It’s fall in Atlanta. Your busy work schedule has kept you from planning that ultimate vacation desperately required for continued sanity. Reasons for the delay are many and justified: 1) There’s no time to sit down and research airfare options out of the world’s busiest airport; 2) You have friends and family vying for your quality time and can’t decide who to take; 3) If you ultimately decide on the traveling companions, you must plan a vacation to satisfy a varied wish list of things to do; and 4) Just thinking about it has made you exhausted, and so you put off planning for another day.
The answer to your vacation quandary could be much easier — and a lot closer to home — than you think. If the scheduling time crunch is your biggest challenge, consider a weekend getaway within driving distance of Atlanta. And to satisfy a diverse list of entertainment and activities, the resort-casino can be a great solution. From family friendly to trendy hot spot, these properties offer more than just a place to rest your head. Go from golf course to massage table to casino floor all in one day. The properties still retain the benefits of a traditional hotel — a concierge to take the planning off of your shoulders — and resort-style amenities that provide activities to suit all tastes.
Cherokee, N.C.: Closest to home and expanding
If proximity is your top factor – less drive time, more fun time – try Harrah’s Cherokee, a resort that belongs to the well-known family of casino brands. About a 2.5-hour drive from Atlanta and 50 miles west of Asheville, N.C., Harrah’s Cherokee is situated on 56 acres at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The resort now offers the most hotel rooms in the Carolinas and, by 2012, the casino floor will double in size to include a tobacco-free gaming area, VIP lounge and Asian gaming room and noodle bar.
Dining choices abound with six restaurants, including the new Paula Deen’s Kitchen and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Indulgence is yours at the resort’s expanded Mandara Spa, featuring a café and retail outlet. The updated fitness center, pool and Jacuzzi with mountain views will have you thinking “sweet Carolina.” For outdoor activities, try a round at the 18-hole, par-72 Sequoyah Golf Course, which offers privileged access for all guests.
Atmore, Ala.: Deluxe overnight escape
Wind Creek Casino & Hotel was Alabama’s state’s only deluxe resort when it opened in 1999. Its 17-story luxury hotel and casino are all under one roof on a 35-acre site that is halfway between Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., about a five-hour drive from Atlanta.
For upscale dining, visit Fire, a fine-dining restaurant specializing in prime steaks and seafood. Fire is directed by world-renown chef, Stafford DeCambra, winner of a gold medal in the International Culinary Olympics. The wine selection is diverse, from international favorites to superior American vintages to boutique offerings. An overnight stay brings luxury linens on your plush, “Dream Weaver” bed and 24-hour room service.
Biloxi, Miss.: Multiple choices along the Gulf Coast
If the climate of the Gulf of Mexico is your draw, search no farther than the award-winning Beau Rivage Resort & Casino on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It’s about a seven-hour drive from Atlanta and an hour from Mobile, Ala. Beau Rivage is the largest southeastern resort to receive the AAA Four Diamond Award and is recognized by Conde Naste Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines as one of the country’s top resorts.
Its waterside location offers the opportunity to boat, fish or simply relax on the sandy beaches. The lush, tropical pool area is set oceanside and includes a poolside cafe and bar. Sip a cool beverage while viewing a 31-slip marina and yachts up to 200 feet long. Or practice your swing at the Tom Fazio-designed Fallen Oak golf course, only 20 minutes away.
Beau Rivage’s redesigned casino floor provides 24-hour gaming and, after your first big win, try the new high rollers salon — “a casino within a casino” — that includes around-the-clock concierge service. Another option is the theater, featuring entertainment that ranges from Jay Leno to the Beach Boys.
For a well-known hotel brand that just happens to have a casino, try the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi. Home of the largest jackpot in Mississippi gaming history, the resort features a 12-story hotel with rock-star-themed rooms. Rejuvenate at the Rock Spa, an Aveda concept spa that offers facials, massages, body wraps and a salon.
You’re on vacation, but still want to make time to exercise, so create a celebrity fitness regime in the property’s fitness center or do laps in the unique Hard Rock pool. Your reward is a visit to the swim-up bar and dinner at one of the resort’s five restaurants.
A range of bands take the stage at Hard Rock Live, from Stevie Nicks and 38 Special to Stone Temple Pilots and Lady Antebellum.
If your style is contemporary and you want sophisticated comfort, try the IP Casino Resort & Spa, a AAA Four-Diamond Award-winner for Hotel Excellence & Service.
If you live life in the culinary fast lane, try IP’s restaurants, thirty-two and tien, each of which received a AAA Four Diamond award. At thirty-two, gourmet steaks and seafood are paired with wine selections that have been honored by Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines. Tien, which means first, wealth, convenient, progress and heaven in various languages, serves Asian fusion, along with traditional Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese and Japanese fare.
Vacation equals relaxation. Calm the mind and body at IP’s Senses Spa & Salon. It offers numerous treatments, steam and sauna rooms, soothing waterfalls and aesthetic scents.