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Seeing a Casino as a Campus

Mystic Lake Center, which opened at the beginning of the year, is just one of the features that make Mystic Lake more than a casino


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Mystic Lake Casino's interior. Slots abound. Courtesy Mystic Lake Casino Hotel.
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel wants people to know the casino is just part of the whole experience. When you are in the casino, though, you can follow the river—the ember-colored ceiling art—to get to where you need to go.

Photo courtesy Mystic Lake Casino Hotel

​I spent an event- and food-filled weekend June 1-3 at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake largely for free thanks to a generous invitation to their Experience Mystic weekend, and by the end of it, I felt quite content and spoiled.

The entire weekend seemed to have the two-fold purpose of both showing off the Mystic Lake Center (which opened at the beginning of the year) and letting us experience Mystic Lake as not just a casino but as a “campus,” as all of its representatives called it. And while the casino still is a main draw, the other events and features did make a good case. (And if you are a little antsy, there are nearby attractions like Paisley ParkValleyfair, Canterbury Park, and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to consider, too.) 

Here’s a snapshot of the weekend: 

Hanging out before the Barenaked Ladies come on for their outdoor concert at Mystic Lake. Courtesy Mystic Lake Casino Hotel.
The outdoor amphitheater as the crowd waits for the Barenaked Ladies to come on the stage.

Photo courtesy Mystic Lake Casino Hotel

The Concert

Besides the indoor Mystic Showroom, the campus also has a temporary outdoor amphitheater they set up for the summer, and this weekend was both their concert series kick off and the kick off for the Barenaked Ladies’ The Last Summer on Earth tour with Better Than Ezra and KT Tunstall. The Barenaked Ladies were full of mostly PG-rated and dad-humor jokes, surprisingly good harmonies, and a crowd that loved them. For whatever musician you see here, know the venue absolutely has the capability for crystal clear lyrics and a laid back vibe. Check out Kesha (June 30), Pitbull (July 3), Reba McEntire (Aug. 11), and more outdoors. 

The Spa

Their masseuse Kristin made me melt. The 45-minute anti-stress back treatment included a mud mask and anti-stress massage oil, but what did it was the leg massage. I felt the pressure to my bone, but it wasn’t a pang or a twinge. It was the persistent, soft touch of muscles finally letting go of tension that I hadn’t even noticed they had. The spa is connected to the family-friendly pool and hot tub area, but in the gender-separated spa lounges, they have a separated steam room as well.

The Food

I’m usually the kind of person who gets the vegetable fried rice because it’s 50 cents less expensive than the chicken fried rice, but this weekend, I took a big upgrade and got the Red Lake Walleye broiled with candied cranberries and citrus butter at the Mystic Steakhouse. Not only was it delicious with a bright and delicate flavor—it was so light, perhaps the cheesy scalloped potatoes paired better with the beer battered version of the dish—but I got two humongous fish fillets. It lasted me two and a half meals. The thing I really loved about The Steakhouse, though, was the separate atmosphere it had. Just outside its frosted screens was a buzzing casino, but inside its walls, I felt like I could have been at a nice restaurant downtown. 

The Casino

My gambling escapades were laughably short. To sum: $16 on two cards (six boards per round) of Cosmic Bingo and $20 in vouchers with Black Jack. While I didn’t win big (read: at all), I will say that the Black Jack dealer was just the patient, low-pressure sort I needed. I learned Black Jack from my brother in the backseat of a car, and since he didn’t include the etiquette, I always forget to forgo verbal responses and go with a tap of the table or a wave of the hand.

Courtesy Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. The Grand Entry, a part of the new Mystic Lake Center.
The Grand Entry at Mystic Lake Center

Photo courtesy Mystic Lake Casino Hotel

The Event Center 

The hourlong tour of the Mystic Lake Center did not include the attached nine-story Promenade Tower hotel addition, but then again, that is where our rooms were. In case we weren’t feeling obligated to go despite the lavish gifts they had been pouring on us, there were four chef tasting stops on as well. (In short, I can say from first hand experience that if you need catering at Mystic Lake Center, you’re going to eat very well.)

As for the rest of Mystic Lake Center: While the floor-to-19-foot-ceiling, automatically dimming windows of the Grand Entry are stunning in their simplicity, the image that best represents the Mystic Lake Center is the 22-person Shakopee Board Room. Like the other rooms in the event center, its plaque bears not only its name, but also the Dakota way to spell it and its meaning. Two of the walls are all glass, made with the same material of the Grand Entry, and they give breathtaking views of The Meadows golf course’s fairway, fields, waterfall feature, and bronze animal sculptures.

Above the table is a white three-stranded, undulating fixture that exudes a soft, white light. Throughout the entire 70,000 square feet of event space, similar curves and waves are on wall panels, wooden archways, and more. At times, it represents the wind, like in the Board Room; other times it symbolizes cattails bending in the breeze or waves or waves on the water. 

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