If you're at all familiar with gambling, and Indian casinos specifically, then you know that gaming venues around San Diego are extremely competitive. In fact, most local Indian casinos are in many aspects on par with their Las Vegas counterparts. Sure, it doesn't replace heading to Sin City, but when the gambling bug hits, you have some fine establishments to choose from. Here are my Top Picks for Indian Casinos around San Diego.
Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Sure, this well-established casino might not have a fancy resort (yet), but Viejas gets the nod in my rankings because they are masters at diversifying. Viejas Entertainment puts on top-notch concerts at the casino and around town, and the Viejas Outlet shopping center is probably the standard for upscale outlet shopping. The casino has recently undergone an expansion, including a new upscale V Lounge bar. Plus, Viejas's freeway access is the easiest of all the casinos.
Second only by a hair, Barona Valley Ranch is a gorgeous resort complex set in the picturesque Barona Valley north of Lakeside. Not only does Barona have a beautiful hotel on grounds, but it also has the acclaimed Barona Valley golf course, one of the top courses in the state. Done in a ranch motif, the casino has an airy, roomy feel with a nice variety of table games. Barona gets marked down for its location on Wildcat Canyon Road - a winding, dicey road at night and in bad weather.
Pechanga Resort and Casino comes in at a close third place only because of one reason - it is located in Temecula, across the San Diego County line in Riverside County. Other than that, everything about Pechanga is top-notch, which is why it is the largest casino in California. A beautifully appointed 4-diamond hotel complements an enormous and spacious casino with great dining. Freeway access is easy, and Pechanga puts on top notch concerts and sporting events. It's worth the drive.
As you can tell, I'm splitting hairs with these rankings. Because giving Pala Casino fourth place is a bit misleading. Pala, with its 4-diamond hotel and large casino, is the prototypical Indian casino that harkens to the Vegas experience. Great dining, top-name entertainment, and great amenities. Pala has spa facilities and a nifty pool area with cabanas, and it attracts big name entertainment concerts. Just pay attention to the road when driving along Highway 76.
Sycuan is one of the first casinos established in San Diego County, when they started as a bingo venue. It has grown into a full-blown gaming center, though the resort facilities are actually located several miles away at the fine Singing Hills Golf Course. The casino has its share of concerts in the cozy Showcase Theatre, though not the top names that Viejas, Pala and Pechanga attract. But the gaming and dining facilities are nicely done, and the drive isn't too bad.
Since gaming giant Harrah's runs the Rincon Hotel and Casino, it's no surprise it goes for the Las Vegas experience. A new 21-story hotel tower has made the formerly cozy resort into a full-blown entertainment complex. Harrah's also attracts a range of name acts for its concert series, but it gets a few minus points for its remote location and attention-taxing drive. But for getaways, you'll definitely feel like you're away at Harrah's Rincon.
The all-new Valley View Casino currently offers over 1,750 exciting slot machines; 18 table games including single-deck blackjack, double-deck blackjack and Pai Gow poker; delicious dining options including an award-winning buffet, the Black&Blue steakhouse and lounge. Valley View is also becoming a player in the summer concert competition with a new outdoor venue featuring top-name entertainment.
The casino has been a vision of the San Pasqual Tribe for many years and the Grand Opening on April 18, 2001, marked a milestone event in their history. The San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians are members of the Kumeyaay people.
Casino Pauma is one of the smaller of the cluster of North County casinos that include Pala, Rincon and Valley View. Casino Pauma's spacious gaming floor is filled with a huge selection of the hottest slots around... from penny slots to nickel slots to quarter slots to dollar slots. We've got the traditional favorites to the newest, interactive games available, including video poker and keno.
Federally recognized since 1891, and established in August of 1892, the Pauma Band is one of seven Bands of the Luiseño people located in San Diego and Riverside counties. The Band opened Casino Pauma in May 2001.
An hour east of San Diego along Interstate 8, Golden Acorn Casino is a casino/truck stop just before you head down into the desert region of San Diego and Imperial counties. Golden Acorn has 750 slots as well as over 13 table games. The adjoining truck stop includes a trucker’s lounge with internet access, laundry facilities, private showers and a TV.
Santa Ysabel Casino is San Diego County's newest Indian casino, near the famed Dudley's Bakery and just west of Julian. It's a mountain lodge themed casino, 35,000 square feet, with 350 slot machines and some gaming tables, as well as a restaurant with scenic views of the mountain country.