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Originally published September 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 19, 2008 at 4:18 PM

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Rich Native American heritage on display at local casino resorts

Casino resorts for the Suquamish, Tulalip and Quinault tribes celebrate Native American culture through museum-quality artwork, and their orientation to Northwest natural wonders.

Special to the Seattle Times

IF YOU GO

If you go

Casino hotels, Northwest-style

Where

Several Western Washington casinos have overnight accommodations, ranging from high-end luxury suites to standard rooms. Some include rentals of vacation homes. Amenities (amphitheatres, dining, spas, pools, hot tubs, fitness centers and art displays) vary; check before booking.

Resorts we visited

Deluxe or premium rooms at these hotels range from $129 per night (Quinault) up to $239 per night (Clearwater) for October weekends. Note: Some rooms book far in advance.

Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, 15347 Suquamish Way N.E., Suquamish, Kitsap County, six miles from Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. 866-609-8700 or www.clearwatercasino.com. Free shuttle from ferry. Three vacation-home rentals.

Tulalip Resort Casino, 10200 Quil Ceda Blvd., Tulalip, Snohomish County; off Interstate 5 at Exit 200, 35 miles north of Seattle. 866-716-7162 or www.tulalipresort.com. Shuttle available to outlet mall and Quil Ceda Nightclub and Casino.

Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, 78 State Route 115, Ocean Shores, 130 miles south of Seattle. 888-461-2214 or www.quinaultbeachresort.com. Shuttle to Ocean Shores.

Other casinos with lodging

Little Creek Casino Resort, 91 W. State Route 108, Shelton, 61 miles south of Seattle. 800-667-7711 or www.little-creek-casino.com.

Skagit Valley Casino Resort, I-5 Exit 236, 70 miles north of Seattle, 5984 N. Darrk Lane, Bow, Skagit County. 877-275-2448 or www.theskagit.com.

Emerald Queen Casino Hotel, I-5 Exit 137, 5700 Pacific Highway E., Fife. 888-820-3555 or www.emeraldqueen.com. Free shuttle to the Emerald Queen casino in Tacoma.

Silver Reef Hotel-Casino-Spa, I-5 Exit 260, 4876 Haxton Way, Ferndale, 98 miles north of Seattle. 866-383-0777 or www.silverreefcasino.com.

More information

For quick information on Washington's tribal casinos:

• See www.experiencewa.com, click on "Activities & Attractions" and then "Gaming";

• Or see http://americancasinoguide.com/washington.shtml

Get ski and boarding conditions all winter long with webcams, snow alerts and more at seattletimes.com/snowsports

AGATE PASSAGE — The deck on our waterfront room was like a reviewing stand from which we watched an afternoon parade of pleasure craft and fishing boats traveling this tidal strait between Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula.

Near the resort's towering totem pole, a fellow guest and her dog raced across the expansive lawn toward the beach. Later, children roasting marshmallows at the jumbo fire pit provided the entertainment.

This wasn't the casino resort we knew from the Vegas Strip, with neon lights, flash, glamour — I mean ... that's Vegas, baby! This year, with 27 tribal casinos in Washington, some with lodging, we decided to gamble and try a few closer-to-home destinations. What we found in addition to the expected Vegas-style games, both table and machine, were family-friendly, top-of-the-line, luxurious accommodations, some in stunning natural settings. Museum-quality Native American art and craft displays were bonuses — introductions to the Pacific Northwest's rich tribal heritage.

Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort

We hit the jackpot at the Clearwater, an 85-room boutique hotel on the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula, only a bridge span from Bainbridge Island. The contemporary Northwest lodge-style hotel at the water's edge is hidden behind its cavernous casino and parking garage just off Highway 305.

Towering wood-carved female and male figures welcomed us at the entry. Inside, suspended from the ceiling, an enormous woven Salish fish-gathering basket and canoe dominated the Great Room, an area serving as lobby, breakfast room and gallery for its collection of woodcarvings, glass sculpture, weavings and paintings. Each piece seems to tell a part of the story of the Suquamish people (whose name means "clear saltwater") and their culture. Self-guided tours are a snap; explanations of the work are provided.

Our water-view "premium" room was worth the higher cost ($20 to $30 more than basic rooms in the October "shoulder" season). Less expensive rooms, sans decks, face the casino and parking lot. Each room has an array of amenities ranging from a 32-inch flat-screen HD television, free Internet, plush bedding, thick towels and robes, microwave and refrigerator, to stemmed wine glasses and bottle opener. A large continental buffet breakfast was included.

The resort's design capitalizes on its surroundings. Spectacular views of evergreens and water can be had from the Angeline Spa, the "zero-entry" (no-edge) pool, and nearby oversized hot tub.

"This is the best," said guest Cindy Parsons, of Tukwila, sampling the pool lounge. "It has the beach ... the pool. Once you are here, you don't even realize there is a casino nearby."

Restaurants are in the casino. Children (with parents) are allowed in the eateries. Our dinner at Cedar Steakhouse, the small, fine-dining restaurant patterned after a tribal longhouse, was a celebration of Northwest cuisine, such as baked salmon served on a 2-inch-thick cedar plank ($21) and a wild-mushroom-crusted halibut ($24). Room service is available.

Allow time to:

• Visit the Suquamish Museum, a half-mile from the resort, and the grave of Chief Sealth (for whom Seattle was named) in the village of Suquamish, about 1.5 miles away. Get directions at the front desk.

• Ride the resort's free shuttle between the Winslow ferry dock and the casino. Walk a few blocks and explore the quaint waterfront town.

Tulalip Resort Casino

From the Gallery Lounge to the side of the Tulalip Casino Resort's vast main lobby, I watched a toddler wobble toward the massive trio of "story poles" at the entry of this mega-resort, north of Seattle, that this summer added a hotel. Squealing, arms outstretched, he fell suddenly silent as he gazed toward the ceiling, taking in the symbols carved out of what was once a towering red cedar.

While he admired the images on the poles (also called "house posts") representing welcome, storytelling and game-playing, I explored the displays of Coast Salish art — woven baskets, carvings and paintings — that fill cases and decorate the walls of this warmed-by-the-fireplace quiet spot. It was so peaceful that it didn't seem possible an enormous casino was just down the hall.

Creators of the sleek 12-story conference hotel used color and design to celebrate the Pacific Northwest and the Tulalips' heritage. The importance of the earth and elements, fish and wildlife, resonate throughout the décor and art displays.

The "T-Spa" is like a forest setting, with smooth river rocks, pale and papery birch branches, moss and stone at every turn. Color-therapy technology enhances the sensory experience by changing the lighting between red, blue, green and purple with the flick of a switch.

"It is designed to remind you we are the Northwest," explains Norma Hughes, spa director. "We are not Bali or Honolulu." She pointed out designs in the hardwood floors that represent river and islands, the stream and river suggesting life's journey.

The influence of tribal artists is evident throughout the hotel's contemporary design. Elevator lobbies on guest-room floors feature large carved "comb" wall pieces, inspired by those once worn in the hair of Tulalip women. Salmon, representing the cycle of life, along with mountains, lakes and bear tracks are woven into hallway carpets.

Floor-to-ceiling windows make the oversized guest rooms seem even larger than they are — none smaller than 500 square feet, and all nonsmoking. Italian tile and granite bathrooms feature adjustable-spray spa showers. The bed is so plush you might not want to leave it — or the 47-inch flat-screen television it faces. Among an array of room amenities are a small refrigerator and free, wireless Internet. The higher the guest room, the better the panoramic views of Mount Baker and the Cascades.

Just off the casino, two side-by-side restaurants offer high-end dining. The award-winning Tulalip Bay, home of chef Dean Shinagawa, is open Wednesday through Sunday evenings. A new seafood bistro, BlackFish, where salmon is prepared using a Tulalip cooking technique over an open fire pit with ironwood sticks, is open every evening. A coffee shop and a more casual restaurant open off the hotel lobby.

Allow time to:

• Shop till you drop at 110 designer and name-brand stores at the adjacent Seattle Premium Outlets mall, a 15-minute stroll from the hotel (or you can ride the shuttle).

• Ride the shuttle to the sister resort, Quil Ceda Creek Nightclub and Casino.

• Or laze in a tropical setting at the Tulalip's Oasis Pool and hot tub, with indoor and outdoor patios.

Quinault Beach Resort and Casino

We followed the boardwalk from the hotel over the sand dunes and beach grass to a seemingly endless flat beach where children raced past us laughing at the dips and sways of their kite as it strained against the breeze. Our late-summer visit fell on a day of filtered sun, the kind that invites beach walking, shell- or soul-searching, horseback riding and kite flying.

Earlier, on the long, winding entry drive through lush wetlands, the only hint we were heading to a casino was the speed-limit signs: "21" miles per hour. (Get it? It's a card game.)

The Quinault Beach Resort and Casino at Ocean Shores has that sandy, salty, windblown outdoors feel of a beach resort. And while art and crafts displays aren't as prevalent, the lodge capitalizes on its location, making a guest wonder whether beach or casino is the biggest draw.

After miles of beach, we savored the seafood club sandwich piled high with crab and shrimp and accompanied by chowder, a blend of clams, smoked trout and herbs served in Emily's, the resort's ocean-view restaurant. A sushi bar operates Wednesday through Sunday evenings. Reservations are advised for Friday's land-and-sea buffet or the Sunday brunch.

The waterfront rooms cost more per night but have straight-on views of the beach. The glass slider to the French balcony — that small, can't-really-stand-outside type — when open, invites the sound of the waves and ocean breezes. In stormy weather, flip the room's fireplace switch and curl up on the couch near the window or snuggle up in the luxurious bed.

Allow time for:

• Using the resort's indoor pool and full-service spa.

• Riding the free shuttle to nearby Ocean Shores to explore its many restaurants, gift shops and equipment rental (bikes to boats) stores.

Freelance writer Jackie Smith, of Kirkland, is a regular contributor to NWWeekend. Contact her: travelnwrite@msn.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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