and shrimp fritti, four jumbo lightly tossed in flour before being fried and served with tomatoes, basil, and garlic aioli. The breading was thin and super-crisp and the shrimp were perfectly cooked, a nice change of pace from your standard fried shrimp. Bucatini with short rib rag├╣ was homey and comforting, and a grilled veal chop with salsa verde and grilled prime rib-eye with oregano, chives, and anchovy were both perfectly cooked and full of flavor. There's no shortage of top-notch dining options at the Borgata, but we'd highly recommend his one.

Obviously, there's a lot more to do at the Borgata than discussed here: The spa is spectacular, there's wide variety of indoor and outdoor pools, nightclubs keep the party going at all hours... and, oh yeah, there's also a casino! The Borgata is a city self-contained within itself, and it's high-energy at all hours, has a decidedly upscale vibe, and is simply gleaming from top to bottom. There's a reason why it's so popular, and all you have to do is spend a few hours there to figure it out for yourself.