• Mashantucket, Connecticut: Foxwoods

      You're driving through the beautiful foliage on reservation land in rural Connecticut, and suddenly it looms up before you like a mirage: the massive resort and entertainment complex called Foxwoods, which has at times laid claim to being the largest casino in the world. Actually, that claim is a bit misleading, because Foxwoods isn't just a single hotel-casino, but a megaplex of four hotels and nine casinos. Among the latter is the lavish 23-floor Stargazer Casino, with elegant stained glass and stained wood, an enormous glass globe as the centerpiece, and gaming tables having a minimum wager of 200 dollars.

      Most of the casino action and hotel rooms are located in the central structure, an impressive castle with an exterior incorporating elements of Native American folk design. There are also plenty of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, of course (including an excellent arcade for the kids), all arranged in an attractive layout that suggests a stroll down the narrow streets of a 19th-Century village.

      Next to this building is the MGM Grand, the newest of the Foxwood properties, and of more contemporary design. Like other MGM hotels, this one boasts a large-scale theater that hosts major entertainers and events.

      If rustic charm is more your style, you can stay at the Two Trees lodge, located diagonally across the road in a more secluded niche well removed from the clanging of slot machines. And while you're in the neighborhood, you might want to check out the nearby Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

      IF YOU GO: If you travel in an RV, you're already on a lucky streak. While many other casinos have adopted more restrictive policies for overnight RV parking, Foxwoods has gone in the other direction, and now extends the welcome mat for a virtually unlimited time. Food in most of the restaurants is expensive, but there are also some lower-priced franchise options including El Pollo Loco and Panera. Take the time to seek out the intriguing pieces of art by Native American sculptors scattered throughout the complex. If you're a golfer, you'll also find a beautiful course here.

      WHEN TO VISIT: Absolutely anytime! But note that winters can be harsh, and the fall is exceptionally gorgeous. Mornings tend to be less crowded, as busloads of gamblers generally arrive around noon. Check the calendar for performances by big-name entertainers. The recent slate included Howie Mandel, Aretha Franklin, and Bob Dylan, all within about one month!

      JURISDICTION: Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
      INFORMATION last visit Oct. 2010
      Address: 350 Trolley Line Boulevard, Mashantucket, CT 06338-3777

      Grand Pequot Tower, one segment of Foxwoods
      Photo courtesy of Dennis Goza