Driving cross-country can be an experience that some people despise while others enjoy a leisurely, cathartic trip across our great country. I generally remember my family trips when I was younger sitting in the back seat of our station wagon. The only that kept us entertained between nightly stops at a Holiday Inn was playing the license plate game on passing cars.
Today’s driving experience is much easier thanks to luxuries like satellite radio, GPS directions and – with all due respect to Holiday Inn – much nicer places to stay and a lot of entertaining (and appetizing) cities to stop over in.
On a recent journey from Orlando to Houston I wanted to stay the night where I could take in some nice scenery, experience local food and culture and relax a bit to get my mind off the 1,000 mile trek. Based on that smart GPS map I found that Biloxi, Mississippi, was the perfect place to chill out for about 20 hours.
I contacted the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional CVB for some tips on what to do in the area during a quick stop. I was inundated with a variety of options that could have kept me busy for a week. Here are some of the places I checked out and recommend when in the area:
- Harrah’s Gulf Coast. It helps that I like to gamble so why not stay in a hotel/casino. Harrah’s is centered along the seawall with sweeping views of the gulf and other large hotels that twinkle at night. The rooms are spacious and the pool is situated on a deck a few floors above the street which provides a wonderful place to watch the sun rise or set with your favorite cocktail. I spent some time in the vast casino just off the lobby area. The table minimums (as low as $5) make it easy to hang around awhile and the dealers were some of the friendliest people I have ever met.
- Magnolia House by Kelly English. We had reservations at this restaurant which I imagined was a stand-alone house with a 100 year-old back story. I actually appreciated the fact it is situated in Harrah’s just inside the pool deck area. But the easy and laid-back décor made it seem we were dining in that heritage home I had envisioned. Kelly English is a 2009 Food & Wine “Chef of the Year” who makes a very creative menu that highlights the southern and Gulf Coast roots of the restaurant. It is a luxurious experience that is romantic; made even better by the attentive and knowledgeable wait staff. Must try dishes: Fried Oyster Spinach Salad, Black Truffle Burger, Gulf Snapper with Pontchartrain Sauce, Cheese Grits. You will thank you me later.
- There is a great deal of history throughout the Gulf Coast and as you can imagine a number of interesting museums, tours and sightseeing for all ages. The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is a top 50 children’s museum and the Infinity Science Center should also be a stop with the family. History buffs should visit the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum which will impress and make you hungry at the same time. Beauvoir is very unique as it the home of Jefferson Davis, the last president of the Confederate States of America. The Walter Anderson and Ohr-O’Keefe Museums of Art offer lovely exhibits and pieces showcasing the Gulf Coast. The design and architecture of the Ohr-O’Keefe itself is a work of art.
- We did not have time to play on the water and beaches during our brief stay but Biloxi is not lacking in adventures for those that like sun and sand. Kayak and jet ski rentals can be found up and down the shoreline. Biloxi Schooners and Ship Island Excursions take passengers out on the water to a variety of destinations or just to sightsee from the water back to the land.
Though our stay was short lived the entire area is inviting and I look forward to a return trip with a longer stay. I plan to bring my golf clubs, sandals, sunscreen, dancing shoes and maybe even my kids. It’s my turn to show them how to travel in style and have fun doing so…unlike their dad in the backseat of that station wagon and playing in above-ground motel pools.