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Published: Monday, January 08, 2018 @ 10:50 AM
— There's just something appealing about a casino vacation, whether you're dreaming of the luxury of the world's most extravagant casino resorts or playing roulette at one of Yahoo's top-ranked casinos outside of Vegas. Or maybe you're just longing for a day playing the slots at a smaller place like the Mardis Gras Casino and Resort in West Virginia.
While the Las Vegas strip topped the list as "the king of gaming, boasting the most revenue from casinos in the world," according to The Richest, Atlantic City, Chicago and Detroit weren't far behind.
If this is the year you'd like to join in on the action, great! Just take it slow and do your research if you want maximum enjoyment from your first visit to a casino.
Whether you're mesmerized by the televised World Series of Poker, intrigued by the high-stakes poker in the 2017 movie Molly's Game, or obsessed with playing slots or blackjack online, understand one thing: when you get out of the entertainment world and step into a real-life casino, everything's different.
Here are 10 tips for anyone making a first-time trip to a casino, drawing from the combined knowledge of gambling and travel experts:
•Learn the games
"You wouldn't offer to play Kobe Bryant a little one-on-one basketball for $1,000, would you?" ThoughtCo. asked. "Well, your odds of beating him are probably about the same as winning at a casino game you've never played or read about, and while reading about Kobe won't help you beat him, learning about a new game first will really help!"
You can pick up the game basics at a site like WhereTraveler.
•Try free lessons when you get there
Many casinos offer free, live instruction in blackjack, craps, roulette, pai gow, pai gow poker, mini-baccarat and poker in an effort to entice you to play more. Not only do the lessons teach you the rules of the game, they can boost your confidence with lessons on the etiquette and jargon associated with each game. Check directly with the casino to find out what gaming lessons are offered and at what time.
Vegas Hotel Special also has a list of the Vegas casinos that offer free gaming lessons.
•Take your time deciding what to play
This advice from the Party Poker blog applies to all the casino rooms. "If you can't work out what is being played, ask a dealer or the floor manager, as they'll be more than happy to talk you through it."
•Don't be embarrassed if you can only afford a minimum buy-in
"Remember, you are paying to play in a recreational activity for your own enjoyment," noted Party Poker. "The establishment wants you to come back, so they should be very helpful and accommodating. If all of the games being played are too expensive, the floor manager can suggest more affordable games at alternate times."
•Know the odds
It's simple and complicated at the same time. Simple in that odds merely determine the chances that a player will win over other players (in games like Texas Hold 'Em) or the house (in games like Blackjack.) But complicated in that odds are a huge business, and vary wildly per game, according to Wise Geek. "Some games have relatively low gambling odds for the house, ranging from less than 1 percent in their favor for games like blackjack, to more than 20 percent for games like Big Six or keno."
Dummies.com recommended certain games and tactics for newbie players, including:
•Skip the bonus bets
Keep in mind that main bets (such as pass line at craps, banker bet at baccarat, ante bet at Three Card Poker) have the smallest house edge, according to ThoughtCo. Avoid the extra (or bonus) bets, since the house edge might be as much as five times higher.
•Know your limit
"Money management is a really boring subject and many people have trouble keeping track of what they have spent after a few hours of casino action," ThoughtCo. noted. "Make things easy on yourself by deciding on what you can afford to lose before you start playing. If you actually win, great, and don't be afraid to go home with the bucks. The casino will be open tomorrow, too!"
•Check out the hospitality standards before you go
If you're heading to Las Vegas, odds are good that you'll be able to hit a casino that offers free alcohol. Many will also have discounted rooms. Outside of Vegas, many of the tiny casinos or ones with little competition or state prohibitions (like Harrah's Cherokee in North Carolina) don't have free drinks.
•Play the free liquor game like a champ
According to WhereTraveler, it's a good idea to wait until the cocktail waitress approaches you at places with free liquor, instead of hitting a bar on the way in. "And if you're hitting the clubs later, start your drinking on the casino floor so there's less you have to spend - for any type of performance, even a DJ spinning, you'll get hit with an additional live entertainment tax. Better to start early!"
Avoid peak dinner times
To really enjoy your day of gambling, avoid the huge lines at peak dinner time. Instead, opt to eat between 5 p.m.-5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.-9 p.m. to avoid hours of waiting.
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 8:57 AM
— A Florida beach has been named the nation's best in TripAdvisor's annual Travelers' Choice awards.
The travel website announced Tuesday that Clearwater Beach was the best in the U.S. in 2018, climbing from No. 4 in 2017. The beach also topped the national list in 2016.
Meanwhile, Grace Bay in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, took the award for the best beach worldwide.
Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 5:41 PM
— You can take some of the most lavish, expensive wine tours in the world in the Napa Valley, where wines are all about heritage, taste and sophistication.
These days, though, even the snootiest oenophile can find a worthy wine tasting in places far from California. And the same goes for the Napa-style custom of wine tours. Travelers in the South or Southeast have lots of pleasurable wine tours to choose from, including self-guided forays, touristy excursions and exclusive itineraries presided over by the wine elite.
Georgia, Tennessee and Texas are just a few of the markets that have come into their own in recent decades and have the wine trails to prove it. While you won't be inundated with award-winners on a few of these tours, you can still find numerous high-ranked wines and others that are fun to sample. The vintners are typically small, but accessible, and it's exciting to see newer wineries just starting to make their mark.
For a taste of fine wine tours nowhere near Napa, consider these five:
Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee
All hail Appalachian winemakers. Five Tennessee wineries (and a distillery!) along 12 miles near the Great Smoky Mountains have banded together to present a free, self-guided tour. Each of the wineries is open all week for free tastings. They include Hillside Winery and Apple Barn Winery in Sevierville, Mountain Valley Winery and Mill Bridge Winery in Pigeon Forge and Doc Collier Moonshine Distillery and Sugarland Cellars in Gatlinburg. Plus, there's no law against catching Dollywood as part of your visit. And don't miss the Muscadine Spumante from Hillside Winery in Sevierville, which recently won the Governor's Cup at Wines of the South.
Free or nominal charge tastings
A scenic drive through the Dahlonega mountains sets the tone for sampling wines from "the Heart of Georgia Wine Country." It's the grapes that make the difference: The growing conditions and mountain elevations are ideal for European, French hybrid and American wine grapes. The trail makes a great day trip from Atlanta, with a driving time of a little over an hour and plenty of chances to meet winemakers and sample their labors of love. Stops include Cavender Creek Vineyards & Winery, Frogtown Cellars, Montaluce Winery & Estates, Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery and Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery.
Starting at noon Friday, March 16 through 5 p.m. Sunday, March 25, 2018 - 5 p.m.
This annual shebang is a great way to visit lots of wineries and sample a few wine and food pairings, enjoy live music or other mini-wine tasting events. The Winegrowers Association of Georgia sponsors and Northeast Georgia plays host. Travelers pay at the first winery visited and then can enjoy any or all of the other participating winery offerings: Each place does its own format, along with filling up those "passport glasses" that commemorate each year's event. Participants range from Cartecay Vineyards in Ellijay apple country to Fainting Goat Vineyards in Jasper, with dozens of other options around and about Northeast Georgia, all listed on the event website.
Austin to Fredericksburg and Lampasas to New Braunfels and other points in between
April 6-22, 2018
Individuals $45, couples $75
Who says you have to be in California for a lavish wine country experience? The Texas Hill Country's annual wine trail celebrates the blooming wildflowers along with a full 17 days of sipping award-winning wines. Each ticket includes a tasting passport for each featured winery (limit four per day). A small sampling of participating wineries includes Lost Draw Cellars, Messina Hof Hill Country, Narrow Path Winery and Old Man Scary Cellars.
Johnson City, Hye and Stonewall Texas
Tasting fees vary
Published: Tuesday, November 07, 2017 @ 5:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday, November 07, 2017 @ 5:06 PM
— Camping may be fun, but not everyone is cut out for roughing it. Some folks need a little more waiting for them after a long day of adventures than a sleeping bag and a flimsy tent. Here are five ways to experience the nature of the Smoky Mountains without pitching a tent yourself.
Falling Water Adventure Resort 10345 U.S. 19/74, Bryson City, N.C. 800-451-9972. fallingwatersresort.com
Those who aren't afraid to get their feet wet during the day (but prefer a cozy bed at night) will find an apt home away from home in Falling Water Adventure Resort, a North Carolina getaway that offers affordable yurt rentals to accommodate its sporty clientele. Activities at the resort include river rafting, canopy tours and zip lines, and visitors who choose to stay in the yurts can also enjoy amenities like fresh linens, a private fridge, and individual coffee maker. Those who stay will still get a taste of the campsite life — picnic tables, a shared bath house, and charcoal grills ensure that guests can still get their fix of the outdoors.
North Georgia Canopy Tours 5290 Harris Road, Lula, Ga. 770-869-7272. northgeorgiacanopytours.com
Don't knock tent camping until you try it with North Georgia Canopy Tours, whose tepees are fully equipped with electricity, running water, and air conditioning — a must for anyone who knows just how hot a Georgia summer can get. The accommodations range in size and can sleep up to 10 guests. Order breakfast at check-in for an additional bit of luxury and be sure to book a zip-line tour to experience the great Smoky Mountains from the trees.
Camp LeConte 1739 E. Parkway, Gatlinburg, Tenn. 865-436-8831. campleconte.com
The campsites at this East Tennessee getaway run the gamut from standard piece of land to luxury treehouse, offering a distinct experience for outdoorsy types of all ranges. Those who opt for the most decked-out digs will find themselves sleeping in the open air among the tree tops and enjoying a covered patio, full private bathroom, and a beautiful view of Mount LeConte. Free board game rental ensures you'll have plenty to do when you unplug, while free Wi-Fi ensures you'll have access to the outside world when and if you need it, too.
Various sites. 828-450-9745. ashevilleglamping.com
There's a pretty long list of reasons to visit Asheville, N.C. The restaurants are incredible, breweries abound, and unique, friendly small businesses thrive in this laid-back mountain town. But one of the best things about Asheville is its proximity to nature. Within minutes, visitors can go from the downtown experience to a rustic mountain cabin, making this the ideal destination for groups with mixed intentions. Asheville Glamping offers accommodations that range from vintage Airstreams to mini yurts and picturesque domes. Each site offers an array of amenities, and those looking for comfortable, rustic sleeping arrangements will likely find something that suits them.
The Yurts at Sky Ridge 200 Sky Ridge Drive, Bryson City, N.C. 704-701-5696. skyridgeyurts.com
Most campers don't take vacations with the intention of sitting inside and watching television, but The Yurt at Sky Ridge folks aren't taking any chances: flat screen TVs, walk-in showers, kitchen appliances are among the amenities offered in these structures — and that's not taking into account the killer views.
Published: Wednesday, November 02, 2016 @ 10:10 AM
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 9:04 AM
— Many of the mountain parks near Atlanta have become popular destinations for metro residents to escape for fresh air and beautiful views. But when those well-known destinations get crowded in the cooler months, Georgia holds plenty of less famous destinations for aspiring mountaineers. Check out these five often-overlooked mountain destinations in Georgia.
Emery Creek Trail to Bald Mountain
Bald Mountain may be a well-known destination for Georgia outdoorsmen, but nearby path Emery Creek Trail has remained largely secluded, seeing light foot traffic even on weekends. A 13-mile hike complete with secluded waterfalls, refreshing (and, at times, difficult to navigate) waterlogged paths and relative peace in the deep woods leads to the popular mountain, but don't forget to waterproof any phones, camera equipment or other electronics, and wear clothes that can get wet.
Smithgall Woods State Park
61 Tsalaki Trail, Helen. 706-878-3087.
This Helen property was donated to the state by Charles A. Smithgall, a well-known philanthropist and conservationist whose legacy continues in multiple arenas, including a Humane Society nearby. Smithgall Woods State Park holds many options for big groups looking to make a weekend of it, offering six cabins and multiple picnic areas for down time. Take a trip to this mountainous state park and enjoy miles of trails as well as bird watching, archery and catch-and-release trout fishing.
101 E Broad St., Pine Mountain. 800-441-3502.
Touted as one of Georgia's more unusual mountains, Pine Mountain is the southernmost mountain in the eastern United States and has more than 40 miles of trails. That includes the 23 mile Pine Mountain trail in nearby F. D. Roosevelt State Park. One of the most distinctive characteristics about this park is the diverse array of wildlife and botany that comes with such varied terrain and habitats. Nearby, history buffs can check out Franklin D. Roosevelt's Little White House, one of Georgia's most popular historic destinations.
Accessible via Vogel State Park.
405 Vogel State Park Road, Blairsville. 706-745-2628.
Maybe some of Georgia's overlooked mountains aren't so much neglected as they are intentionally skipped over. After all, not everyone is up for a hardy hike just to catch the best view. Coosa Bald, Georgia's tenth-highest peak, walks that line with a 12.9-mile out and back trek to the top with several elevation changes along the way, making for a great hike for moderate hikers looking to up their skills. Unless you’re camping, (permit required) you’ll need to start early in the morning to make this a day hike. Dress warmly: Even when the valleys below are clear and dry, this peak has been known to see its share of snowfall.
Grassy Mountain Tower Trail
Cast out into the Cohutta wilderness and take a hike up Grassy Mountain for panoramic views and a beautiful mountaintop lake. Hikers will traipse across wooden bridges and beside beaver dams for 2.6 miles to the summit, where they will find a fire tower that provides a unique picture of the surrounding mountains. This view comes with a price, though, so remember to prepare for rocky roads and an off-the-grid experience before setting out into this wilderness unprepared.
More places to visit in and near Atlanta
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