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--- Date Posted: 09/30/04

Casinos royale: Our guide to planning your next gaming vacation

This fall, the most popular domestic vacation is Las Vegas according to a recent survey of actual bookings. Caribbean cruises topped the list for international vacation destinations. And both destinations, among several others, have made our list of the top casino hotspots worldwide. While proximity is usually the deciding factor when planning a casino vacation, entertainment options away from the gaming action should also be considered. Whether you're looking for casino action only or a beach vacation on the side, this guide will help you sort out the details for planning your next gaming experience.

 

Las Vegas

Many hotels in Las Vegas have become one-stop vacation resorts with everything from casinos and headliner entertainment to dining, shopping, spas, and even amusement park rides all under one roof. One of the most recognized streetscapes in America, the Strip, has casino resorts resembling Paris, New York, Venice, an Egyptian pyramid, a Polynesian island, and the Roman Coliseum. Seventeen of the 20 largest hotel properties in the United States are in Las Vegas, the largest of which is the MGM Grand with 5,034 rooms.

Before you book, it’s important to know what type of hotel you’re looking for (budget or luxury) and whether or not you want to stay on the Strip. Also, look for extras like free meals or entertainment that could significantly lower the overall cost of your vacation. In general, the best deals to Las Vegas that we have found are through America West Vacations, Liberty Travel, and United Vacations.

Reno

Situated 340 miles northwest of Las Vegas, families may enjoy a different gaming atmosphere in Reno, Nevada. The “Biggest Little City in the World” has roughly 40 casinos and, like Las Vegas, the legal gambling age is 21 years. Aside from its 24-hour gaming atmosphere with casinos, fine dining, and headline entertainments, Reno also offers options for children and nature lovers. Top attractions in the Reno vicinity include whitewater rafting, hiking, skiing, and golfing.

Most major airlines service the Reno/Tahoe International Airport, and Southwest Vacations often has some of the best rates on air-and-hotel-packages. Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority’s website also lists many of the Reno properties with links for booking accommodations or hotel-and-activity packages.

Atlantic City

The number-two gaming city in the United States (based on gross revenue) is Atlantic City. Although smaller than Las Vegas, with only 12 casino hotels, this East Coast alternative has a similar atmosphere with headline entertainment, gourmet dining, and shopping. Boasting the world's first boardwalk and miles of sandy beaches, Atlantic City is famous for more than just its gaming activity. Street names here may sound familiar to you as many were used as namesakes in the game of Monopoly, and the Miss America pageant has been hosted in Atlantic City for more than 80 years.

The majority of Atlantic City’s tourists come from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. Greyhound and other bus services offer transportation to Atlantic City from many of the neighboring cities, making Atlantic City particularly appealing as a day trip. Casino-sponsored buses will often give away vouchers for cash or free meals to entice visitors, but do not oblige the rider to stay at the hotel. Go to the Atlantic City Conventions and Visitors Authority's website for a list of casinos and individual properties’ websites for more information. The Atlantic City Party shuttle offers daily service from New York City and the Atlantic City CVA has information about travel options from other areas. The Atlantic City airport is serviced by only two airlines: Delta and Spirit. Both airlines offer air-and-hotel vacations. Since the majority of Atlantic City’s visitors drive or ride to their destination, packages often include hotel-plus-activity. This varies from breakfast or spa treatment to tickets to a headline act. You can often find packages on the individual hotel's website, or go to the Atlantic City CVA and view their discount selection.

Mississippi Gulf Coast

Biloxi, Mississippi, is becoming one of the new casino vacations hotspots. Like Reno, this gaming destination offers more than just Vegas-style entertainment. The Mississippi Gulf Coast offers visitors a variety of family-oriented outdoor activities ranging from golf to water sports and fishing. Biloxi, Mississippi, which hosts several of the area’s 12 casinos, was once home to the Biloxi Indians. Later colonized by the French and Spanish and now pocketed with antebellum and Victorian architecture, history buffs will have plenty to do outside of the casinos as well. For more information about tourism in this area, visit Mississippi's Gulf Coast website. If you plan on visiting the casinos, keep in mind that the legal gaming age in Mississippi is 21 years.

The majority of Biloxi visitors drive to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which means hotel packages are quite common. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Biloxi is about an hour east of New Orleans. However Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is serviced by AirTran, Delta, Continental, and Northwest airlines, some of which will package air-and-hotel vacations for you. Biloxi is 2004's most affordable large metropolitan area as ranked by Business Travel News based on daily accommodation, meal, and rental car costs.

Caribbean

Between cruise ships and island-based casinos, the Caribbean is among the top international gaming hotspots. The area even has a casino game named after it: Caribbean Stud Poker originated in Aruba in the late 1980s. While many islands in the Caribbean have at least one casino, Aruba, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico have 10 or more casinos choices each. Most cruise lines and many islands, including Aruba and Puerto Rico have a legal gaming age of 18; other islands, like Curacao, regulate 21 as the minimum gaming age. The U.S. dollar may be used in many casinos; however some islands have strict rules on the import and export of currency that high rollers should be aware of before entering the Caribbean.

The majority of Atlantic City’s tourists come from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. Greyhound and other bus services offer transportation to Atlantic City from many of the neighboring cities, making Atlantic City particularly appealing as a day trip. Casino-sponsored buses will often give away vouchers for cash or free meals to entice visitors, but do not oblige the rider to stay at the hotel. Go to the Atlantic City Conventions and Visitors Authority's website for a list of casinos and individual properties’ websites for more information. The Atlantic City Party shuttle offers daily service from New York City and the Atlantic City CVA has information about travel options from other areas. The Atlantic City airport is serviced by only two airlines: Delta and Spirit. Both airlines offer air-and-hotel vacations. Since the majority of Atlantic City’s visitors drive or ride to their destination, packages often include hotel-plus-activity. This varies from breakfast or spa treatment to tickets to a headline act. You can often find packages on the individual hotel's website, or go to the Atlantic City CVA and view their discount selection.

Mississippi Gulf Coast

Biloxi, Mississippi, is becoming one of the new casino vacations hotspots. Like Reno, this gaming destination offers more than just Vegas-style entertainment. The Mississippi Gulf Coast offers visitors a variety of family-oriented outdoor activities ranging from golf to water sports and fishing. Biloxi, Mississippi, which hosts several of the area’s 12 casinos, was once home to the Biloxi Indians. Later colonized by the French and Spanish and now pocketed with antebellum and Victorian architecture, history buffs will have plenty to do outside of the casinos as well. For more information about tourism in this area, visit Mississippi's Gulf Coast website. If you plan on visiting the casinos, keep in mind that the legal gaming age in Mississippi is 21 years.

The majority of Biloxi visitors drive to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which means hotel packages are quite common. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Biloxi is about an hour east of New Orleans. However Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is serviced by AirTran, Delta, Continental, and Northwest airlines, some of which will package air-and-hotel vacations for you. Biloxi is 2004's most affordable large metropolitan area as ranked by Business Travel News based on daily accommodation, meal, and rental car costs.

Caribbean

Between cruise ships and island-based casinos, the Caribbean is among the top international gaming hotspots. The area even has a casino game named after it: Caribbean Stud Poker originated in Aruba in the late 1980s. While many islands in the Caribbean have at least one casino, Aruba, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico have 10 or more casinos choices each. Most cruise lines and many islands, including Aruba and Puerto Rico have a legal gaming age of 18; other islands, like Curacao, regulate 21 as the minimum gaming age. The U.S. dollar may be used in many casinos; however some islands have strict rules on the import and export of currency that high rollers should be aware of before entering the Caribbean.

Send comments to advice@smartertravel.com.
© 2001-2005 Smarter Living, Inc.
Reprinted here with permission from Smarter Living, Inc.

 

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