Casino resorts in Louisiana and Mississippi offer plenty of gaming excitement and Southern hospitality.
Bright neon lights capture the attention of adults like an ice cream truck draws children with its summer jingle. Las Vegas and Atlantic City were once the casino hotspots, shining brightly and luring visitors to the West and East, but today’s gaming resorts are found in the most interesting locations.
Nowhere has the gaming industry been more welcoming than in the South. Mississippi and Louisiana casinos feature more things to see and do than there are slot machines to conquer. And these resorts come with something you can’t find anywhere elseSouthern hospitality.
The Magnolia State
Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, Tunica has risen from the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta to become one of the fastest- growing gaming resorts in the country. With nine casinos in town, there are virtually unlimited gaming possibilities 24 hours a day.
Music lovers following the Mississippi Blues Trail can easily locate Tunica, only a half hour from Memphis, a bastion of blues and the birthplace of rock and soul.
Even with nine world-class resorts, Tunica hasn’t forgotten its roots. It sits on U.S. Highway 61, better known to music fans as “The Blues Highway,” where blues artists like Robert Johnson and B.B. King got their starts in Mississippi juke joints.
Tunica’s appeal goes beyond music and gaming. After all, what’s a resort without golf and tennis? Both can be found at Tunica National Golf and Tennis Club with a tournament 18-hole golf course, indoor clay and outdoor tennis courts. Other great choices for golf in the area include the Cottonwoods Golf Course and River Bend Links Golf Course.
Shopping in Tunica is another popular pastime. An outlet mall, antique and specialty shops surround the historic downtown square. Downtown’s Rivergate Park is the site of the annual Delta Day Festival. This year’s festival on Oct. 27 celebrates the Mississippi Delta with activities for children, food, antique cars andof coursemusic.
Tunica also sits along the mighty Mississippi River. The 130-acre Tunica RiverPark celebrates the river with a museum, nature trail, riverboat and a wondrous three-floor observation deck looking out on the river. But the awesome view is nothing compared to riding on the Tunica Queen. This paddlewheel riverboat is a treat whether you go on a sightseeing tour or a dinner cruise.
Travel south along the Mississippi River to the Civil War stronghold of Vicksburg. Plenty of history can be found in this distinctly Southern town, where scenic driving tours take you from historic districts to the National Military Cemetery. For gaming fans, both Vicksburg and Natchez offer riverboat gambling on Mississippi paddlewheelers.
Gulf Coast gold
The Beau Rivage in Biloxi, which reopened in August 2006, has been rebuilt, bigger and better than ever. Beau Rivage (AAA four Diamond award winner) combines the elegance of Southern architecture with modern amenities. As one of the tallest buildings on the coast at 32 stories, Beau Rivage is more than a casino and hotel. Gourmet restaurants, shopping and a landscaped pool with a view of the Gulf of Mexico all tantalize the senses. The luxury continues at the spa, where guests can take pleasure in personalized treatments, from facials to wraps and massages. The resort offers room discounts for AAA members.
Beau Rivage also operates the Tom Fazio-designed Fallen Oak Golf Course about 20 minutes north of the resort on state Highway 15 in Saucier. It’s a beautiful course of rolling hills and lakes that runs along a national forest.
Biloxi and Gulfport may be two of the largest of Mississippi’s gulf cities, but both retain the feel of cozy seaside communities where the shopping and dining are casual and wonderful. Historic downtown Biloxi is known for its boutiques. But still, it is the Gulf of Mexico that holds the most appeal. Sitting on the beach or walking along the shore is a favorite pastime no matter what time of year. Sightseeing cruises offer a cool, salty breeze and the possibility of seeing dolphins swim alongside your boat. Fishing charters are abundant with deep-sea opportunities for catching shark, mackerel, red snapper and grouper.
A favorite day outing from March until October is the passenger ferry to Gulf Island National Seashore’s West Ship Island. Twelve miles from shore, it’s an hour’s ride via ferry to Ship Island, a barrier island that provided a deep harbor for ships during wartime. Fort Massachusetts, built in 185966, saw service during the Civil War. In addition to touring the fort, a scenic stretch of beach south of the island is popular for swimming and collecting shells.
Let the good times roll
New Orleans has been called the soul of America because of its cultural diversity. Since Hurricane Katrina, it has also become a symbol of courage and determination. Tourism is growing, and festivals bring the people back. J. Stephen Perry, president and chief executive officer of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that New Orleans had “an incredible spring.”
New Orleans has so much to see and do that the problem most often is finding time to sleep. Casinos like Harrah’s on Canal Street near the French Quarter and the Treasure Chest in Kenner just south of Lake Pontchartrain provide the thrill of gaming along with top entertainment. Renowned restaurants and jazz clubs offer adventures until all hours in the Quarter.
But sometimes it’s the streets that hold the most entertainment. Grab a shrimp poboy or muffaletta and stroll along Jackson Square and watch the artists work while you listen to the street musicians. Learn more about New Orleans history in one of the five exceptional museums that border the square. Or take a walk through the French Market, always open with fresh produce and different crafts. And when you’re ready to get off your feet, try a carriage ride through the Garden District for a look at some of the most astounding architecture.
Even with all the sights and the active nightlife, New Orleans is programmed with a more relaxed pace, evident in speech and movement. If this appeals to you, travel west for some Cajun spice. Pirate Jean Lafitte is rumored to have been an early visitor to Lake Charles, burying treasure along its shores. Today, Lake Charles is a city of contrasts with glitzy casinos and down-home culture co-existing just fine.
L’Auberge du Lac is another luxurious resort with a casino, hotel, golf course, pool, and spa. Tower construction that will add 250 additional guest rooms is nearing an end, bringing the total to 1,000. An official opening is planned before year’s end.
For a different view of Louisiana, try the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. They call it the Louisiana Outback, where 180 miles of winding roads lead you through the Cajun and Creole landscape of marshes, bayous and the Chenier Plain. More than 75 area festivals celebrate the Cajun and Creole heritage each year with food, music and dancing.
Enjoy the high-paced action of the South’s casinos, but don’t forget to check out Southern culture and sights while you’re there. These high-rolling weekends will whet your appetite for more Southern food, fun and culture.
Karen Gibson is a contributor from Norman, Okla.
|Sept/Oct 2007 Issue|
More Southern casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi
• Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and Hotel, 103 France St., (225) 378-6000, www.belleofbatonrouge.com. Hit the jackpot with: a Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Atrium Buffet for about $20.
• Hollywood Casino, 1717 River Road North, (225) 709-7777, www.hollywoodbr.com. Hit the jackpot with: live entertainment at Studio 7 each weekend.
• Boomtown Casino & Hotel, 300 Riverside Drive, (866) GO-2-TOWN (462-8696), www.boomtownbossier.com. Hit the jackpot with: Sundance Cantina serves Southwest cuisine and at night, turns into a cabaret that features local bands.
• Diamond Jacks Casino Resort, 711 Isle of Capri Blvd., (866) 552-9629. Hit the jackpot with a 570-suite, AAA three Diamond hotel; 30,000 square-foot gaming floor; and four restaurants.
• Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Casino & Racetrack, 8000 E. Texas, (318) 742-5555, www.harrahs.com. Hit the jackpot with: thoroughbred horse races offered May through October.
• Horseshoe Casino & Hotel, 711 Horseshoe Blvd. (I-20 exit 19B), (800) 895-0711, www.horseshoe.com. Hit the jackpot with: specialty shops plus the Louisiana Boardwalk that’s located next door to the casino.
• El Dorado Casino & Hotel, 451 Clyde Fant Parkway, (318) 220-0711, www.eldoradoshreveport.com. Hit the jackport with: The Gold Bar, featuring jazz music, recently opened to the public.
• Sam’s Town Casino & Hotel, 315 Clyde Fant Parkway, (877) 429-0711, www.samstownshreveport.com. Hit the jackpot with: the Rose Spa and Fitness Center, located on the third floor of the hotel.
• Cypress Bayou Casino, 832 Martin Luther King Road, Charenton, (337) 923-7284, www.cypressbayou.com. Hit the jackport with: national entertainment, including Taylor Hicks and Better Than Ezra, both scheduled to perform in September.
• Coushatta Casino Resort, 777 Coushatta Dr., Kinder, (800) 584-7263, www.coushattacasinoresort.com. Hit the jackpot with: Koasati Pines at Coushatta, ranked as the No. 4 golf course in Louisiana by Golf Digest. Also, the 13th Annual Pow Wow will be Oct. 56 and includes a golf tournament. The Coushatta Grand is a AAA three Diamond hotel.
• Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino, 2235 Creswell Lane, Opelousas, (866) 4-RACINO (472-2466), www.evangelinedowns.com. Hit the jackpot with: the new one-mile oval track. Construction on a 7/8-mile turf course will begin soon.
Greater New Orleans
• Boomtown Casino, 4132 Peters Road, Harvey, (504) 366-7711, www.boomtownneworleans.com. Hit the jackpot with: 24-hour poker room.
Lake Charles area
• Delta Downs Racetrack Casino & Hotel, 2717 Delta Downs Drive, Vinton, (337) 589-7441, www.deltadowns.com. Hit the jackpot with: ponies plus casino gaming.
• Isle of Capri Casino, 100 Westlake Ave., Westlake, (800) THE ISLE (843-4753), www.isleofcapricasinos.com/Lake_Charles. Hit the jackpot with: the tropical themed hotels and restaurants.
• Paragon Casino Resort, 711 Paragon Place, (800) WIN 1 WIN (946-1946), www.paragoncasinoresort.com. Hit the jackpot with: the 2,500-seat Mari ShowroomMichael Bolton and Al Green appear in September, Patti LaBelle in December.
More action in Mississippi
With Tunica in the Delta and Biloxi/Gulfport along the Gulf Coast, as well as a handful of riverboat casinos, Mississippi has become one of the top three gaming destinations in the country. For information on all the state’s casinos, visit www.visitmississippi.org. Here is a partial listing that includes Tunica and the Gulf Coast.
Along the Gulf Coast
• Boomtown Casino, 676 Bayview Ave., Biloxi, (228) 435-7000, www.boomtownbiloxi.com. Hit the jackpot with: champagne brunch served Saturday and Sunday.
• Grand Casino Biloxi, 280 Beach Blvd., (228) 436-2946, www.harrahs.com/casinos/grand-biloxi. Hit the jackpot with: the Grand Bear, a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, has tee times available WednesdaySunday.
• Hard Rock Casino, 777 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, (877) U-R-ROCKN (877-6256), www.hardrockbiloxi.com. Hit the jackpot with: Bose music systems and iPod docking stations in the hotel rooms. Guests can crank up their favorite rock artists in this newest resort along the Gulf. Rock on.
• Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis, 711 Hollywood Blvd., (866) 7-LUCKY-1 (758-2591), www.hollywoodcasinobsl.com. Hit the jackpot with: jazz great Pete Fountain, performing every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Oak Royale Room; $20 cover.
• IP Casino, Hotel and Spa, 850 Bayview Ave., Biloxi, (228) 436-3000, www.ipbiloxi.com. Hit the jackpot with: AAA four Diamond hotel, plus the Chill Ultra Lounge, the very hip bar featuring top regional music acts.
• Island View Casino Resort, 3300 W. Beach Blvd., Gulport, (228) 314-2100, www.islandviewcasino.com. Hit the jackpot with: Emeril’s Gulf Coast Fish House restaurant that opened in June.
• Isle of Capri Casino, 151 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, (800) THE-ISLE (843-4753), www.isleofcapricasino.com/Biloxi. Hit the jackpot with: the infinity pool and waterfall, which opened last summer. This tropical oasis creates a visual effect of the water extending to the horizon. Casino expansiondue to open this fallincludes a land-based casino with 2,100 slots. The hotel has a AAA three Diamond rating.
• Palace Casino, 158 Howard Ave., Biloxi, (800) PALACE-9 (725-2239), www.palacecasinoresort.com. Hit the jackpot with: the AAA four Diamond award.
• Silver Slipper, 5000 S. Beach Blvd., Lakeshore, (866) 775-4773, www.silverslipper-ms.com. Hit the jackpot with: the new RV park.
• Treasure Bay Casino, 1980 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, (800) 747-2839, www.treasurebay.com. Hit the jackpot with: the totally remodeled tower with 250 hotel rooms, which is under construction.
Tunica area casinos
• Bally’s Casino, 1450 Bally’s Blvd., (800) 38BALLY (382-2559), www.ballystunica.com. Hit the jackpot with: comfort food at The Barn restaurant.
• Fitzgerald’s Casino, 711 Lucky Lane, Robinsonville, (800) 766-5825, www.fitzgeraldstunica.com. Hit the jackpot with: 500 renovated rooms and suites in the AAA three Diamond hotel.
• Gold Strike Casino, 1010 Casino Center Drive, (888) 245-7829, www.goldstrikemississippi.com. Hit the jackpot with: Discounted rates for members at the AAA three Diamond hotel; national entertainment is at the Millennium Theater.
• Grand Casino, 13615 Old Highway 61 North, Robinsonville, (800) 39-GRAND (394-7263), www.harrahs.com. Hit the jackpot with: AAA three Diamond hotel. Billed as the largest casino between Vegas and Atlantic City, with 140,000 square feet of casino, plus national entertainment, a spa, golf, diningeven an RV parktravelers to Tunica should not miss the aptly named Grand.
• Hollywood Casino, 1150 Casino Strip Resorts Blvd., (800) 871-0711, www.hollywoodcasinotunica.com. Hit the jackpot with: the movie memorabilia displayed throughout the resort. So that’s where the Batmobile went. Hotel has AAA three Diamond rating.
• Horseshoe Casino, 1021 Casino Center Drive, Robinsonville, (800) 303-7463, www.harrahs.com. Hit the jackpot with: Bluesville, a great nightclub venue that honors the area’s musical heritage. Legend B.B. King appeared in August. Upcoming national acts include Booker T and the MG’s on Sept. 6. (You have “Green Onions” stuck in your head now, don’t you?)
• Resorts Casino, 1100 Casino Strip Blvd., (662) 363-7777, www.resortstunica.com. Hit the jackpot with: free nightly entertainment (ThursdaySunday) at Center Stage in the heart of the casino.
• Sam’s Town, 1477 Casino Strip Resorts Blvd., Robinsonville, (800) 456-0711, www.samestowntunica.com. Hit the jackpot with golf at River Bend Links.
• Sheraton Casino, 1107 Casino Center Drive, (800) 391-3777, www.harrahs.com. Hit the jackpot with: Big Kitchen Buffet and watch chefs toss pizzas or decorate desserts. The seafood spread is also noteworthy.
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