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Revisiting Tulalip Resort Casino

A Surprise Adventure in Washington State

Story by Lynn Rosen; Photos by Steve Giordano   June 1, 2012

Tulalip whale
Orca sculpture at the Tulalip Resort Casino

You can’t tell a book by its cover. There’s good reason for this old saw and the Tulalip Resort and Casino is proof positive.       
From the I-5 freeway (Exit 200, 30 minutes north of Seattle), this property looks like a nice enough run-of-the-mill roadside high-rise motel with a casino next door. This does not look like a four-diamond resort on the outside. But boyoboy are you in for a big adventure on the inside. AAA placed Tulalip Resort and Casino at the top of the region’s top-rated hotels for accommodations, hospitality and service.  

So if you want to take a break from Party Poker Television (, enter the spacious Tulalip Resort Hotel lobby and you’ve crossed a magic threshold into another world. Gracious porters greet you at the door with complimentary ice-cold bottles of water and warm words of welcome. The smoke-free atmosphere is graced with original native art and friendly staff. 

Native art throughout the resort rivals museum quality pieces. A fellow adventurer commented that there was more native art per square foot at Tulaip Resort than in any museum he's ever seen. A brochure for self-guided tours throughout the resort is in the planning stages, as is a nearby museum devoted entirely to native art.

Tulalip welcome pole
  Tulalip gaming pole   Tulalip story pole  

Welcome Pole (House Pole–designed by Joe Gobin) The man with upraised hands represents the tribal symbol of welcome. This pole faces incoming guests.


  Gambling Pole (Totem Pole designed by Joe Gobin) The man holding sticks sitting above the grizzly bear represents the tribal tradition of gambling–a guessing game called Slahal or the Bone game. It faces the casino.   Story Pole (House Post–designed by James Madison) This totem represents the story of the Tulalip tribe evolving, alive, transforming. This pole faces the hotel registration desk with its glass mural behind.  
  There’s a secret about the glass mural behind the registration desk. When you stand close to it, notice that the red and yellow pattern pieces are straight-sided rectangles. Walk away towards the casino. When you get to the mpulse Lounge, turn around and look back at the mural. The lines seem to move and vibrate and definitely appear curved. James Madison didn’t even design it that way. He was as surprised to discover this optical illusion as you will be when you see it.  
  Tulalip stained glass   Tulalip stained glass  
  In a unique collaboration, James Madison and Joe Gobin, Tulalip’s master carvers, worked with Seattle’s Interior Design International company in designing this resort to incorporate native Tulalip artistic elements.  Throughout the hotel, halls, rooms, restaurants and casino, native art influences and art works are everywhere.  
  Tulalip totem poles   In the center of the two-story atrium stand three totem poles or “house posts” carved by the two Tulalip master carvers, Joe Gobin and James Madison. Each of the three poles, carved from the same 1,000 ft. tall red cedar, has its own story and faces a different direction. Once you’ve checked in, check out the views below of the Gambling Pole, the Welcome Pole and the Story Pole from the second floor mezzanine.
Tulalip totem poles
  Tulalip carpet   Tulalip sconce   Tulalip spindle whirl  
Carpeting patterns symbolize woven cedar baskets, salmon, mountains and water.
Hallway wall sconces signify the Tulalip or salmon people.
Large carved spindle whirls were used to spin wool and were decorated and personalized.
  Since this hotel is an original independent property owned and operated by the Tulalip tribe without any hotel brand standards to follow, planners and managers were able to color outside all the lines. You’ll find unusual amenities such as standard 500 sq. ft. rooms with 4X4 three-head showers, pocket doors, floor-to-floor window walls, robes and slippers, original native art, and separate water closets. Wi-fi and parking are both complimentary.  
  Tulalip tech suite bath   Tulalip Grand Asian Suite library   Tulape Players Suite   Tulalip spa  
Tech Suite bath
Grand Asian Suite library
Players Suite
Tulalip Spa treatment room
(courtesy photo)
(courtesy photo)
(courtesy photo)
(courtesy photo)

The 12th floor hosts five high-end specialty suites, each designed with its own theme. A little bit of Vegas comes to Tulalip in these suites with designer living rooms, pool tables, custom sinks and bathrooms and spacious bedrooms.

Room taxes in Snohomish County are 10.5%. When wi-fi, parking and tax costs are compared with King County, ($10, $40 and 15.6% respectively), many local bridal parties book family and friends into Tulalip Resort. They get lots of stunning service from the wedding specialist on staff.

The bridal lounge, just across the hall from the T Spa, affords a separate area for changing, staging and preparation. Weddings are performed at the nearby indoor Oasis pool area. The resort provides a complete combination of services for any sort of celebration but their facilities are especially wedding party-friendly.

Savvy travelers choose Tulalip for a meal even if they're not staying at the resort and find a lot more than they bargained for. All restaurants are smoke free and first rate. For a special occasion, have dinner at the award-winning Tulalip Bay in the fabulous wine room. Its 18-place round table is lit by a Dale Chihuly chandelier, served impeccably by knowledgeable staff and cheffed by James Beard House invitee Dean Shinagawa. Imagine royalty in Lucerne and you won't be far off, except by a few thousand geographical miles.

  Tulalip chandelier  
  Dale Chihuly chandelier in the Wine Room of the Tulalip Bay Restaurant  

Blackfish Grill’s specialty is Pacific Northwest seafood with tribal cooking techniques at its very best. The traditional smoke staked salmon is an absolute must. Their bar is a great spot for a fab, quick, convivial and casual dinner.

Cedars Café off the hotel lobby serves made-to-order convenient breakfasts (lunches and dinners as well) and for the all-you-can-eat crowd, Eagles Buffet can’t be beat. Don't miss the desert bar.

Gallery and impulse Lounges, often with live music, are the après skis of casino excitement. This is the spot to moan or celebrate your losses and winnings. And a great excuse to shake some booty.

Tulalip Amphitheatre stages a smashing season of performers during the warmer summer months. Check online for their schedule.

  Jonny Lang  
Jonny Lang at Tulalip Resort
Jonny Lang performed at Tulalip Amphitheatre during the 2009 summer season

Even if you’re not into gambling, how could you visit the Tulalip Resort and Casino and not visit the main event? Go ahead. Take a chance on the tables or the slots. You may even swagger away satisfied and smiling. And when you visit the Premium Outlet mall right next door, you will definitely swagger away satisfied and smiling.

  For more information: Tulalip Resort Casino (, 10200 Quil Ceda Boulevard, Tulalip, WA 98271 | 888.272.1111  
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