Lately I’ve been writing about casino camping locations across the Midwest. Last week I told you about the Quad Cities area of Iowa/Illinois. After that stop we headed east, visiting the Empress Casino in Joliet, IL and the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, IN.
The Empress Casino has an RV park with W/E hookups (30A/50A) and a dump station. The park is laid out in an oblong loop, with pull through spaces down the middle and back-ins around the perimeter. Sites are level with concrete pads and vary in length. Some are long enough for the largest rigs on the road. We liked the park’s open feel and wide lots, with plenty of grass, and quite a few trees scattered throughout. We also felt it was nice to have a natural setting where we saw wildlife, including deer, this close to the city.
The casino is large, with all the machines and table games you’d want. However, the video poker is all short-pay, so I’d recommend sticking to the blackjack table. On the food front you’ll find 3 restaurants; a steakhouse (Alex), a casual dining restaurant (Café Casablanca), and a buffet. The Café isn’t always open, which feels unusual as we’re accustomed to the 24/7 “coffee shops” in Las Vegas, Reno, Biloxi, etc. However, we’ve discovered that many casinos in the Midwest don’t even have a casual dining restaurant, so the situation here seems to be the norm for the region.
We enjoyed our stay at the Empress RV Park and we recommend it. We plan to return to Empress next fall and stay longer, using this as a base for playing tourist in Chicago.
Michigan City, IN
After Joliet we continued East, aiming for the lakefront town of Michigan City, Indiana and the Blue Chip Casino. Construction has limited RV parking at times, however, I confirmed with casino management that they welcome customers to park their RV overnight while enjoying the casino, restaurants, etc. They request that you call ahead so security can direct you to the correct parking area, as it may change from time to time.
Blue Chip is part of the Boyd’s Gaming family, so all of your play is tracked in the “B Connected” player’s club system. For travelers like us, these national networks (Boyds and Harrah’s for example) add value in two ways. They allow us to earn points in one casino and redeem them at another, and they enable us to progress to higher tier levels via play at several casinos in different locations. Many Boyd’s properties are RV friendly, and some have FHU RV parks; for example, Sam’s Town Tunica, and Sam’s Town Las Vegas.
The Blue Chip has undergone extensive remodeling in the past, from the hotel rooms to the restaurants to the casino itself. They replaced their older, smaller facility with a large, single floor casino that bears no resemblance to a boat from the inside. Now they’re in the final stages of a huge construction project which includes a beautiful new 22 floor hotel tower, an amazing spa, and a convention center.
While staying at the Blue Chip we enjoyed a great dinner in their steakhouse, and a very nice lunch in the Buffet. This place is first class, and when the new addition is complete I believe you’ll find it unsurpassed by any casino of its size in the country. It opens in January 2009, but I’ll have to wait until next fall to see it, so visit this spring and tell me what you think, OK?
Moving Down the Road
After the Blue Chip we turned South, and made one more casino visit in Indiana before heading for Livingston Texas to visit my mother-in-law. Next time, I’ll tell you about that final Midwestern casino visit, and ramble on about some miscellaneous topics. Also, I realize it’s been quite a while since I posted a gambling article, so that’s coming up in the future as well.
Happy travels, and good luck in the casinos!