The place you’ve gone to get away from the kids wants you to come back — with the kids.
Following the lead of other gaming meccas across the country, Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino continues to expand its myriad amenities, providing a host of family offerings — even designated weeks just for children’s activities.
With a new 300,000-square-foot shopping outlet, the largest Native American museum in the U.S., and even hiking trails, Foxwoods officials say there’s much more to the property than gaming tables, slot machines, and grown–up entertainment.
"Unfortunately, ‘casino’ sometimes translates wrong. I think we need to look at how casinos are evolving,” says Monique Sebastian, Foxwoods vice president of entertainment. “If you look at Atlantic City or Las Vegas, amenities have become a big driver, more than gaming. It’s re-educating the people in our proximity, to say, ‘Yes, we always will be a casino, but look at everything else we have.’
“If only one person in your family is interested in gaming and the other three aren’t, there’s probably more things to do for the other three,” she adds with a laugh.
Given its proximity to Massachusetts, Sebastian says Foxwoods is a unique, weather-proof family day trip destination or even an overnight.
“Even though we’re a gaming facility, we realize that families do come here and families are looking for something to do, and families are part of this community,” she says. “It’s a great staycation. There’s so much to do in this one big city, you don’t have to leave and go outdoors. We hit on everything: We have a little bit of fun, a little bit of arts, we have history. There’s so much to do around the property, I can’t see being bored.”
This is the fifth year Foxwoods has offered Kid’s Week, which provides free family fun. Traditionally held during December and April school vacations, the next one will be held the week of April 18, featuring these free events: movies in the Fox Theater (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Sponge Bob: Sponge Out of Water, and Hotel Transylvania 2); arts and crafts; face painting, air brush tattoos and balloon animals in the Premier Ballroom; Warrior Challenge; mini-golf; and Xbox, PlayStation 4, Wii, and more in the kiddie Game Lounge. (A full schedule can be found on foxwoods.com) Clifford the Big Red Dog will even bring his interactive musical show to the Fox Theater for two shows on April 19. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at foxwoods.com/Clifford. Foxwoods also schedules a Kid’s Week during December school vacation, offering many of the same free activities.
“As a parent, I understand when the kids are off, it’s important to give them something to do instead of sitting in front of the TV at home,” notes Sebastian, mom to a 16- and 7-year-old.
The Pequot Hiking Trails
While the resort is well-known for its indoor fun, one of its lesser-known jewels can be found in the Connecticut woods surrounding the property. Fox paw prints in the Great Cedar Casino Lobby guide visitors to a choice of hiking trails. One path takes hikers to the outside exhibits of the Pequot Museum; another is a scenic trail loop behind the Two Trees Inn. The Lantern Hill Trail ascends nearly 500 feet above sea level and offers views that stretch as far as the waters of Block Island Sound.
Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center
10 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket?
Wednesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Adults $20; Youth (6-17) $12;
Child (under 6) Free.
At 308,000 square feet, The Pequot Museum is the largest Native American museum in the United States. Located just a little over a mile from Foxwoods, the museum features multi-sensory dioramas and exhibits designed to introduce visitors to the history of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the natural and cultural history of the eastern woodlands. It features permanent and temporary exhibits, an auditorium, restaurant, museum shop, and more. Parking is free, and free shuttles run to and from the front of each Foxwoods hotel.
Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods
Sunday-Thursday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 9 a.m.-11 p.m. foxwoods.com/tanger/
Opened last May, the 80-shop mall is the only covered indoor Tanger Outlets in the U.S. and spans 300,000 square feet. The collection of shops offers everything from upscale (Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Coach) to everyday (Nike, Gap, Old Navy, Under Armour). Of special interest to kids: The It’s Sugar candy store.
Tree House Arcade
Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 10 a.m.-midnight.
The two-story arcade on the Casino Level offers a range of games from classics for parents, like Pac-Man, to today’s favorites, such as Candy Crush and Jurassic Park, and nearly all-day access.
High Rollers Luxury Lanes & Lounge
Opens at 5 p.m. Monday-Friday,
12 p.m. Saturday & Sunday
Shoe rental $5, $6 per game, per person. highrollersfoxwoods.com
Located in the Grand Pequot Tower, the 20-lane ten pin bowling alley is open to minors until 8 p.m. each day. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult to enter and supervised at all times. Up to eight people can bowl per lane, and those who do can enjoy a full menu of unique bowling alley fare.
Sebastian encourages parents to stay tuned to Foxwoods’ social media channels (facebook.com/foxwoods/; Twitter: @FoxwoodsCT) for upcoming child and family-friendly events and entertainment beyond April. For example, earlier this year the resort hosted a live concert featuring Disney’s Fantasia, as well as the popular Red Sox Baseball Winter Weekend.
Black Friday through March, Foxwoods opens what Sebastian calls “Rockefeller Center in the middle of the Connecticut woods” — an outdoor skating rink and winter patio, featuring fire pits, hot chocolate, and s’mores. In December, it decorates the space with a life-size gingerbread house, a 37-foot-tall Christmas tree, life-size ornaments, Santa, and 100,000 twinkling lights.