We celebrated Independence Day in Atlantic City, joining Mr. and Ms. Sexy Armpit for two days’ worth of tequila and gambling and fireworks. (In that order, come to think of it.)
Between the blue skies and the straight flushes, it was an amazing weekend. Of course, we spent many hours on the famously infamous Atlantic City boardwalk, searching for post-worthy treasures. Here are some of the highlights:
#1: Souvenir Shops That Time Forgot!
The Atlantic City boardwalk is home to dozens of strange souvenir shops, where the prices are low and the old stock is never removed. It’s not uncommon to find things that have been sitting in the same spot for 20-25 years, ignored by everyone but the few sad bloggers who could really use a boost on Instagram.
The trick is to look beyond the first aisles of these stores, where the owners keep the actually-useful things, like suntan lotion, sunglasses, and beach towels featuring unlicensed airbrushings of your favorite Avengers.
Skip all of that, and head straight for the back. If you’re lucky, you’ll find five aisles’ worth of garbage that hasn’t been touched since 1996. (Complete with the appropriate amount of dust!)
My favorite discovery had to be that Star Wars Episode I Anakin Skywalker print. What the hell? Even with the shredded cellophane wrapper, the store was charging ten bucks for it.
I wasn’t in the mood to haggle over Anakin, so I left it behind. Oh well. Even if I don’t go back to Atlantic City for another five years, it’ll still be there.
#2: Dinosaur Beach LIVES!
Okay, this is going to take a minute to explain. Bear with me.
The Steel Pier — located near the Taj Mahal — is the only portion of the boardwalk with legitimate rides and archetypical “carnival games.” It isn’t much by Jersey shore standards, but since it’s the only place in Atlantic City with a ferris wheel and that game where you inflate balloons by shooting water at severed clown heads, it shines bright.
As we were wandering around, Jay noticed that the Crazy Mouse — a little roller coaster — bore signage from Dinosaur Beach. HOLY SHIT.
Dinosaur Beach was a theme park in Wildwood, about forty minutes south of Atlantic City. Born in the early ‘90s after Jurassic Park made dinosaurs the in-thing, the theme park (actually just one pier of the Wildwood boardwalk) retrofitted a bunch of existing rides with prehistoric names and resin raptor statues.
It was AWESOME.
And it closed down around TWENTY YEARS AGO.
I suddenly remembered that the Crazy Mouse was indeed a part of Dinosaur Beach — hence the weathered signs.
Through a miraculous coincidence, we’d later walk by two employees just as they were having a conversation about this. As it turns out, the same folks who run the Steel Pier used to run Dinosaur Beach!
I understand that this won’t mean much to most of you, but GOD. Even as recently as a week ago, I was Googling the hell out of Dinosaur Beach. (I’m desperately trying to gather enough materials for a proper online tribute.)
Beyond a scan of the old brochure, there isn’t much out there. Still, finding an honest-to-goodness PART of it, hiding in plain sight on the Atlantic City boardwalk, was a great start!
#3: Rare Kool-Aid, Cheap!
Hey, remember when I wrote about The Best 99 Cent Store Ever?
Yeah, it’s still around. Unfortunately, between me, Jay and all of the people who went there after our posts, it’s been picked clean of its oldest/best stuff. You’ll probably find some Power Ranger window clings if you search long enough, but don’t expect to unearth more of those Ghostbusters II keychains.
On the other hand, they did have tons of Kool-Aid packets — specifically the rare “retro character” flavors — for a quarter a pop. I bought almost all of them, of course. Now I have enough Great Bluedini and Pink Swimmingo to keep me hydrated through 2017.
I’m not sure what happened with these flavors after they reappeared last summer. To this day, only certain pockets of the country ever saw them at retail. (I never did — all of mine were procured through online sellers.)
If you’re able to find them now, it’ll be through a liquidator. Which sadly means that they’ll probably be out of production soon, if they aren’t already. Stock up while you still can! (Or, you know, subscribe to the Dino Drac Funpack. I’ve been mailing ‘em out for months.)
PS: “Cool Aid?”
#4: Haunted Tales!
After eyeing this during several previous trips, we finally decided to see what the fuss was about. Since Haunted Tales is as close as the Atlantic City boardwalk gets to a “dark ride,” I have no idea why we waited so long.
We skipped the claustrophobic coffin ride in favor of some weird ass live show. Mileages vary, but I think we made the right call.
Everyone sits on crude benches while prerecorded ghost stories blast over the speakers. As they do, the curtain-darkened room comes to life with all sorts of effects, from flying webs to shaking trunks to animatronic Jersey devils. In Disney terms, it’s a cross between the Haunted Mansion and Mickey’s PhilharMagic. Cheesy, but awesome.
If you prefer your haunted attractions old school and low-fi, this Bud’s for you. No live actors, no winding mazes, and no one there to yell at you for taking ten thousand pictures.
#5: Chester’s Poppers = TMNT Crunchabungas!
Eventually, everyone’s legs turn to jelly, and we end up back in the room. After all, there’s no cheaper place to drink.
Jay brought some snacks for the trip, with little regard for the fact that I need to be back on camera in two months. Most notable was a bag of Chester’s Poppers. This was my first time trying them, and friends, I have pretty major news:
They’re the unsung son of Pizza Crunchabungas.
It’s not a dead-on match, but it’s VERY close. The shape is similar, the texture is identical, and best of all, our pal Chester decided to go with a strict “pizza” flavor. If I threw these in an old Crunchabungas bag — and I’m one of the few people actually capable of doing so — you might never know the difference.
I can say with almost total confidence that eating these is as close as you’ll ever get to eating Crunchabungas again.
#6: Straight Flush, Baby.
Duuuudes. I won. FINALLY.
Most of my Atlantic City articles were written out of desperate necessity, with me trying to get something out of the trips besides an emptied wallet. (The sad truth is that no matter how much fun you have, it’s always a depressing ride home when you lose.)
These days, my game of choice is three card poker. The truth of the odds tells a different story, but it’s hard to resist the one game that can double your money even when all you have is a Queen High.
Disregarding bonus bets, the second best possible hand is a straight flush. That’s the one everyone aims for. Well, I got it two times in a row, which even with my paltry minimum bets netted me ALL THE BIG CHIPS.
I can’t fathom the odds of getting a straight flush twice in one sitting, let alone twice in a row. There’s no chance in hell that this will ever happen to me again.
This was on Saturday afternoon. By Sunday night, my usual losing streak returned, and I gave a small chunk back to Harrah’s. Fortunately, I left with the majority of my winnings, which meant that:
1) The entire trip was free, right down to the 150 packets of Kool-Aid.
2) Suddenly, I had enough comp dollars to afford the gift shop’s $15 Powerade.
3) I could buy this week’s groceries, which isn’t something I can normally say after two days in Atlantic City.
It would’ve been a great weekend even if I’d lost, but this put everything over the top. Oh, Atlantic City. The next time I’m driving home from you, I’ll hate you, but right now, we are IN BED.
Jay should be posting about his boardwalk experiences soon enough, too — so bookmark The Sexy Armpit and wait it out!