Since its beginnings in 1986, Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, has established a reputation as a premier gaming facility. The largest resort casino in North America, today it has seven casinos, four hotels, two spas, dozens of restaurants, six nightclubs, two theaters, two golf courses, and boutique and outlet shopping – pretty much everything to make adults happy.
But you may not know that Foxwoods is also a family-friendly destination with dozens of activities, events, dining options, shows, and educational experiences specially created with kids in mind.
Monique Sebastian, vice president of entertainment and marketing, says Foxwoods, celebrating its 25th birthday this year, is continually evolving and reinventing itself to stay current with the times.
“We ask ourselves, ‘What do we need to be a full destination resort?’ she says. “The old Vegas model was pure gaming for many years and they had to readjust their thinking. We’re doing the same thing. People are bringing their families here. They’re celebrating birthdays and engagements, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and all holidays that incorporate children and teenagers.”
Sebastian points out that in recent years, families are coming to Foxwoods for mini-staycations (three to four days). The resort has responded in a variety of ways.
While the casinos are not open to the under-21 crowd, the Tree House Arcade welcomes all ages and has been expanded from one to two floors of high-tech, interactive video games, and includes arcade classics and pinball.
Entertainment is another area that has added many offerings for the younger set
“Over the years, we’ve had performances by everyone from Hannah Montana [Miley Cyrus] to Big Time Rush to Fifth Harmony,” Sebastian says. “Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez have performed here. We’re now [presenting annually] the nationally syndicated dance show, ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ We’re looking forward to [violinist and dancer] Lindsey Stirling – she’s very popular – in November, and The Power Rangers touring show in March. Also, we started a new Broadway series this year that’s been a great success and lends itself to the family genre. We have ‘Cinderella the Musical’ coming in May.”
New outdoor adventure attractions (safety restrictions apply) began opening this past summer at Thrill Tower, which currently offers the more adventurous visitor two extreme thrill rides. Sky Drop lifts four riders at a time to the top of Thrill Tower before they free-fall 120 feet to the bottom. Sky Launch propels two riders from the ground to the top and back again at an exhilarating speed. The soon-to-open HighFlyer Zipline is a 33-story high adventure that launches guests from the top of the Fox Tower to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center at a top speed of 60 miles an hour.
A European-style, indoor karting center is slated to open in early 2018. The multi-level track will feature gas-powered, nine-horsepower karts that give drivers the power and control necessary to experience the thrill of high-speed racing.
During “Kids Week” – held twice a year on winter and spring school breaks – 90 percent of activities are free and restaurants offer special pricing. Kids can stay occupied every day of the week, seeing movies on the big screen; participating in arts and crafts sessions, face painting, and balloon art; burning off energy in a play area with a bouncy house and such games as oversized Jenga, Connect Four, and foosball; competing at mini-golf; and enjoying hands-on cooking and baking demonstrations.
At Foxwoods, eating establishments abound, and many of them are family-friendly. The most recent additions are Junior’s, its first location outside New York. Junior’s features a full-service menu in addition to its famous cheesecake. The Sugar Factory, a popular spot for birthday parties, is known for its monstrous milkshakes and smoking goblet drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), celebrity-endorsed Couture Pops, decadent dessert crepes and gourmet burgers.
High Rollers Luxury Lanes & Sports Lounge not only features 20 lanes with bowling ball sizes for all ages and skill levels, but a creative menu with such new spins on old favorites as Philly cheesesteak spring rolls with warm cheese sauce and spicy ketchup; white cheddar tater tots; and a cheeseburger pizza.
Other family favorite spots include California Pizza Kitchen, the Hard Rock Cafe, and Fuddruckers.
In close proximity to Foxwoods Resort Casino is the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, which opened in August 1998. The world’s largest tribally-owned and operated museum facility of its kind, it offers a unique and inspiring educational experience for all generations to learn about the histories and cultures of Native Americans in the Northeast.
Featured in the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibits are multi-sensory dioramas, films and videos, interactive programs, archival materials, ethnographic and archaeological collections, commissioned art, and traditional crafts by Native artisans.
“We wanted to create a world-class museum and research center that would tell our story, as well as preserve our tribe’s history and culture,” explains Lori A. Potter, director of communications for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
Potter explains why it’s important that people know about the history of the Mashantucket Pequots.
“We have one of the most extraordinary ‘comeback’ stories in American history,” she says. “Our history proves that although we were once nearly destroyed, we survived, thrived, and overcame adversity, against all odds.”
But while there are somber aspects of Pequot history, in large part, the museum celebrates Native American food, art, music, festivals, and spirituality. Potter says the exhibits showcase “not only a renaissance of Pequot culture, but also the connection between the rich diversity of tribes throughout New England and North America – because as indigenous people, we are all related.”
For more information and tickets to upcoming events at Foxwoods, visit foxwoods.com.
photography courtesy of BOXWOODS