Anyone who has driven in from Los Angeles will know this place. It's just West of the freeway and has the look of an Adirondack lodge, complete with lots of exposed timbers, stone work, and bronzed iron lighting fixtures casting a warm amber glow everywhere. The effect is lovely and upscale yet accessible and friendly. It's a comfy ski lodge with slot machines.
The casino is small by Las Vegas standards, with about 60,000-square-feet making it about half the size of places like The Venetian or Bellagio. But that's still plenty big enough to offer lots of gambling options including more than 1,400 slots and video poker machines; plenty of table games like blackjack (single and double deck), craps, roulette, three-card poker, and more; a small but complete race and sports book; a poker room, and a live keno lounge. If it sounds like they crammed a lot into a relatively small space you're right so even though the ceilings are high and the ambience pleasant, it still feels a little tight in the personal space department.
There are several onsite restaurants (an upscale steakhouse, a 24-hour café, an inexpensive buffet, etc.) and a couple of lounges including The Shady Grove Lounge (featuring billiards, foosball, big plasma TVs, and an actual Airstream trailer with a miniature bowling alley inside) and The Mermaid Lounge, located next to a giant fish tank hosting a live show called Azure.
The tank is 117,000 gallons with more than 5,000 fish and live coral. You can even watch and ask questions of the people who feed the fish three times a day (check their website for details).
Another unique offering on the property is the mind-bogglingly huge Bass Pro Shop featuring every outdoorsy thing in the world including boats - yes boats. I'm sure you weren't planning on buying a boat at a local casino when you come to Vegas but it's comforting to know you have the option now. Camping gear, fishing equipment, hunting supplies, hiking gear, outdoor apparel, NASCAR clothing and memorabilia, a shooting range, an archery range, a kids arcade, a climbing wall, a 40,000 gallon aquarium, waterfalls, and lots of stuffed formerly living things cover every square inch of the two-level, 154,000-square-foot facility. If you've been paying attention you'll note that's roughly 2 1/2 times the size of the casino.
Despite offering things that encourage people to actually kill off pieces of nature, the place is surprising eco-friendly, offering workshops and community events tied to preserving natural resources and educating adults and kids about the best ways to stay on good terms with Mother Nature.
Back in the hotel for guests there is a large outdoor pool and spa area (diminished only slightly by the nearby freeway noise) and a small fitness center.
The 300 rooms and suites are surprisingly swank, especially the slightly more expensive Luxury rooms, which come with cushy furnishings, bathrooms, CD players, high speed Internet (for a fee), hair dryers, irons and boards, Bath and Body Works amenities, safes, and much more. Resort rooms are not quite as well equipped or as fancy looking but are more than adequate, especially at the rates you'll be paying. There are a few of their older "deluxe" rooms still hanging around but you should pay the extra to get one of the nicer ones if you want to stay here.
There are a couple of downsides. The bathrooms are small so be sure you're on good terms with whoever you may be sharing it with and the walls are a bit thin so hope you don't get a fighting couple staying next door like I did.
The hotel will be more than doubling size soon - a 390-room hotel tower will be built on the west end of the property with construction due to start in late 2014 and opening by 2016.
The staff was unfailingly friendly and accommodating, adding a great personal vibe to an already appealing hotel.
You get all this at prices substantially lower than what you're going to pay on The Strip, conveniently located about five minutes away. Weekdays are usually in the $39 and up per night range and weekends around $100 (although like just about anywhere else, prices can go significantly higher during peak travel times). There is also a $14.55 per night resort fee.
Next time you're driving on I-15, maybe you should take a detour and check out The Silverton.