TRAVEL TIME FROM NEW ORLEANS: 90 minutes in normal traffic
BEACH: Ocean Springs
TOWN: Ocean Springs, MS
If you’re looking for culture at the coast, in a setting that’s both family-friendly and known for its nightlife, Ocean Springs could be your perfect getaway. Here are 10 things you can do on this Beaches & Towns vacation:
1. Play chess by the ocean
This giant chess board is painted on the sidewalk at Ocean Springs Beach. It’s a great example of the city’s fun-loving personality. Kids like to play on it, even without the giant playing pieces, which are kept in a box nearby. Follow the instructions on the box to gain access.
2. Have a bonfire on the beach
Big brick fire pits that you can rent for just $25 make it easy to stretch the beach party into the evening at Ocean Springs.
After a full day of shopping, visiting museums or soaking up the sun, there’s something about a bonfire on the beach that says R-E-L-A-X. The kids might even put down their cell phones to roast a marshmallow or two.
Beach curfew is 10 p.m. Alcohol is allowed, glass is not.
3. Take the ultimate shopping spree
Word of warning: Be prepared to break, or at least bend, your vacation spending budget. Way beyond your average seaside souvenir shops, this city has more than 100 locally-owned boutiques with home furnishings, knickknacks, clothing, shoes, accessories and more.
This would be a great place for Santa Claus to take a beach vacation — he could stock up on gifts and give the elves a break.
4. Call on your inner child
This sweet statue is named “Playful Spirits” and you’ll find it outside Miner’s Toy Store, where locals and visitors flock for unique children’s gifts. They have a perfect balance of old fashioned favorites and the latest “must-have” toys in the news.
5. Touch the sky
Okay, well that’s a slight exaggeration, but at Shearwater Pottery there’s an incredible collection of useful and decorative pieces. Pick one up, and you’ll be holding something made with colors that reflect the most magnificent hues of Mother Nature.
The workshop is one of many artistic legacies linked to the Anderson family. Peter Anderson was the master potter here for more than 50 years. Today, three of his four children carry on the tradition.
Ocean Springs is packed the first weekend of November for the annual Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival.
6. Spend a few minutes in the Little Room
Nature is generally most powerful in the great outdoors. But in Walter Anderson’s Little Room at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA), you’ll be wowed by how close to nature you can be while standing inside four walls.
These are no ordinary walls — they are dressed in images he created in this intimate studio that was only revealed to the public after his death.
The sign above the entrance to the Little Room reads, “Beware by whom you are called sane.”
To read more about Ocean Springs and checkout Travel Girl Stephanie Oswald’s Beaches & Towns getaway, click here!
7. Tour the rest of the museum, too!
These elaborate Mardi Gras gowns were inspired by Walter Anderson. They are currently on display at WAMA as part of the current exhibit, “Out of the Vault: Masterworks from the Collection,” which runs through September.
Walter (known as “Bob” to his family) is the focus, but the museum features many different artists and different mediums. There’s a lovely gift shop at the entrance as well.
8. Get a workout in!
This statue of Iberville stands on what Ocean Springs residents say is the highest point on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He was charged with establishing a French presence on the Mexican Gulf and to discourage the Spanish and English.
That statue is part of Maurepas Park, where you can picnic or play on the playground. Looking ahead toward the beach, Iberville can observe swimmers, volleyball players, joggers, kayakers and stand up paddle-boarders, too!
But if you miss your workout, don’t worry, Iberville won’t tell.
9. Treat yourself to something that will remind you of the ocean
Forget the snow globes and the tacky T-shirts, this time you deserve something a little more upscale. When you’re visiting all the eclectic shops in Ocean Springs, be sure to choose at least one item for yourself. Pack the seaside spirit in your suitcase with a souvenir that will remind you of the joys of the ocean.
A recent study by British researchers says living by the ocean can boost your mental health — but hey, even if you can’t move to the coast, at least you can take home a maritime memento for your psyche.
10. Get your art on!
When we say art is EVERYWHERE here, we mean it.
This is part of a giant wall mosaic at the end of the beach near the Ocean Springs Yacht Club, by the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Bridge. It makes a great backdrop for selfies, or a peaceful spot to rest during a bike ride or jog.