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Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel....

Golfing and Gaming in the Southeast

If you like golf and gaming with a distinctively southern accent, then the southeast beckons with birdies, blackjack, and much more. From Virginia down to Mississippi and lots of places in between, there’s never been a better time to “bet” on a southeast vacation.

According to the Travel Industry of America (TIA), golf and gaming are two very important reasons people travel in the U.S. Nowhere is this more true than in the southeast, where golf courses and casinos draw players in search of fun.

TIA figures show that one in eight travelers play golf while on a trip of 100 miles or more away from home. That’s especially true in the southeast, where there seems to be a golf course around every bend in the road. “The southeast is a golfer’s paradise, with a vast number of courses,” says Bill Hardman, president and CEO of the Southeast Tourism Society. “Year-round mild weather adds to the region’s appeal as a golf destination and there’s a vast array of additional things to do and see off the links.”

TIA statistics also reveal that about 7% of trips include casino visits and that travelers interested in gaming destinations are finding more variety of places to go, rather than the traditional choices of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. “From Biloxi and Tunica to the bayous of Louisiana and up to the mountains of North Carolina, the southeast has become an important gaming destination,” says Hardman. “In fact, Tunica boasts that is now the third largest gaming destination in the country,” he continues. “Travelers are finding that, coupled with its natural beauty and host of arts, culture, and sports events, the southeast makes the perfect gaming vacation destination.

Founded in 1983 when few could have imagined the growth of golf and gaming in the region, the Southeast Tourism Society (www.southeasttourism.org) is dedicated to the promotion and development of tourism for its member states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. When it comes to golf or gaming, it’s easy to promote the southeast, thanks to the development of lots of options.

Many of the Southeast Tourism Society’s members include those involved in the golf or gaming industry. It’s easy to see why, with the vast array of options available to tourists visiting the region. With a wide array of accommodations options, destinations, golf courses, casinos, and more, it’s a sure bet that a southeast trip will be way above par.

No matter where you travel and what games you enjoy, one company can really help with accommodations this fall and anytime of year. If you’re looking for accommodations bargains at or near golf courses, casinos or elsewhere, Hotel Reservations Network (HRN), a majority-owned subsidiary of USA Networks, Inc., is the Internet’s leading provider of discount hotel accommodations worldwide and a supplier of hotel lodging during soldout periods. That means great deals on rooms and more this fall, providing more money for golf, gaming, and other activities. HRN supplies travelers with easy-to-use one-stop source for the guaranteed lowest hotel rates through its websites (www.hoteldiscount.com and www.180096hotel.com), more than 18,000 affiliate websites, and HRN’s 24x7 call center ((800) 96-HOTEL).

In Virginia, the reputation of Virginia Beach as a golfer getaway continues to grow, thanks to a mild year-round climate, top-rated championship golf facilities, and a host of family-fun attractions. Course designs by the likes of Rees Jones, Pete Dye, Fred Couples, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Virginia Beach’s own Curtis Strange create splendid layouts with affordable rates. Inclusive year-round golf packages allow travelers to reserve tee times, hotel accommodations (including complimentary breakfast), shuttle service to and from courses, and instruction by PGA professionals in one call. A revitalized and expanded beach (and boardwalk) make for one of the Southeast’s great beach destinations on and off the greens. For details and to book packages, call (866) 4VB GOLF or visit www.vbgolf.com.

To the south and into the mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains beckon for both golf and gaming. Harrah’s(TM) Cherokee Casino and the inviting homeland of the Cherokee Indians is nestled at the edge of the national park. The bustling casino is open 24 hours a day and features more than 2,700 of the hottest games in video format, huge jackpots, three great restaurants, shopping, and world-class entertainment all year. A 15-story luxury hotel facing Soco Creek, with an elevated walkway to the casino, is coming soon. The new development will also include an indoor pool, spa, and workout room, as well as a 15,000-square-foot conference center and two new eateries. For further information about this great mountain gaming getaway, call (800) HARRAHS(TM) or visit www.harrahs.com.

For golfers, the Great Smoky Mountains Golf Association ((800) 799-5537; www.greatsmokiesgolf.com) offers dozens of great golf courses that wind like ribbons through the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains in both western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. No matter what your skill level, you’ll find golf courses with difficulty levels and scenery to suit you to a tee. The Great Smoky Mountains Golf Association’s free guide is a great way to get started to some great mountain golf. If you love mountain golf (and gaming), this is an ideal combination of fores and four-of-a-kind!

Right next door to Walt Disney World(R) Resort, another world of vacation excitement (and great golf) awaits. When you stay in Kissimmee-St. Cloud, you’re just minutes away from all of Central Florida’s world-famous attractions (and golf). With more than 40,000 reasonably priced rooms, you’re sure to find the perfect accommodations close to Walt Disney World(R) Resort, Sea World(R) Orlando, and Universal Orlando(SM). Along with a wide range of golf courses (and new layouts regularly opening), Kissimmee-St. Cloud offers it own exciting adventures for the family to enjoy, including some of Florida’s most beautiful nature preserves, wetlands, and woodlands. For a free Visitor’s Guide full of great savings, call (800) 333-KISS or visit www.floridakiss.com.

Situated off the southeast coast of Georgia, Brunswick & The Golden Isles are comprised of the charming town of Brunswick and the islands of St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island. You’ll find glorious weather for year-round golf and more, as well as accommodations ranging from luxury to camping. A variety of activities include 216 holes of golf, miles of beaches, acres of tennis courts, bike trails, sport fishing and other watersports, historic sites, water taxis, a casino/cruise ship, shopping, and more. The hospitality, like the climate, is welcoming all year. For a free Visitor’s Guide, call (800) 933-COAST or visit www.bgivb.com.

Extending over more than 32 miles of breathtaking sugar-white sand and turquoise waters in Alabama, Gulf Shores/Orange Beach brings you closer to what’s really important...getting away and getting close with family, friends, and nature. Visitors can select from gulf front condominiums to quaint beach houses and luxury hotels. It’s easy to have fun as you unwind at one of the championship golf courses, bike, hike, or trek miles of protected wildlife refuges and preserves, or canoe, fish, or sail the exceptional waters. Visitors can dine-in or carry-out their meals, including fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood, scrumptious steaks, and tantalizing desserts. Naturally distinctive and unimaginably defined, this Alabama beach area beckons. Just call (877) 852-3596 or visit www.gulfshores.com.

Gulf Shores is also where golf meets the Gulf in Alabama. Brett/Robinson Vacation Rentals ((800) 497-6238; www.golfshores.com) offers great vacation experiences and fantastic golf packages. From the serious to the casual golfer, Gulf Shores has a course to meet your demands. The knowledgeable Brett/Robinson golf specialists are available to assist you in making all of your plans on and off the course. Tee times can be reserved up to six months in advance of play. Their gulf front Phoenix condominiums are conveniently located near golf courses, restaurants, and local nightlife spots. Brett/Robinson makes it easy to plan your Gulf Shores golf vacation.

Finally, for those looking for more great golf and gaming in one destination, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast makes it easy. Travelers will discover southern hospitality, beauty, and charm intermixed with Las Vegas-style entertainment and great golf. Visitors will enjoy more than 26 miles of beaches, 12 casino resorts, more than 20 golf courses (open year-round), historic homes, arts and cultural museums, sailing charters, and even an authentic shrimping excursion. Shopping variety includes boutiques, art galleries, and contemporary retail and outlet centers. When you see the scenic coastal beaches and antebellum homes surrounded by moss-draped magnolias, you’ll know you’ve arrived on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.

More than 20 diverse golf courses, including signature designs by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Davis Love III, await visitors to the region. Sunny summers and mild winters ensure year-round tee time availability. Casinos offer specialty shopping, resort accommodations, luxurious spas, the best in regional and fine dining, and headline entertainment (such as Michael Flatley's “Lord of the Dance,” Bill Cosby, Jay Leno, Chicago, and Luciano Pavarotti), 24 hour gaming excitement, charter fishing, children's game rooms, and high energy nightlife. To receive visitor information, as well as a complimentary copy of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Fun Times Guide, call (800) 237-9493 or visit www.gulfcoast.org.

Thus, from Virginia down to Mississippi, it’s easy to find southern hospitality, great golf, and gaming. Just pack your clubs and casino chips and head south!