Tahlequah Daily Press

Checking It Out

February 19, 2008

Cherokee Casino: Great fun, food, folks

TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS — Just cruising into the parking lot of the Cherokee Casino in Catoosa is very much like the grand approach to one of the best venues on the Las Vegas strip. Except there's more parking at Cherokee Casino, the rooms and food are less expensive, and if you live in the 14-county tribal jurisdiction, it's less than two hours away.

And while Vegas motifs can be loud and glitzy, the tribal casino's decor both inside and out is lower-key, yet eye-catching and attractive, with the traditional native design elements that will be familiar to any Cherokee County resident.

The Cherokee Casino is huge by any standard, but not quite big enough to accommodate the enthusiastic crowds. And that's why, according to Cherokee Nation Business Communications Manager Amanda Clinton, an expansion project is under way. The construction will take the 95,000-square-foot facility (80,000 for gaming alone) to 337,000 square feet. And the current 150 rooms will more than double to about 350.

"We'll have a focus on suites for the new tower that's going up in the expansion," Amanda says.

My husband and I had made a quick stop at the casino on the way home from Tulsa about a year ago, and plugged just enough coins into a slot machine to pay our toll home. But we hadn't taken time to look around, and we hadn't sampled the cuisine or peeked into any of the hotel rooms. A few weeks ago, we did the whole tour, and came away suitably impressed. Even if you're not a gambler, it's well worth the visit, if only to stay in one of the finely appointed rooms and sample the excellent cuisine. Believe it or not, it would be perfect for a romantic weekend getaway.

A large parking garage is conveniently situated behind the main hotel-casino complex, and you enter through an angular hall that offers a pleasant surprise: a series of displays of traditional Cherokee arts and crafts. Then an escalator takes you down to the floor of the main gaming room, where a turn one direction or another will take you to a restaurant, hundreds of machines, and even live entertainment.

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