From the moment you step in through the large glass doors it’s very clear, “We’re not in Kansas… err Ridgefield anymore Todo.” Welcome to ilani!
“It’s called ilani and it’s like nothing else.”
ilani (pronounced: å – luhn – å) is a partnership between Salishan-Mohegan LLC in collaboration with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. A fruitful partnership that spans the country; the Mohegan tribe in Connecticut partnered with the Cowlitz tribe of Washington to open the casino. We went for a quick visit on opening day (Monday 4.24.2017) to check it out. Recap below 🙂
As you probably know, the interstate (I-5) was overwhelmed by the amount of traffic on opening day (and probably will be for quite some time). From local reports the line of traffic frozen on the roadways extended upwards of 8 miles at the peak time. This amount of people quickly filled the 3,000 stall parking lot. Visitors could still be dropped off at the entrances, but drivers weren’t able to park until spaces had cleared. So, we went the secret backway 🙂 we were in and out with ease. This is a secret, but if you’re lucky we might just let you in on the action 😉
Parking was very easy, the broad roadways (mostly double-lanes at least) round-a-bouts and unobstructed views made it very easy to navigate. We didn’t know where we were going, but it felt like we had plenty of time to figure it out because there wasn’t a ton beside the roadway. The signage was pretty straightforward and there were (probably will be for a while) plenty of personnel directing traffic and answering questions. The only issue we had was finding our car again (actually kind of tough). The light-posts have the standard tiny sign with what appear to be battleship coordinates (J-7 and the like) but what wasn’t standard is the grid with which these coordinates… well… coordinate. The take-away is that the parking lot grid isn’t a grid, it’s definitely a polygon. This isn’t a major issue – unless it’s cold and raining and you’re trapped in a never-ending search for your car amongst 2,999 others. It’s not likely – but hey, it could happen. Another big plus we noticed here was the up-front parking for Electric Vehicles, pretty cool and very eco-friendly!
From outside the building dominates it’s surroundings. The building – a huge horizontal structure easily 5-10x larger than any nearby structure (of which there aren’t many) with large swooping curves and flowing lines (either colored vibrantly with browns and blues or softened with large square, stone beige tiles) clearly stands apart. The surroundings – rolling hills filled with high trees spanning every shade of green imaginable under a cool-grey sky with a few hints of blue peeking out here and there. The scene was set for fun, with an obvious departure from the norm.
There are two main entrances to ilani, a valet parking and a self parking entrance. Both entrances are large enough to accompany even the opening crowds as well as feature some great works of art. The breezeways offer posted house rules detailing what is allowed on premises, but very easy to miss as the allure of the gaming floor looms heavy on the horizon. From inside it feels as if you’ve been transported to Las Vegas. Everything in view lends itself to the thought. A 100,00 Square Foot Gaming Floor (with 2,500 Slot Machines and 75 table games) rests at the center of the space with 15 dining and drinking venues and 3 individual retail spaces line the perimeter.
The only on-site retailer to feature branded ilani products that make for some great souvenirs are at the Cowlitz Trading Post.
Food + Beverage
The big highlights in Food and Beverage are Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse and also Line and Lure Seafood Kitchen + Tap. These – for us – were two really clear and exciting choices, but there really are a lot of winners here. Mainly – anyone with a stomach 😀
Next door is the Line & Lure. Just remember – standing here between two delicious restaurants – these are the kinds of tough choices life presents us. Just know; no matter what you choose — there are no wrong choices 😉
The other options not to be overlooked include a Butcher + Baker, I.TALIA, Chef Jet, Longhouse, Rose + Thorn and a Smashburger. Most of which share a central café area known as The Market.
The line-up is still evolving, but it’s pretty apparent that MUSE – an excellent looking bar – will offer up some of the best live entertainment in the area. We thought one of the coolest additions to this space were the couches separating the dance floor and seating area of the concert venue along with the interesting divider walls surrounding it.
Art + Architecture
The clear highlight of our visit to this wonderful new establishment was the Art + Architecture. Not only is this ‘brand-spankin’-new, state-of-the-art $510,000,000 building’ equipped with all of the cool new stuff you’d expect (you know, electronic billboards and self-help computer kiosks) but it actually featured the past as well. We can only imagine this was top of mind for the Native Cowlitz Tribe – because it really shows in all the details. Bright lights and exciting gaming were definitely placed front and center for all to enjoy, but that atmosphere was completely encompassed by a sense of culture. The entrances are some of the easiest places to find history here.
All in All
The new establishment has a ton to offer and we would recommend visiting on a day that you can take time to really enjoy all of the funs and activities as well as take the time to admire the building as well as learn a little about the local history of the Cowlitz Tribe that has made all of this possible.
“We’ve been here 12,000 years, we Cowlitz are bound together as family.” – Bill Iyall, chairman of the Cowlitz tribe
Sources + More Info:
ilani Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ilaniresort/
ilani FAQ Page: https://ilaniresort.com/about-ilani/faqs.html
Map to ilani: https://goo.gl/S4pdM2
Additional Reading + Photos: