Taking a break from blackjack, Gary Rosenfeldt stacks a handful of green and black chips, slides a pair of red chips as a tip to the dealer, then slips away from the table at the MGM Grand Detroit.
“Winning makes me thirsty,” he confides, spirits high as he strolls toward TAP, the casino’s sports pub. Soon he’s sitting in a booth, sipping a chilled Bellaire Brown from Short’s Brewery in Antrim County. It’s one of 50 draught and bottled beers featured at TAP, where 40 high-def flat screens bring games alive.
“My wife, Linda, and I have been coming to MGM since it opened,” Rosenfeldt says. “Besides gambling, we like the dining, spa and shopping.” Linda soon joins him and they enjoy a meal before she heads off to check in for a little spa time.
The Rosenfeldts are typical of many Michigan casino visitors who know there’s much more to do at the state’s gambling palaces besides gaming. A decade ago, casinos were sprouting up in Michigan like morel mushrooms following an April rain. Rather than limit themselves to just gaming, the operators knew they had to provide a total entertainment experience in order to thrive. Here’s a look at what some casino resorts offer when the gaming gods frown on you.
Four Winds Casino Resort
Built and operated in New Buffalo by the Pokegan Band of Potawatomi Indians, Four Winds (fourwindscasino.com) offers 415 guest rooms and suites along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Special in-room touches include granite countertops and leather headboards, and all guests are invited to use the fitness center.
Four different restaurants are designed to please patrons’ palates. Southwest Michigan’s only Hard Rock Café offers fresh, high-quality eats while the Copper Rock Steakhouse is noted for dry-aged steaks and a wine list topping 450 choices. Meanwhile, The Buffet provides all-you-can-eat choices, while Timbers Fast Food & Deli dishes up a quick bite only steps from the gaming floor.
Four Winds has a reputation for bringing big name entertainment to its Silver Creek event center. Headliners Rod Stewart, B.B. King, Howie Mandel and Sheryl Crow have played there. A highlight of the winter will be the Dec. 20 performance of Brule, one of the top- selling Native American bands with more than one million albums sold worldwide. The band and dancers take their name from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, to which founding member Paul LaRoche belongs. Live bands are always at the Hard Rock Café and four bars are available to enjoy a relaxing sip.
Motor City Casino Hotel
With 400 luxury rooms, this high-profile landmark (motorcitycasino.com) debuted in 1999 in Detroit. Whether you’re interested in catching a show at the resort’s Sound Board or relaxing at D.Tour Spa, you can bundle it with a hotel room for a memorable winter getaway right in the heart of the D.
The 13,000-square foot D.Tour Spa beckons guests to relax in its thermal whirlpools, large steam rooms, dry saunas and showers. Ten private treatment rooms are available for a selection of massage and body treatments. If you like your down time a little more up tempo, visit the 24-hour fitness center outfitted with Precor cardio, resistance and free weight gear. All cardio machines feature personal entertainment systems and viewing screens with heart rate monitoring to enhance your workout.
Fine dining and an even finer view can be found at Iridescence at the top of the Motor City Casino Hotel. Chef Benjamin Meyer heads a team that dishes up dynamic delights on a daily basis. Steaks and chops are the stars of this menu, but you won’t go wrong with the lamb, seafood or poultry items either. The Assembly Line buffet serves up different entrees every night, including a Brazilian menu, street food, Cajun specialties, soul food and grilled steaks and chops. For a quick bite, try the popular fried chicken at The Pit Stop or visit the Grand River Deli, Lodge Diner or Little Caesar’s pizza shop.
Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel
A six-story, 137-room retreat awaits visitors to Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel (casino2win.com) in Williamsburg, 10 miles east of Traverse City. All rooms are non-smoking, including the 10 suites and two “hospitality parlors” that invite guests to linger and relax. Complimentary shuttle service is also provided to Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, the casino’s sister property, four miles away.
Turtle Creek pays homage to its past with a “cultural corridor,” which houses artwork and photos telling the history of Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Inside the casino’s entrance, visitors are greeted by a three-story wall of trickling water. The ultra-high ceiling lends an airy, open feel seldom found in a casino.
Shuttle service is also provided to Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, the casino’s sister property, four miles away.
Turtle Creek offers several dining options. For caffeine and a nosh, there’s The Coffee Spoon and The Deli provides hearty soups, sandwiches, pizza, wings and more in a red-and-white tiled decor. The Seasons Buffet comfortably seats 180 and is home to several all-you-can-eat food stations. But the finest dining experience that Turtle Creek offers is inside Bourbons 72, where white tablecloth elegance meets quiet comfort. Thick glass doors keep the clamor of the casino from disturbing diners. The menu always features fresh fish, hand-cut grilled steaks and chops. Wine enthusiasts may want to uncork one of their favorite northern Michigan vintages.
The Level 3 club is popular, especially on Thursdays when it offers Team Trivia, a stand-up comedy series and a DJ. It’s all free. Hotel guests are invited as well to indulge in pampering and well-being at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa (grandtraverseresort.com), which the tribe purchased in 2003. Here at the serene, 7,000-square-foot retreat, benefits gained from signature cherry-infused services aren’t just the luck of the draw.
MGM Grand Detroit
With its five restaurants, five nightclub/lounges and two-story spa, the $800 million MGM Grand Detroit (mgmgranddetroit.com) is impressive. The Ignite lounge features sushi and tapas for noshing. Agua Rum and Tequila Bar is where a vibrant Latin American beat blends with cool drinks. The high-energy atmosphere in the “V” nightclub is provided by celebrity DJs, lighting and giant plasma screens that broadcast real-time images of club goers.
Inside you’ll find the compelling 20,000-square-foot Immerse Spa and Salon, where cabanas and globe lighting add a distinctive flair.
MGM Grand’s three fine-dining establishments lure patrons. Antlers hang from the ceiling and cords of firewood line the walls of the Wolfgang Puck Grille, a family-oriented eatery with an up-north vibe. Saltwater and Bourbon Steak are Michael Mina restaurants; Saltwater’s menu highlights classic seafood dishes like mussel soufflé and lobster pot pie.
The 18-story hotel provides guests a separate valet parking entrance, complete with a heated floor. Inside you’ll find the compelling 20,000-square-foot Immerse Spa and Salon, where cabanas and globe lighting add a distinctive flair. The hotel’s guest rooms offer quiet elegance with a 42-inch plasma TV and convenient MP3 docking station.
Little River Casino Resort
With its northern Michigan lodge-style architecture, Little River Casino Resort (lrcr.com) features 292 rooms and suites, including a number appointed with fireplaces. There’s a fitness center, indoor pool, sauna and hot tub which are available to all guests, including those visiting the RV Park. Owned and operated by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, the resort opened in the summer of 1999.
The finest of the resort’s four eateries is Heron at the River, where executive chef Stephanie Fitch oversees the culinary team. Grilled steaks and chops highlight the menu. More casual fare can be found at the Willows Buffet or the Rapids Deli, while the Hearthside Café features coffee and pastries. For entertainment choices, The Grove Lounge offers live music, while the 1,600-seat Event Center draws lovers of classic rock, cool jazz, blues and country sounds.
Soaring Eagle Casino
Michigan’s largest casino, Mount Pleasant’s Soaring Eagle Casino (soaringeaglecasino.com), was opened in 1996 by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. Guests in the 512-room hotel can pamper themselves in a Jacuzzi or fireplace room. For a real treat, try the five-hour “Four Elements” massage and facial experience, which includes an aromatherapy oil wrap, a deluxe manicure and a pedicure. The two-hour “Forest” is a favorite treatment for men and includes an exfoliation facial, aromatherapy salt glow and 25-minute massage.
For many years, Soaring Eagle showroom has featured big-name talent. The Doobie Brothers, Jeff Dunham, Little Big Town and Carlos Santana made stops here in 2014. Soaring Eagle boasts thousands of slot machines, including new games like “The Price is Right” and “Lord of the Rings.” Player-friendly rules at blackjack and single-zero roulette make these popular table games attractive to avid gamblers.
Whether you’re in the mood for casual comfort food or fine dining, Soaring Eagle’s eateries can deliver. Siniikaung Steak & Chop House features aged steaks, chops and fresh seafood. For a European touch, Isabella’s offers genuine Italian cuisine, while Legends Diner features classic Americana with a contemporary twist. The Aurora buffet is popular with the all-you-can-eat crowd. A coffee shop, sub shop, café and prime rib sandwich cart are also available for a quick bite.
Odawa Casino Resort
Located in the Lake Michigan community of Petoskey, Odawa Casino Resort (odawacasino.com) is owned and operated by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. Built at a cost of $140 million and opened in 2007, it replaced Victories Casino, a former bowling alley located across the street.
For a sophisticated dining experience, try Sage where prime beef, poultry and fresh seafood are the order of the day.
Odawa’s nightclub, Ozone, features “party pods” with seating for eight, a personal fireplace and private plasma screens. The club’s all-white interior gives it a clean vibe during the day and enhances colorful light shows at night when the bar staff boosts the energy level by performing group dance routines and bottle tossing. Ozone’s dance floor is the center of the action. For a sophisticated dining experience, try Sage where prime beef, poultry and fresh seafood are the order of the day. Sage’s centerpiece is its impressive 16-foot tall wine tower, which boasts an array of vintages and tastes. A friendly professional wine steward is on hand to recommend a bottle to match your meal choices. While there is no on-campus lodging, Odawa guests are shuttled a short distance to the casino from a 137-room hotel the tribe operates.
Standing tall at 30 stories, The GreekTown Casino-Hotel (greektowncasino.com) offers 400 rooms and suites, ideal for either a relaxing getaway or an exciting weekend in the center of the urban action. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide an impressive bird’s eye view of Detroit, whether on a sunny winter day or glittering night.
The hotel’s Play and Stay packages are always popular. The “Third Night is a Charm” offers visitors a third night at no charge, while “Champagne Dreams” provides a chilled bottle of Moet and Chandon Imperial Nectar, plus a deluxe box of chocolates to savor. Both packages come with bonus play vouchers to use in the casino.
Guests can also choose from a pair of dining options: Brizola offers a fine dining experience with an award-winning menu highlighted by steaks and chops. Natural light pours through large windows at Bistro 555, where contemporary American fare, prime rib and burgers are the order of the day.
At the end of it, wind down with a relaxing bath in a luxe oversized tub, then slip away into plush bedding.
Kenny Rogers, Dec. 5 at Four Winds Event Center
LeAnn Rimes, Dec. 19 at Little River Casino
Brule, Dec. 20 at Four Winds Event Center
Kathy Griffin, Jan. 22 at MotorCity Casino
Aaron Lewis, Feb. 5 at MotorCity Casino
Freelance journalist Al Parker resides in Traverse City.