Review: The Mohegan Sun

by Gray Cargill on May 7, 2010

Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun

The Mohegan Sun is an upscale casino resort in Uncasville, CT.  I knew before going that it is a tribal casino and has heavy Native American theming, but you wouldn’t know it from a distance: Its tall, sleek glass towers jut up like oversized crystal stalagmites out of the lush Connecticut countryside along the winding Thames River.  The Mohegan Sun is known for its gambling, of course, but also has the facilities for a nice weekend getaway for anyone within driving distance. I was not alone during my trip, but I certainly would go here alone sometime–provided I had loads of cash.  Unless you’re a high roller who warrants comped rooms, you’ll find room rates here pricey–usually well over $200/night.  But you get a lot for the price you pay.

Beadwork Art

Beadwork Art in lobby

Upon first entering the lobby, I was struck with that oh-so-familiar Vegas smell:  the faint (very faint) smell of cigarette smoke being masked by a flowery fragrance.  The hotel lobby took my breath away, it was so spectacularly beautiful. There are colorful panels overhead in the atrium that catch the sunlight as it streams in through skylights. I initially thought they were made of fabric, but upon closer inspection realized they were made of beadwork.  What a job that must have been to make.

Room 3140

Room 3140

The entire hotel is exceptionally clean.  I’ve been in a lot of casino resorts in my day, and even in some of the nicer ones, cleanliness can sometimes be hit or miss.  This place was spotless.  Solo female travelers should feel good knowing that they check room keys before allowing you onto the elevators to the rooms.  I stayed in room 3140 and had a great view of the Connecticut countryside.  The bed was extremely comfortable, the pillows fluffy enough, and there was enough bedding to keep me warm when the air conditioning was on (hotel a/c often makes me too cold). All the expected amenities are here–room safe, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, in-room coffee maker, TV, mini-bar, etc.  My only complaint with the room was how thin the walls were.  As I settled in for the night, I could hear the couple in the adjoining room having a conversation in a normal tone of voice.  Luckily, I’d brought earplugs with me, so I could shut out the sound.

The marble bathrooms are both functional and attractive:  A roomy sink dominates the room, with a tub/shower combo to the left and the toilet in its own little room to the right.  This is of more use to couples sharing a room, since more than one person can use the bathroom facilities at a time.  But even as a solo traveler, I appreciated all the sink counter space to spread my toiletries out on.  I didn’t have the opportunity to use the phone by the toilet, but boy, I really wanted to.

Phone by the toilet

You know you're in a nice hotel when there's a phone next to the toilet

If I were here for a weekend when my time was my own, I would spend at least a couple of hours lounging poolside, reading a good book.  The solarium pool area (located on the third floor) features an indoor/outdoor pool (the glass walls are removable when the weather is nice), with a whirlpool, a snack and juice bar, and a sundeck.  The chlorine smell was a little overpowering, but I’m thinking it might not be so bad on summer days when it’s open to the breeze.   Also on the third floor is the Elemis Spa (massage, anyone?) and a fitness center with plenty of newish-looking equipment.  The hotel also has a high-end shopping area, though I didn’t have time to check it out.

Waterfalls and Tuscany

Waterfalls and Tuscany

Of the many restaurants on-site, I only had a chance to eat at three:  Chief’s Deli (a good place to grab a quick bite–try the Reuben Egg Rolls, they’re delicious), Margaritaville (the food here was pretty bland compared to the ones I’ve eaten at in New Orleans and Las Vegas; I was underwhelmed), and the best of the bunch, Todd English’s elegant Tuscany, where we had breakfast on Sunday morning.  I didn’t even know it was a Todd English restaurant until after I got home, but I’m not surprised. I’ve loved every Todd English restaurant I’ve ever eaten at, and this was no exception.  Breakfast here was very reasonably-priced, which I found surprising.  You could have a very filling meal for under $10 (my party of three all raved about the fingerling potatoes that were served with our breakfast–and I’m not normally a fan of breakfast potatoes).  The terrace setting is gorgeous, with the waterfalls cascading down over the rock facade on the outside of the restaurant.  (The falls are also quite loud.)  This is fine if you’re dining solo, but if you want to have a conversation with someone, I’d suggest sitting inside.  There is a nice long bar area here as well.  In the future, I’d like to try the Dubliner, SolToro Tequila Grill, and Big Bubba’s BBQ.

Mohegan Sun art

Mohegan Sun art

I’m a big fan of all things Native American, so I went gaga over the decor and the attention to detail here.  They’ve gone to great pains to incorporate the kinds of art and crafts traditional to Native Americans into the casino.  So there are these amazing overhead art pieces done all in beading, and either stretched hide art or a facsimile thereof on the walls, and timber detailing all over the place. The VIP check-in, located in a room off the lobby, is hidden behind glass walls embedded with feathers. I had a great time walking around looking at everything.

Feathers in glass

Feathers in glass

Another thing I would want to do if I were to return again (alone or otherwise) is catch some live music. I didn’t do this while I was there because we had a private party to celebrate my niece’s birthday, and that’s where my focus was. But the Mohegan has several venues of various sizes that bring in prominent touring acts.  If I weren’t going to be in New York City the last weekend of June, for instance, I’d love to head down there on that Thursday night to catch REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar in concert.  (Yes, I’m that old.  Shut up.)  If there are no concerts that you’re interested in, fear not: There is still fun to be had at one of the bars in the resort, or watching a game in the Race and Sport Book, or at the nightclub on site.  Or, of course, you can spend the evening gambling.

There are several casinos, including one that is non-smoking.  The Casino of the Sky, the Casino of the Wind, and the Casino of the Earth.  The Casino of the Earth, their original casino, was the one I didn’t really get a chance to explore until Sunday morning, and it was my favorite of the bunch because of the heavy Native American theming.  This is where you can catch live entertainment at the Wolf Den and there are wolf statues stationed around the casino.  The Casino of the Sky features “the world’s largest fully functioning planetarium dome,” the Sky Bar, and a non-smoking casino.  The Casino of the Wind features a huge water wall.  What does that have to do with wind? I don’t know.

Casino of the Earth

Casino of the Earth

Before you do any gambling, sign up for a player’s club card.  It’s quick and easy and you get to swipe your card every day on special machines where you might win a prize.  (I did not win.)  The card is used to track the amount you are gambling (your “play”).  If you bet enough, you can get comps (free meals or free rooms).  Do give them your email address so they can email you any special room rates they have, as well as information about upcoming concerts and events.

I’m pretty much a slot machine gal.  There are tons of them here.  I prefer video poker for the strategy element, but I didn’t really have the bankroll for it this weekend.  I lost $20 quickly before switching to a Blazing 777s video slot machine and played for about half an hour on $20, and walked away even.

They also have table games, of course.  My sister-in-law took me to play craps shortly after we arrived on Saturday.  Although my brother had taught me the basics a couple of months ago at my parents’ house, this was my first opportunity to actually play in a casino.  I’ve always been very intimidated by the approach to a craps table–when to buy in, when to color out (quit playing and cash in your chips).  So it was great to have someone walk me through the whole process.  I lost $40 at the craps table, which was plenty enough for me, but it was worth it to learn how to play for real.  I’m going to have to give it another try on my next Vegas trip.

33rd Floor View

33rd Floor View

The other huge treat for me during this trip was getting to see part of a casino I’ve never been privy to before:  My sister-in-law brought me to the VIP Lounge on the 33rd floor–an area normally reserved for high rollers (I felt like such a fraud!).  Finally, I was able to see what the inner sanctum of a casino looks like: Great views, big screen TVs for watching the game, comfy and cozy lounge seating, a hot and cold buffet and a bar with all the free food and drinks you could stand.  I could live there, if it weren’t for all the other people. High rollers with access to this lounge literally don’t have to pay for a single meal at the casino if they don’t want to (although, of course, they really are “paying for it” via their gambling).   Service was excellent.  I ordered a drink and wasn’t really sure what I wanted, except I didn’t want anything too strong.  The waiter recommend a malibu rum and made sure it was not too strong.  In fact, it was perfect.

Was the Mohegan Sun perfect?  I won’t go as far as to say that (it’s a bit too pricey to be perfect in my book), but it’s a nice little slice of Vegas in New England that would make a great weekend getaway for a solo traveler.

Uncasville Hotel Review

SoloFriendly May 10, 2010 at 1:52 am

Oh, that's a great story. I'd like to go back for a concert at some point. I hope it's someone as good as Van Halen.

Sabina May 10, 2010 at 1:11 am

I went to Mohegan Sun once! Well, twice. I drove there to buy Van Halen tickets one day and went right back that night to see them – their reunion tour. It was remarkable in that Eddie's guitar stopped working for several minutes. What is Van Halen without Eddie? A tech tried to bring it back to life, but of course it was Eddie who finally succeeded.

Anyway, I didn't see much of the casino, I'm afraid.

SoloFriendly May 7, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I'll have to check that out next time I'm down that way. I hope it's cheaper than Mohegan.

Nomadic Matt May 7, 2010 at 11:56 am

Foxwoods is way better!

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