Last winter we spent several weeks exploring Mississippi’s coast, from the Alabama border on the east to Louisiana on the west. Although the area experienced cooler weather than normal, we never wanted for things to do. Here are 21 Mississippi Gulf Coast places to go and things to do, no matter what the temperature.
Our daughter joined us for a few days, and the one thing she wanted to do was to go on an airboat ride and see alligators. Gulf Coast Gator Ranch provided the opportunity to do just that. Because alligators brumate in winter (as close to hibernation as they get), we didn’t see any alligators as we sped through the swamp on the airboat (which was great fun). But there were plenty in the lagoon that we could see from the ground. The Biloxi Visitors Center is a good first stop for area information. Exhibits provide an overview of local history, and you can pick up attraction brochures. A theater shows a continuous 10-minute video with additional information, including the devastation that the 2005 Hurricane Katrina caused to the area. Across the street from the visitor center, the Biloxi Lighthouse has stood since 1848. It was built as a beacon to aid ships in navigating the Mississippi Sound. At the time, the Mississippi Sound was the primary entrance to the Port of New Orleans. Today, the lighthouse stands in the median of U.S. 90 and is open for tours. Beauvoir is the retirement home of Jefferson Davis, the first and only President of the Confederate States of America. Take the guided tour of the home and learn his family history. Then, walk the grounds on your own, where you can peek into the windows of the cottage where Davis wrote his memoirs and visit the Beauvoir Memorial Cemetery. In the presidential library museum, learn more about Davis’ life before, during, and after the Civil War. Of the dozen casinos along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, eight are in Biloxi. Besides gambling, most of the casinos include restaurants, shops, and entertainment. Some of the buffets and restaurants offer discounts for players club members, so it’s a good idea to obtain a card for the casinos in which you dine, whether or not you plan to gamble. Photo credit: Getty Images/Denis Tangney Jr The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum showcases Biloxi’s early 1900s seafood canning industry, when up to twelve canneries processed millions of pounds of oysters and shrimp each year. Canneries owned their own schooner fleets, which went out each day to trawl for the day’s bounty. The museum also includes an impressive collection of wooden boats built in the area. The Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum combines both indoor and outdoor exhibits that fascinate model railroad fans of all ages, as well as LEGO® fans. Indoors are several model railroad layouts and extensive LEGO® exhibits. Outdoors is a garden railroad and a train just the right size for the youngest of railroad fans to ride. The Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum includes several aircraft, as well as exhibits on Mississippi’s aviation history. It highlights the state’s military bases, the Tuskegee Airmen, and local aviators and astronauts. We enjoyed watching videos of armed services veterans telling the stories of their military experiences. Admission to Ocean Adventures includes admittance to three shows (bird, dolphin, and sea lion) and two talks (stingray and snake/gator). Following the stingray talk, pet the stingrays, and in the snake/gator talk, get an up-close look at a baby alligator and snake. Buy some feeding sticks and step into the Tweeter Post to hand-feed parakeets. A Discovery Room is home to more sea creatures. Beginning early March you can catch a ferry from Gulfport’s Jones Park to Ship Island, about an hour away. On the island, stroll the beach, swim if the weather is warm enough, and tour Fort Massachusetts. I stocked up on shorts at Gulfport Premium Outlets—with the hope that the weather would warm up—and got great deals on them. I was able to wear them only a couple of days during our trip, but they came in handy over the summer. Photo credit: Getty Images/Paul Vinten A huge, 500-year-old oak tree is located on the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast campus. The trunk’s diameter is five feet, nine inches, and its foliage spreads 156 feet. Legend says that those who stand in the tree’s shadow together will remain friends forever. It isn’t surprising that Bay St. Louis was named one of the top coastal small towns in the United States. Whether you enjoy night life, great restaurants, specialty shops, or a beach, you’ll want to spend some time here. While there, search out the angel trees. These are oak trees that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Tree carver Dayle K. Lewis from Richmond, Indiana, transformed the trunks into sculptures of angels. Located in the Bay St. Louis historic depot, the Mardi Gras museum includes a dozen or more costumes worn in Mardi Gras parades. The building doubles as the Hancock County Visitor Center, where you can get more information about area attractions. The Waveland Ground Zerio Hurricane Museum tells the story of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina. In a heart-wrenching video, survivors relate experiences and lament the loss of loved ones. It also demonstrates how they worked together to rebuild. The museum is located in a former elementary school, the only building on Coleman Avenue that survived the storm. Photo credit: Getty Images/Andrew McArthur The Gulf Coast celebrates Mardi Gras from the first of the year through Fat Tuesday. Parades seem constant, especially in the last few days before Ash Wednesday. With float after float tossing beads, I ended up with well over 100 sets in the family-friendly parade we watched. Even on foggy mornings a walk on a beach is a welcome winter getaway. Take a romantic stroll, search for the perfect seashell, or just sit and listen to the tranquil waves sloshing onto the shore. With over 200 full hook-up camp sites, Buccaneer State Park is a great place for campers to use as a base during a visit to the Mississippi Gulf. Not a camper? Visit for the day to hike the nature trail or play disc golf on the park’s par 3, 18-hole course. Once a booming lumber town along the Pearl River, Logtown faded away as the usable lumber was exhausted. In the early 1960s the remaining residents relocated when the government purchased land around what is now the Stennis Space Center to use as a buffer zone. Today, the Logtown Scenic Byway winds through a forest thick with pine trees and moss-draped live oaks where the town once stood. The only part of Logtown left is the cemetery, which is fascinating to explore. Every engine to every NASA rocket that has explored space since the 1960s Apollo space missions has been tested at the Stennis Space Center. Located near Mississippi’s southwest border, the general public isn’t allowed into the space center. However, the nearby INFINITY Science Center serves as the Stennis visitor center. Besides plenty of space exhibits, including the Apollo 4 capsule, the museum explores Earth sciences like weather and ocean studies. Plenty of hands-on activities fascinate kids and adults alike. We indulged in more shrimp in the few weeks we were on the Mississippi Gulf Coast than I think we had all together in the prior five years. The Gulf Coast is home to Royal Reds, huge shrimp that are reminiscent of lobster or scallops. Several restaurants feature these succulent shrimp, which are often dipped in butter rather than cocktail sauce. Besides shrimp, crawfish and other seafood are plentiful in the many seafood restaurants along the Gulf. Shown: Shrimp Benedict from Trapani’s Eatery More Information About the Featured Mississippi Gulf Coast Attractions