There are several places in the casino to take a break from gaming, including the Essence Lounge. The smoke-free area has free live music, such as Jukebox Johnnie’s Live Band Karaoke on Thursday. Wednesdays through Mondays, its 33 LCD-screen TVs are tuned to professional and college sports. The lounge has drink specials every day. It also has 25 bar-top games.
For Diamond- and Seven Stars-level players, there’s the VIP Lounge, an area that looks like the lobby of an expensive modern hotel. Neon blue lights glow under the bar. Beaded chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Comfortable wing chairs are covered in prints of contemporary patterns. Big and cozy, it oozes privilege.
PLAY AND BE PAMPERED
Connecting the casino and the hotel is the Grand Rotunda, a cavernous entry space that depicts original Cherokee legends through video, sound and light. Ascending 75 feet to the ceiling, the rotunda appears to be supported by eight massive architecturally designed trees pulsing with LED lights. More than 40 speakers convey sound throughout the cathedral-like space. Twin 68-foot waterfalls splash into a geometrically shaped pool punctuated by a peninsula whose walkway allows people to enter into the falling water without getting wet.
Where the casino is lively and stimulating, the hotel is quiet and restful. VIPs can check themselves in at the staffed VIP welcome center. Everyone else checks themselves in with their Total Rewards card or waits at the counter. While employees check their reservations, guests are treated to the arresting sight of money growing on trees, an animation projected from the long, multi-paneled display on the wall. Waiting for the rest of their party, they can relax in the marble-floored lobby’s deep leather chairs or sit by the fireplace nearby, taking a seat beneath large lanterns whose warm red and blue tones reflect the flames of the gas jets.
The hotels rooms are as comfortable as they are convenient to the games, shows, and restaurants. The standard room has either a king-size bed or two queen-size pillow mattress beds and a Berber-carpeted sitting area with a sofa bed. The bathroom has an imported Italian marble vanity, tiled shower, and separate water closet. The hotel’s junior suite has a separate living area with a full-size sleeper sofa and chairs. The bathrooms offer bathrobes and jet bathtubs. There are two “super suites,” which have marble foyer entrances, parlor rooms, glass-front terraces, and a full-time concierge.
Just off the hotel lobby downstairs is the Lobby Café, offering Starbucks coffee and coffee drinks, handcrafted salads and sandwiches and a selection of fine wine and imported beers. The hotel’s spacious, warmly lighted Selu Garden Café overlooks Soco Creek. Serving up comfort food like pot roast and chicken potpie, it also has an all-you-can-eat bar at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Guests can likely find what they’re craving at the Chefs Stage Buffet above the casino. Its seven market-inspired stations prepare everything from Southern food to international fare, as well as barbecue, pizza, sushi, soup, salad, Asian, Mexican and Italian food and desserts from around the world. The 600-seat dining area has leather seats and earth-toned walls. Prices vary, depending on whether you’re a Total Rewards member, but they average about $25 a meal, less for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Children six through twelve are half price, and children five and under eat for free.
The popular Noodle Bar, near the Le Fu Men gaming area, serves noodle soups, dim sum, house specialties and small plates at its 17-seat counter. It’s so popular that there is usually a line of people waiting when it opens at 6 p.m. Its chefs turn out food each night until the wee hours of the morning. Built with imported Arabescato marble, BRIO Tuscan Grille overlooking the Grand Rotunda prepares northern Italian specialties that include oven-roasted steaks, chops, and fresh fish. Pizza is made in a hardwood-infused oven. On the resort’s main floor, Ruth’s Chris Steak House grills USDA prime steaks in the restaurant’s signature style, served on a 500-degree plate. In the Food Court beside the gaming area there are four restaurants—Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizzeria UNO Express, Johnny Rockets, and Winning Streaks Deli. Kids aren’t allowed in the Food Court, but they may eat at The Chefs Stage Buffet, Ruth’s Chris, and BRIO Tuscan Grill.
The resort’s 3,035-seat Event Center books top names across all genres, including country, classic rock, oldies, R&B, pop and comedy, as well as sporting events. Past shows have included Hank Williams Jr., Lady Antebellum, and ZZ Top. The center’s 60- by 40-foot stage and state-of-the-art audio system and theatrical lighting have accommodated large productions like Celtic Woman and mixed martial arts. Upcoming shows include comedian Gabriel Iglesias on March 22, the Zac Brown Band on March 29, and country music hit makers The Band Perry on April 25.
The non-smoking Event Center has three tiers of seating, including box seats to the right and left, as well as four VIP suites. Two bars inside the center serve guests during the shows, while concessions are available in the breezeway. Backstage, the Green Room where performers wait to go on is lined with photos of past performers, many of them signed. Children sixteen and under are welcome at the center if they are accompanied by an adult. Young adults sixteen to twenty who have tickets to an event may attend without adults, but must be dropped off and picked up at the center by an adult, according to resort policy.[quote float=”right”]Blending elements of Native American culture with Balinese-inspired treatments, the spa pampers guests with therapeutic luxury. [/quote] The 18,000-square-foot Mandara Spa, far away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the resort, exudes a calm that surrounds you immediately upon entering it. Blending elements of Native American culture with Balinese-inspired treatments, the spa pampers guests with therapeutic luxury. Signature Cherokee-inspired treatments include the Lavender Healing Repair Facial and the Juniper Berry and Algae Detox, which use herbs revered by Native Americans for their healing properties. Among treatments and packages for men is the Mountain Escape, which includes a traditional deep tissue massage followed by an Elemis Skin IQ for Men Facial. Couples can indulge in massage side by side and enjoy a bathing ritual in a large hydrotherapy bath with champagne and chocolate treats.
Mandara, named for a Sanskrit legend about the gods’ quest to find the secret to eternal youth and beauty, offers guests a menu of hair and nail treatment options and features a nail bar, pedicure thrones, and styling stations. Men’s and women’s dressing areas have lockers and plenty of rolled towels for use. Each has a sauna. Heated gravity chairs help patrons relax by a jet-stream tub filled with water plunging from three broad falls. Nearby is the quiet, eight-sided Relaxation Lounge, defined by the four huge trunks that ascend from the floor to the skylight in the ceiling. Wicker cushioned chairs and ottomans rest inside the pillars. Calming music plays through the air. The air here, as it does in the massage rooms and throughout the spa, smells clean and fragrant. The light is low.
Just off the spa is the sun-warmed, glass-enclosed indoor pool and Jacuzzi, open to views of the mountains. The hotel’s new fitness center, finished in November, has all the cardio and strength equipment available at a small health club. In January, crews were working on the resort’s outdoor pool.
Many people come just for the shopping and dining. Studio is a ladies’ apparel shop that sells clothes by Karen Kane, Erin London, Nik+Zoe and Tribal Sportswear. Kanati’s has jewelry, handbags, shoes, watches and fragrances by Brighton and Fossil. Gilded Basket has Harrah’s branded shirts, jackets and other wear, as well a selection of locally made Cherokee crafts. Callaway Golf Shop, located in the hotel’s 21 story-tall Creek Tower, carries the latest Callaway golf clubs, clothes, shoes and more. The shop’s professionals can fit customers with clubs.
Hotel guests have privileged access to the nearby Sequoyah Golf Club, an 18-hole, par-72 championship course owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The practice area has a driving range, putting greens and a chipping area, as well as lunch and beverage service. Designed by world-renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones II along with Native American golf pro Notah Begay III, the course has been named one of the country’s best new golf courses by Golf Magazine.