You’re likely from Upstate New York if you can point out the city of Verona on a map. This unassuming town 40 minutes east of Syracuse Hancock International Airport is surrounded on all sides by wide-open fields, farms and popular local recreation destination Oneida Lake — hardly the place you might expect to discover fine dining and vibrant nightlife.
But take exit 33 along I-90 and you’ll find wild grasses and single-story buildings are replaced with meticulously landscaped grounds punctuated by a sleek skyscraper. This is Turning Stone Resort Casino, rural New York’s answer to Las Vegas glamour.
From its sky-high steakhouse to its noteworthy nightlife, here are five reasons why this Upstate gaming resort wins big.
The Suite Accommodations
To experience Sin City-style indulgence, check into The Lodge at Turning Stone Resort Casino, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star retreat perched on a verdant hill between Shenendoah Golf Club’s recently reimagined greens (one of three championship-caliber courses onsite) and the casino complex. Though you’re just steps from the excitement of the gaming floor, you’ll feel a world away at this all-suite gem.
Starting at 550 square feet, these palatial pads offer plenty of room to unwind with 10-foot ceilings, furnished terraces and deep-soaking tubs. Turndown treats like dreamcatchers (a nod to the region’s Oneida culture) and housemade chocolates are a thoughtful touch.
To add pizzazz to your getaway, book the Lodge’s new two-story Presidential Suite. Spread across 2,900 square feet, the three-bedroom escape boasts two fireplaces, a hot-tub-equipped balcony overlooking Kaluhyat Golf Club, a full kitchen and an entertainment center. With Four-Star Wildflowers restaurant and indulgent Four-Star Skana Spa just downstairs, you could easily while away your whole trip here.
The Glitzy Gaming Floor
Don’t let its pastoral setting fool you — this high-end hideaway is here to play. A 120,000-square-foot gaming floor packs a punch with more than 500 slot machines, 100-plus table games, high-stakes bingo and high-limit poker rooms.
The latest addition to the resort’s luck-challenging lineup comes courtesy of a partnership with a Strip standby. Debuted in August, The Lounge with Caesars Sports is one of the state’s first sportsbooks, where Jets and Giants (or Buffalo Bills) fans can wage bets while watching NFL action unfold on a 500-square-foot curved LED screen.
Love the games, but can’t stand the smoke that comes with the casino? Don’t worry, there’s no smoking allowed on the floor with the exception of Casino Blu. A state-of-the-art air filtration system ensures no one outside this designated gaming area is affected by the fumes.
The Extravagant Entertainment
It’s not just the casino that’s larger than life. A regular roster of big-name acts takes the stage in the 5,000-seat Event Center. Recent headliners include singer Josh Groban and country music stars Reba McEntire and Lady Antebellum. Other popular performers, like comedian Nick Kroll and rocker Alice Cooper, have been known to show off their talents in the more intimate 700-seat Showroom. The red velvet-clad Lava Nightclub routinely draws a late-night lineup of DJs spinning EDM tracks.
If you’re searching for more local flavor, look no further than Exit 33. This Vegas-caliber nightlife destination features Lava and three other distinct venues, each with live music from regional acts every weekend (Thursday through Saturday). Make your way down the neon-lit steps of The Gig if you crave New England craft beer and a grunge vibe. Sneak around the bar to the back corner to find classic New York-style pizza to snack on between sets.
And if country tunes are more your speed, Tin Rooster’s house band, The Beadle Brothers, is one of the local scene’s best-kept secrets. Look out for the crystal-studded saddle hanging above the dance floor.
There’s a reason this lively entertainment district is able to compete with its Western counterparts — it’s managed by Sin City alumnus Tim Trendell, formerly of Four-Star Wynn Las Vegas’ popular XS Nightclub. While the Vegas veteran claims to not have a favorite venue at Exit 33, he does have a soft spot for Turquoise Tiger, a Great Gatsby-meets-Rat Pack-inspired club where classic tunes, champagne towers and private gaming tables create an elevated atmosphere for your after-hours antics.
The Crave-Worthy Cuisine
Of course, you’ll need to fuel up before a night out. Luckily, Turning Stone delivers on dinner options, too. Thanks to its rural location, the resort is able to source almost all its ingredients locally, including seafood, produce and even alcohol — in addition to a roster of boozy milkshakes, burger joint Upstate Tavern pours around a dozen New York State-brewed craft beers.
When searching for fine dining, you’ll have a fair share of choices. Savor dinner with a view at TS Steakhouse at Turning Stone, a Forbes Travel Guide Recommended dining room crowning the tallest building between Albany and Syracuse. A cigar lounge, jazzy bar and terrace with uninterrupted vistas make this a see-and-be-seen spot, but the succulent steaks and craft cocktails (and chocolate banana cream pie) are what really bring locals and visitors back for more.
To up the gourmet ante, book a table at Four-Star Wildflowers within the Lodge. Kick things off with an amuse-bouche (a recent visit featured a refreshing peach-ginger bite) and house-baked bread in pretzel, brioche and multigrain varieties. The restaurant specializes in classic dishes with a modern twist — try an elegantly plated shrimp cocktail updated with a seaweed salad and horseradish sauce followed by the venue’s signature sole meunière.
Liquid nitrogen ice cream ends things on a sweet note, but not before you’re given housemade chocolates and a parting gift of lemon pound cake to enjoy once you’ve emerged from your food coma.
If you’re not in the mood for a multi-course meal, Wildflowers also serves a lovely afternoon tea in the Lodge’s airy Great Room. Simply book your service with the concierge and you’ll be treated to a choice of six loose-leaf brews and a tiered tray of sweet and savory treats, ranging from a Rueben-inspired bite of duck pastrami and sauerkraut on rye to a tiny fruit tart and seasonal macaron.
The Stellar Spa
Late nights and rich foods are all well and good, but when you’re ready for some rejuvenation, Turning Stone’s Skana Spa fits the bill nicely. The facility features stylish nods to the region’s native Oneida people (skana means “peace” in the local language), including a longhouse-inspired welcome area, trickling water features and indigenous artworks throughout.
Start your journey with the Healing Waters ritual. Ease into relaxation with stints in the sauna and steam rooms (with quick, cold showers in between) followed by dips in the sky-lit Jacuzzi and four-leaf-clover-shaped mineral pool.
You easily could spend an entire afternoon soaking in the spa’s wet facilities, but the nature-influenced treatments are not to be missed. A new addition to the menu, the Signature 4 Direction Scrub is another refreshing ode to Oneida culture. The service begins with a presentation of four traditional ingredients — sea salt represents northern snow; maple syrup for the brown of the western desert; blue corn recalls the sea to the south; and a strawberry moisturizer evokes the sunrise in the east — that combine for a 50-minute rubdown that will leave your skin feeling baby-soft and have you wondering why you haven’t thought to visit Verona any sooner.