My daughter turned 9 this week and we asked her what she wanted to do. She said she wanted a pool party but that anything will be fine with her. Last year we took the family and few of her friends to the American Girl in Manhattan for lunch and she got to pick the doll of the year. I was 9 month pregnant then and it was very hassle free. Just what I needed. They got the cake and gift bags for all the kids. All we did was to dress up and show up.

This year, although I am caring for a baby and two young kids, I am in a little bit of a better situation to plan something. We do not alway do big elaborate parties for the kids anyway. I never see the point. It is all about the kids, what they want, making memories for them and what the parent can afford – both financially and mentally. Over the years, I have found out that instead of having just a party, we can use one stone to kill two birds ( I do not believe in killing birds 🙂 ) so we plan our family vacations around our birthdays, that way, we get to go away for holidays and we get to celebrate with our closest and dearest. No better time to visit new places, meet new people, learn new culture and try different food like during your birthday week.

I have been wanting to go away for a little while this winter but because we have only just done a major move (hubby says no major holiday for a while), kids needs to settle properly in their new home and environment and most of all, I have a baby who I’m currently putting on a routine. we would have loved to go skiing like we did two years ago ( I was heavily pregnant last winter and we did the move from London to New York City), but I cannot expose the baby to such strong amount of cold high up in the slopes. So we decided on having the best of both world. Go away to somewhere not too far away, stay in a lovely hotel that has everything inside it, that way we won’t need to go outside into the cold with the baby. After all, all I really wanted was just a change of scenery. I don’t chase sunshine for holidays. It is all about the experience and scenery.

We settled for Atlantic City. It is just 2.5 hours drive from Manhattan so it was close enough. Atlantic City is popularly called the Las Vegas of the East coast. It is know for its beautiful beaches, broadwalk, casinos and high-rise hotels. I wasn’t necessarily looking for any of that (other than the high rise hotel), I just wanted somewhere beautiful to spend quality time with the kids and celebrate my daughters birthday. This led me to choose Ocean Resorts Casino. With beautiful indoor pool that overlook the Atlantic Ocean (5 pools), spa, shopping, casino (not that I need to play but it was nice to see) game rooms like pool, golf, several different restaurants and above all amazing views overlooking the Atlantic! All the rooms are sea-view but to get the most of it, I requested a top floor.

In all honesty, the hotel was not very family friendly in my opinion, I say these with a cringe because I really really love it and despite that we will be definitely be going back. The reason I say that it wasn’t very family friendly was because of the following reasons. After hauling kids from a long trip, when you get inside a hotel, you want to see the lobby – reception first. where you would be welcomed by friendly staffs who would point you to the direction to go and offer assistance. However, on entering the Ocean hotel, we were a little bit confused, it is so hug and magnificent but there was nothing like a lobby in sight. Although there were signs and directions everywhere I think the disappointment of not walking into the lobby immediately, couple with the long drive and kids, was a little overwhelming. Luckily enough we saw a guest who was leaving and he directed us to were to take the elevator to the lobby – take an elevator to the lobby?! I have been to so many hotels all around the world and this was a first for me, but anyway we took the elevator just by the corner, to a different floor of the hotel where we saw the reception. On getting to the floor, we had to walk, what seemed like a mile, all the way to finally find the reception. Luckily they had pretty good views to take your mind off it and the kids were well behaved (the baby had just woken up from a nap so she was well rested) so there wasn’t a lot of anxiety for a solo mom going a trip with her kids. It would have been nice to have the reception on the entrance floor and have staffs around to help with your luggage. But they made up with the aesthetics of the hotel. The pictures did not do it justice. One of those places you have to see with your own eyes. It was indeed beautiful. Even staffs who have been working there for a while told me they secretly take pleasure in the sights. I bet!

The hotel room was beautiful, cozy but a little dusty. I don’t want to use the word dirty because it was obviously very clean and it is a new hotel but there were a lot of dust on the back of the bedside table (the kids and I have mild dust allergies so this was worrying for me) the wires on the lamp shade was a little dusty and few other places too. But because it was a new hotel, it was generally clean on the surface, just a little dusty. I could use a wet wipe and give it a quick clean to be honest, I hardly make a fuss about something small or human error, especially if I really love the place. Like I mentioned, I would love to go back. The main reasons I won’t be necessarily going back just yet is mainly because there was no bathtub. This was the biggest problem for me. I will not blame the hotel for it however because they did not mention that they had one in the first place. I just assumed that a 4.5 star hotel will at least have a bathtub.

There was a gorgeous spa like shower and beautiful bathroom just no bathtub. This is very import for babies and toddles who cannot use a shower yet. The older kids loved it but not the baby. I was glad she was small enough to bath in the sink, but the sink will be too small for a toddler or chubby baby.

Finally, the worst thing I really did not find to be family friendly was that there was no kettle for hot water (think making baby milk or food I had to use the coffee maker to boil hot water), there was no courtesy bottled water or milk for those midnight thirst but there was a vending machines on each floor. They had a few coffee from starbucks and a little sachet of creamer (only two pieces), I must admit I was really disappointed in the in-room facility. If I was coming with adults or older kids, it would have been perfect.

But the kids did not mind. They were excited, happy and busy having fun and making new friends – as kids do.

It was very relaxing. We slept well. For a place with one of the best casinos in town, night club and shopping mall, it was relatively quiet at night. Maybe it was because we were on the 46th out of the 48 floors.

We spent the evening watching sunset from our hotel room window.

You could order a crib but I co-sleep.

The kids and baby slept well. I spent the night just being in the moment and taking it all in. I realized how far I have disconnected from reality. I was having one of those moments where you want to go traveling and living off grid – only lasted a minute. But it was a lovely feeling.

The older kids had fun in the pool (my daughter finally had her pool party) and they are saying that they want to go back. I won’t mind going back too because the hotel was just so beautiful. I have never seen a hotel as beautiful. It is so big, there are little gems in every corner. Like this giant lampshade

A motor bike here, classic car there, a grand piano. The interior design was out of this world.

There are several shopping outlets in Atlantic City and you can make a day trip out of it. But we never got to go outside the hotel environment until it was time to leave. Check out was super quick and easy.

We are looking at planning a weekend getaway there again because it was indeed a lovely hotel just with minor quirks. Nothing is perfect in life and we should show the children this value. We can’t just write off a place for little things. That is not real life, in life we make room for human error. It is also nice to remember the good deeds. Like when I requested a robe and was given two even though they only gave rooms that were suits. Or when I needed to almost ‘rent’ the whole pool for my daughter’s birthday party and put in a giant unicorn float! Some other places may not allow personal floats let alone such a huge one. So I could look past a few dust issues.

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