Once upon a time people in and around Harris, Michigan, would get into their cars and drive to Harris to play bingo…in their cars…without leaving their cars.
It may sound like a ‘Yooper’ fairy tale, but drive-in bingo was the genesis of what is today Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Michigan, 13 miles west of Escanaba in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Island Resort and Casino is just what its name implies, an island of big city gaming, entertainment and fun, surrounded by Michigan’s U.P. wilderness. Think mid-winter and not inches, but feet, of snow in this northern climate, and the casino’s palm tree paradise décor is all the more a tropical island getaway.
Island Resort and Casino has 140 slots, plus table games that include poker, blackjack, roulette, craps and a bingo hall. There is a poker room, near the bingo hall, both of which are very basic, but the rest of the casino has a nice, leisurely feel about it.
There are 274 guest rooms; 112 in the original hotel, built in 1998, and recently renovated; and 162 in the new Palm Tower, completed in 2007, which also boasts a handsome Presidential Suite. The 11th floor Palm Tower guest rooms have a chic style décor, while others, like those on the floor I was on (7th) are spacious and clean, but a bit more low-brow with nylon/cotton quilted bedspreads, two pillows per bed, no closet door and no iron/ironing board. All rooms have a WIFI. An average size indoor pool is on the first floor and there is a small fitness room.
Each hotel guest 18 and older, receives one $5 dinner coupon; $5 Promo coupon; $5 bingo coupon and a drink coupon at check-in. There’s also free valet parking; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. room service; bell services and in-room hair dryers and coffeemakers, with ceramic Island Casino branded coffee cups. An on-property RV park has 53 sites, with electricity, water, laundry and shower facilities.
While family friendly, there isn’t too much there for kids, and in the Palm Tower, there is no division between the check-in desk and casino floor, so families will likely feel like there’s not much space to be a family, with gambling right at the front door of the hotel.
Other than a delightful and delicious catered dinner, my only meals at the hotel were breakfasts, which were average – and one day with overcrisped hasbrowns, a bit below average, but waitstaff were attentive and friendly. An Irish coffee at the sports bar was coffee and Bailey’s, not quite what I expected, but a Blue Moon draft was a healthy pint and quite refreshing.
Most evenings there is live entertainment in the Club Four One lounge that opens to the casino floor, so if you’re at the nearby slots, you can enjoy some excellent music while you play, or of course, you can take a break to enjoy the band in the loung.
The Island Lake Showroom is spectacular. It seats only 1,700, so it feels cozy, like a private theater, and has a stylish, modern décor that says ‘quality venue’ all the way. The casino/resort is not shy about booking big names either, so you never know who you might have the chance to get up close and personal with in this delightful theater.
In addition, the Island Resort and Casino completed a $2 million expansion of its conference center – no doubt to better accommodate its Futures Tour event, as well as community and professional events. It includes a new private dining and club room that will make a group of about 20 or less feel like they’ve checked into their own clubhouse.
The casino slots offer a nice variety of traditional and electronic games. I enjoyed its Flashdance game, although I typically don’t enjoy a 40-cent minimum on a penny slot, because the payoff is always a disproportional number of pennies for the bet at stake with each spin. And while I liked the two versions of Wizard of Oz, tucked into the corner, I didn’t like watching them suck up my bets with fairly little fanfare. The John Wayne two-cent machines were pretty fun, and the blasting Monkees were downright annoying.
The machines directly outside the lounge were a fun play, paying off enough to keep me even. But after awhile, even can be a bit boring. The great music, however, kept me playing long after the machines lost their thrill.
Each night, I started the evening with $30 to $50 in slots and each night I lost, which in my book, makes the ‘win’ factor below average for me. However, one of my media colleagues picked up a quick $150 max betting his comp dollars and another said she was up $100 on max bets on Wheel of Fortune. I did see one patron raking it in on the video poker as well.
The casino seemed pretty well ventilated, so not overly smoky. Drink staff were scarce for the most part, which was an inconvenience. I also heard some comments about non-casino-labeled water bottles getting the boot, which was hard to believe, but in general, the floor staff seemed very friendly and efficient.
Although it might seem a bit hokey to some, I liked the island theme, which the casino seems to carry off well.
One of Island Resort and Casino’s best features may be its Stay n’ Play golf packages, which tee you up at some of the areas best golf courses, and then provide a fun and restful evening retreat at night.
For more information or reservations, visit www.islandresortandcasino.com or call 1-800-682-6040.
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Stay n’ Play Packages