The road to Pala Reservation curves through an ancient, river valley as it winds east from the freeway. After leaving California State Highway 15 behind, the land opens to sweeping hills. Lazily cruising along offers time to decompress from everyday concerns. Driving down from Los Angeles or up from San Diego to the casino makes it easy to leave the urban buzz behind. I soon discovered that my nearest casino was a great escape and such a fun one at that.
The AAA Four Diamond Pala Casino Resort rises midst hills that were still green in mid-summer hues. I entered the complex and drove just beyond the casino, to the hotel entrance and then swung my car up to valet parking next to a vast, cascading fountain. Door attendants guided me into the lobby and pointed towards the reception desk. Not a slot machine could be seen but a wall of windows opened onto the grand lawn, swimming pool, and spa surrounded by green. This is a casino resort I can relate to, I thought.
Take a virtual tour of my nearest casino on my YouTube channel:
So many casinos leave me feeling like I’m navigating a noisy maze – you can find your way in but it’s not easy to get anywhere else. At most casinos, my head feels pummeled with incessant beeping and bells. It’s exciting to a point but at Pala, the gambling fun is more measured. “No Smoking” neon signs glowed on columns throughout my nearest casino. The expansive gaming spaces are laid out logically and the casino parking is simple to get to. I didn’t have to hike the length of a football field to get to my room either.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a night out with a one armed bandit but prefer not being pestered into it like an over-zealous date. My partner loves playing cards. I can’t maintain a Poker face so my inner Bond-girl gets a vicarious thrill just watching him play. Pala offered us lots of entertainment and when we worked up an appetite, there were nearly a dozen eating options to choose from.
The Cave, the lobby’s wide, central bar and restaurant, drew me in for an afternoon cocktail. Later we shared an entree there and enjoyed watching the couples and families surrounding us. The nearest casino restaurants ranged from a central food court with several sit down cafes and a sweeping patio; a spacious and popular buffet; a coffee counter with tempting pastries and ice cream; the cool underground Cave Wine Bar and finally a fine dining steakhouse, The Oak Grill.
The Oak Room is a world apart, quiet and refined. It makes a wonderful spot for a special occasion dinner. A friendly sommelier is happy to share suggestions for wine pairings. There are intimate tables and a private dining room as well.
I was lucky to be at the Pala Casino on concert night and the inner lawn was laid out with rows of chairs before a wide stage for UB40 and several other bands.The music started just before 8 pm as the night sky was beginning to darken. Several dedicated bars remained accessible during the night and we found plenty of space to dance.
Before we left in the morning, I had time for a dip in the pool and checked out the Spa.
The Casino is on the Pala Indian Reservation but inside there are few reminders. If you pay attention at the entrances, you’ll find huge framed displays with some of the Tribal history detailed in pictures and artifacts. I loved studying the pictures and wished there was more information about the people in the area. Next time I visit my nearest casino, I’ll leave time to learn more. The Pala Tribe Cupa Cultural Center and Mission San Antonio de Pala are nearby.
The Pala Casino and Resort is kicking off an expansive renovation which includes larger suites in a new 349 room tower, creating a multi-pool and entertainment complex along with expanded gaming and casino bar space. The renovations should be done in 2018. I look forward to returning to my now favorite and nearest casino for another sweet and fun escape.
Thank you to the Pala Casino and Resort for sponsoring my visit. As always all opinions are my own.