If you live in Coastal Mississippi, you can head in any direction and find great places to shop, play, dine and unwind. With so many world-class locales nearby, picking the best travel experiences is a challenge. But with our audience’s help, we’ve identified the top escapes — both in our own backyard and within a short drive.
BEST DAYTRIP DESTINATION
What the nominators love: “Lots of lunch spots, antique browsing and other shopping”
From its world-class gastronomy and eclectic art scene to its distinctive architecture and proud neighborhoods, New Orleans feels like no other city, according to Kelly Schulz, senior vice president of communications and public relations with New Orleans & Company:
“Whether you spend the day wandering the French Quarter, strolling along Magazine Street, touring the Arts District or relaxing on the banks of the bayou, New Orleans provides the opportunity to see 300 years of history no matter the length of your visit,” Schulz says.
BEST NATURE LOVER’S ADVENTURE
BELLINGRATH GARDENS AND HOME
What the nominators love: “There’s no better place to see nature. The grounds are spectacular year-round.”
Founded in 1932, Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore, Alabama, is a “vibrant, ever-changing, 65-acre estate that offers blooms and beauty every day of the year and a variety of special events year-round, from Winter Wednesdays in January and February to Magic Christmas in Lights in November and December,” says Sally Pearsall Ericson, director of marketing and public relations. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour through the gardens and a guided tour of the historic Bellingrath Home, which is filled with the original antiques and collections of founders Walter and Bessie Bellingrath.
BEST GETAWAY FOR R&R
THE GRAND HOTEL GOLF RESORT & SPA
What the nominators love: “It’s a perfect blend of luxury and pampering in a beautiful, scenic location.”
Shaped by 170 years of heritage and considered a symbol of modern Southern hospitality, a. special quality underpins the Grand Hotel’s reputation as “The Queen of Southern Resorts.” The Spa at the Grand Hotel, one of its most popular amenities, offers 20,000 square feet of serenity, pampering and renewal.
“After a well-deserved facelift, the renewed spa more fully embraces its coastal culture, with quiet colorways working in perfect concert with the natural beauty and peace of the resort in an immersive sanctuary for bliss,” says Kevin Hellmich, director of sales and marketing.
MOST ROMANTIC GETAWAY
What the nominators love: “Provides a perfect couples’ escape at the Grand Hotel and great food, cute shops, a spa, golf and beautiful water views.”
“From quiet walks along the bay to intimate dining options, Fairhope is the perfect romantic destination,” says Denise Curtis, communications director for the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce. Visitors can book a couples’ weekend complete with chocolate strawberries and a spa package at the Grand Hotel or peruse art locales, shops and other sites before enjoying dinner for two at a restaurant downtown. For active couples, Curtis recommends biking or kayaking Mobile Bay any time of year.
BEST GIRLS’ GETAWAY
ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA
What the nominators love: “It’s far enough away — but not too far — and offers shopping and restaurants.”
With so many options for great food, relaxing activities and unique “make-your-own” experiences at places like the Coastal Arts Center, it’s no wonder Orange Beach won top girls’ getaway. Groups of gal pals can get pampered at a spa, have a fun ride on a Ferris wheel, watch an after-dark laser light show, take advantage of great shopping or even enjoy a dolphin excursion, sunset sailboat cruise or parasailing adventure.
“Orange Beach is a truly special spot on the upper Gulf of Mexico, and we strive to show everyone why we say, ‘Life Is Better Here,’ which is our city motto,” says City Administrator Ken Grimes Jr. “There is no shortage of activities for the ladies to make plenty of memories and experience our slice of paradise.”
What the nominators love: “Clear water. White sand. Peaceful. Great shops and restaurants. What’s not to love?”
Known as the “World’s luckiest fishing village,” Destin also draws millions of visitors each year with the promise of paradise — enjoyed in the form of sugar-white sands and dazzling green water.
“Destin is a very special place in that we house the largest and most elaborately equipped fishing fleet in the state of Florida, if not the world,” says Catherine Card, the city’s public information manager. “In addition to fishing and water sports, our elected officials and city staff have been very instrumental in providing new recreational components to enhance our brand, and we work hard to maintain all of our beautiful beaches and parks for our residents and visitors to enjoy.”
BEST FAMILY HOTEL/CONDO
MARGARITAVILLE RESORT BILOXI
What the nominators love: “Has a large arcade and water park”
With 370 rooms and entertainment options and amenities galore, Margaritaville Biloxi has been helping families make their vacations fun and memorable since 2016, according to Tessy Lambert, public relations director for Lodging & Leisure Investments.
“We are so honored to know that our family fun ‘wow’ factors like our 55,000 square-foot arcade, rooftop water playground and views of the beautiful Mississippi Sound have made us the most coveted family resort on the Gulf Coast,” she says.
In March, Margaritaville unveiled renovations and improvements after sustaining damage last year in Hurricane Zeta, including new dedicated family suites, the addition of 80 games, a new dining option called Farruggio’s Pizzeria and much more.
BEST LOCAL STAYCATION
What the nominators love: “It’s the perfect staycation. You feel like you have escaped all of reality, but it is right here at home.”
Centennial Plaza features two distinct hotels, a dancing fountain, two critically acclaimed restaurants, acres of wide-open green space and a water playground that wows guests of all ages, says Tessy Lambert, director of public relations for Lodging and Leisure Investments. Best of all — this escape is right here on the Coast.
“We are honored that (Gulf Coast Woman’s audience) considers Centennial Plaza the best place for fun and relaxation when it comes to your family’s vacation experience without venturing too far from home,” Lambert says.
BEST BUDGET TRIP
What the nominators love: “Offers affordable hotels, outlet mall shopping, OWA theme park and family-friendly restaurants”
Situated near Alabama’s beautiful beaches, Foley offers genuine Southern charm and endless year-round activities and events, according to LaDonna Hinesley, the city’s marketing director — and it can’t wait to welcome you as a guest.
“From the unique local shops and artists of Folely’s historic downtown to intriguing city museums, laid-back paddling trips on back bays or OWA, an exciting family entertainment destination, our community provides plenty of options to keep every age entertained,” Hinesley says. She adds that Foley offers great shopping, ranging from the Tanger Outlets to antiques, as well as 100 diverse dining options.
BEST FAMILY WEEKEND ESCAPE
GULF SHORES, ALABAMA
What the nominators love: “There’s lots of family attractions, restaurants and beautiful beaches. It’s close and affordable.”
Does your family need a change of pace and scenery? A short two-hour drive will bring you to gorgeous beaches, great restaurants and outdoor activities galore — all while feeling like you’re getting away from it all, says Grant Brown, recreation and cultural affairs director and public information officer for the city of Gulf Shores.
“Whether your weekend getaway is as a family, a couple, a group of friends or a solo trip, Gulf Shores is where small-town Southern hospitality meets the beautiful shores of the Gulf of Mexico,” Brown says.
BEST FOODIE ESCAPE
COMMANDER’S PALACE, NEW ORLEANS
What the nominators love: “It’s a New Orleans institution. You cannot beat the service and food.”
Nestled in the middle of the tree-lined Garden District, Commander’s Palace has been a New Orleans landmark since 1893. This iconic restaurant, winner of seven James Beard Foundation awards, offers a glimpse into New Orleans’ storied past and is the go-to destination for haute Creole cuisine and whimsical Louisiana charm.
“To be acknowledged by people ‘we know’ from our neck of the woods means a lot,” says co-proprietor Ti Adelaide Martin. “We’ll see you soon for some eating, drinking and carrying on.”
BEST PLACE FOR QUIET TIME AND REFLECTION
GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE
What the nominators love: “Offers kayaking, picnicking, fishing, trails, etc. in a quiet, peaceful part of nature.”
From historic military sites to nature trails, wildlife preserves and pristine beaches, Gulf Islands offers endless opportunities for relaxation, recreation and reflection. The national park’s Mississippi headquarters is located in Ocean Springs, and recreational activities abound in the Davis Bayou area, including fishing, hiking, biking, bird watching, picnicking, camping, ranger-led programs and more.
“The Mississippi areas are home of a historic fort and the most beautiful barrier islands in the United States,” according to the National Park Service website. “Relax, enjoy the scenery, hike a trail, or explore the fort. Whether you are visiting for a day or a week, there are many places to explore.”