Even the huge speed bump that was 2020 didn’t break the Coast’s momentum. Projects advanced. Construction continued. Businesses opened. Attractions launched or expanded.
Looking for somewhere new to eat or play — whether for a date night, girls’ night or family outing? We all could use a change of scenery post-lockdown, and these local hotspots are ready for your visit.
RAILROAD MUSEUM EXPANSION
With the new South Station, The Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum in Gulfport has added over 22,000 square feet of model train displays to include one of the state’s largest O-gauge displays that was featured in Classic Toy Trains Magazine. Guests can also check out the restored Orange Grove Hobby Shop Mountain display, along with a large prewar tinplate layout and American Flyer S-gauge layout.
The expansion has been in the works for over a year, with plans for the museum to be open each weekend long term.
“This is a huge tourism draw, as there are model train enthusiasts worldwide, as shown by our Trip Advisor Award placing our museum in the top 10 percent worldwide,” says Marketing Director Katherine Sutton. “Don’t underestimate the enjoyment of model trains; it is fun for all ages!”
The museum is free, but donations of $5 per adult and $2 per child to help offset costs are recommended. The annual Christmas light show, featuring trains, Santa and over a million lights, starts the day after Thanksgiving. Watch the museum’s Facebook page and website for current information.
522 Pass Road, Gulfport
A former retirement housing complex devastated by Hurricane Katrina has been reborn as Biloxi’s newest hotspot. The 132-room full-service hotel is home to the Sapphire Supper Club, modeled after the popular supper clubs of the 1930s and 40s. Promising a hip dining experience with exceptional attention to detail, the restaurant boasts a menu of fresh seafood, steaks and much more.
Guests are immersed in old Hollywood glamour, as photos of timeless stars like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Roger Moore are displayed throughout the property. The sapphire-colored hotel may celebrate the past, but it’s also thoroughly modern — offering an exercise room, a luxury pool area and a host of amenities in each room.
“Whatever you do, don’t forget to take in the evening views of our dancing fountain, choreographed to songs like Frank Sinatra’s ‘Luck Be A Lady’ and Dean Martin’s ‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,’” advises Tessy Lambert, director of public relations. “With top-tier service and a nostalgic quality like no other, Hotel Legends will undoubtedly leave a wonderful memory with every guest.”
674 Beach Blvd., Biloxi
THE MISSISSIPPI AVIATION HERITAGE MUSEUM
Adjacent to the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, the John C. Robinson Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum is housed in a 52,000 square-foot building and features life-size exhibits honoring many of Mississippi’s iconic aviators, including its namesake, John C. Robinson.
The museum features plenty of display halls to explore, including a main aircraft hall, a Mississippi bases gallery, a control tower, a parachute exhibit, a flight simulator exhibit, a NASA and rocket exhibit, an aviation art exhibit, a Hurricane Hunters exhibit, a Tuskegee Airmen exhibit and much more.
On Oct. 3, “we had a fabulous ribbon cutting with around 200 people present,” says project manager Francisco Gonzalez. “The mayor spoke, and we had a flyby show with eight antique aircraft. The comments are great — all positive.”
429 Pass Road, Gulfport
THE ORCHID ROOM
In September, the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort unveiled its sumptuous high-limit room — in which every detail conveys over-the-top luxury. The 5,800-square-foot space — limited to members of Pearl Rewards, Scarlet Pearl’s loyalty program, features eight blackjack and mini-baccarat table games, 53 slot and video poker machines and its own dedicated cashier and player services counter. Gaming pods are equipped with amenities like personal 24-inch flatscreen TVs, charging stations, food trays and storage compartments.
Feeling parched while you play? Specially selected staff will serve you cocktails like blackberry margaritas and Orchid Room cosmos. Players also can unwind with slippers, shoulder massagers and cashmere shawls.
So far, says Ben Koff, president of marketing, the room has received “nothing but rave reviews” — even from competitors.
“Everybody loves it because it’s just such a different gaming experience,” Koff adds.
9380 Central Ave., D’Iberville
THE MISSISSIPPI AQUARIUM
After being under construction for almost two years, The Mississippi Aquarium opened on Aug. 29 — and more than 4,000 people came out to celebrate the opening weekend.
The 5.8-acre campus in Gulfport features over 80,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibits, including a crocodilian habitat, an aviary, an upper and lower river, a three-story Aquatic Wonders building, a river otter habitat, a dolphin habitat and more. Visitors can spot turtles in the river, touch hermit crabs and stingrays and learn all about Mississippi’s aquatic animals and resources.
An engaging design means that the aquarium makes the most of every drop of its 1 million gallons of fresh and salt water. By all measures, the attraction is poised to be a regional — and even national — draw.
“The Aquarium has received an overwhelmingly positive welcome from the community,” says Meredith Horn, vice president of guest experience and education. “We continue to roll out programs like Aquarium in Motion. This program allows the Aquarium team to travel throughout the state to visit and educate students about the importance of our three pillars; education, conservation and community. We are excited to share the story of the Aquarium for years to come.”
2100 East Beach Blvd., Gulfport