Jonathan Sims is a media producer and former appointed official at the Pueblo of Acoma. He covers news and writes a column on Indigenous People's issues for The Paper.

So you’re free again, kinda. So what do you do during the New Mexico summer after being cooped up for over a year? What is open? Who is open? And what is there to do?

The Paper. trekked to our local casinos now that they are opening to the public again! We found one huge must-see and a few other notables. First off, as you know, tribal-run casinos can still require masks on the properties if they feel it’s necessary, regardless of what the state rules are. Their land, their rules. 

Almost all of the casinos said they are just in the opening stages. Many casinos and resorts are still hiring enough staff to re-open fully. Staffing seems to be the biggest hurdle for many. Here is the info, the tea, the 411 (does 411 still work?) on the local tribal attractions.

Isleta Casino & Resort

Isleta Casino (11000 Broadway Blvd. SE) is still coming online throughout the summer. The gaming area and hotel are open. However, the spa, pool and some food eateries remain closed including the Triple 7’s Lounge and Fatburger. Bingo, however, is now open! Seating is limited to two persons per table. Masks are required inside the casino as well as a temperature check at entry. 

The nearby Isleta Lakes and RV Park (4051 NM-327) is open from 6am to 7pm daily. The pavilion area and clubhouse are closed until further notice. RV spaces are available at 50 percent capacity on a first-come basis. Showers are closed. If you are out around the lakes fishing or just relaxing, Isleta asks that you continue to exercise the six-foot social distancing protocol. The Fun Center (bowling) is still closed until further notice. Check out more before you book your vacation at isleta.com.

Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel

Santa Ana Star (54 Jemez Canyon Dam Rd. in Bernalillo) replied to our inquiry by noting that they are hopeful to be fully staffed and at full occupancy soon. The casino is open. There is no entertainment currently scheduled, but you can still find the family favorite Cosmic Bowling upstairs as well as the Sportsbook for that NBA finals crowd. Juniper Steakhouse is also open and serving up some fine eats. Visit santaanastar.com.

Tamaya Hyatt Resort

Tamaya Resort (1300 Tuyuna Trail) is on the Santa Ana Pueblo and is almost at full capacity. Let me tell you, as a guest of a guest, there last weekend, the place was poppin! The pool was open, someone had a wedding party, there were guests on the conference ballroom side, and the staff was doing an amazing job as always keeping everyone attended to. The spa and Corn Maiden restaurant were closed at the time, as well as the hot tub. Call ahead as new amenities will be opening soon! Go to hyatt.com/tamaya for the latest info.

Route 66 Casino & Hotel

As one of the first casinos to reopen its doors, Route 66 Casino Hotel (14500 Central Ave. SW, I-40 Exit 140) on the Laguna Pueblo is taking the scenic route, making sure safety and training are key to reopening fully. You can still find slots, with a smoking section indoors. The hotel and RV park are opened at limited capacity, but that will be changing very soon. Table games are not yet open, but you can still find the Stadium 66 Sports Bar open and great food at the Thunder Road eatery. It’s great to get out of town without going too far. Try the Original Laguna across the highway at the Route 66 Pit Stop (14311 Central Ave NW). You know you’re in the right spot when there is a line of people ordering food inside a gas station. Even the likes of Benicio Del Toro have “thrown a munch” there. Don’t forget to grab your Rt. 66 trinket for the ride home. Further details can be found at rt66casino.com.

San Felipe’s Black Mesa Casino 

Located on the San Felipe Pueblo halfway between ABQ and Santa Fe, the Black Mesa Casino (25 Hagen Rd. in Algodones) is closed until further notice. Here is a secret just for you reading this, though: The gas station here is freaking awesome! You can find hot homemade breakfast burritos, and if you’re lucky fresh pueblo bread and cookies! And then the real big secret, the Pueblo Restaurant, located inside Black Mesa’s Travel Center (26 Hagen Rd, Algodones), features award-winning New Mexican food. Seriously, it is worth getting off I-25 for this. Take a deep breath and merge into that NASCAR race we call ABQ to SF, then stop in for some N.M. soul food. For future opening info, stick to blackmesacasino.com.

Sandia Resort and Casino

What a difference a year makes. Pueblo of Sandia Governor Stuart Paisano exclaimed at the opening of the casino resort’s newest addition that a ballpark figure of over “100 million dollars” went into renovations during the shutdown. “While we were closed, we also did our part of trying to contribute back to the local economy. We did that by renovating and constructing new areas to the property. We’ve added an additional 75,000 square feet of new space to the property. And we renovated every room in the resort to include some of our outlets, like the Bien Sur restaurant and [on] the gaming floor itself. … All of the hundreds of subcontractors that worked here on our property for the last year and a half—that was our contribution back to the local economy, so that those subcontractors get their paychecks in order to provide for their families.”

Sandia Resort (30 Rainbow Rd.) welcomes you to visit their brand new sports bar. A new set of elevators just adjacent to the hotel’s front desk transports you into a vast, high-ceiling room on the third floor anchored by a dark, sleek and classy bar. Several 70-inch TVs are enshrined alongside the round bar for sports watching. There’s a massive picture window looking out upon the golf course and Sandia Mountain, as well as a wrap-around outdoor patio, if you’d rather look at nature. Catch a glimpse of the city or the Sandias at sunset while you get your drinks from the outdoor bar. Oh yeah, there is also an area in the bar for slots. And yes, they will be serving food! This will be, for the next year or so, the must-have selfie photo spot in town. 

So if that isn’t enough, there is a new High Rollers section, complete with couches and cool lighting. High-stakes slots and table games can be found here as well as the new Governor’s Lounge and Bar. Very swanky. There is a new Italian and Asian food eatery called the Mountainside to try! Even the HVAC has been replaced in the casino, as well as carpet being replaced throughout. Sandia is a must-see, but is not open 100 percent just yet. Live entertainment is “on hold,” and poker and bingo will return “soon.” As the summer progresses, more capacity will follow. Go to sandiacasino.com for the most up-to-date info.

Written by

Jonathan Sims is a media producer and former appointed official at the Pueblo of Acoma. He covers news and writes a column on Indigenous People's issues for The Paper.

Like this story? Hate it? Share it and add your comments.