by Michael Blanding
From the moment you walk into the soaring lobby of Mohegan Sun, the southeastern Connecticut casino-resort is built to wow. Multicolored sails of beads overhead call to mind an autumn wood as they reach skyward to a canopy ringed with birch bark, grounded by a mosaic infinity pool on the floor. The rest of the 300,000-square-foot casino is a crowded and chaotic mishmash of styles that harken eclectically back to the Mohegan tribe’s past — a waterfall here, a giant glass Chihuly sculpture there, an animatronic wolf over there. It’s all over-the-top fun, alternating between impressive and — let’s face it — pretty cheesy. But the kids will love it, feeling like they’ve walked into a theme park for grown-ups, with lots of strange blinking machines and screaming adults at green tables.
When the state of Connecticut legalized gambling in the 1990’s, the Mashantucket Pequot tribe was the first to build a casino, nearby Foxwoods, in 1992. The Mohegan tribe followed in 1996, eventually expanding with an arena and hotel, opened in 2002. Of the two, Mohegan Sun is smaller, more artfully designed, and arguably better for families, with a safe, fun atmosphere and none of the seediness of the Las Vegas strip. It makes for a nice home base for exploring the surrounding area, particularly the attractions of Mystic, a half-hour away, while mom and dad can come back to the hotel and play the slots or roll the dice at the craps table.
The hotel is plush and modern, with plenty of space in the room for the family to stretch out. That said, this is not really a family resort per se — the chaos of the casino floor is bound to overwhelm the little ones, and no matter how cutesy the dÃ©cor, it’s hard to shield the kids from the marauding bands of conventioneers and bachelorette parties clutching cocktails on their way to the blackjack tables. The crowds also make for somewhat spotty and uneven customer service, with an overwhelming feeling that the staff is outmanned by the number of guests. Long lines are the norm for check-in, check-out and even coffee at Starbucks in the morning; you are better going down to the front desk than trying to raise a concierge on the phone; and requests for room service are likely to get lost in the shuffle.
If you can put up with the crazy, however, Mohegan Sun makes for a fun and memorable vacation. The kids will remember the arcade (complete with fake slots) and the ginormous pool, while the casino floor remains a strange and exciting blur.
Our Editor Loves
- Over-the-top theme park decor
- Fun kids' center and arcade
- Restaurants featuring every cuisine
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Opened in 2002, Mohegan Sun's Sky Hotel consists of some 1,200 rooms that rise in a huge tower of glass overlooking the Connecticut woodlands. In striking contrast to the campy casino below, the rooms are tastefully decorated in a subdued, modern palette of beige and royal blue, with fancy touches like nickel-plated drawer pulls and iridescent tiles and black marble vanities in the bath. On the walls are tasteful abstract photos with Native American themes (think beads and baskets). In addition, rooms include large flat-screen TVs with premium cable and OnDemand movies, free Wi-Fi, hair dryers and irons. Cots and cribs are available at no charge.
Note: Mini-bars are available in all rooms, and are equipped with weight sensors, so you risk being charged for any items you take out to make room for a doggie-bag (as well as for a stocking fee up to $25.) Extra refrigerators are available upon request from the front desk.
Deluxe King/Double Queen Rooms
The smallest rooms in the hotel, these rooms include one king or two queen beds in just under 500 square feet of space. They also include a desk, lounge chairs and a bathroom with a powerful shower.
Deluxe King Cove Suites
Larger rooms with an adjoining living room, these suites include one king bed, as well as a sofa bed. Each room has its own flat-screen TV, as well as its own bath (one half bath, one full bath with shower).
Luxury King River Suites
Larger rooms with an adjoining living room, these suites include one king bed, as well as a sofa bed. Each room has a view of the river below, along with its own flat-screen TV. The suite also has two bathrooms -- one half bath, and one full bath with a powerful shower and generously sized Jacuzzi tub.
Deluxe King Sky Suites
Located on the upper levels of the hotel, these suites are practically their own apartments, with more than 1,000 square feet of space. Each with an adjoining living room, they include one king bed, as well as a sofa bed. Each room has a panoramic view of the surrounding area, along with its own flat-screen TV, as well as its own bath (one half bath and one full bath with shower).
Luxury King Sky Suites
Also located on the upper levels of the hotel, these suites are similar to their Deluxe versions with more than 1,100 square feet of space. Each with an adjoining living room, they include one king bed, as well as a sofa bed. Each room has a panoramic view of the surrounding area. In addition, the suite has a walk-in closet with automatic lining and two bathrooms -- one half bath and one full bath with a powerful shower and a generously sized Jacuzzi tub.
Very nice accommodations. Would recommend a Wednesday or Thursday stay to get best pricing. Numerous restaurants to choose from check out the happy hour specials. Room are modern and updated with newer electronic equipment.
I will start with the good…we stayed in the Sky Tower the evening of a concert on 11/03/19. Our room was on the 28th Floor; wasn’t ready when we arrived; but was ready after we left the Mandara Spa. The spa was ok, nothing to rave about. The technicians were nice and professional. It was the newly hired reception staff that confused our booking which caused us to change the services we originally intended to get but in the end it was okay. The reception staff thought giving us a “discount” that was already being offered to all guest staying at the hotel was a good gesture to make up for their mistakes which equated to nothing special to make up for their mistakes for us. Upon entering the room, we were very pleased. It looked nicely decorated, updated, and the views from the 28th floor were breath-taking and serene.
Now the bad. My travel companion woke up the morning after the concert after feeling something crawling on her. To our dismay and horror, it was a BED BUG! (see attached photos) Yes, a bed bug! I managed to capture it alive to show it to the hotel management. I called the front desk immediately and asked to speak with a manager and to have someone come to our room to confirm that what we found was indeed a bed bug. The manager instructed us to leave it in the room and offered to change our room and said no one would come to get it. She explained the “team” that needed to confirm our finding was not allowed to enter occupied rooms, so we would need to leave it in the room and wait for them to look at it. We declined the offer to change rooms, we were not staying one minute longer than needed and wanted nothing more but to quickly exit the hotel. After I hung up with the manager, we started looking around the room, we noticed our mattresses did not have mattress covers, they only had a mattress pad and a layer of sheets. No wonder the place had bed bugs. I expected a large hotel such as this would have taken better precautions to protect their guest. We showered, immediately gathered our belongings, but wasn’t offered bags to put our possibly contaminated or infested belongings in, nothing. When we arrived at the desk to check out, I showed the manager the pictures of the bed bug and she offered us two vouchers for the breakfast buffet. We declined that measly gesture and opted to buy our own breakfast at Starbucks. She stated she would not close out our bill until after “the team” confirmed the findings. Again never offered anything to place our belongings in to prevent possible cross contamination. Not to our surprise, about 15 minutes after we left the desk, we get a call informing us that what we found was indeed a BED BUG. The manager stated she would credit our account for a full refund, but never offered to make an injury or incident report as I later found out was the proper protocol. My travel companion unknowingly at the time was bit numerous times on her neck, face, shoulder and arms. When I called the manager the following day to find out about how to get the additional expenses reimbursed for cleaning of our items and transportation (they never offered or provided us with anything to quarantine our exposed items), and the items that could not be cleaned but needed replacing, and medical expenses. I received the following reply to my question, “we don’t normally do that and you seemed okay with us just crediting your stay”. Wow I have no words for her response. But I have ten words for TripAdvisor readers. DO NOT STAY A MOHEGAN SUN THEY HAVE BED BUGS!
Pool and Terrace
Mohegan Sun is a casino resort -- so it's necessarily more a playground for adults than for kids. One exception is the pool area, a 10,000-square-foot solarium that features a large pool and small whirlpool, along with a small bar and dozens of chairs for lounging. In the summer months, an outdoor terrace offers an additional 17,500 square feet for soaking up the sun, and a fire pit each night by the Terrace Bar grill. The pool and terrace are open Sunday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Tucked into a corner of the casino is Kids Quest, a drop-off children's center with plenty of fun activities for kids ages 6 weeks to 12 years. It includes iPads and PlayStations with tons of video games; a gym area with basketball and dodgeball; a huge climbing structure with slides, platforms, and rope bridges; movies; and arts and crafts. The whole set-up is behind a double-locking door that makes it feel safe as Fort Knox, if Fort Knox had a daycare; for additional security, kids receive bar-code stickers that are scanned in and out when parents drop them off and pick them up. Rates are $10.50 per hour, per child ages 30 months to 12 years, and $11.50 per hour for infants and toddlers ages 6 to 29 weeks.
Next to Kids Quest is Cyber Quest, a huge arcade with Skeeball and lots of video games derived from popular apps -- Plants vs. Zombies, Doodle Jump, Fruit Ninja and more. But making it unique is the fact that many of the arcade machines are not games of skill at all, but games of chance. When guests walk in, they purchase a card with a certain number of tokens. Then, they can gamble those tokens on large slot machines and other games where they can win credits they can then redeem for candy and cheap plastic toys (whoopee cushions, vampire teeth, train whistles and the like). The thrill of wagering their tokens on games and winning real prizes is irresistible for kids, and bound to be a highlight of the stay. On the other hand, the similarity to real gambling may be too-close-for-comfort for some parents, who may want to steer the clan elsewhere.
Mohegan Sun Arena Entertainment
Most of the shows at Mohegan Sun arena cater to adults, with big-name concert acts such as Lady Gaga and Maroon Five. From January through May, however, the arena becomes the home den for the New England Black Wolves, a professional indoor lacrosse team that plays rival teams from across the U.S. and Canada.
Gone are the days when eating at a casino meant a cheap all-you-can-eat buffet. With more than 25 different restaurants, Mohegan Sun truly offers something for every taste, including traditional New England cuisine, gourmet Italian, burgers, pizza, Mexican and Chinese (with Ben & Jerry's and Krispy Kreme donuts for dessert). Many restaurants are either chains like Johnny Rockets; or are creations of "celebrity" chefs, such as Bobby Flay and Todd English. Unfortunately, the eating here isn't cheap. Many of the restaurants tend toward the pricier side, and even the food court features $12 burritos.
Unfortunately, few of the restaurants have children's menus, so you are faced with the prospect of ordering dishes to split or ordering an adult-size plate and taking food back to your room.
Your best bet is to hit the restaurants in the Casino of the Sky or Casino of the Wind area, which tend to be airier and better lit than the Casino of the Earth, where the atmosphere is darker and smokier. Some of the better choices for families include:
Todd English's Tuscany
Created by Boston's resident Italian celebrity chef, this upscale (and pricey!) Italian eatery turns out flawless renditions of all the classics -- Chicken Parmesan, Veal Osso Buco, and Shrimp Scampi. But that's not what kids are going to remember. They'll remember the giant cave, complete with a rushing waterfall that dominates the main atrium of the casino. Diners can opt to eat waterfall-side at "outside" tables, or inside the cave where it's a little quieter. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m., respectively.
Jasper White's Summer Shack
A branch of the Boston seafood restaurant, this eatery serves up classic New England favorites from clam rolls to boiled lobster with all the fixings: corn on the cob, boiled potatoes and fries. The environment is high-energy and family-friendly. Portions are big, so come with an appetite. Summer Shack is open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Part of the chain of restaurants designed by Caribbean good-time crooner Jimmy Buffet, Margaritaville is surprisingly family friendly, with one of the few kids' menus in the casino -- selections include fish and chips, fried shrimp dinner and, inevitably, a junior "cheeseburger in paradise." The dÃ©cor is also sure to thrill kids, with fake palm trees and a full-scale, float plane suspended from the ceiling. Call ahead and reserve a "boat" -- one of several fake dive boats complete with fake air tanks lined up on the gunwhales. Margaritaville is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Geno's Fast Break Food Court
When you can't decide -- or the family can't agree -- on a cuisine, head over to this spacious food court that has a series of cafeteria counters with nearly any fast food you could imagine. Burritos, pizza, Philly cheesesteaks and healthier options like a salad bar are all here. Geno's is open 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
If you are looking to look pretty at the roulette table, or just unwind from all of the chaos of the casino floor, head over to Elemis Spa, a 22,000-square-foot facility that offers hot-stone massages, coconut body wraps and dozens of other specialized treatments. The facility also includes a full fitness center, and hair and nail salon.
Same-day laundry service is offered. Clothing is picked up at 8:30 a.m. and dropped off at 6 p.m. the same day.
Valet parking is complimentary for all guests, though gratuities are encouraged.
Check-in is at 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Check-out is at 11 a.m. daily.
The Art of Smart Timing
Mohegan Sun is open year-round. Busier months tend to be summer and during the fall foliage season in New England (though in truth, the resort can be crowded any time of year). January through May are good times to visit if you are interested in seeing the Black Wolves lacrosse team in action. April through October are the best times if you plan on exploring Mystic and the Connecticut coast.
Mohegan Sun is readily accessible from points throughout the Northeast, just over two hours by car from New York and 90 minutes from Boston. The closest airports are T.F. Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, and Bradley International Airport outside Hartford, Connecticut, both around an hour away. Shuttle services run from both airports to the casino, as do a number of bus lines from major cities including New York and Boston. The closest train station is in New London, a half-hour away, which is accessible via local bus line, Southeast Area Transit (SEAT). New London is also the embarkation point for a ferry to Long Island.
Mohegan Sun is located on the Mohegan Reservation, a Native American reservation in the middle of the Connecticut woods. Unless you plan on spending your entire time at the resort itself, it is essential to have a car in order to explore the surrounding area. Limited service from Mohegan Sun to surrounding cities of Norwich, Groton and New London is provided by local bus line, Southeast Area Transit (SEAT).
For Mom and Dad
It's not hard to figure out what to do after dropping off the kids at Kids Quest children's center -- hit the slots! Mohegan Sun has some 300,000 square feet of gaming space, including 5,000 slot machines and over 300 table games, spread throughout three different casinos, the Casinos of the Earth, Sky and Wind.
The Casino of the Earth is the oldest of the three, and feels most like a typical Vegas casino -- dark, smoky and crowded -- with a stage playing live acts of both up-and-coming and has-been artists nightly. (MC Hammer made a recent appearance, Hammer pants and all.) The Casino of the Sky is brighter and cleaner, dominated by the massive crystal structure of Wombi Rock in the center, which features its own upscale lounge inside. It blends seamlessly into Casino of the Wind, the newest and nicest of the three, with floating sculptures swaying under high ceilings, and a state-of-the-art, smoke-free poker room in back. The Casino of the Earth and of the Sky also have dedicated smoke-free gaming areas.