Guests, travel websites and companies like AAA highly praised tribal casino resorts in 2016. From the Sonoran Desert to the West Coast to the Midwest, these five Native-owned travel destinations received gracious reviews and honors.
Read about five more Indian casino resorts that made headlines in 2016 at Indian Country Media Network in part two.
We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation
Views of Arizona’s majestic Four Peaks and iconic Red Mountains alongside the free-flowing Verde River are magnificent from this all-inclusive resort skirting the Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The AAA Four Diamond We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center, conveniently located 20 minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, features 246 contemporary guestrooms and suites designed to reflect Native traditions, bold Southwestern cuisine at the Ahnala Mesquite Room, luxurious spa treatments and salon services at the Amethyst Spa & Boutique, and a spacious heated outdoor pool with two whirlpools. Visitors can enjoy We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, gaming and entertainment at Fort McDowell Casino, and numerous outdoor activities at Fort McDowell Adventures.
In September, the resort added another significant industry award to its trophy case: the highly acclaimed TripExpert 2016 Experts’ Choice Award. Awarded to 5,000 of the best hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions in more than 80 countries over four continents, the Experts’ Choice award is based on reviews written by leading travel guides, magazines, newspapers and other respected outlets – including Fodor’s, Michelin, Travel + Leisure, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet and TimeOut.
The resort’s luxury and exquisite attention to detail in design and service is not lost on guests. In fact, travelers gave We-Ko-Pa the highest marks on TripAdvisor, earning We-Ko-Pa the travel website’s Certificate of Excellence in May.
Twin Arrows Casino Resort
This summer, Twin Arrows Casino Resort garnered AAA’s coveted Four Diamond Award after an evaluation of its breathtaking facility with its 110-room resort expansion. Only five percent of the more than 30,000 properties approved by AAA achieve this prestigious distinction. Twin Arrows Casino Resort is the only Flagstaff destination to receive this honor.
The resort was evaluated on its casino, 200-room hotel, multiple dining destinations – including the Zenith Steakhouse, indoor swimming pool, fitness center and other amenities the resort offers. Of special note was the enhanced buffet, trucker’s lounge and conference and convention center with a 9,000 square-foot banquet center with 25-foot ceilings, indoor and outdoor meeting spaces, VIP boardroom, complimentary valet and complimentary high-speed internet access throughout the casino resort and event center.
The resort also holds a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, meaning that hundreds of guests have consistently given the resort more than four out of five stars.
Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino
Gila River Indian Community
In May, Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa became the first Sheraton Grand resort in North America, joining the ranks of the Sheraton brand’s premier tier of hotels across the globe.
The distinction recognizes the hotel’s enticing destinations, distinguished designs, and excellence in service and guest experiences. Located in Chandler, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa accompanies 24 other Sheraton Grand properties worldwide.
The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass is recognized as a heritage resort, meaning it offers a true escape at a property deemed exemplary for its unique architecture, design, amenities and personalized service.
Located on pristine Sonoran Desert land only minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass is one of the premier resorts in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. The property features unique, contemporary and culturally authentic artwork and details that reflect the traditions of the Pima and Maricopa People. The resort boasts 500 culturally themed rooms and the only AAA Five-Diamond/Forbes Five-Star dining experience in Arizona in their signature restaurant, Kai, which has made history by achieving that dual designation for nine consecutive years and placing themselves amongst the top 26 restaurants in the nation. The resort also offers 36 holes of Troon® golf, the Forbes Four-Star Aji Spa featuring indigenous Native treatments, 150,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, the onsite 1,000-acre Koli Equestrian Center and River complete with water sport activities and boat rides to nearby attractions.
Pechanga Resort & Casino
Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians
Pechanga Resort & Casino is racking up the awards this season. The casino owned by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, recently received top honors from three nationally recognized magazines and organizations for its guest service excellence and amenities. The Temecula, California-based resort casino beat more than 20 other competitors for the distinctions.
Readers of the SoCal Gaming Guide named Pechanga Resort & Casino as the Best Casino in southern California. Voted on by magazine readers, 22 southern California tribal casinos were eligible for the recognition in the annual Reader’s Choice 2016 BEST CASINOS conducted in August.
Pechanga was also awarded Best Overall Gaming Resort, Best Golf Course, and Best Craps by Casino Player Magazine. A repeat winner in Casino Player’s Best Of series, the full-service resort and Journey at Pechanga golf course were the catalysts that won readers over this year. Rated among the top public courses in California by GolfWeek magazine, readers love the sacred tribal aspects of the course as well as the challenging terrain.
Pechanga’s 200,000-square-foot casino floor sets the bar high for casinos throughout the country, having a larger casino floor than any Las Vegas resort, as well as being one of the largest resort-casinos in the United States, featuring a selection of 3,400 slot machines, 130 table games, 700-seat Bingo hall, 43-table poker room, dedicated non-smoking areas and opulent high limit amenities.
Pechanga was also recognized in Casino Player Magazine with second best for its suites, pool, spa and dealers. It came in third place for its casino, roulette, reel slots and slot tournaments.
Treasure Island Resort & Casino
Prairie Island Indian Community
Treasure Island Resort & Casino, a premier entertainment destination in the Midwest, is home to thousands of slots, rows upon rows of blackjack tables, mouth-watering food, top notch entertainment and luxurious accommodations.
In February, the resort debuted its $19 million, 40,000-foot waterpark, The Lagoon, the second largest of its kind among 18 Native casinos in Minnesota. The Lagoon features a 320-foot long lazy river with rapids, a water fall, and an island in the middle of the pool with benches and lounge chairs. Two 276-feet body slides loop around it.
An adult-only pool and two hot tubs, one inside and one outside, offer tranquility. The Barefoot Bar is the only swim up bar in Minnesota with tables and seats in the pool. A 14,000-square-feet outdoor terrace space can be rented for private parties or events. Custom fire pits on the terrace keep guests toasty.
The Lagoon also includes the Wave Spa, a full-service salon and spa offering hair services, manicures and pedicures, facials, waxing, make-up and nail services.
This story originally published December 27, 2016.