Writer Justin Moyer recently visited Tunica, Miss. Here is his reporter's notebook.
About 2 1/2 hours
About an hour from Memphis
Flight plus car: $390 Lodging: $40 and up
Nonstop flights from Reagan National to Memphis exist, but who wants to spend close to $500 to go to Mississippi? If you don't mind a connection and are flexible about travel time, Priceline offers flight/car packages for less than a flight, perfect for late-night gamblers who linger at the tables before dashing off to catch a red-eye.
WHERE TO STAY
Tunica isn't walkable, but the Gold Strike (1010 Casino Center Dr., 888-245-7529, http://www.goldstrikemississippi.com) and the two Harrah's places, the Horseshoe (1021 Casino Center Dr., 800-303-7463, http://www.harrahs.com) and the Sheraton (1107 Casino Center Dr., 800-391-3777, http://www.harrahs.com), share a parking lot. Any of them will do for a fussy gambler without a car who wants options. The isolated Harrah's Tunica (13615 Old Hwy. 61 North, 800-946-4946, http://www.harrahs.com) is a safe bet for those who don't plan to stray too far from their $40 hotel rooms. For old-fashioned Southern hospitality very far from buzzing slot machines, bed-and-breakfasters should check out Once Upon a Time (1149 Main St., 662-363-3217, http://www.onceuponatimetunica.com, $145-$195 per night) and the Columns (1120 Hickory Lane, 662-363-3659, http://www.thecolumnsoftunica.com, $95-$150).
WHERE TO EAT
Dieters beware: Deep-fried Southern cuisine does not accommodate calorie-counters. At Harrah's Paula Deen Buffet, $17.99 buys enough of the Food Network star's barbecue, corn muffins and coconut macaroons for three meals. Located in a converted Depression-era commissary, the Hollywood Cafe (1585 Old Commerce Rd., 662-363-1225, http://www.thehollywoodcafe.com) offers better atmosphere and $8 frog's legs but fewer options overall. A 10-minute drive takes you to downtown Tunica's Blue & White Cafe (1355 Highway 61 North, 662-363-1371). Nine bucks (or $10 on Sundays) pays for unlimited trips to the buffet and a spot at the counter next to authentic Mississippians, but what might be the best donuts ever made cost 50 cents extra apiece.
WHAT TO DO
For gamblers, the nine Tunica casinos are the draw. For addresses and a map, go to http://www.tunicamiss.com/casinos.asp.
A few markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail ( http://www.msbluestrail.org/blues_trail/) are within a half-hour's drive of Tunica; the Web site's maps are charmingly inexact. If you're looking for a juke joint or concert recommendation, call Roger Stolle at Cat Head in Clarksdale ( http://www.cathead.biz, 662-624-5992).
Tunica RiverPark (One River Park Dr., 866-517-4837, http://www.tunicariverpark.com) is Tunica's major non-gambling attraction, including a modest museum (admission $5, children 12 and under $4) that condenses the river's turbulent history by means of a James Earl Jones-narrated documentary and a small aquarium. Farther south on 61, the unabashedly pro-gambling Tunica Museum (Highway 61 and Museum Boulevard, 662-363-6631, http://www.tunicamuseum.com) is free and covers much of the same ground. Next to RiverPark, an hour-long cruise on the nearby Tunica Queen (866-805-3535, fare $15, children ages 3 to 11 $7.50) offers escape from the Delta's oppressive humidity.