By Tiffany Malloy - Play Eat Grow
When I first started researching family vacation destinations, I knew I wanted to head to the Gulf Coast. I have some great memories of visiting as a teenager, and I wanted my kids to experience the same.
Earlier this month we packed our bags and headed down to Biloxi, Mississippi for our first-ever beach vacation– woot!
Y’all, we had SUCH A SWEET TIME. Biloxi is a small city nestled between Gulfport and Ocean Springs. We found it to be incredibly family-friendly and overflowing with things to do!
If you’re looking to head down with your family, I’d recommend the following attractions and restaurants:
Shrimping Boat Tour
We spent almost 2 hours on a real shrimping boat in the Mississippi Sound. Captain Mike told us all about the shrimping industry while we waited for the net to make a catch. After he pulled it up, he spent a ton of time going through each animal that was caught. Highlights included seeing a momma sting ray birth baby string rays(!), inking a squid, and of course seeing shrimp up close and personal. The captain was super knowledgeable and full of energy. It was one of my favorite parts of our trip!
Parent Recommendation: If your child generally suffers from motion sickness, consider giving him/her Dramamine before heading on board. One of our kiddos spent most of the trip hugging the side of the boat, even though it was really calm waters.
One of the best things about the Biloxi beaches is that they are free and public access. The kids spent a ton of time building sand castles on beautiful white sand and wading out past the pier. The place we stayed had a beach across from it that had SUPER shallow water– the kids could go out several hundred feet and still be in water up to their chests. When I was doing research on the Biloxi beaches, I read that the water wasn’t very blue– and it’s true. You can expect the water to look more like a lake than the crystal clear beaches you might think of when you imagine a beach vacation. We decided to spend one of our days at Orange Beach, just an hour drive from Biloxi, for the clear water, big wave experience.
Ocean Adventures Park and Center
Ocean Adventures Park and Center is an indoor and outdoor aquatic discovery center. They offer a daily stream of shows and interactions with staff: dolphin, bird, and sea lion shows, as well as conversations with staff in the stingray pool. My kids’ hands-down favorite part was hanging petting stingrays at the stingray pool. They were soft and silky to the touch, and the kids loved the thrill of one coming close enough to pet. They are beautiful animals who move so peacefully in the water! I loved that this park was the perfect size to do everything in an afternoon. We didn’t feel rushed but felt like we could spend as much time as we wanted in each area. The staff were knowledgeable, kind and down to earth.
Gulf Islands Waterpark
We didn’t get a chance to try this out, but we kept on getting recommendations to go from the locals! After several days of salt water swimming and lots of sand, our kids were ready for a non-salty swim. We had a pool at our hotel, so they were happy simply enjoying that, but if you’re looking for a full-day experience, I hear Gulf Islands Waterpark would be something to look into.
Infinity Science Center
I took the big kids (ages 9 and 10) to the science center on our last day of vacation and they were the perfect age to appreciate the exhibits. The main focus of the center was space, something we are particularly into right now. We walked through a life-size room of the international space station and we viewed a variety of space artifacts, including some pretty cool space suit technology.
In addition to space, we learned about carnivorous plants, went into a hurricane tube, played jenga, and watched a 3D movie about future exploration to Mars (and what they are doing now to prepare). But our favorite part of all was a hands-on section where we learned about topography, hurricanes, and flooding. This was a true highlight of the trip for the big kids!
Southern Bound Books
We can’t go anywhere without checking out the local library and/or used bookstore. Southern Bound Books is a cute bookstore tucked away in downtown Biloxi (next to a new coffee shop in town called Jacked Up- definitely stop here first to grab yourself a coffee). Highlights included a book section with a nice selection of new books made up of modern titles, a robust kid section, book art on the walls, a fun blue chair to sit in while trying to decide if a book is for you, and a selection of local jams, salsas, and handmade crafts. They even had some book blind dates for sale!!
Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
For the youngest crowd, the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is a fun way to spend a hot summer afternoon. The vision behind the Discovery Center is to create play spaces that reflect spaces in the wider community. For example, kids will have seen banana boats coming in on the dock while driving down the road with their parents. The Discovery Center has an exhibit set up like a port- banana boxes and all!
Kids can guide a crane to pick up a banana box from a boat and deliver it to the back of a truck. Other fun spaces our kids enjoyed: a TV news station (which included a green screen!), a grocery store, a giant 2-story ocean climber, and a room filled with science activities. They also have an in-house art director who creates a new art activity each week for kids to engage in. If you go on a nice day, you can also enjoy some outdoor space for kids to run around and learn about housing materials (they have a little mini-subdivision set up for kids to explore).
Margaritaville Resort and Family Fun
If you’re looking for a place to stay, you might want to consider the new Margaritaville Resort. Occupants get to enjoy an outdoor water park, along with game rooms and restaurants. If you are not staying at that hotel, but want to enjoy some indoor games, consider going on a Wednesday, when games are 1/2 priced.
We went to Tasty Tails on the first night and it was such a treat. Basically, we ordered baskets of fried seafood (shrimp, oysters, crawfish, and fish) and it was all we hoped it would be. It’s a small-ish restaurant that is unassuming on the outside, but don’t let that fool you. They are also known for their butter garlic crab legs.
Shaggy’s is a family-friendly seafood restaurant right on the beach. Eat outside or inside, either way, a great experience! The place has a fun colorful vibe and the wide menu options will allow everyone to find something they like.
Le Cafe Beignet
Biloxi, Mississippi is an hour or so from New Orleans, so we had considered driving their for the day to look around. When asked what I was hoping to do there, the only thing concrete thing I could come up with was eating beignets, ha! So, Jake found us a lovely little tea shop that served beignets. They were DELICIOUS. Pro tip: If you arrive first when they open, be prepared to wait. I think they start making the beignets after they open– it took us about 30 minutes to get ours (we took it to go!). Good thing we were on vacation without anywhere to go!
We came across these popsicle shops in our explorations (one is in Gulfport, one in Ocean Springs, and a third in Bay St. Louis), and they are FANTASTIC! These popsicles are all-natural, artisian popsicles made with a variety of fruits, herbs, and creams. If you decide to go here (and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t), check out the online menu beforehand. There are so many great choices that you are going to need some serious decision-making margin. We went with kiwi, rootbeer float, berries & cream, and mango– they were all perfect. I almost got another one for the road, knowing I wouldn’t have the chance to come here again anytime soon. 🙂
We had a such a fun time! If you have any questions about any of these attractions/restaurants, or just general questions about the area, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll give you all my tips, tricks, and Biloxi-wisdom! 🙂
When we knew we were heading down to Biloxi, I contacted the Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast and they were SO GREAT in answering my questions. I’d highly recommend checking out their website as you plan your travels as well.
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