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For the Fun of Fit: Casino revives Rocky Gap

On our way home from Cumberland, my husband and I took a one-night detour into the Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Flintstone. We'd visited Rocky Gap State Park before - to camp with friends, and to stretch our legs and enjoy a short hike along Lake Habeeb on our way home from Deep Creek Lake - and, every time, both the park and the resort appeared deserted.

But on this cold winter weekend in February, we were greeted by a completely different scene. At the hotel's entrance, bellhops stood at the ready, a complimentary valet service transported guest's vehicles to one of two nearly full parking lots, and busloads of silver-haired gamblers were regularly deposited at the front door.

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The weekend we stayed at the resort, the 200 room hotel was sold out. According to the front desk staff, the once-struggling resort has been extremely busy since May when, after receiving approval from the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, it opened Maryland's third casino, and the state's first destination casino resort, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and features approximately 550 slot machines and 10 table games.

In addition to the casino, the resort offers four on-site restaurants, a spa, and an 18-hole, 7,000-yard Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course - the only one of its kind in Maryland.

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After settling into our room and talking a short walk along the snow-covered lake trail, we enjoyed a delicious dinner - which included a surprising number of healthful selections - at LB's, a casual dining restaurant featuring salad bowls, flat breads, burgers and a full bar, before moseying over to the casino to try our luck at Blackjack. We are not big gamblers so we appreciated being able to join in the fun at tables requiring a minimum bet of no more than $15. If Blackjack is not your table game of choice, the casino also offers, Roulette, Three Card Poker, Mississippi Stud, Texas Hold 'Em and Craps. Though there was no live entertainment the night we were there, live music and comedy shows are regular offerings at the resort.

The next morning we fueled up at the Lakeside restaurant's reasonably priced breakfast buffet before venturing out for a 4.7-mile hike on the Lakeside Loop Trail, a two-hour endeavor on the snow, slush and ice-covered trail bordering the 243-acre lake. In addition to the Lakeside Loop Trail, the park features five additional trails ranging from the 1/5 mile Canyon Overlook Trail to the 5.6-mile Evitt's Homesite Trail, a campground with 278 individual campsites, a family group site with space for up to 40 people, two youth group camping areas, 14 mini-cabins that sleep up to six people, and a chalet that accommodates up to eight people. Starting in the spring, bikes, fishing gear, stand up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, row boats and a pontoon boat are available for rent, and visitors can enjoy outdoor dining at the resort.

We look forward to returning to Rocky Gap when it's warmer to enjoy all that this recently revived resort has to offer.

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