With apologies to Samuel Johnson, to be tired of humongous casinos is to be tired of life. They aren’t always pretty. They can smell suspect, especially at three in the morning by the bingo hall. They can corrode the wallet and soul. But in the deeper gullies of the slot machine halls, under the hypnotic whir and burble, you’ll witness what it truly means to be human. The activating agent, of course, is money. Money won, lost, charged, paid, celebrated, coveted and blown. Money, above all, dreamed.
Casinos, no less than investment banks, are masters in the uses, illusions and workings of money, which means that a good one knows precisely how to help you spend it. Foxwoods, the progenitor of New England gaming resorts, is to luxury expenditure what Noah’s ark was to wildlife conservation. It may as well have invented the game, as you realize the moment you step out of the elevator onto the 22nd floor of the Grand Pequot Tower.
In a preemptive move against Massachusetts’ gestating casinos, Foxwoods underwent a cosmetic purge. All the rooms in the Grand Pequot Tower are freshly remodeled, and it shows. Guided by your 24-hour on-call butler (no lowly concierge desks here), you approach your “villa” along long, marbled hallways that are surprisingly devoid of doors. That’s because these suites span 1,400 square feet of polished opulence, so you have to hike to reach your room. Take a few moments to blink at the depth of the upholstery and the Jacuzzi, the Louis XIV palette and the view. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame a sea of trees. It’s a deliberately aquiline effect. These rooms are meant to feel like a royal aerie in which high rollers roost and preen before swooping onto the poker tables. Pause to savor the dining room chandelier, the judicious placement of nut bowls, the marble bar. The temptation to linger is overwhelming, but if you have a southerly view, you might be able to look down through the glass ceiling of the pool at the hotel’s Norwich Spa. This should be motivation to seek the elevator.
Along with the expected menu of pleasures—a top-notch hot-stone treatment, state-of-the-art fitness and wet areas—the 20,000-square-foot Norwich Spa offers a “Just for Him” package that includes a caviar facial and a gentleman’s pedicure, along with a Swedish massage that excavates the most ossified knots in your spine. Afterward, re-tox with a cocktail on the indoor pool verandah before heading downstairs for playtime.
Lining the edges of the casinos, you’ll find the expected train of boutiques—Bvlgari, Judith Ripka, Rolex. But it’s more fun to explore the restaurants. The Scorpion Bar is one of the resort’s most energetic nightspots, but in the afternoon it’s an ideal pit-stop for a bucket of beer and an oversized nacho plate. The wrought-iron crosses and faux snakeskin bar stools give it a vaquero vibe. Go here to recharge from the slots. On the upper end, Paragon is an aptly named fine-dining restaurant at the top of the Grand Pequot Tower. Views are commanding, and dishes like the lobster tempura are more evolved than anything served up at the top of the Prudential. Go here if you win a jackpot.
If you brave the carpeted desert between the Grand Pequot and the MGM Grand—an airport expanse of Muzak, conveyor walkways and tourist scrums—you’ll find Red Lantern, an expanded version of Boston’s hip Asian eatery. In a casino, the restaurant’s inflated Chinese vases and statuary feel perfectly in tune, as does the lapidary menu: miso sea bass that looks like the subject of a Dutch still life, rock shrimp that would give Nobu a run for its money, hamachi so pure that it glows. Even the lo mein with oyster sauce tastes rarified. As does the dry-aged beef at David Burke Prime, a celebrity-chef steakhouse that, astonishingly, delivers good service along with flourishes like a tableside-tossed Caesar salad and a crab Oscar top hat for your sirloin. Claim a back table under the pink rock-salt tiles and marvel at the three-story wine tower, or, even more impressive, sit with a view of the casino and witness the cavalcade.
And lest you’re tempted to join in and risk a mauling on the Sex and the City-themed slot machine, remember that your villa awaits upstairs. Just call the butler to draw your Jacuzzi.
-Last year’s renovations encompassed the Great Cedar Hotel and Two Trees Inn, as well as a redesign of the resort’s main corridors.
-To further strain your credit, construction is underway on a new shopping outlet development.
Foxwoods Resort Casino | 350 Trolley Line Blvd., Mashantucket, Conn. | 800-369-9663 | foxwoods.com