Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, NY. | Photo Courtesy of Andrew Shinn
In the early- to mid-20th century, Schenectady was a hub of innovation, a Silicon Valley of electric and locomotive ingenuity. Home to General Electric and the American Locomotive Company, the city literally buzzed with energy. In fact, it was known as “The City That Lights and Hauls the World.” Today, Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady buzzes with a similar energy and is helping to lead the city’s renaissance.
In 2014, Schenectady was selected as one of four places in New York State for off-reservation casino gambling. As a result, Rivers Casino & Resort became part of a multi-use development along the Mohawk River. Constructed on the site where the American Locomotive Company once stood, the casino opened in February 2017. It now attracts thousands from around the Northeast and provides hours, even days, of entertainment. The staff is friendly and helpful, and many have been there since day one (the “Day Oners,” as they call themselves).
With The Landing Hotel attached to the casino, you can make a weekend of it. Both the hotel and casino sit on the bank of the Mohawk River, with lovely views to wooded acres on the opposite shore. An idyllic spot, it’s difficult to imagine that an industrial complex once stood there.
On an overnight trip to Rivers Casino & Resort and The Landing Hotel, my husband and I hopped on Amtrak’s Adirondack to Schenectady and experienced the best of the resort and of the city. An easy train ride from New York City and other points in the Northeast, Rivers Casino offered us an easy-to-reach gambling experience in a city that’s once again on the rise.
The gaming floor at Rivers Casino & Resort. | Photo Courtesy of Andrew Shinn
If there’s a casino game you like to play, Rivers Casino has you covered. Slot machines, video poker, and keno—over 1,100 machines total—light up the room. Rivers Casino also offers over 60 live table games. We joined blackjack players deep in thought, watched raucous winners and losers at the craps tables, put a few chips down on roulette (22 black was not our lucky number), and marveled at the five different types of poker.
A woman playing slots at Rivers Casino & Resort. | Photo Courtesy of Andrew Shinn
Rivers Sportsbook self-betting kiosks at Rivers Casino & Resort. | Photo Courtesy of Andrew Shinn
For more traditional poker players, Rivers Casino has a popular poker room, with monthly tournaments and almost daily promotions. After blackjack, we played video poker, which provided a half-hour of fun for just a dollar. Then we tried our luck at the slots. On a few slot machines, bets were as low as one cent, which really stretched a dollar!
For high rollers, the High Limit area has slots that take larger minimum bets but also pay higher rewards. The High Limit table games—blackjack and mini-Baccarat—require a $100.00 minimum bet, with occasional $50.00 promotions.
The big money gaming is in the VIP lounge where complimentary food and drinks are served. Both the High Limit area and VIP lounge have windows overlooking the Mohawk River, so you can enjoy the view as you contemplate your next move.
After the slots, we wandered over to the sports betting area. Rivers Casino was the first place in New York to offer sports betting. The place is hopping on weekends. You can bet on your favorite major league teams—NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, depending on the season—plus a number of other sports, including professional soccer, tennis, golf, and boxing, at one of 14 kiosks or at the sports betting windows. You can also place future bets. During our visit to Rivers Casino, in mid-December 2019, a $100.00 bet on the New York Knicks winning the NBA Championship in June 2020 would pay $80,000.00!
Rivers Casino regularly offers promotions, like $5.00 blackjack, and the popular “Young At Heart”. On Mondays, everyone over age 55 (who are members of the casino’s Rush Rewards program) can enjoy a slot tournament, free valet parking, a complimentary cup of coffee, afternoon entertainment, a room for $55.00 per night at The Landing, and all-you-can-eat soup and salad for $9.99.
Dining & Entertainment
Next door to Rivers Sportsbook is Van Slyck’s, a lounge offering liquid refreshment, often for a deal, such as $2.00 PBR’s during “Country Weekends”. Live bands and DJs from the Capital Region play on the weekends. Nationally known bands, like Blue Oyster Cult and a Van Halen tribute band, often play at the resort’s event center.
Across the floor is Duke’s Chophouse, a dark-paneled restaurant where we enjoyed a quiet respite from the casino’s bright lights. Steaks are a must-have here, along with one of many unusual sides, like an upscale twist on tater tots and spicy Utica greens. Even the house-made flatbread is unique and delicious. The extensive wine list features many California vintages, but also selections from France, Italy, and New Zealand. On Sundays, Duke’s has Sunday Brunch from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with entrees starting at $11.00.
A bone-in rib eye from Dukes Chophouse at Rivers Casino & Resort. | Photo Courtesy of Rivers Casino & Resort
The Event Center at Rivers Casino & Resort. | Photo Courtesy of Rivers Casino & Resort
For a quicker, lighter dinner, Mian serves Asian cuisine. It’s in a food-court next to two of Schenectady’s favorites, Johnny’s (pizza and Italian fare) and Villa Italia (a bakery with tempting cake pops and cannolis). Flipt, a burger joint, is known for its milkshakes. I couldn’t decide between a milkshake or a pastry, but I eventually opted for a flaky, delicious almond crescent cookie.
A room at the Landing Hotel. | Photo Courtesy of Andrew Shinn
The Landing Hotel
Attached to the casino, The Landing Hotel features modern, well-appointed rooms with comfortable beds and boutique furnishings. We had a room overlooking the river. How soothing to watch the current flow by!
In the morning, a small breakfast buffet with eggs, berry pancakes, fruit, cereal, and yogurt helped get the day going. (In the evening, you can stop by The Landing Bar for 2-for-1 drinks.) It’s quiet on this side of the resort, a restful contrast after an afternoon immersed in the excitement of the casino. On warm evenings, you can enjoy drinks around a firepit in the courtyard between the hotel and convention center.
The hotel has a fitness center, but we opted for a stroll on a paved path that extends for three-quarters of a mile along the river and is dotted with sign boards illustrating the historical past of the site’s locomotives. For example, at one marker, we learned that a Schenectady-built locomotive, called “Jupiter”, pulled the first train to California’s Promontory Summit, where the famous golden spike joined the east- and westbound tracks in 1869.
The path led to the Mohawk Marina just north of the hotel and casino. An amphitheater there is where Rivers Casino often hosts live entertainment during warmer months. An adjacent complex is home to more restaurants and bars. This area will soon have retail shopping, too.
While in Schenectady
The Museum of Innovation & Science (MiSci)
The Museum of Innovation & Science, or MiSci, celebrates the city’s innovative past. Some of the interactive exhibits are geared toward children, but it’s still an interesting stop for adults. We learned fascinating facts, such as Schenectady’s General Electric was an early innovator of electric cars. A prototype, which looks like a cross between a GMC Pacer and an aardvark, is on display at MiSci. The museum also has several models of locomotives built by the American Locomotive Company and early Edison light bulbs on display.
In the evening, we watched Harriet, recently released at the Toronto International Film Festival, at Schenectady’s historic Proctors Theatre. Built in 1926 by Frederick Freeman Proctor, known as the “Dean of Vaudeville,” the theater thrived through the age of vaudeville and mid-20th-century Hollywood movies. In 1930, Proctors hosted the first public demonstration of television. Before a live audience and with a live orchestra, an image of a conductor at GE’s lab across the city was shown on a seven-foot-wide screen. Ironically, TV reduced the demand for theatrical shows, and the Proctors slowly decayed.
Refurbished in the late 1970s, Proctors now has two theaters, an elegant mainstage and the black-box-style GE Theater, where one can see plays, musicals, comedy acts, concerts, and independent films.
Jay Street Marketplace
Proctors sits across State Street from Schenectady’s Jay Street Marketplace, a brick-laid pedestrian village in the downtown, where you can browse locally-owned shops and galleries, enjoy a cappuccino, grab some lunch, and in warmer months, occasionally listen to outdoor concerts, like “Jazz on Jay” midday on Thursdays.