Mississippi

Five things to do on the Mississippi Gulf Coast besides beaches and casinos

When many people think of the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a vacation destination they likely think about the beaches and casinos.  However, there’s a lot more to do besides relaxing on the beach or trying to hit it big at the casino.  Here’s five things you can do on the Mississippi Gulf Coast besides beaches and casinos.

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art (386 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39530)

Known as the “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” George E. Ohr created ceramic works that clashed with the aesthetics of 19th century American ideals.  In 2009, Ohr received recognition for his genius when New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art included some of his pieces in a new permanent exhibit.  A year later the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art opened in his hometown with three buildings.  The last building opened in 2014.  Noted architect Frank Gehry designed the five-building campus to blend into the live oak trees on the site.

Out-of-town visitors may come to enjoy the buildings and the exhibits, but the museum also offers a variety of classes.  Local residents can sign up for a program designed just for home-schooled children.  Kids between 6 and 13 years-old can sign up for a pottery wheel class.  During the two-and-a-half-hour class kids create two pots they get to keep.  Out-of-town visitors can have the pots mailed to them.

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.

Beauvoir (2244 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39531)

A former home of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, Beauvoir was built in 1848.  Samuel and Sarah Dorsey purchased the house in 1873.  Following her husband’s death, Sarah Dorsey learned about Davis’s financial difficulties and invited him to live in a cottage near the main house in 1875.  Davis eventually received the property after Sarah Dorsey bequeathed it to him in her will.  The house is preserved as a historic home with many original pieces retained from the time Davis lived at the home.  There is also a Civil War museum and presidential library dedicated to Davis on the property.

Beauvoir, former home of Jefferson Davis.

Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum (115 East 1st Street, Biloxi, MS 39530)

One food item has to come to mind when people think of the Mississippi Gulf Coast: seafood!

There are a ton of great seafood restaurants along the coast, so take your pick of where to eat.  However, you can also learn about the history of the seafood industry and its role in the region at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.  The museum has an array of exhibits dedicated to shrimping, oystering, wooden boat building, and notable hurricanes.  If you want a hands-on experience you can sail on one of two Biloxi schooners that the museum operates.

Main entrance to the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.

Biloxi Lighthouse (1050 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39530)

With only 44 miles of shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi is not well-known for its lighthouses.  However, the state has one prominent light in Biloxi.  Completed in 1848, the Biloxi Lighthouse is still operational.  The light was electrified in 1927 and automated in 1941.  It has survived numerous hurricanes, including 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.  Inside the tower, paint designates the high water marks from each hurricane.

The tower is 65 feet tall from its base to the top of the weather vane.  There are 57 stairs on a spiral staircase and an eight-rung ladder to reach the light room and the panoramic views.  On clear days, visitors can see Ship Island.  During the summer, tours are often limited to the morning hours (typically 9, 9:30, and 10 a.m.) because it gets too warm to comfortably climb to the top.

A view of the Biloxi Lighthouse from U.S. 90.

INFINITY Science Center (1 Discovery Circle, Pearlington, MS 39572)

When people think about space exploration they probably think of Houston, Texas, or Cape Canaveral, Fla.  However, if you’re focusing on the future and NASA’s goal of reaching Mars then this is the place to visit.  INFINITY Science Center is the public visitor center that is part of the John C. Stennis Space Center, which is NASA’s largest rocket testing facility.

In addition to a 30-minute bus tour of the Stennis Space Center, the INFINITY Science Center has a variety of interactive exhibits relating to multiple aspects of space.  There is also a full-sized International Space Station module and a model of the Orion spacecraft, which is under development for exploration of Mars.  There are an array of education programs, too, such as Homeschool Mondays, Science Exploration classes for school field trips, and Science Saturday classes for families.

The eagle sculpture at INFINITY Science Center (photo by flickr.com/dos82).

How to See the Sights

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Attractions Pass covers all the attractions.  The pass is $32, and includes admission to the five places listed above plus three other sights in the area (Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, and Pascagoula River Audubon Center).  The pass saves visitors $14 compared to paying admission to each of the eight sights included in the pass.

Maybe you came to Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast because of the beaches and casinos, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do more.  Regardless of your age or interests, there is something fun to do on the Mississippi Gulf Coast besides just laying in the sand or playing games at a casino.  Visitors can learn about the history and culture of the seafood industry, enjoy the arts at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, learn about history at Beauvoir, see the Mississippi Sound and more from the Biloxi Lighthouse, or learn about the future of space exploration at the INFINITY Science Center.

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