By Greg Aragon
The moment I walked into the sparkling lobby of Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, I shifted gears and put myself in relaxation mode. I had escaped the daily grind and was ready for a day and night of luxurious dining, pampering and a little gambling.
My Pechanga getaway began when a friend and I checked into gorgeous 9th floor suite overlooking the property’s pool and nearby rolling hills. The room was highlighted by a large master bedroom with king bed, huge TV and large windows; and a living room area with a sofa, another TV and breathtaking views of the Temecula Valley through floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Four-Diamond suite also boasted a dining area with table and chairs, sink, mini-fridge and yet another television; custom made Italian furniture throughout; and two bathrooms – the main one featuring a soaking tub and separate glass shower.
When not lounging in robes inside the air-conditioned suite, we were exploring the rest of the resort. Last month, the property opened its new, $285-million expansion project, which includes a second hotel tower, a luxury two-story spa, the Lobby Bar restaurant, and a new events center. There is also a new pool complex set to open in March that will boast three large pools and five smaller ones, a swim-up bar and waterslides.
The new 14-story hotel tower is comprised of two buildings near the property’s Journey at Pechanga golf course. It adds an additional 568 rooms, bringing the resort’s total to 1,090 rooms. The new event center building is 68,000 sq-ft and includes 40,000-sq-ft ballroom.
While touring the grounds I experienced Spa Pechanga and indulged myself in a rejuvenating 60-minute rub down I won’t soon forget. The spa offers guests a range of massages and facial treatments, body wraps, exfoliation, couples massage, steam saunas, as well as a full-service hair and nail salon. Next to the spa is a state-of-the-art fitness center.
And then there is the largest casino floor in California, which totals 200,000 sq-ft and features 4,300 slot machines; 130 table games including Pai Gow, Blackjack, Let it Ride, California Craps, and many more; a non-smoking poker room with tables; and an ultra-modern, 700-seat bingo facility.
Before my spa treatment, I sampled Bamboo, one of Pechanga’s many, eclectic dining options. Bamboo is where expert chefs create Pan-Asian fusion dishes, prepared in the national style of Korea, Vietnam and China amid a fast-paced noodle bar featuring native drinks. Our Bamboo lunch was highlighted by Imperial Rolls, with shrimp, pork and vegetables wrapped in rice paper and deep fried. This was followed with Canh Chua Cá, a succulent sweet and sour fish fillet soup with bean sprout, tomato, ginger, bamboo shoots and tons of flavors.
After lunch we relaxed with Bloody Mary’s by the pool, with a spectacular view of the mountains behind us. We then napped in the room and hit the fitness center before dinner.
For supper we dove into Pechanga’s all new Lobster & Seafood Extravaganza, which happens every Thursday. For $44.99, Pechanga Buffet guests can enjoy their fill of all-you-can eat, one-and-one-quarter pound whole Maine lobster done in an East Coast lobster bake style with roasted potatoes and corn on the cob. From 4 pm to 10 pm, diners receive a piping hot lobster bake bag containing the just-cooked lobster (flown in from Maine the night before) and fixings. Guests can also pile high the enhanced buffet seafood selections from the upgraded sushi station, a whole-salmon carving station, and fresh baked oyster station, snow crab, fish tacos, ceviche, calamari, Dungeness crab, clam chowder, steamed shrimp and much more.
After dinner, I hit the slot machines and caught a live band at The Cabaret Lounge. In the morning, we opened the curtains in our suite and watched hot air balloons raise above Temecula Valley’s picturesque wine country. For breakfast we took a shuttle across the Pechanga property to Journey’s End, the resort’s loge-like restaurant overlooking the golf course, a wooden bridge spanning an old stream, and the surrounding Temecula Valley.