Beyond the Casinos: Discovering the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Sure, you may travel to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to test Lady Luck, but did you know there's so much more to explore when it comes to this area. So when you're ready to cash in your chips, get ready for some fun as you discover what all the Mississippi Gulf Coast has to offer.

In a way it can be best described as a feast for the senses.

Art:Regardless of where you happen to be along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, whether it's Ocean Springs, Biloxi or Bay St. Louis, chances you're close to a gallery or two.

And this is good news.

A visit to a gallery, two or three can be a great way experience the area as well as picking up something special for yourself. The best bet is to select a few places and create your own itinerary. However, there are some things you don't want to miss.

In Ocean Springs, you want to spend some time at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art that highlights the works of Walter Anderson, as well as his two brothers. Over in Bay St. Louis, on every second Saturday of every month is an artwalk. The town is also home to the Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum. But the piece d' resistance of Mississippi Gulf Coast is the recently opened Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art. Located in Biloxi, three of the five Frank Gerhy-designed pods, Phase 1 of the museum, showcase different exhibits. The Gallery of African American Art features two galleries: the Star Gallery where you'll find George Ohr's pots and the Beau Rivage Casino Resort featuring works by Richmond Barthe, through June 12. The IP Casino Resort Spa Exhibition Gallery highlights selected works by Andy Warhol and Jun Kaneko, both through June 19. The Mississippi Sound Welcome Center has ceramics by Mississippi artist, Helene Fielder through June 12.

Food:It's an age old question - does the food make the destination or the destination make the food? While there might not be any consensus regarding the final answer, one thing is for certain, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a great place to do some field research on your own. Whether it's dining in one of the many restaurants in the casinos or enjoy local places such as ConFusion (228/604-4617) in Gulfport or McElroy's on the Bayou (228/818-4600) in Ocean Spring, you can't go wrong. No visit to the area is complete without dining Mary Mahoney's in Biloxi. With a combination of local color and delectable dishes, it's a dining experience that you won't forget anytime soon.

History: Whether you're a Civil War buff, have the heart of the sailor or enjoy local history, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has you covered. Take a tour of Beauvoir, The Jefferson Davis Home in Biloxi. Climb up 57 steps and an eight-rung ladder to the top of the Biloxi Lighthouse for an unforgettable view. Explore the artifacts of Maritime Museum, temporarily located in EdgeWater Mall. Tour of Bay St. Louis, either by car or on foot, to discover such gems as the Historic Depot, Bay St. Louis Little Theatre and St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church.

Water: Reel in a big one or just relax on the water, it's up to you. There are fishing charters, fishing piers, eco-tours and much more. Find out for yourself there's never a dull moment here when it comes to having fun out on the water.

Golf: In an area that's slated to host the PGA Tour's Champions Tour, March 28 – April 3 at Fallen Oak , you know the golf courses are top-notch here. Why not challenge yourself (if you dare) to a round or two at such courses as Grand Bear Golf Club and The Oaks.

Additional information about the area can be found at gulfcoast.org