Checking In: The Largest Tribally Owned Hotel in the U.S.

by  Kristine Hansen | Aug 10, 2015
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

Forget what you think you know about casino hotels outside of Vegas. No, they are not cheesy -- and, yes, they can be as glam as their Sin City counterparts.

Take for example the year-old Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee -- the largest tribally owned hotel in the States. A staggering number of people, about 16,000 per day, visit the attached 1.1-million square-foot-casino. Also stunning: the fact that the casino's bingo hall accommodates up to 2,500 players.

In the hotel itself, the bright and airy lobby features an amazing light fixture on the ceiling that clicks through a color wheel of a whipping 16.1 million color combinations. Beyond, a few more surprises await.

What’s Hot: Again, this is among the country’s largest tribally owned casinos, and that alone has been a draw for years. But now with a hotel, visitors can further immerse themselves in a space that reflects water, cloud, and fire elements in the decor -- a nod to the Forest County Potawatomi tribe being the "Keepers of the Flame." And environmentally conscious visitors can be rest assured that the hotel's conservation efforts, from solely using electricity produced by renewable energy sources to recycling more than 287 tons of paper, glass, and plastic, are guided by the Potawatomi's belief in "only taking from the earth what is needed and giving back what can be shared."

Best Feature: At the helm at Locavore -- the ground-floor, hip restaurant with a wall of windows -- is Chef Van Luu, a Charlie Trotter’s alum who also cooked at Restaurant Charlie in Las Vegas.

The Rooms: It’s rare to slumber somewhere that’s got modern accoutrements and feels like home, but Potawatomi Hotel fits the bill. With their deep red walls, each of the 365 rooms here are spacious, quiet, and chic. Kohler fixtures dominate the all-white bathroom with a large walk-in shower and WiFi is free. On each floor, the hallway carpets mimic some aspect of Milwaukee, like Lake Michigan waters or the downtown skyline. The views of downtown Milwaukee, the higher up you are, get more and more stunning.

The Food: Locavore is the flagship ground-floor restaurant that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Almost all of its ingredients are from Southeastern Wisconsin farms, including Growing Power lake perch in the fritto misto and Pinn Oak Farms grilled lamb loin -- not to mention the Carr Valley six year-aged cheddar on the cheese board. You'll even find local specials like Shagbark syrup and ground cherries, and craft cocktails feature regional finds, too.

In the attached casino is an Asian restaurant helmed by a Hong Kong-born chef; Dream Dance Steak, a steakhouse with a phenomenal wine list of 600 bottles that aren’t marked up to typical restaurant prices; and a buffet. Near Locavore, there's a Stone Creek Coffee Roasters café selling coffee and pastries. Nope, you won't go hungry at this property.

Who Will Love It: Naturally, poker players and slot-machine lovers will gravitate to this hotel -- but so will those who love a good show. The 500-seat Northern Lights Theater hosts a ton of concerts, comedy acts, and more. Major tours this year include The Pointer Sisters, Leon Russell, Al Jarreau, and Kevin Nealon. There's also a separate comedy club on site with two shows every Saturday.

Who Might Not: The hotel doesn’t have family-friendly amenities, so while the rooms themselves (along with the restaurant) cater to families, there isn’t much for young kids to do onsite.

Deals and Special Offers: While summer in Milwaukee is high season, the weekday rates are as low as $189 (weekends are $359). Looking to September, the rates are $249-$359 for most weekends and $199 on weekdays. Weekday rates climb only slightly to $199 in October and $259 for weekends.

Nearby: The closest neighborhood is the Historic Third Ward, often likened to New York City’s SoHo for its rehabbed warehouses -- now home to art galleries, restaurants, boutiques, and antique dealers. Down the street on West St. Paul Avenue is Sobelman’s, nationally famous for its burgers and Bloody Marys. A brand-new 24-acre park, Three Bridges Park, is in the surrounding Menomonee Valley, while Lake Michigan’s lakefront is 2.4 miles away and downtown Milwaukee a quick two-mile drive.

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