Mass Vegas, anyone? If you’ve ever wanted to go to a ritzy Las Vegas casino without actually having to go all the way to The Strip, Boston’s newest nightlife behemoth—the Encore Boston Harbor—might interest you. It’s the first non-Vegas Wynn casino and resort in the United States.
But, full disclosure, the luxe Encore Boston Harbor isn’t actually in Boston (or Boston Harbor, for that matter). It’s in nearby Everett, Massachusetts, which is a short water-taxi ride (or 20-minute car drive) up the Mystic River from Boston’s fast-growing Seaport neighborhood. Still, it’s certainly the closest casino to Boston, hence the name. The next closest options are MGM in Western Massachusetts and Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut (both about a two-hour drive away). Meanwhile, the only other Wynn-owned casinos in the world outside of Vegas are in famously ritzy Macau.
What to Know About the Encore Boston Harbor Casino
I visited the new Wynn property ahead of its official June opening to find out what Encore visitors—tourists and Bostonians alike—need to know about the property. Here’s what it’s really like inside, and how to decide if it’s worth a visit for you.
It’s Just as Ritzy as the Las Vegas Wynn
If you’re looking for all the glam of the Wynn Las Vegas or Encore Las Vegas, its Boston sibling certainly has it. The dozen high-end restaurants, a massive casino floor of brightly lit slot machines, and 670 luxurious guest rooms starting at $650 per night are just the beginning.
A life-sized floral carousel (as in, made entirely of flowers and crystals) greets guests at the main entrance. The Wynn brand’s famous (and famously pricey) red Venetian-glass chandeliers were removed from the Las Vegas properties and sent to the Encore Boston casino. The art on display will make you feel like you’ve stepped into Ocean’s Eleven; a $28 million Jeff Koons Popeye statue is proudly displayed in the casino’s upscale shopping area. The steakhouse, Rare, will be one of only several restaurants in the U.S. offering certified Kobe beef.
Boston’s Liquor Laws Still (Partially) Apply
Visitors to Boston often don’t learn until they arrive that Happy Hours and bar service that goes until 4:00 a.m. are both illegal in Massachusetts. The state outlawed Happy Hours in the 1980s and has long required that liquor stop being served by 2:00 a.m. at the latest. The Encore casino, however, is an exception. As long as you’re actively gambling, the drinks can flow until 4:00 a.m. on the casino floor—a big step away from Massachusetts’ liquor laws. The on-site club and restaurants, however, will stop serving at 2:00 a.m.
Like accidentally booking an airport that’s named for a city it’s nowhere near, you might not want to book the Encore Boston Harbor if you truly want to stay in Boston or Boston Harbor. While there’s no doubt that the Encore is going to be big for Boston, it’s not in Boston. Everett is a much smaller city of about 40,000 that borders historic Charlestown—but it’s an area that’s developing fast and has seen several new breweries/distilleries and high-end restaurants emerge in recent years.
The Encore is accessible from Boston’s high-end Seaport neighborhood via a $7 water taxi, but the only other way to get to the casino is on public transit (and then a free Encore shuttle from the Orange Line Wellington train stop) or by driving about 20 minutes. That’s a far cry from Boston if you’re looking to be central for an event, business, or just your vacation.
It Could Change Boston for Good
While the liquor laws are tight and the neighborhood is certainly hard to get to, that’s not necessarily how things are going to stay—and the Encore Boston might even be the driving force that changes both of those facts. You can bet that Wynn will continue to push permission to serve liquor later into the night, if only because it would make the casino and resort a lot more money—and if that occurs, Boston’s businesses are sure to want to be able to do the same.
As for the neighborhood, nearby Somerville is already an up-and-coming pocket of greater Boston that’s getting travel attention, and the casino says it has plans to build a covered all-weather footbridge to connect Somerville and Everett across a narrow stretch of the Mystic River. Wynn Resorts also bought 11 acres of land surrounding the casino, signaling new development that will further change the area.
The corner of the Mystic River that’s long been home to just a power station and strip malls until now is starting to look like a bit of Oz emerging upriver from Boston Harbor—a towering bronze building nestled among neatly manicured lawns and gardens. And it might be just the beginning.