Since New York State just approved casino gambling outside of Native American lands, I wanted to explore how this affects travel with kids to New York’s resort areas. The Mount Airy Casino Resort, which opened a few years ago in the Poconos, is an example of family resorts turned casinos, and I wondered if would it be a good place to take the kids. After all, the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania are a well-known family vacation destination, only a few hours from New York City and Philadelphia, and are something of a playground for families residing in these cities.
The area offers a wide-range of recreational opportunities in all seasons, from hiking and rafting in warm weather, to downhill skiing and ice-skating in winter. It is a land of abundant natural beauty, including waterfalls, lakes and rivers. But do kids and casinos really mix?
Like many parents, I have taken my offspring to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, with decent results. We stayed in non-gaming resorts in both of these towns.
Las Vegas with Kids
The kids had a ball in Vegas, but we were actually staying in Henderson, 17 miles from the strip. We stayed at the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, renovated from the very family-friendly Loews Hotel it was at our visit. My kids had fun frolicking in the giant pool, learning to make sushi at the hotel’s sushiSKool class for kids with Master Sushi Chef Fuji, and romping in the spacious, well-tended gardens. I was enthralled by the services that I received at the full-service Spa. We ventured into town to see the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip and to watch Cirque du Soleil perform, but we were definitely quite happily removed from the true Vegas scene.
As a Westin, the resort still gets great reviews from families visiting the area, and it has free kayaking on the Lake. Ironically, the only bad reviews I saw come from gamblers and party-goers who hate that it’s a long drive or $65 cab ride from the casinos on The Strip.
Atlantic City with Kids
Atlantic City was a decent family trip, too. We stayed at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, also a non-gaming hotel.
We loved being immersed in the hotel’s collection of Miss America memorabilia, the largest in the world. We enjoyed the hotel’s small indoor pool and its location, just a block from the shopping outlets, was perfect for my crew of tween shopaholics. We could hit all of their favorite stores, score bargains, and be back in our hotel room in minutes.
Atlantic City’s oceanfront location played to its favor. We built sandcastles, strolled the boardwalk, wondered at the weirdness of Ripleys Believe it or Not, rode the amusement park rides and jumped waves for hours.
Mount Airy, Poconos without Kids
Finally, I had the chance to stay at the Mount Airy Casino Resort without my kids. The accommodations are a cut above many in the area, and bear no relation to the kitschy rooms with heart-shaped bathtubs and round beds that once defined the Poconos. Rooms are decidedly modern, super-clean, and loaded with amenities.
Dining options are plentiful and include a wonderful, old-world style Italian Restaurant, Le Sorelle Cucina, where I dined on fish that could not have been fresher, and pasta that was celestial. I felt like I was in a scene out of a Martin Scorsese film, as I watched the high rollers dig into their linguine with clam sauce. There is a Spa on-site, and Gypsies Lounge and Nightclub for evening entertainment.
But is there anything for kids? There is no pool, no kid’s club, no game room, or ping-pong table. There is a retro-style diner with some tasty kid-friendly options, but you need to walk through the smoke-filled casino to reach it, or any of the resort’s other restaurants.
High Rollers Leave Kids at Home
I decided to go to an expert in the matter of kids and casinos, my college chum Annie Duke.
Annie is one of the top poker players in the world, the winner of the prestigious World Series of Poker and an NBC National Heads-Up Poker Champion. She somehow manages to blend this fascinating, high profile career with Motherhood. She has four kids, and is the real thing, a hands-on mom, doing her carpool duties along with the rest of us.
Annie’s advice is simple. Sensible people don’t bring children to casinos. Even the ones that have a good infrastructure for children always require a walk through the smoke-filled casino to reach these kid-friendly spaces. That some casinos are more family-friendly than others is without a doubt.
But this experienced pro-gambler/mother firmly believes that casino vacations are for adults. Consider this the right time to leave the kids with Grandma while you pursue these adult pleasures.
I did just this on my visit to Mount Airy Resort, with winning results for all players.
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