America's 20th state is known for its intriguing Civil War history, booming agribusiness economy, and its title as the birthplace of blues music. Mississippi boasts a unique culture that attracts visitors from all around the world. Visit Oxford, Jackson, Gulfport and other unique Mississippi destinations. Photo: Sean Pavone Photo/Fotolia
» State Capitol, Jackson
The Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson serves as the center for government affairs in Mississippi. The stately building, with its elegant facade and dome-shaped roof, was built in 1903. Two state capitol buildings preceded the current capitol.
During a tour of the capitol, visitors can see portraits of Mississippi state leadership in the Hall of Governors and view the legislature meeting rooms on the third floor. The capitol grounds feature a replica of the Liberty Bell as well as a Women of the Confederacy monument, which is dedicated to the wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of soldiers who fought with the Confederacy. Tours of the capitol building are offered on weekdays. Things to Do in Jackson
Contact: 400 High Street, Jackson, Mississippi 39201
Photo: Sean Pavone Photo/Fotolia
»Vicksburg National Military Park
Vicksburg National Military Park serves as a memorial for the American Civil War’s Battle of Vicksburg. Fought in mid-1863, the Battle of Vicksburg took place on a 20-mile parcel of land that is lined with trenches to this day.
The 47-day siege that took place at Vicksburg ended up claiming close to 5,000 lives. Today, Vicksburg National Military Park features 1,325 historical markers and monuments, a 12.5-mile walking trail, 144 cannons, the restored gunboat U.S.S. Cairo, and Vicksburg National Cemetery, which contains the remains of nearly 20,000 people. Upwards of 12,000 of the people buried at the site are unidentified.
Contact: 3201 Clay Street, Vicksburg, MS 39183, Phone: 601-636-2199
Photo: Zack Frank/Fotolia
»U.S.S. Cairo Museum
The U.S.S. Cairo is a Civil War-era gunboat that sits at Vicksburg National Military Park. Commissioned in January 1862, the U.S.S. Cairo was one of seven ironclad gunboats that the Union used in attempts to regain control of the lower Mississippi River.
The Cairo was sunk in the Yazoo River after coming under enemy fire. It sat immersed in roughly 40 feet of water until 1965, when the remains of the gunboat were towed to a shipyard for restoration. Today, the U.S.S. Cairo sits along the tour road at the U.S.S. Cairo Museum. The museum contains all sorts of artifacts that were recovered from the ship years after it sunk.
Contact: 3201 Clay Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi 39183, Phone: 601-636-0583
Photo: NPS Photo
»Tupelo Automobile Museum
The Tupelo Automobile Museum boasts an extensive collection of rare antique vehicles. The 120,000-square-foot museum houses over 100 classic and collectible automobiles. During a self-guided tour, visitors can see an 1886 Mercedes Benz, a Lincoln that was once owned by Elvis Presley, a rare Tucker vehicle, and a 1994 Dodge Viper that has never been driven.
In all, the museum's car collection is worth more than $6 million. In addition to historic vehicles, the museum also contains a wealth of information about car engineering and manufacturing throughout history. Admission ranges from free to $10, depending on age and military status.
Contact: 1 Otis Boulevard, Tupelo, Mississippi 38804, Phone: 662-842-4242
Photo: Tupelo Automobile Museum
Longwood is an oriental-style villa that was designed by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan and built for Haller and Julia Nutt, an esteemed couple belonging to Natchez's planter elite. The groundbreaking for the octagonal structure occurred in 1860, but construction was halted in 1861 due to the Civil War.
At the time, the exterior of the villa was complete but only one level of the interior had been finished. The Nutt family lived in the basement until the turn of the century. Thanks to its unfinished upper levels, Longwood became known locally as “Nutt's Folly.” Longwood was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.
Contact: 401 High Street, Natchez, Mississippi 39120, Phone: 601-445-5151
»Things to Do in Mississippi: Rosalie Mansion
The origins of the Rosalie Mansion stretch back to 1716, when the French built a fort on the cliffs above Natchez. They named the fort Rosalie to honor the Countess of Pontchartrain. In 1820 a Pennsylvania local named Peter Little purchased a portion of the land to build his home, which he named Rosalie in keeping with local tradition.
Peter married a young girl named Eliza, and together they started the Natchez's Children Home, an organization that helped care for orphaned children. Visitors can tour Rosalie 7 days a week. For private tours and holiday tour arrangements, guests can call ahead to make a reservation at Rosalie.
Contact: 100 Orleans Street, Natchez, Mississippi 39120, Phone: 601-446-5676
Photo: Rosalie Mansion
»Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum
The quiet Mississippi town of Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis Presley, one of the most iconic musicians of all time. Presley was born in January 1935 in a two-room home that was built by his relatives. When Elvis was a child, his family struggled financially and they moved several times to find work during their 13-year stint in Mississippi.
Elvis Presley attended church in Tupelo, played shows there for locals, and made his first radio broadcast in the Mississippi town. Today visitors can choose from several Elvis-themed tours that provide a glimpse into Presley's childhood. Some stops on the “Grand Tour” include Elvis' childhood church, his home, and other places that he frequented. Read more
Contact: 306 Elvis Presley Drive, Tupelo, Mississippi 38801, Phone: 662-841-1245
Photo: Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum
»Rock and Blues Museum
The Rock and Blues Museum seeks to preserve Mississippi's blues music history. Housed in the historic Clarksdale freight depot, the museum features 7,000 square feet of exhibit space. There are both permanent and traveling exhibits that detail the lives of famous blues stars like John Lee Hooker and Don Nix, and other iconic artists such as photographer Joseph A. Rosen and illustrator Tony Mostrom. There are photographic exhibits along with artifacts from famous blues events. The remains of musician Muddy Waters' cabin are housed in the gallery. The museum hosts educational programs for visitors of all ages.
Contact: 1 Blues Alley, Clarksdale, Mississippi 38614, Phone: 662-627-6820
Photo: Rock and Blues Museum
»B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center
The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center is dedicated to the memory of Riley B. King, an international blues music icon. Born in 1925, King endured many struggles related to his family life. Early on, he moved to Memphis, where he became involved in the local music and radio scene. King's years of hard work culminated in him becoming an international blues star.
In particular, he was known for the respect he had for all people, regardless of race. The B.B. King Museum portrays some of the most interesting stories and events from King's life. Rare artifacts, award-winning films, and interactive computer programs are featured throughout the museum.
Contact: 400 Second Street, Indianola, Mississippi 38751, Phone: 662-887-9539
Photo: B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center
The Beauvoir Estate in Biloxi, Mississippi, is the home of Jefferson Davis, the former President of the Confederate States of America. Davis served in several other political posts, including the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
Beauvoir, which was bequeathed to Davis in 1878, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The plantation surrounding the property and the home were turned into a museum in the late 1990s. Hurricane Katrina inflicted severe damage on the home in 2005, but Beauvoir was restored shortly after the disaster struck.
Contact: 2244 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, Mississippi 39531, Phone: 228-388-4400
»Things to Do in Mississippi: Stanton Hall
Construction on Stanton Hall began in 1857. The stately Greek Revival-style home was built on a full city block in the heart of Natchez. When time came to furnish the residence, owner Frederick Stanton imported pieces from France, Philadelphia, and New York.
The home survived the Civil War and was purchased and restored by the Pilgrimage Garden Club in 1938. The residence was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974 and today guests can take a 30-minute walking tour of the home. Afterward, tourists can enjoy a Southern-style meal at the Carriage House Restaurant next door.
Contact: 401 High Street, Natchez, Mississippi 39120, Phone: 601-445-5151
Photo: Stanton Hall
»Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center
In 1860, Corinth, Mississippi, was home to roughly 1,500 people. The bustling town sat at the point where the Memphis/Charleston and the Mobile/Ohio railroads crossed at the time. Corinth sits 22 miles southwest of Pittsburg Landing, where the Civil War Battle of Shiloh was fought in 1862.
At the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, visitors can learn all about this landmark battle. The battle claimed roughly 3,000 lives, but tens of thousands of men went missing or escaped the battle with severe injuries. The Battle of Shiloh was known as the bloodiest battle in American history, but it was soon upstaged by the Battle of Gettysburg.
Contact: 501 W Linden St, Corinth, MS 38834, Phone: 662-287-9273
Photo: NPS Photo
»Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
Lynn Meadows Discovery Center has a series of indoor and outdoor exhibits for kids of all ages. Inside, there are 15,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits, including the Super Colossal Climbing Structure, the Art Knows Anything Goes art center, the Bear Camp Bayou, the Dolan Avenue Depot, and the Little Pet Vet.
There are plenty of other exhibits inside that help children learn about math, science, the human body, and more. The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is open all week long, although hours vary depending on the day. Admission is $10 for adults and children over the age of 1.
Contact: 246 Dolan Avenue, Gulfport, Mississippi 39507, Phone: 228-897-6039
Photo: Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
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Erected in 1848, the Biloxi Lighthouse is known for being one of the first cast-iron lighthouses built in the Southern United States. It is Biloxi's central landmark and also a symbol of the city's strength and resilience in the face of opposition.
The lighthouse has survived many storms in recent years, including Hurricane Katrina, which enveloped the 64-foot-tall lighthouse in a wall of water. The lighthouse was closed for a handful of years following Katrina, but in 2010, after a $400,000 restoration effort, Biloxi Lighthouse opened its doors again to visitors. Today guests can join guided tours to learn all about this interesting structure.
Contact: 1050 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, Mississippi 39530, Phone: 228-374-3105
Photo: Robert Hainer/Fotolia
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»Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is located inside Bluff State Park. The museum grounds feature 300 acres of open space, an open-air amphitheater, and 2.5 miles of hiking trails. Inside the museum, visitors will find more than 200 species of aquatic animals living in a 100,000-gallon tank.
There are also extensive displays detailing Mississippi's unique natural habitat. For school groups, the museum provides classroom space and child-friendly exhibits. The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science boasts a greenhouse, a large wall of fossil specimens, and a natural science discovery room for preschool-aged children.
Contact: 1505 Eastover Drive, Jackson, Mississippi 39211, Phone: 601-432-2400
More things to do: Natchez National Historical Park, Auburn Museum and Historic Home
Photo: Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
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»Mississippi Children's Museum
The Mississippi Children's Museum (MCM) is a one-stop shop for family fun. The museum contains all kinds of fun and educational exhibits focused on the human body, the animal world, science, art, and Mississippi history. The MCM also hosts educational age-specific programs that are designed to help children with literacy, math, STEM concepts, and more.
The Mississippi Children's Museum also organizes field trips where kids can explore the museum as part of an organized tour or join a scavenger hunt to see the museum with friends. The MCM is open Tuesday to Saturday each week. Admission is free for children under the age of 1 and $10 for everyone else.
Contact: 2145 Museum Boulevard, Jackson, Mississippi 39202, Phone: 877-793-KIDS
Photo: Mississippi Children's Museum
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»Things to Do in Mississippi: Old Court House Museum
The Old Warren County Courthouse Museum is one of the best places to see relics from the Civil War era and beyond. Some of the items housed at the museum include original Confederate flags, a tie worn by Confederate President Jefferson Davis, elegant antique furniture, and a teddy bear given to a local child by President Theodore Roosevelt.
All of these incredible items are held in the Old Warren County Courthouse, which was built in 1858. The building is known as the oldest structure in Vicksburg and has hosted men like Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, Booker T. Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and William McKinley. The Old Court House Museum is open 7 days a week all year round.
Contact: 1008 Cherry Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi 39183, Phone: 601-636-0741
Photo: Rex Wholster/Fotolia
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»What to Do in Mississippi: Rowan Oak
Rowan Oak served as home for William Faulkner for more than 40 years. The elegant estate sits on 29 acres of land just south of Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner, a prolific writer, was fascinated with history, and Rowan Oak helped inspire many of his great pieces about Native Americans, runaway slaves, and old spinsters.
Faulkner lived at Rowan Oak for many of his working years. Built in 1844, the home and grounds at Rowan Oak are open daily from dawn to dusk. Visitors can stroll along the grounds for free, or pay a $5 fee to enter the stately home.
Contact: 916 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, Mississippi 38655, Phone: 662-234-3284
Photo: Rowan Oak
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»The Rock & Blues Museum
The Rock & Blues Museum features 3,000 square feet of interactive and entertaining exhibits centered on rock and blues music. The museum includes music memorabilia from the 1920s to the 1970s. Exhibits in the Rock & Blues Museum depict the lives and accomplishments of popular performers and producers like Led Zeppelin, Jack Johnson, and Samuel McClain.
The museum regularly holds special events like concerts, parties, and festivals and there is a gift shop for visitors to purchase souvenirs. Admission to the museum is a $5 donation and the facility's opening hours vary depending on the time of the year.
Contact: 113 E 2nd Street, Clarksdale, Mississippi 38614, Phone: 662-524-5144
Photo: The Rock & Blues Museum
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»Mississippi Museum of Art
The Mississippi Museum of Art boasts an extensive collection of sculptures, paintings, sketches, and other art pieces by artists from around the world. In 2007 the museum moved to a new location in downtown Jackson that provided additional floor space for new exhibits and collections.
The museum has a series of ongoing and rotating exhibits. As a key member of the community, the Mississippi Museum of Art hosts educational programs, classes for people of all ages, and art exhibits for up-and-coming artists. The facility also has a robust volunteer program that allows art lovers to get involved with special museum events as well as day-to-day operations.
Contact: 380 South Lamar Street, Jackson, Mississippi 39201, Phone: 601-960-1515
Photo: Mississippi Museum of Art
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»Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum
The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum is a massive facility filled with unique exhibits and authentic replicas. The museum currently has a boat building exhibit, a wooden boat exhibit, and several galleries that depict famous maritime events in history.
The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum hosts an annual boat show where boat owners can enter their unique vessels for prizes. Schooner Pier, a local put-in spot for boats, is home to two large Biloxi schooner replicas that are owned by the museum. Lastly, the museum runs a store where visitors can purchase maritime memorabilia.
Contact: 115 1st Street, Biloxi, Mississippi 39530, Phone: 228-435-6320
Photo: Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum
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»Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Museum
The Mississippi Agriculture Museum is managed by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. Centered on Mississippi's history as an agriculturally productive state, the museum features a range of interesting exhibits and collections.
The family-friendly museum holds special events like Forestry Days, Pumpkin Adventures, and Story Times on an ongoing basis. The Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and admission costs vary depending on age and status. The museum welcomes school groups and there are facilities for rent that can accommodate parties, wedding receptions, and other special events.
Contact: 1150 Lakeland Drive, Jackson, Mississippi 39215, Phone: 601-432-4500
Photo: Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Museum
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»Mynelle Gardens Arboretum & Botanical Center
The Mynelle Gardens Arboretum and Botanical Center boasts an impressive collection of well-manicured gardens. A popular choice for weddings and parties, Mynelle Gardens is filled with meandering paths, peaceful streams, and a picturesque pond.
The Westbrook House, a stately home that sits among the gardens, was renovated in 2003. The gardens, the Westbrook House, and the main lawn inside the complex can be used for weddings. In general, admission to Mynelle Gardens costs $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens and children between the ages of 4 and 12.
Contact: 4736 Clinton Boulevard, Jackson, Mississippi 39204, Phone: 601-960-1894
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»Mississippi Attractions: Hattiesburg Zoo
The Hattiesburg Zoo is a fun destination for the entire family. The zoo is home to the Asbury Discovery Center, an exploratorium that allows visitors to get a close look at more than 30 of the animals that live at Hattiesburg Zoo. The discovery center is filled with whimsical furniture and interesting exhibits.
The Sloth Experience is another popular attraction at Hattiesburg Zoo. The 45-minute tour includes an up-close encounter with a sloth, an opportunity to feed sloths, and a behind-the-scenes look at the animal kitchen. Hattiesburg Zoo also boasts a high-rope adventure course that is popular with kids of all ages. In the summer months, the zoo hosts regular camps for children aged 5 to 12.
Contact: 107 South 17th Avenue, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Phone: 601-545-4576
Photo: Hattiesburg Zoo
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»The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) is a one-stop shop for everything related to marine life in Mississippi. The facility conducts tours, promotes rescue efforts, holds summer camps, arranges dolphin encounters, and allows visitors to job–shadow institute employees.
The IMMS also has a research arm that studies the marine environment along the Gulf Coast and in the Atlantic Ocean. Field trips, family tours, and birthday parties are some other popular activities that the IMMS uses to engage with the public. IMMS fans can show their support for the organization by “adopting” a sea turtle, buying a dolphin-themed license plate, or by volunteering/donating.
Contact: 10801 Dolphin Lane, Gulfport, Mississippi 39503, Phone: 228-896-9182
Photo: The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
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25 Best Things to Do in Mississippi
- State Capitol, Jackson, Photo: Courtesy of Sean Pavone Photo - Fotolia.com
- Vicksburg National Military Park, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- U.S.S. Cairo Museum, Photo: NPS Photo
- Tupelo Automobile Museum, Photo: Tupelo Automobile Museum
- Longwood, Photo: Longwood
- Things to Do in Mississippi: Rosalie Mansion, Photo: Rosalie Mansion
- Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum, Photo: Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum
- Rock and Blues Museum, Photo: Rock and Blues Museum
- B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, Photo: B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center
- Beauvoir, Photo: Beauvoir
- Things to Do in Mississippi: Stanton Hall, Photo: Stanton Hall
- Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, Photo: NPS Photo
- Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, Photo: Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
- Biloxi Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of Robert Hainer - Fotolia.com
- Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, Photo: Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
- Mississippi Children's Museum, Photo: Mississippi Children's Museum
- Things to Do in Mississippi: Old Court House Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Rex Wholster - Fotolia.com
- What to Do in Mississippi: Rowan Oak, Photo: Rowan Oak
- The Rock & Blues Museum, Photo: The Rock & Blues Museum
- Mississippi Museum of Art, Photo: Mississippi Museum of Art
- Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, Photo: Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum
- Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Museum, Photo: Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Museum
- Mynelle Gardens Arboretum & Botanical Center, Photo: Courtesy of Pakhnyushchyy - Fotolia.com
- Mississippi Attractions: Hattiesburg Zoo, Photo: Hattiesburg Zoo
- The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Photo: The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Sean Pavone Photo - Fotolia.com
Destination Spotlight: Biloxi
Located in Harrison County, Mississippi in the American Southeast, the city of Biloxi is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the state, serving as a major tourism site for the American seafood industry and center for legal casino gambling.
Though the area had served as a home for indigenous American tribes for more than 8,000 years prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America, the town of Biloxi was first settled in 1699 by French settlers, who declared the area Fort Bilocci as early as 1710. Historically, the Biloxi area has been known as a center for deep-sea and freshwater commercial fishing, referred to as the Seafood Capital of the World by the 1920s for its high concentration of shrimp boats, oyster luggers, and seafood factories. The city also served as a notable site for American military operations with the 1941 opening of Kessler Air Force Base and a major racial protest site during the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s.
The Biloxi area established a reputation as a major gambling center as the result of illegal open gambling operations at the Broadwater Beach Resort’s casino in the 1940s, earning the city the nickname “the Poor Man’s Riviera.” Throughout the 1960s, the city emerged as an alternative tourist destination for vacationers looking to avoid Florida Gulf Coast crowds, attracting top international chefs to elevate the city’s status as a leading center for seafood cuisine. As a result of the state’s legalization of gambling in 1992, Biloxi was revitalized again as a hub for casino complexes. Though many tourist sites suffered major damage in 2005 as a result of Hurricane Katrina, rebuilding efforts have renewed the city’s reputation as one of the leading tourist destinations in the American Southeast.
Erected in 1848, the cast-iron Biloxi Lighthouse serves as the city’s main landmark, open to the public for tours as a living history museum. The nearby Biloxi Visitors Center, opened in 2011, offers multimedia exhibits on the city’s natural and cultural history and provides information on the area’s tourist and family attractions. The surrounding metropolitan area offers more than 62 miles of beachfront shoreline along the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico, including the barrier islands of Petit Bois, Horn, East and West Ship, and Cat Islands, which have been managed by the National Park Service as part of Gulf Islands National Seashore since 1971.
Eight major casino complexes are located within the city’s metropolitan area, including the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Harrah’s Gulf Coast, and the Palace Casino Resort. 18-hole golf course facilities designed by golf expert Arnold Palmer are offered at the Bridges Golf Club at the Hollywood Casino, named the number three course along the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Newsweek and Golf Digest. In addition to gambling opportunities and luxury high-rise hotel accommodations, many casinos also offer marinas, concert venues, nightclubs, and restaurant and buffet dining experiences. A large variety of area hotels, bed and breakfast facilities, condominium rentals, and campground areas also offer family-friendly and romantic getaway lodging options.
In addition to the Biloxi Lighthouse, several area historic homes are operated as living history museums open to the public for tours, including Beauvoir, the former home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which features a Presidential Library and Veteran’s Cemetery, and the Pleasant Reed House, which highlights the area’s African-American history. The Bond-Grant House, constructed in 1907 for the daughter of seafood pioneer William K.M. Dukate, also serves as headquarters for the Biloxi Main Street nonprofit organization. Area museums include the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, the Biloxi Fire Museum, and the Frank-Gehry-designed Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, which preserves the work of the “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” George Ohr. The restored downtown Saenger Theater and Community Center, originally opened in 1930, also hosts performing arts and cultural events.
Dining options in the city’s Main Street and shorefront areas emphasize family-friendly buffets, gourmet seafood cuisines, and traditional and new American and bar fare. More than 90 retailers are located within Edgewater Mall, including Dillard’s, American Eagle Outfitters, and Victoria’s Secret, and a wide variety of boutiques and independent retailers sell antiques and goods by local artisans. Family-friendly activities, including bowling, miniature golf, and go-kart tracks, are offered at the Big Play Entertainment and Family Fun Center.
Outdoor park facilities are offered at Point Cadet Plaza, including splash pad wet play areas. Barrier island excursion tours are offered, including Ship Island swimming, sunbathing, and shelling excursions presented by Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. Kayak and jet ski rentals, bird watching tours, and other natural excursion opportunities are also available as part of guided and self-guided tours.