Feature Article: Turning Stone Resort and Casino

Skaná, just saying the word makes me feel peaceful. I always did think that dancing and a massage were a good combination and at Turning Stone Casino Resort, with its Lava Nightclub, Leopard Dance lounge and Skaná Spa a happy guest gets both in one weekend. This September a two-night (Saturday/Sunday night) stay was booked for the ultimate in a “yours, mine and ours” weekend.  Spa for me; poker for him; dancing for us. The Turning Stone property, located in the heart of upstate NY (drive north from the city then turn left at Albany) and owned by the Oneida Nation, offers accommodations in four buildings. The Casino is located in the Hotel and The Spa is located in the 3 story Lodge (connected by an enclosed walkway bridge) and that is where we stayed. The Lodge offers interior access to the Skaná Spa and to Wildflowers, a four star restaurant with a menu focusing on seasonal ingredients.

With a pat on the back for ideal scheduling, we planned on hitting the nightclub and dance lounge on Saturday night with a massage pre-booked for 2 pm Sunday.

Dance-aholics we are, so LAVA Nightclub was our destination though we might have been the oldest dancers there. (Except maybe the parents of a bride and groom who were celebrating their after-party there.) Actually since we had arrived within the first hour of its 10 pm opening for the night we were the only dancers on the floor. There is also an upstairs dance floor and we had it to ourselves. But soon, seeking music and other dancers in our age range, we “split” for the Leopard Lounge located on the casino floor where a band with a big sound welcomed us to the small dance floor.

Dinner that night had been at Forrest Grill Steakhouse, located practically at the entry point for LAVA. LAVA is Turning Stone’s sophisticated, New York-style club open evenings Thursday through Saturday for dancing. It can hold up to 1,200 and in warm weather, it has the added allure of an outdoor cabana area with a waterfall and fire pit.

Following a delicious (late) brunch at Wildflowers, which we enjoyed on the outdoor patio, I headed down the hall for my spa appointment. At Skaná Spa and Salon, located away from the casino, the quiet atmosphere and the combination of Native American healing principles with modern treatments create a unique spa experience. The architecture of the spa is meant to pay tribute to the Oneida culture and and includes a welcome area derived from a traditional arched Oneida longhouse. The spa offers twelve treatment rooms, a full service salon, co-ed mineral pool, saunas, steam rooms, soaking tubs and a VIP suite. Dance Travel News spoke to Loretta Taylor, Director of Spa Operations.  The former spa manager for Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino, she has embraced the Oneida culture and the belief in the importance of good health, harmony with nature, and tranquility within.  The rejuvenating and healing treatments reflect the Oneida nation values and often involve the use of healing herbs, leaves and flowers like witch hazel, dandelion, and raspberry or spiritual cleansing ones such as sage, sweet grass, and cedar.  The relaxing and detoxifying Balancing Waters Ritual incorporates both hot and cool water along with steam baths and dry inhalation to relax muscle tension and increase circulation.  Loretta Taylor spoke about the twenty-one minerals in the bath that promote the remineralizing and revitalizing of one’s skin and emphasized the spa’s commitment to joining “herbal earth with modern research.”  Other balancing remedies and body treatments use therapeutic herbal and mineral wraps and scrubs, warm stones, restorative baths and relaxing massages to shed stress, restore balance and harmony and to invigorate the body, mind and spirit.  Other signature exclusive spa treatments include the couple’s Dance of the Song Birds, the Skaná Harmony Massage or Facial, and the Ritual of the Standing Stone.  The Ritual of the Standing Stone features an herbal infused bath, energy balancing “stone dance” massage and finally a scalp massage with lavender infused hot oils. Skaná, which is the Oneida word for “peace” was named among the best spas in the world by Spa Magazine. I enjoyed the Sage and White Pine Hot Towel Massage and the Pure Results Facial where my spa therapist offered a range of scented essential oils including lavender, grape seed, sunflower, hazelnut, tangerine, pink grapefruit and rosemary.

While I was tuning out the world, he was somewhere over at the Turning Stone Casino which offers 83 table games including poker and Texas Hold’Em and over 2,000 machines.  The Poker Room, which hold tournaments and special promotions throughout the week, features 32 tables of live poker for up to 320 players.

There are twenty-one dining venues on the property featuring a wide range of cuisines.  Along with enjoying Wildflowers and the Forest Grill Steakhouse, we also ate at Pino Bianco Trattoria. Other restaurants on the property include Copper Lounge, Over/ Under Sports Lounge, Peach Blossom, Rodizio Churrascaria, and Turning Stone’s most exclusive restaurant, Club two.one on the 21st floor of The Tower.

With a convention center, event center and showroom, Turning Stone Resort hosts many conferences, as well as popular mainstream artists in pop, rock, country, favorite classics and international performances.  The 5,000 seat Event Center at Turning Stone is a concert arena and convention center that hosts rodeos, ice shows, trade shows, sporting events and some of the world’s most celebrated artists such as the Black Eyed Peas, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Rascal Flatts, James Taylor and Stevie Nicks. Turning Stone’s 800-seat cabaret style Showroom hosts more than 100 performances each year, with everything from chart-topping singers to stand-up comedy and full-scale musicals. For more information about events, visit http://www.turningstone.com/entertain/index.php.

Space is also available to be rented out for other events. The Fred Astaire Convention, sponsored by the Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studio (of NY/NJ), is held here every year in the Spring. According to Fred Astaire regional office representative, Laura Martin, “It is mostly an adult ballroom dance competition that lasts from check-in on Thursday to departure on Sunday, with a spectacular Saturday evening sit down dinner and show to complete the competition.” The New York Dance event uses Turning Stone as one of its world-wide locations. According to Laura, the event is open to the public to “spectate during the weekend” and tickets can be bought at the door. For more information about the annual convention, contact Laura Martin at Nyorkdance@aol.com.

For more information about Turning Stone Resort and Casino, visit http://www.turningstone.com.

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