Situated among the hills on north San Diego County sits an expansive, idyllic and newly renovated Harrah’s casino and hotel just calling your name. Harrah’s Resort Southern California, formerly known as Harrah’s Rincon, is located slightly off the beaten path but oh-so worth the drive. Harrah’s recently opened a brand new tower with 430 rooms and suites as part of a $160-million upgrade and expansion.

More Than Just a Casino

One curve along the lazy river at Harrah's casino hotel Dive pool in San Diego.

One curve along the lazy river at Harrah’s Dive pool. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

When you think of a Las Vegas-style resort, the casino is among the first things that come to mind. But when I recently stayed at Harrah’s Resort Southern California on a girlfriend getaway weekend, we were amazed at how many other fun and downright decadent things there were to do.

Along with an enormous casino, the resort features nine restaurants, a full-service spa, several bars and lounges, and a fitness center. There is also an Events Center for conventions and shows. We were lucky enough to be there the weekend of the Latin Food & Wine Festival – highly recommended if you ever get the opportunity to go!

Harrah’s Expansion 

In 2012, construction began on a $160 million expansion that includes the new 403-room hotel tower, 23,000-square-foot convention center, and the Dive pool area. The expansion also included a food court and two new bars – Corked and Spiked.

DestinationReviewThe new hotel tower opened in April of 2014, bringing the resort’s total room count to 1,065. This makes Harrah’s the largest Indian casino resort in terms of rooms in California, and one of the largest resorts of any kind in San Diego, too!

The Dive Pool

To begin with: the pool. Oh my goodness, the pool! Think Las Vegas meets Palm Springs meets some amazing Caribbean oasis and you’ve got Harrah’s pool area, Dive. Perks of the sprawling pool area include Southern California’s only swim-up bar, a 400-foot lazy river, waterfalls, eight hot tubs, 19 VIP cabanas, fire pits, weekend activities and live DJ, and really, really yummy Mexican food and other munchies at the adjacent ‘ritas Cantina.

Swim-up bar at Harrah's casino hotel in San Diego.

Swim-up bar at Harrah’s Resort Southern California. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

It was great to spend a Saturday just lounging by the pool with a few friends, sipping grown-up drinks (a mom rarity!) and getting a jump on my summer reading list.

If you feel like getting a little more rowdy than a gal can get laying on a lounge chair with a good novel, Harrah’s pool area is also the site of the Dive Dayclub, a Vegas-style pool scene with music, dance parties and adult swims on summer weekends. There are also Neon Nights, when Dive transforms into an lively outdoor dance club. Different DJs play host at the parties each week throughout the summer nights.

Resort Rooms

A tub with a view at Harrah's casino hotel in Southern California.

A tub with a view. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

We stayed in the new South Tower, in a suite that had a king bed, separate living room, sink and mini fridge, two TVs and two bathrooms. The bathtub was situated under a large picture window that afforded gorgeous views of the hillside. Of course, the suite was a treat, but regular hotel rooms – while smaller – are just as lovely.

Dining at Harrah’s

Harrah’s Resort features nine different eateries, sure to satisfy every taste and budget! There is also room service available, and several bars and lounges.

A Wine Spectator award-recipient, Fiore Steak & Seafood restaurant offers a fine dining menu with a wide selection of melt-in-your-mouth steaks and seafood. They also – in my humble but very picky opinion – serve the best French onion soup and some amazing crab cakes.

What casino resort is complete without a buffet? The Buffet (yes, that is its actual name) offers a wide variety of fresh, delicious foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including an omelet station in the morning and pasta station and carving boards at dinnertime. The Café is another casual dining option, with delicious culinary dishes served all day long.

Sushi station at The Buffet at Harrah's casino hotel in southern California.

Sushi station at The Buffet. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

Just need a quick bite? Fast food options include Pink’s Hot Dogs, Earl of Sandwich and Starbucks.

The Oyster Bar is a casual seafood bar. Next to that is Fortunes, an Asian restaurant offering authentic dishes, using the aromatic herbs and spices that make these cuisines so vibrant.

Finally ’ritas Cantina serves delicious Mexican food, with seating indoors and outdoors at the pool.

The Spa

The best is saved for last – both literally (it was our last stop before packing up to leave on Sunday) and for the sake of this review. The spa was pure heaven. The perfect way to wrap up a weekend with the girls. A great way to end on a high note before heading home to school and work and kids and LIFE. The spa was relaxing beyond words and the main reason I titled this review “Finding Bliss.”

The Spa at Harrah's casino hotel in southern California is a blissful spot.

The Spa at Harrah’s is a blissful spot. Photo caption: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

My friend Jenni and I both had facials. The staff was amazing and friendly, and I not only enjoyed the experience but learned a little something about taking care of my skin. The ambience was just what you’d imagine a first-class spa to be. In short, we didn’t want to leave.

The Spa at Harrah’s Resort offers a full menu of spa services from massages to nail care. There’s a nice gift shop, too.

A girlfriend getaway weekend is all about catching up and reconnecting with yourself and your friends. Harrah’s Resort lets you do just that.

Healthy Tip for This Destination

Every Saturday from 8am-noon, Harrah’s offers a Get Fit Program by the pool. All classes are taught by a certified instructor and options include Total Body Conditioning, yoga, water volleyball, and more.