Sponsored Most of us think of the casino for big-name acts and nights of gaming, but there’s lots more to enjoy, whether gambling is your thing or not. I partnered with Mohegan Sun to try out some of the features of their Hot Summer Fun line-up, and frankly, it was all that and more. I came to think of it as an alternate universe, Oz-like in its appearance on the horizon, where everyone, down to the valet who wished me good luck, is on their best behavior. Waiter, waitress, maid, aesthetician; it mattered not…all were unfailingly polite and professional. Needless to say, that’s not the norm anymore in the service industry. I spent a weekend exploring and came away without even hitting the slots. Consider it for your next Staycation or a super fun Girls’ Getaway. Here’s my list. Love, Erica p.s. You can WIN my weekend at Mohegan! Just enter our Giveaway at the bottom of the list. Sky Tower Home base was a spacious room with a king bed on the 12th floor overlooking the pool (next time I’ll ask for a river view!). The neutral beige and brown palette was just fine with me, and the marble-topped desk, linen sofa, and flat screen TV lent an urban studio feel. Nice touches are the nightlight that turns on under the bedside table when you step out of bed (I could really use one of those!), a ginormous bathroom, and a thriving pot of philodendron. It’s a green hotel (who knew?) with mandatory recycling and on trend, too, with a canned rum and coconut cocktail mixed in with the fifths in the mini bar. Plus, you can indulge after winning at Black Jack with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs from room service! Find out more about the hotel and make reservations here. Mandara Spa You probably don’t think of spa services when heading off for a weekend at the casino, but at Mohegan, you should. I was the only one up and moving in the hotel at 8 am when I headed down to the spa for a Signature Facial. And, wow, the freshly renovated space is serene and scented with lemongrass, such a contrast to the antics on the gaming floor! After changing into a cushy robe, I grabbed a cup of tea and lounged around in the relaxation room while I waited for my aesthetician. Renee showed up precisely on time and led me back to one of the thirteen treatment rooms. I’ll be honest: I didn’t have the highest expectations, but this was one of the best facials I’ve ever had. Renee has been at the spa for 13 years and is a master. After scrutinizing my skin, she devised an anti-aging and anti-inflammatory regimen, beginning with an amino-acid mask to deeply exfoliate without scrubbing (a no-no according to Renee). After some oh-so-gentle extractions (those stubborn blackheads), and various balms, potions, and masks, Renee applied a NuFACE (rt) microcurrent to lift the muscles and stimulate the skin. You’re not left alone during the treatment (an odd fear of mine, that the aesthetician will forget all about me), so while your masks are doing their magic, Renee worked hers, massaging my scalp, shoulders, forearms, and fingers. An oxygen blast at the end cooled my face and calmed my always allergy-itchy eyes (a celebrity secret for late nights). I loved the experience so much and was sorry I hadn’t booked more treatments, especially the new Quartz Crystal Bed. Renee let me have a peek: crystal pebbles mold to your body and release muscle tension, detoxify, and promote relaxation. Several therapies are offered using the bed, including a Poultice Powered Muscle Release and a Sound Treatment Healing Bath. All the services provided at the spa are rooted in holistic therapies from around the world. The menu is vast and includes everything from a detox ocean wrap to coffee and coconut body polish, plus all manner of waxing, massage, and facials. The Elemis products used are plant-based. But what I loved best was Renee. My skin looks and feels great, my puffy eyes are a bit less, and I’ll be back soon. Guests receiving spa or salon services totaling $100.00 or more during a single day can spend the entire day in the spa, dipping into the light therapy-enhanced Jacuzzi, steam or sauna, or lounging in the relaxation room with herbal tea. After your treatment, take 20% off all products (which I took full advantage of), and 30% off your next Mandara Spa service booked within a week. Find out more about Mandara Spa here. Pool Party! Thursday is a perfect night to head to the Casino because after your dinner you can pop up to the pool terrace of Sky Tower (on the third floor) for their weekly Pool Party and an evening of live music. We made like Miami and snagged a poolside cabana, complete with couches, flat screen, and a fridge. Bottle service is available, but we indulged in frozen margaritas and chips and guac. On a hot night, lovely cool breezes drifted off the Thames as we grooved to the sounds of local soul masters, Mass-Con-Fusion (the lead singer has an unbelievable voice, backed by a five-piece band). There’s plenty of room for dancing or getting cozy next to the mammoth fire pit. I’m constantly bemoaning the fact that there’s no place for dancing adults (moi!), and nothing lifts your spirits faster. Laura and I were feeling a bit shy, so we bopped around on our loungers, but the Pool Party is an excellent destination for a night out with your girlfriends, so next time I’m bringing a crowd and hitting the dance floor! Good to know: cabanas are by reservation only and available seven days a week. Pool Party hours: Thursday night, 8 to 11 pm. Snacks and casual dinner fare (from wraps and salads to burgers and dogs) are available. Kid friendly. Bring your suit if you plan a dip in the pool or hot tub. Find out more about the Pool Parties, here. Find out about the VIP cabanas here. Ballo If you eat nothing else at Mohegan, here’s what you must: The Big Cheese at Ballo. An off-menu item (I got the skinny from my sweet aesthetician, Renee), a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano is rolled to your table. Your server lights the thing afire to melt the cheese, then swirls a pile of pasta into it, scrapes a black truffle over the top, and voila! Perhaps the best thing to meet my mouth in years. The spectacle alone is worth the calories. We could have stopped there, but no! It was an appetizer portion, after all, so we soldiered on. We feasted on the Assaggi, a charcuterie and cheese plate (oh, those ricotta stuffed peppers!), before tucking into the slimmest filet of Chicken Francese in a small puddle of lemony butter sauce, set off by the pleasing bitter contrast of broccolini. We ordered the squid ink pasta with calamari for the table, and my dinner mates shared a vat of Zuppa Di Pesce, studded with lobster, mussels, and shrimp (my husband devoured the leftovers for breakfast). We drooled over the dessert list (Zeppoli! Affogato!) but just couldn’t manage. We weren’t off the hook – a box of mini cannoli appeared with the check. The pasta is house-made, the wait staff delightful, the dining room vast but elegant, and it’s easy to see why the hostess knew most of the diners by name. I don’t think of folks being regulars at a casino restaurant, but here they are. (Main image above: Truffle Mac & Cheese) Visit Ballo’s website here. See all the Hot Summer Fun events at Mohegan Sun including concert line-up, pool parties and Food Truck Fest here. Win an Escape to Mohegan Sun! Enter to win an overnight at Mohegan Sun, plus dinner for two and a $150 Gift Certificate (valid for shopping, food or spa)! Contest ends on 8/8/18. Click here to enter the contest!