At exit 33 off the New York State Thruway just thirty miles east of Syracuse, The Lodge at Turning Stone is a respite among the dizzying array of activity at The Turning Stone Resort. The Lodge squashes the notion of what a typical casino hotel is like. With its separate entrance, complimentary valet parking, and refreshingly smoke-free environment, you just might forget that it’s connected by attached walkway to the rest of the bustling casino resort.
I recently spent 24 hours with one of my favorite girlfriends exploring what the resort has to offer. Not a gamer? It’s OK. There is plenty to do at Turning Stone without ever stepping foot on the gaming floor. Here is your ideal 24-hour itinerary that will leave you feeling relaxed, refreshed and invigorated.
Use the valet parking service at The Lodge and your car will be a distant memory. You won’t be needing it until you check out tomorrow. Drop your bags in your room and make a beeline to Upstate Tavern for lunch. Order the Frybread & Spinach Dip along with any sandwich or burger on the menu. For a more virtuous meal, choose the salad with pecans, chicken, strawberries, green apples and red onions over mixed greens. Take note of the warm and pleasant surroundings: wood reclaimed from local barns and windows from now-defunct factories. Featuring locally brewed beers, locally sourced ingredients and regional recipe favorites, this 2nd floor hotspot is the true pride of Upstate New York.
Grab your swimsuit and plan to spend the afternoon at Ska:ná: Spa. Rushing in minutes before your treatment begins would be counterintuitive. Follow the prescribed hydrotherapy circuit that includes steam room, sauna, mineral pool, whirlpool and shower. When your therapist picks you up for your treatment, you’ll already be in the proper mindset to get the most out of your service. Post-treatment, don’t hurry off! The fireside relaxation room is a deeply soothing place to extend the benefits of your treatment just a bit longer.
Treatment to get at Ska:ná: Spa: The Oneida Custom Massage is THE treatment to get when what you want is a relaxation massage but what you need is a therapeutic massage. Book an 80-minute massage to completely lose yourself in the capable hands of your skilled therapist. The Sage & White Pine Hot Towel Massage is a Ska:ná classic that should never be taken off the menu. It’s that good.
You’re in for a treat when you arrive at Pino Bianco for dinner. Red and white checked tablecloths, carafes of wine and regional Italian specialities are served in a fun atmosphere in full view of the open kitchen.
The dish to get at Pino Bianco: If you enjoy mildly spicy food, order the Chicken Scarpariello. Your taste buds will go into overdrive with tender chicken prepared with white balsamic, cherry peppers, pancetta, garlic, spinach and tomatoes over fingerling potatoes.
After dinner head straight to Turquoise Tiger for hand-crafted cocktails in a classic jazz club setting. If you’re lucky, E.S.P. jazz band will be playing a few sets while you sip your cocktails. You’ll think you’ve stepped back in time to the 1940’s Film Noir days. This nightclub is oh-so-classy, stunningly furnished and very comfortable. A gentleman in a zoot suit will greet you at the door. Elegant cocktail servers in flapper dresses and formally dressed mixologists ensure that your glass in always filled with a creative concoction.
The drink to get at Turquoise Tiger: Romancing the Stone, the Turning Stone’s Signature cocktail, made with Stoli Blueberi Vodka, St. Germain, Marie Brizard Cassis, Chandon and lemon. Other can’t-miss drink choices are Prickly in Pink (Absolute Citron, Prickly Pear, fresh strawberries and lime) and the not for the faint of heart Ma-Ma-Ma-My Verona (Stoli Hot Jalapeno, St. Germain, Cucumber Soda).
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If classic rock and roll is your thing, The Gig at Exit 33 is where it’s at. This is a classic rock joint at its best, like the bars and clubs you went to in college. With a 16 foot LED wall behind the stage and live local bands every weekend, The Gig is for serious rock aficionados.
If you’d rather boot scoot and boogie than rock out or get your jazz on, Tin Rooster is your kind of hang out. The drinks have tongue in cheek names like Mosc-ito and the barbecue is the best kind of messy. This place packs in all manner of plaid-shirt wearing guys and cowgirls in tight jeans and boots. Live music plays on weekends.
What’s new? Collectively, Turquoise Tiger, The Gig and Tin Rooster are all part of a snazzy new entertainment complex known as Exit 33 – a pun on the Thruway exit where the resort is located.
Sleep like a baby in your perfectly designed suite at The Lodge. The best rooms have balconies with views of the beautifully landscaped inner courtyard and golf course. I won’t spoil all the fun, but there is a special surprise at turndown. (You can read the full review of my 2011 visit to The Lodge and Ska:ná: Spa by clicking here).
For breakfast, do not miss the Banana Walnut Bread French Toast at Wildflowers. The Eggs Benedict with a touch of caviar is rumored to be pretty spectacular too. At Wildflowers, the chef always likes to send out little treats. For breakfast it was white cranberry and raspberry smoothies and white chocolate peanut butter scones.
Today is another spa day but this time you’re headed to Áhsi’, Turning Stone’s original and well-loved day spa. Talented and knowledgeable nail technicians, hair stylists and therapists can perform basic and specialty services and treatments in a simple setting just steps away from all the casino action and the dining and entertainment venues. It’s the perfect spot for a mani/pedi and a blowout before a night out or a quick massage to ease tensions away.
Treatment to get at Áhsi’: Seasonal manicure and pedicure.
Favorite moment: What my massage therapist, Patty, said as I was settling in for my massage: “Take a deep breath and when you exhale, let it all go. The next 50 minutes is all about you.”
As is common in the travel industry, the writer and her guest were hosted by the Turning Stone Resort. Overnight accommodations, spa treatments, meals and cocktails were provided in order to research this review. The opinions of the writer are her own.