I have been to three or four conventions in my entire life. But I went to two just this year. And both were casino trips.
Not really surprising today, considering casino resorts have become meetings magnets. Las Vegas is the number one convention destination in the U.S. There were 22,000 conventions in Sin City last year, bringing in 6 million people. Given the rise of small casinos all over the country, the steady business represented by conventioneers (and their corporate expense accounts) convinced casino executives to go for the meetings and conventions gold.
Odds are good that many convention attendees will find that their business travels are also casino trips.
If you’re a gambler, hooray. If not, well, you’ll have to deal with it.
After two conventions over the equivalent of two long casino trips, I consider myself an experienced non-gamer. But there’s more to life at a casino resort than slots and high stakes.
Any casino that does good convention business is going to have lots of attractions to keep non-gamers entertained and happy.
Some of the amenities that have become de rigueuer include:
It’s common for casino resorts to have a dozen or more good restaurants, and at least a few of them bearing the names of celebrity chefs. If you’re a foodie, you’re in luck. Keep in mind that these restaurants are so popular you will need advance reservations. Even the run-of-the-mill places may involve a long wait to get in. At the Bellagio, for instance, there are restaurants by Michel Mina, Todd English, Julian Serrano, Roy Ellamar, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as well as the fabled Le Cirque. I waited half an hour for a table at Noodles – a good choice for a solo traveler, not to mention a vegetarian and almost as long for my takeout order at Snacks, a fast-food joint for pizza slices, fries and spiked shakes.
Also note that the legendary casino buffet is not what it used to be. It’s now about three times the size, and three times the price.
Every casino has at least one big-spectacle or high-profile entertainer. Vegas has more than a dozen different Cirque du Soleil shows.
There’s probably some form of entertainment that will fit your taste from magic acts to canine cancan dancers. Hit a club or lounge afterward for a late-night drink. Some of the nightclubs have become attractions themselves. Remember, however, that you’re at a convention and you have an 8 a.m. workshop you need to attend the next morning.
Some casinos are known for their retail space, others have more limited number of boutiques. In most cases, shopping is more about entertainment, since the brands are usually luxury names like Cartier and Gucci, and the prices are in the high-roller-only range. Souvenir buying is usually a necessity, however, and even if it’s pricey at the casino, the tchotchkes can be pretty imaginative, even hilarious.
Every casino offers lessons for novices to the world of gambling. It’s a good way to get your feet wet without being susceptible to newbie mistakes.
Book a treatment at the spa – every good casino resort has at least one. Some have extensive exercise facilities, and even offer yoga and other classes.
Casinos now boast some elaborate pools, including waterfalls, light shows, and, swim-up slot machines. They’re also home to happy hours and pool parties that may be free for hotel guests.
These are the basics. Depending on where you’re spending your casino weekend, there may be other site-specific attractions and activities.
For instance, you can play golf on the course at Wynn Las Vegas or the two courses at Turning Stone in upstate New York, take a cooking class from the Viking School at Harrah’s Atlantic City, hit the beach or lounge in a cabana at a casino in Aruba or Puerto Rico.
Then, too, if your casino trip takes you to one of the new hot spots in Asia, you’ll find some pretty nifty non-gaming activities and attractions at the “integrated casino resort” developments, which can include hotels, shopping malls, 4-D theaters, concert halls, amusement rides, waterparks, etc. Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore, for instance, is so huge it includes a Universal Studios theme park and the largest oceanarium in the world.
A couple of lessons learned from my recent casino trips:
Casino resorts can be huge. Your feet will be getting a workout. Bring comfortable shoes – and lots of Band-Aids.
No matter where your casino trip takes you, people-watching is always a sure bet for entertainment. And it’s free.
Have conventions ever taken you to a casino? Let us know in the comments!