This past weekend, R and I ventured down to Jackpot, Nevada, for music, food and of course, the casino. We made the trip in order to see a band we like, but it turned into a nice little trip out of town. It got me thinking about how casinos make excellent weekend getaways. With a little preparation, and some extra cash, you can easily escape real life for a couple of days.
First step: find a casino
Note: I feel like I need to insert some sort of warning about the dangers of gambling. You can become addicted to it. I suggest you stay away from casinos if you are already on your way to or worried about becoming addicted. Go camping instead.
Each state has different rules and regulations when it comes to gambling. No matter where you live though, there is probably a casino within driving distance be it a riverboat, reservation or border town. For us, the closest option is Jackpot, Nevada, a town located just south of the Idaho state line. The town is small, just over 1,000 people, but it has all you need for a night (or weekend) of fun.
Now to discuss the preparation that goes into a weekend getaway. Whether you are headed to a casino or somewhere else, the preparation involved is pretty much the same. You are going to need to sort out your transportation, lodging, food and entertainment.
Jackpot is a 2.5-hour drive from Boise. Not too far, but not necessarily a quick trip either. Originally, I planned on driving my truck, which gets decent but not great gas mileage. R did a quick search and found that a rental car would only cost $18. At that price, a smaller, newer car that is more fuel-efficient than my truck meant we would actually spend less on fuel. Plus, it is fun to rent a car and drive something different. So we picked up a new Ford Focus and hit the road.
Originally, we were going to stay with my folks since they do not live too far from Jackpot. However, at the last minute, we opted to get a hotel room instead. Last minute meant our options were limited since the bigger hotels were all sold out. We managed to find a room with decent reviews and overall, the hotel served its purpose. It was clean and convenient. Best of all, it was cheap.
However, I room did come with a challenge: our toilet did not work properly. Even after we reported the problem and it was supposedly fixed, we had to jimmy rig it in order to use it. Since we were only there for a night and the room was cheap, it was not that big of a deal. However, if you want to ensure a decent place to stay, you will want to book early. Or be willing to put up with a few quirks.
Casinos and buffets, for whatever reason, seem to go together. R and I are not buffet kind of people. But if you prefer that type of fare, then a casino is the place to be. Whatever your preference, there will be dining options and often, those options will be affordable and available late into the night and early in the morning (if not 24/7). Casinos rarely close and since all of that gambling and drinking makes people hungry, the casinos readily provide sustenance.
Casino dining did not pan out for us on this particular trip. Instead, we opted to try out a new brewpub in a town that was located on the way to Jackpot. Then the next morning, we enjoyed breakfast in a neighboring town. However, we did enjoy some late-night snacking. The small grocery store in Jackpot closes at 10:45 p.m. A strange time to close for sure, but we appreciated the late hour nonetheless. Rarely does a small, rural town’s grocery store stay open past 9 p.m. But where there are casinos, the rules are different and you will never have to go to bed hungry.
As I mentioned earlier, we ended up in Jackpot because of a band. Most casinos are able to draw some pretty good entertainers. I recommend choosing a weekend with a show you want to see. Either the show will be entertainment enough, or it will add to the other fun you will be having. In addition, casino shows are unique and you may see a favorite artist in a completely new light. The crowd will be different too and add to the experience.
Micky and the Motorcars was the band we saw this weekend. I have been enjoying their shows since 2005 and somehow, this performance was like none I have seen before. In fact, afterwards R said, “I am not sure where to start with the recap of what we just saw.” After hundreds of shows, I would have thought we had seen it all. However, this weekend proved differently. And it was a really good time.
We are not big gamblers, but we do enjoy playing a bit when the opportunity arises. On my 21st birthday, my uncle taught me to play roulette right there in Jackpot, Nevada. Later that night, I won $750 on a slot machine. Needless to say, it was a memorable birthday.
On this trip, R and I both spent $20 at the slot machine. There was no repeat of my birthday winnings and I lost my $20 in short order. R, on the other hand, won about $80. After the show, she took her $60 winnings and we headed to the roulette table. Although she planned to lose that $60, that did not happen and after an hour or so, we decided to call it a night. R cashed out $50 richer.
A couple of tips to having a good time while gambling:
- The tables are more fun than the slot machines. We did a lot of laughing and high-fiving with the crew at our roulette table. The craps table is usually especially fun and rowdy. Sure, the tables can be a bit intimidating at first, but they are always more fun in the end.
- Know what you are willing to lose. I planned to spend $20. After I lost that, I was done for the night. R had emptied her piggybank before we left and had $60 that she was willing to loose. She only spent $20 of that and actually walked away $50 richer. But she knew her limit before going in and was extra happy with the results at the end of the night.
- Unless you plan to gamble all night, have a cutoff time in mind. If you lose your money real quick like I did, a cutoff time is unnecessary. But R’s pile of chips at the roulette table remained steady…and we were starting to get tired. Before we arrived, R had jokingly said that we needed to call it a night if her winnings made it to $500. But we never discussed what to do with a modest amount of winnings…that she was willing to lose…that she couldn’t seem to lose. After we finally called it a night, we discussed the value of having a cutoff time in mind.
Note: Many casinos, including those in Jackpot, still allow smoking. Some will have non-smoking sections, but some will not. By the time R and I left Jackpot, our eyes were itchy and our clothes smelled. This is something to keep in mind and research if your intolerance to cigarette smoke is high.
Casinos make good weekend getaways. It is a different kind of fun, but it can be had with a little preparation and some extra cash. You may even walk away a little richer. Although I would not plan on it.