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GULF COAST WI N T E R 20 1 9

Paradise TEXAS Enjoy blue waves in Lone Star State Orange Beach, Ala.

FLORIDA Bond with nature under the stars

MISSISSIPPI Explore Southern gem’s heritage

ALABAMA Celebrate 200 years of rich history


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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

BE YOUR OWN DARN TRAVEL GUIDE. Know how to make the most of your trip and be the best vacation-taker you can be! Plan the vacation that’s right for you.

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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

CONTENTS

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GULF COAST

26 LOCAL DELICACIES Gulf down some regional seafood

Fish Company Taco, Galveston, Texas FISH COMPANY TACO


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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

CONTENTS FEATURES

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This is a product of

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Jeanette Barrett-Stokes jbstokes@usatoday.com

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jerald Council jcouncil@usatoday.com

MANAGING EDITOR Michelle Washington mjwashington@usatoday.com

20 Fort De Soto, Fla.

LASTING LEGACY Sites preserve civil rights history

ISSUE EDITOR Debbie Williams ISSUE DESIGNER Hayleigh Corkey

VISITSTPETECLEARWATER.COM; PROVIDED BY IMPLUS

UP FRONT

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CHRIS GRANGER

THE REGION

SEAWORTHY Make sure you pack these beach essentials

MONEY MATTERS These credit cards have the best cruising perks

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ALABAMA

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MISSISSIPPI

Events celebrate the state’s 200 years

Hattiesburg is a small city with big appeal

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GET LUCKY Bet on indoor and outdoor fun at Gulf Coast casinos

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LOUISIANA

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TEXAS

Even the little ones can enjoy the Big Easy

Discover these Corpus Christi attractions

EDITORS Amy Sinatra Ayres Tracy Scott Forson Harry Lister Sara Schwartz DESIGNERS Amira Martin Debra Moore Gina Toole Saunders Lisa M. Zilka INTERN Amber Tucker CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Diane Bair, Susan B. Barnes, Lici Beveridge, Ana Pelayo Connery, Meagan Falcon, Caroline Lupini, Robin Roenker, Kristen Seymour, Pamela Wright

ADVERTISING VP, ADVERTISING Patrick Burke | (703) 854-5914 pburke@usatoday.com

ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Vanessa Salvo | (703) 854-6499

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Best Lone Star State beaches to visit

vsalvo@usatoday.com

FINANCE

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FLORIDA Camp on the sand and under the stars

Billing Coordinator Julie Marco ISSN#0734-7456

ON THE COVER:

BACK PAGE

A USA TODAY Network publication, Gannett Co. Inc

ORANGE BEACH, ALA.

PHOTOGRAPH:

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Biloxi Lighthouse

GETTY IMAGES MICHAEL PERRONNE

SKY HIGH Go fly a kite at Texas’ Padre Island National Seashore

USA TODAY, its logo and associated graphics are the trademarks of Gannett Co. Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Copyright 2018, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. Editorial and publication headquarters are at 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108, and at (703) 854-3400. For accuracy questions, call or send an e-mail to accuracy@usatoday.com.

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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

UP FRONT | TRAVEL

Sea Essentials Shore picks for sunny days By Kristen Seymour

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Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays (and look good doing it) with a pair of Maui Jim Shave Ice polarized sunglasses, available in three colors. $329.99, mauijim.com

Get tentlike coverage from the sun and weather with all the convenience and portability of an umbrella with the Sport-Brella. $59.99, sklz.implus.com

F THE SEA IS calling, you must answer —

but don’t show up unprepared! Stay safe in the sun and keep yourself cool, comfortable and happy as a clam with these beachworthy picks.

Tropical and on-trend, this Trina Turk Banana Leaf one-piece swimsuit features a plunging neckline and crossback detail along with a cheerful print, perfect for pairing with a little salt water and sun. $78, neimanmarcus.com

Sunscreen is a must, and, in addition to protecting your skin, this waterproof, sweatproof Kokua Sun Care SPF 50 Hawaiian natural zinc option is safe for coral reefs, too. $29.99, amazon.com


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

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UP FRONT | TRAVEL

Hydration is more important than ever in the heat of summer, and the 24-ounce Contigo Autoseal Cortland makes it simple with a spillproof lid and protective spout to keep sand out. $11.99, available at Publix

A day of fun in the sun needn’t end with a sunburned face — at least not when you’re wearing this Brixton Joanna straw hat, which will keep your face shaded (and your look on-trend). $44, nordstrom.com

A beach day isn’t complete without a great beach read, and the waterproof Kindle Paperwhite has a glare-free display so you can see clearly, even in the brightest sunlight. $129.99, amazon.com

The waterproof JBL Clip 3 Portable Speaker offers 10 hours of play time and a handy clip, so your day at the beach will always have the perfect soundtrack. $59.95, jbl.com

Looking for a cover-up that can take you from the beach to brunch? This lightweight Bl-nk Steffi Cover-Up maxi dress will help you look chic in a snap. $120, anthropologie. com

Hot days call for cold drinks, and the Igloo MaxCold 40-quart cooler is up for the job, keeping contents chilled for up to five days. Durable wheels and a reinforced handle make transportation easy. $69.99, available at Publix

GETTY IMAGES; PROVIDED BY THE COMPANIES


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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

UP FRONT | TRAVEL

Splashing in the surf is more fun when you have something comfortable like the portable and bright Swimways Spring Float to relax on. It features an oversized pillow and cooling mesh. $14.97, walmart.com

Pack yourself a picnic and dine in grand fashion with this easyto-assemble, foldable Table in a Bag, made from certified sustainable mahogany. $59.95, crateandbarrel.com Put a little aloha in your step with the OluKai Ho‘ōpio women’s beach sandals, with an anatomical footbed and a water-resistant upper, available in a variety of colors, patterns and materials. $65, olukai.com

Bright stripes will make it easy to spot your Bay Isle Home Tropical Cabana cotton beach towel after a leisurely stroll on the beach or dip in the ocean. $17.99, wayfair.com

Just because you want your toes in the sand, doesn’t mean you want the rest of your body covered in it. Stay on top of that situation with the Matador pocket blanket. $29.95, uncommongoods.com

GETTY IMAGES; PROVIDED BY THE COMPANIES


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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

UP FRONT | TRAVEL

Swipe to Sail The best credit cards to use for cruise points By Caroline Lupini

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RUISES CAN MAKE A great vacation. They often come with all-inclusive packages that cover lodging, entertainment and meals, which can simplify your entire trip. But cruise lovers may feel neglected when it comes to reward credit cards. While hotel and airline-branded cards frequently shower new customers with special perks and benefits, cruise line-specific cards typically offer minimal sign-up bonuses and slim rewards. Fortunately, a number of travel credit cards offer great incentives for those who long to cruise. Reviewed.com recommends these options:

CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED Annual fee: $95 The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best general travel credit cards because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are incredibly valuable and flexible — even for cruise travel. Points: Chase created a proprietary reward system called Ultimate Rewards points and the more money you spend on your card, the more points you’ll receive. The Sapphire Preferred card offers two points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases and one point per dollar spent on everything else. Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for cruises through Chase’s travel portal, where each point is worth 1.25 cents. That essentially means that you’re getting 2.5 percent back on your travel and dining purchases and 1.25 percent back on all other purchases. While Chase’s travel portal offers booking for most major cruise lines, Disney Cruises are not currently available. Perks: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees for any trips you make abroad, which is beneficial if you choose to go on an international cruise. It also offers primary car rental insurance coverage so you’ll be able to save money by declining the rental company’s insurance, and if you rent a car for an off-ship excursion and something happens, you won’t have to make a claim to your own car insurance policy first.


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UP FRONT | TRAVEL

AMERICAN EXPRESS PLATINUM Annual fee: $550 Just having the Platinum card will give you an onboard credit of $100 to $300 on most cruise lines. Points: The Amex Platinum card offers five membership rewards points per dollar spent on flights purchased directly from any airline and one point per dollar spent on everything else. Points can be redeemed for cruises through the Amex travel portal at a rate of 1 cent each. The best value for cruisers is to book their flights to and from the port on the portal to earn 5 percent back in points. Perks: In addition to the onboard credit, this card offers a fee credit for Global Entry (which expedites re-entry into the U.S. from international cruises), airport lounge access, a $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit and $200 in annual Uber credits. You’ll also get a $200 annual airline fee credit to cover checked bag fees and seat assignments on your airline of choice.

CHASE SAPPHIRE RESERVE Annual fee: $450 Chase Sapphire Reserve offers quite a few premium benefits but comes with a high price tag — and no additional perks exclusively for cruisers. The annual fee for this card is a better value than the Chase Sapphire Preferred if you spend more than $5,000 annually on travel and dining. Points: The Sapphire Reserve card offers three ultimate rewards points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases and one point per dollar spent on everything else. When you redeem your Ultimate Rewards through Chase’s travel portal with this card, your points are worth 1.5 cents each. That means you are essentially getting 4.5 percent back on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 percent back on all other purchases when you redeem your points for cruises on most major lines. (Disney Cruises are not currently available for booking through Chase’s travel portal.) Perks: This card refunds the cost of Global Entry (a $100 value). If you pay for your cruise with your card or your points, you’ll also get trip interruption coverage in case something goes wrong with the cruise itself. You’ll also get a $300 travel credit every year, so the first $300 in travel purchases you make will be refunded to you in the form of a statement credit.

BANK OF AMERICA TRAVEL REWARDS No annual fee If you’re not ready to commit to a credit card with an annual fee but still want some rewards that apply to cruises, the Bank of America Travel Rewards card might be your best bet. Points: The card earns 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases. When you redeem your points, they are worth 1 cent each so you are effectively earning 1.5 percent back on all of your purchases when you redeem your points for cruises. Perks: Even though this is a no-annualfee card, you still have the perk of no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad.

GETTY IMAGES; NAIDIN CONCUL-TICAS/REVIEWED (4)


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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

UP FRONT | CASINOS

Hidden Lake at Sam Houston National Forest

NASKILA GAMING; VISIT CONROE; GETTY IMAGES

TEXAS Naskila Gaming

Best of Both Worlds Play your way, indoors and out By Kristen Seymour

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HE GULF COAST HAS a lot to offer with glorious gaming, upscale accommodations, pristine beaches and nature unlike what you’ll find anywhere else. And, if you plan your visit wisely, you don’t have to choose one type of trip over the other — you can truly have it all.

Located about 75 miles north of Houston in Livingston, Naskila Gaming is an alcohol-free facility with 800 electronic games; due to gaming restrictions in Texas, you won’t find table games here. Enjoy nightly live music and a friendly atmosphere with varied dining options at Timbers Grill. The property does not have a hotel, but it is located on the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe reservation — the oldest in Texas — which features the Lake Tombigbee Campgrounds with cabins, campsites and teepees, which tend to be a huge hit for vacationers with children (and those who are simply young at heart). While you might get your fill of nature staying at Lake Tombigbee, where you can fish, rent paddleboats and wander through the woods, those looking for a little more adventure may want to take a short drive over to Sam Houston National Forest, where you’ll find the 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail. Big Creek Scenic Area, a special interest area within the forest, offers four loops of the trail, each in a different length, giving hikers a chance to see incredible vegetative diversity. And, if you’re not sure about hiking alone — after all, Montgomery County, Texas, is known for having more Bigfoot sightings than anywhere else in the state — you can join a group hike hosted by the Lone Star Hiking Trail Club.


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UP FRONT | CASINOS

FLORIDA About 40 miles northwest of the Everglades is Immokalee, Fla., the home of Seminole Casino and Hotel. It boasts 1,400 slots and 38 live table games, such as baccarat and blackjack, as well as 80 deluxe guest rooms, 19 suites and a swimming pool with adjacent private Seminole Chickee cabana huts. Live performances by musical icons such as Patti LaBelle and Clint Black will lure you away from the tables to the Seminole Center, an 800-seat indoor and 3,000-seat outdoor entertainment venue, and you’ll find fresh seafood, prime aged beef and locally sourced produce at the recently redesigned EE-TO-LEET-KE Grill. Just about 45 miles from Immokalee, find yourself in a different kind of paradise on the 7 miles of white sand at Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island. You can park — and pick up any beach essentials you need — in Times Square before spending a day in the sun at Lynn Hall Memorial Park, where you’ll find shady palm trees, powdery sand, picnic shelters, a licensed fishing pier and more. Be sure to make your way over to The Whale for live music, cold drinks and stunning sunsets.

Seminole Casino and Hotel Fort Mye rs

Beach

SEMINOLE CASINO AND HOTEL; THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS AND SANIBEL; GETTY IMAGES

LOUISIANA

ith Fishing w e Big Lak ice Guide Serv

Delta Downs Race Track, Casino and Hotel

GETTY IMAGES; JUSTIN HOFFMAN; BOYD GAMING

A recent expansion at Delta Downs Race Track, Casino and Hotel makes it a winning choice for anyone visiting the bustling Lake Charles area. A 167-room hotel tower brings the total number of rooms on the property to 367, and the new OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award-winning Rosewater Grill & Tavern puts a touch of Southwest Louisiana flair on the classic steakhouse — offering a superb view of the race track to boot. Play the ponies with live and simulcast races from the best tracks in the country in a state-of-the-art betting parlor, or venture onto the gaming floor to try your luck with 1,600 slots and video machines. Good fortune will almost surely follow you out onto the water with a guided saltwater fishing trip from Big Lake Guide Service. With 35 years of experience guiding inland and offshore fishing trips, they’ll help you hook a redfish, a tripletail or perhaps a trophy speckled trout. If freshwater fishing or bird-watching is more your style, hit up Grosse Savanne, known for hosting some of the best eco tours in the country along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road.


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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

UP FRONT | CASINOS

ALABAMA

Club 21 Casino

Kayaking GETTY IMAGES; VISIT MOBILE; CARNIVAL

While casino options in Alabama are limited by strict gaming laws, those keen to roll the dice can set sail on the Carnival Fantasy, which offers cruises out of Mobile. The Club 21 Casino onboard offers 130 slots and 15 table games, including blackjack, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em and more. You’ll be just steps from your stateroom — and plenty of dining options, including celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint and the BlueIguana Cantina, which are included in your plan; upgraded meals, such as those at the Chef’s Table, are available for an additional fee. There’s plenty of fun to be had once your ship has docked, too. You won’t want to miss your chance to take a kayak tour in the Mobile Bay area, home to rich biodiversity and various habitats including open marsh, cypress swamp and more. Keep your eyes peeled for alligators and Great Blue Herons as you learn about the history and ecology of the Delta on an eco tour with WildNative Tours. Relax after your day in the sun at one of Mobile’s downtown hotels, like The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa, which has 238 luxury rooms along with a pool, full-service spa and three dining options.

MISSISSIPPI Play all day (and night) at the Golden Nugget Biloxi, where you’ll find two levels with 1,159 slots and 49 table games, plus a live action poker room and sports betting. You can stay in one of more than 700 luxury hotel rooms and suites overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and Point Cadet Marina. Enjoy world-renowned restaurants like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Morton’s The Steakhouse, and the award-winning H20 Pool+Bar’s swim-up bar, floating daybeds, private cabanas and seasonal poolside gaming will give you every opportunity to unwind. The temperate Mississippi coastal climate makes it a spectacular spot for outdoor activities, and with all the waterways in the area, kayaking, boating and paddleboarding are all popular choices. If you’re looking for a daytrip, you won’t be disappointed with a jaunt over to the barrier islands that sit just miles off the coast; a ferry service out of Biloxi or Gulfport makes Ship Island easily accessible to visitors, who can spend the trip watching for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins before enjoying the sparkling Gulf waters and stretches of national park beaches.

Ship Island

Golden Nugget Biloxi

GOLDEN NUGGET; TREVOR REID DESIGN; GETTY IMAGES


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Clockwise from left: Martin Luther King Jr.; Rosa Parks; Medgar Evers; Ruby Bridges; Vernon Dahmer; Fannie Lou Hamer; Louis Armstrong

LASTING LEGACY Sites across the Gulf Coast preserve civil rights history

ASSOCIATED PRESS (6); HATTIESBURG (MISS.) AMERICAN

By Robin Roenker

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HE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT in America is a

story of resilience and determination. It’s a story of leaders — trailblazers like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Medgar Evers — as well as local heroes and everyday citizens who pushed for equal rights in voting booths, on buses, at schools and lunch counters and

throughout their lives. It’s also a story of place. The culmination of events across the South in the 1950s and 1960s — historic marches and activism in cities like Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala., Sarasota, Fla., New Orleans and more — helped lead to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. These iconic, touchstone sites are now part of the United States Civil Rights Trail, which launched in 2018, covering more than 100 sites across 15 states and

Washington, D.C. Many of the marquee destinations are in regions along the Gulf Coast. Visiting sites along the trail offers the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of America’s great civil rights leaders and to learn essential truths about the power of the human spirit and the importance of equality for all. “When you’re exploring the civil rights era, you are going to encounter some details that aren’t all that comfortable

to talk about because it involves a lot of suffering,” says Michael Morris, director of public relations for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which oversees the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson. “But at the same time, you leave (the exhibits) thinking, ‘These folks went through a lot, but they were able to accomplish so much.’ It makes you wonder what we can accomplish today, now that we’re not facing those same barriers.”


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FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CIVIL RIGHTS ICONS

in Alabama Alabama is home to nearly 30 sites on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail — the most so far of any state — so it’s a great place to begin your journey. In Montgomery, see the pulpit where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Then, stop by the Rosa Parks Museum, located at the site of her 1955 arrest, for insights on Parks’ life, her decision not to give up her seat and the communitywide bus boycott that followed. In Birmingham, you can view the actual door from the cell where King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and see a replica Freedom Riders bus, among many other exhibits at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. “A lot of people, even those who have lived in Birmingham their whole lives, come through and tell us, ‘I never learned this in my history books,’ ” says Joi Brown, the institute’s marketing manager. While you’re in the neighborhood, make time to visit Kelly Ingram Park, home to several striking statues commemorating the city’s civil rights journey, including Four Spirits, a moving tribute to the four young girls killed in the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church, just across the street.

REDMONT HOTEL

Memorial Baptist Church

Four Spirits

ART MERIPOL/THE ALABAMA TOURISM DEPARTMENT

CHRIS GRANGER

Rosa Parks Museum

Kelly Ingram Park CHRIS GRANGER

STAY: The Redmont Hotel — Alabama’s oldest operating hotel — is a 14-story historic landmark that embraces the glamour of its Jazz Age beginnings, while offering newly renovated rooms and easy access to downtown attractions.

ART MERIPOL

JOHN’S CITY DINER

DINE: John’s City Diner serves Southern comfort foods with a gastropub approach, for a new take on favorites like meatloaf and macaroni and cheese.

Explore the 100+ sites of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail — including an interactive stateby-state map — at civilrightstrail. com.


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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

LEARN ABOUT THE MOVEMENT

in Mississippi At the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, you can explore the lives and impact of the state’s civil rights activists such as Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and Vernon Dahmer. “We’re honoring local people in our exhibits. There’s very much an emphasis on Mississippians who stood up and tried to make freedom happen here within the state,” says Morris. You’ll also learn how the brutal 1955 murder of teenager Emmett Till affected black residents in the state and throughout the nation. “When you talk to participants in the movement, they’ll tell you that (Till’s death) was a catalyst, a defining moment in their lives,” Morris says. Be on the lookout for Mississippi Freedom Trail historic markers throughout Jackson — and other cities in the state — that highlight important dates and events in Mississippi’s civil rights timeline. With advance notice, you can also schedule a tour of the Medgar Evers Home Museum in Jackson, site of the activist’s 1963 assassination. “People are taken aback, seeing the house restored as it was then and hearing stories about that time,” says museum curator and tour guide Minnie Watson, who worked on civil rights causes with Evers. “I am a product of that era, and the more I talk about it (with visitors), the more the memories come back.”

WESTIN JACKSON

Freedom Rider police mug shots MISSISSIPPI CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fannie Lou Hamer of Ruleville, Miss., speaks to Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party sympathizers in 1964 in Washington, D.C.

STAY: The Westin Jackson offers easy access to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and other downtown attractions and features an on-site spa and fitness studio.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Reena Evers-Everett, daughter of civil rights leaders Medgar and Myrlie Evers, speaks at a May 2018 presentation designating the Evers’ Mississippi home as a National Historic Landmark.

THE IRON HORSE GRILL

DINE: Specialties at The Iron Horse Grill in Jackson include stuffed Delta catfish and a French-cut pork chop, but be sure to save room for the Mississippi praline cheesecake. Enjoy live music three nights a week.

Learn more about the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum at mcrm.mdah. ms.gov


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SEE WHERE BARRIERS BROKE DOWN

in Louisiana

Ruby Bridges at William Frantz Elementary School ASSOCIATED PRESS

Candlelight Lounge

Treme Mural

PAUL BROUSSARD

JAMES SHAW

STAY: Situated in the heart of the French Quarter, Hotel Monteleone is steps away from celebrated restaurants and entertainment. But you may spend the bulk of your time enjoying the hotel’s heated rooftop pool and iconic Carousel Bar & Lounge — the only revolving bar in the city.

PAUL BROUSSARD

CHRIS GRANGER

DINE: Brennan’s has been serving up classic Creole favorites — with a contemporary spin — since 1946. Order the “Taste of New Orleans Dinner,” and you can enjoy Gulf Fish Amandine, followed by Praline Leidenheimer Bread Pudding.

You’ve likely heard of Ruby Bridges, known for bravely integrating New Orleans’ formerly all-white William Frantz Elementary School in November 1960 as a 6-year-old student. Tours of the school — including a statue of Ruby that sits in an interior courtyard — are available on a limited basis with advance notice by contacting Akili Academy, a charter school that now operates within the building. While in New Orleans, be sure to explore the historic Tremé neighborhood, which deems itself America’s oldest African American neighborhood and is home to the New Orleans African American Museum as well as Louis Armstrong Park.

Louis Armstrong Park ZACK SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY

African American Museum NEW ORLEANS & COMPANY


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EXPERIENCE CITIZEN ACTIVISM

in Florida In Sarasota, you can follow the Newtown African American Heritage Trail to learn more about the role the historic African American community played in organizing “wade-ins” at Sarasota’s Lido Beach in the 1950s, as a way of pushing for beach integration. The wade-ins drew national media attention at the time, but the community’s push for desegregation dates back as early as 1914, as outlined by the 15 historic markers on the trail. Enjoy a narrated, twohour trolley tour of the area — often with insights by activists who share their firsthand experiences — from the community history preservation group Newtown Alive. Don’t be surprised if you break out in song along the way: “Spiritual songs took the African American community through some pretty horrific times,” says Vickie Oldham, Newtown Alive’s consultant and community scholar. “Some parts of the story can be sad for some, so we often sing freedom songs on the tour.”

On Oct. 3, 1955, 100 of Newton’s African American residents drove to Lido Beach to wade in the water in defiance of Jim Crow regulations.

Trolley tour VISIT SARASOTA FLORIDA

BAYSIDE MEDIA INC.

STAY: Siesta Key Palms Hotel offers either studios or suites with beach-inspired décor, plus two pools, rentable bikes, and a yoga and activity deck.

Lido Beach Wade-In Tour Bus VISIT SARASOTA FLORIDA

DINE: Whether you’re craving classic Southern seafood favorites like lobster bisque, shrimp and grits — or even a cheeseburger or Philly Cheese Steak — KaCey’s Seafood & More has you covered.


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Juneteenth statue

CELEBRATE FREEDOM

in Texas It was in Galveston that Juneteenth — a holiday celebrating the abolition of slavery — began. On June 19, 1865, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, who had arrived in the city with 2,000 troops the previous day, announced from the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa the freedom of some 250,000 former slaves in Texas. While more than 24 states now celebrate Juneteenth, Galveston marks the holiday’s origin there with more than two weeks of special events each June — including a parade, re-enactments, a gala and barbecue, as well as live music, an emancipation march and a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation from the Ashton Villa balcony.

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS MEDICAL BRANCH

The Al Edwards Juneteenth Emancipation Proclamation Reading and Prayer Breakfast is held annually on June 19 at the historic 1859 Ashton Villa.

Juneteenth re-enactment GALVESTON ISLAND CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU

HOTEL GALVEZ

STAY: A Galveston mainstay for more than a century, the Hotel Galvez blends history with touches of modern luxury, including full-day cabana rentals and an on-site spa.

DINE: Rudy & Paco serves American steak and seafood staples like bone-in ribeye and grilled salmon — while incorporating South American and Central American flavor profiles.

GALVESTON ISLAND CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU

Read more about African American history via Galveston Historical Foundation’s downloadable booklet at galvestonhistory. org.

“ALL PERSONS HELD AS SLAVES WITHIN SAID DESIGNATED STATES ... ARE, AND HENCEFORWARD SHALL BE FREE.” — PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Emancipation Proclamation


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GULF DOWN SOME SEAFOOD Regional delicacies will make your mouth water BY ANA PELAYO CONNERY

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ACH STATE ALONG THE GULF COAST has its own seafood specialty worth traveling for, so why not make a weekend of it? Here are some foodie destinations to add to your list:

GETTY IMAGES


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Ruby Red Shrimp at King Neptune’s

ALABAMA Grouper at Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer

Al and Diane Sawyer have been serving the sweet, ruby red deepwater shrimp to locals and vacationers alike on the main drag in Gulf Shores for more than two decades. What the laid-back beach shack lacks in décor (the indoor restaurant is adorned with wood paneling, fishing nets and buoys) it more than makes up for with its heaping plates and affordable prices. More menu must-trys include oysters and the corn and crab bisque.

FLORIDA SEAFOOD SPECIALTY: Grouper at Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer in Destin This Southern fish house on Destin Harbor will deepen your appreciation for a fresh catch. Entrees arrive with a mini paper flag on a toothpick bearing an online code. Punch in the code on the Fish Trax website to see the name of the fisherman who caught your dinner and the local spot where it was reeled in. The menu is robust with plenty of choices, but the must-eat here is the Floridian Grouper — it comes with fresh local blue crab, garlic mashed potatoes and a drizzle of Cajun cream sauce. The shrimp and grits with blackened gulf shrimp, conecuh sausage and gouda cheese grits is also a standout. Ask for the round table tucked away in the corner for breathtaking harbor views, especially at sunset.

MAKE A WEEKEND OF IT: The beaches are the star attraction in Destin, thanks to the clear, turquoise water and fine quartz crystals that wash down from the Appalachian Mountains, giving the sand a bright white color and silky texture. The resort community known as Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village is perfectly situated for exploring this flip-flop-friendly beach town. It features an outdoor promenade and marina that’s the perfect launch point for boating and fishing charters. For old-fashioned family fun, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in neighboring Fort Walton Island is home to dolphin encounters and offers a chance to snorkel with stingrays.

SEAFOOD SPECIALTY: Ruby Red Shrimp at King Neptune’s in Gulf Shores

MAKE A WEEKEND OF IT: Kayak the backwater bayous

Destin Harbor

Destin fishing fleet

in Gulf State Park for a peek at local wildlife, including the massive, twice-yearly migration of monarch butterflies. Or tee off on your choice of 14 golf courses, many of them just steps from the Gulf of Mexico, or lounge on a beach chair and watch the waves roll in. Adventure hounds will love the bird’s-eye view from the treetops on the Hummingbird Zip Line Course. Rent a beach house or condo at Kiva Dunes and you’ll have access to four pools, Alabama’s highest-ranked golf course and more than a mile of private, powder-soft beach.

Kiva Dunes

Zip line

GETTY IMAGES; BROTULA’S SEAFOOD HOUSE AND STEAMER; EMERALD COAST CVB (2); KING NEPTUNE’S; GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH TOURISM (2)


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Crawfish at Bozo’s Seafood Market and Deli

MISSISSIPPI

MAKE A WEEKEND OF IT: Protected by a

SEAFOOD SPECIALTY: Crawfish at Bozo’s Seafood Market and Deli in Pascagoula For 20-plus years, this has been a Gulf Coast hot spot, so don’t be surprised to find a line out the door during peak times. The food is worth the wait — everything is prepared to order inhouse — and the local guitar player crooning on the front porch certainly makes the wait more pleasant. Once inside this no-frills joint, you give your order to an employee at a back table. The restaurant serves thousands of pounds of boiled crawfish each season, but another menu favorite is the overstuffed shrimp po’boy, served in a paper sack, or the seafood platter, overflowing with fan claws, oysters, crab claws and fish. And priced at just $4, you can’t beat the seafood boxes for a picnic at the beach.

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art

string of Gulf Coast islands that limit the waves that make their way to the mainland, Coastal Mississippi’s 62 miles of shoreline is so calm it’s tailor-made for swimming and paddleboarding. Explore the nearly 200-year-old Biloxi Lighthouse, one of only a few in the country with a history of female lightkeepers. Another mustsee: The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, a Smithsonian affiliate designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry that houses the metallic-glazed ceramics of the “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” George E. Ohr. Don’t leave without trying your luck at one of the many amenity-packed casino resorts, such as the Island View Casino Resort and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, both of which make a great home base for visiting the area.

JULIAN BRUNT; STEVE BEAUDET


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LOUISIANA SEAFOOD SPECIALTY: Seafood gumbo at Gumbo Shop in New Orleans This French Quarter favorite has won the title of best gumbo in BestofNewOrleans.com’s annual reader poll since 1999, and it’s no wonder. With two versions — seafood okra and chicken and andouille sausage — there’s a gumbo for every diner who walks into the former 1700s home-turned-restaurant. Like comfort food for the soul, the former is made with shrimp, fresh blue crab, okra and a slew of Louisiana spices. Turnips, mustard and spinach take the dish to the next level.

Fish tacos at Fish Company Taco

TEXAS Seafood okra gumbo at Gumbo Shop

SEAFOOD SPECIALTY: Fish tacos at Fish Company Taco in Galveston Only a block from the beach, this no-frills restaurant features a changing menu based in part on what chef/owner Daya Myers-Hurt has most recently caught herself. A fan of using fish collars and cheeks in addition to the fillets, Myers-Hurt puts a multiethnic spin on the menu that goes beyond the usual TexMex thanks to time spent studying Asian cooking methods. The result: Baja-style tacos topped with mint Thai basil or kimchee puree on house-made blue corn tortillas.

MAKE A WEEKEND OF IT:

Colonel Paddlewheel Jackson Square

Magazine Street

MAKE A WEEKEND OF IT: One of America’s most iconic cities, New Orleans is unlike any other. Take a ride on the St. Charles Streetcar, which winds from the French Quarter to the Garden District and Riverbend neighborhoods as it has for more than 150 years. Check out the chic boutiques along Magazine Street, visit historic sites such as Jackson Square and spend an evening with live jazz as your soundtrack in the city that made the genre famous. For a taste of Southern elegance, the Roosevelt hotel exudes modern class while staying true to its 1893 roots.

Moody Gardens

For more of a party scene, visit East Beach, where you can park your car right on the sand. Families might prefer the quieter Stewart Beach inside Galveston Island State Park, where you can also sign up for free fishing, kayaking and bird-watching clinics. Take in the amusement rides and restaurants along the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. Part amusement park, aquarium and hotel, Moody Gardens is a great place to spend a couple nights.

GETTY IMAGES; CHERYL GERBER/NEWORLEANSONLINE.COM; PAUL BROUSSARD/NEW ORLEANS & COMPANY; RICHARD NOWITZ/NEW ORLEANS & COMPANY; FISH COMPANY TACO; GALVESTON ISLAND CVB (2)


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THE REGION 32

ALABAMA

Bicentennial celebrations educate and entertain

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MISSISSIPPI

Discover the sights and sounds of Hattiesburg

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LOUISIANA

Explore the family-friendly side of New Orleans

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TEXAS

Fun awaits at Corpus Christi; state beaches

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FLORIDA

Pitch your tent and sleep on the beach

Take a break from the beach to visit the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla.

VISITSTPETECLEARWATER.COM


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ALABAMA | BICENTENNIAL

’Bama Bicentennial Alabama anniversary celebrations inspire and entertain By Amy Sinatra Ayres

I

N DECEMBER, ALABAMA WILL mark

the 200th anniversary of its statehood. That grand finale will be the culmination of nearly three years of commemorating the occasion with parades, concerts and educational initiatives. The Alabama 200 celebration of the state’s rich history kicked off in March 2017, marking the founding of the Alabama territory in 1817, and residents and visitors have had the chance to learn and revel in every corner of the state, says Jay Lamar, executive director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission. The group consists of 225 committees, including one in every county. “What that long time frame has done is allowed us to do some really fun and entertaining but also important and significant projects … particularly in the

area of education,” Lamar says. “This summer we had 20 professional development institutes for teachers, both at the elementary and the high school level, on civics and social studies.” More than 1,000 teachers have participated in those high-level training institutes in the last four years, Lamar says. “We really hope that what we’re doing is encouraging, especially young people, to become more engaged as citizens and to understand that they have both a right and a responsibility to be good citizens and stewards of their state.” Also educational for residents all over Alabama is the traveling exhibition We the People: Alabama’s Defining Documents, which includes all six of the state’s constitutions, and the 1861 ordinance of secession, declaring the state’s separation from the Union just before the start of the Civil War. This is the first time the documents have been

Bicentennial Fireworks in Huntsville, Ala. ALABAMA BICENTENNIAL COMMISSION


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ALABAMA | BICENTENNIAL

March 2017 event announcing the start of Bicentennial Commemorations, Montgomery, Ala.

USS Alabama ALABAMA BICENTENNIAL COMMISSION (2); GETTY IMAGES

displayed together. Since March 2018, the exhibit has been moving across the state’s 67 counties and will finish at the Alabama Department of Archives & History in Montgomery from Nov. 3 through Dec. 31. Another one of this year’s festivities includes a celebration of the state’s military history at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. The event includes free admission to the park and will feature parachutists, a parade of flags and an evening concert by the Mobile Symphonic Pops. Food service will be available in tents set up on the grounds. “It’s been Now a a great popular tourist attraction, the opportunity decommissioned for us to Navy battleship USS Alabama have a look was restored at our history and opened as a museum in to try to units namesake state in 1965. derstand it “It’s been really and to think one of our great destinations in about what Alabama,” says Lamar. “It really it means speaks to Alabama’s military for our next history. We’re hundred one of those states that has years.” been very active — JAY LAMAR, in the military, executive director, and we have a Alabama lot of military Bicentennial bases. But really, Commission even from the territorial period, Alabama was noted for its volunteers and its commitment to serving the nation.” December will bring parades and dedications as the anniversary date when Alabama achieved statehood, Dec. 14, 1819, approaches. In Montgomery, the state capital, Alabama Day 200 will be held Dec. 14. “The day will start with a massive, wonderful parade that represents the entire state,” Lamar says. Entries from all over Alabama will include vehicles, high school bands — and “V,” a character figure of Vulcan, the 56-foot statue of the Roman god of fire and forge that is the symbol of Birmingham. Vulcan, the CONTI NUED


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ALABAMA | BICENTENNIAL

CALENDAR OF EVENTS Here are a few activities that are part of Alabama 200. For a full calendar, visit alabama200.org.

Sept. 27-Oct. 7 Montgomery Alabama National Fair Making Alabama Bicentennial exhibit and Alabama bicentennial cookbook event Sept. 28 Birmingham Fiesta Birmingham, a celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage including music and dance, storytelling and food Oct. 21 University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa Let Us Now Praise Famous Men bicentennial opera premiere Nov. 3-Dec. 31 Montgomery We the People: Alabama’s Defining Documents exhibit

We the People exhibit, Huntsville Museum of Art

largest cast iron statue in the world, was created as a World’s Fair entry in 1904 to represent the nation’s iron and steel industry. At noon, Gov. Kay Ivey will dedicate Alabama Bicentennial Park, located at the foot of the state capitol on both sides of Dexter Avenue, with an installation of 16 bronze interpretive plaques made by an Alabama artist. The works of art “tell the story of Alabama from the dinosaurs all the way up to the International Space Station,” Lamar says. “It’s just beautiful and … it’ll be here for generations to come to commemorate this anniversary.” The day will also include re-enactors, artists and performers with a festival-like atmosphere, Lamar says. An evening concert will feature Alabama artists and a 3D architectural projection — but the details on that have yet to be revealed,

she says. “It will be, I think, a really great day and something that people will remember and tell their children or grandchildren about,” Lamar says. She credits state Sen. Arthur Orr, who chairs the commission, with the idea of spreading the bicentennial celebrations over three years. “It’s been a great opportunity for us to have a look at our history to try to understand it and to think about what it means for our next hundred years,” Lamar says. She explains that while the bicentennial commission has been busy educating teachers and leading public discussions, it has also focused on “turning the lens to look at where we want to go and what our future is going to be and how we can participate in shaping that and making Alabama all that it can be.”

Nov. 9 Pelham Public Library, Pelham Read Alabama 200 presents Chris

Rein, author of Alabamians in Blue: Freedmen, Unionists, and the Civil War in the Cotton State Nov. 11 Mobile Alabama’s Bicentennial Veterans Day celebration at USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park Nov. 28-29 Atmore Alabama’s Bicentennial Thanksgiving: 49th Annual Poarch Creek Indian Thanksgiving Powwow Dec. 13 Manderson Landing,Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa 200 birthday party and holiday parade Dec. 14 Montgomery Alabama Day 200 daylong culminating celebration and Alabama Bicentennial Park dedication

Governor’s Inauguration Day, Montgomery, Ala.

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MISSISSIPPI | HATTIESBURG

The Thirsty Hippo HATTIESBURG (MISS.) AMERICAN

Discover Hattiesburg This college town offers much more than tailgating By Lici Beveridge

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ITH MUSIC, RESTAURANTS AND

recreation, Hattiesburg is a small town with a lot to offer. Sinclair Lundy has lived in several Mississippi cities, but Hattiesburg is the place she calls home. “Columbus was fun, and it’s another college town,” she says. “Greenwood is where I got my training for finding

great things to do, but I only want to live here. It’s more amazing every week.” Andrew Wiest, a history professor at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), says that, “Hattiesburg has come a long way as a university town since my days as a student here. Whether you are an incoming student or just in town for the game, there are now a plethora of fun things to do, from cool places to eat to live music venues and outdoor activities (such as) golf and kayaking.”


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Saenger Theatre WILL CROCKER

The University of Southern Mississippi, commonly referred to as Southern Miss, is a four-year public research institution. Founded in 1910, the university’s main campus is located in Hattiesburg, and it also has a 52-acre beachfront campus in Long Beach, Miss. ENTERTAINMENT ABOUNDS Hardy Action Theatre hosts monthly performances at Hattiesburg Ballroom & Beyond, and if you want your moment in the spotlight, Keg and Barrel hosts an open mic on Mondays for aspiring comedians. The Thirsty Hippo and The Porter Public House host trivia nights, or you can test your problem-solving skills at College Town Escape Rooms. The city is also a great place to catch musical acts. “Hattiesburg is a way station for bands as they make their way across the Southeast,” says Dave Davies, a USM professor of journalism and public relations. “The Thirsty Hippo is a draw and stopping point for bands as they

head to or out of New Orleans.” Lundy likes to go downtown on Fridays for the Live at Five and SummerTunes concerts at Town Square Park. Live at Five concerts are offered every April and October, with some dates in September and May. SummerTunes concerts are every other Friday during the summer months. “There’s a cool, active music scene with venues all over town and all kinds of music,” Davies says. The Saenger Theatre in downtown Hattiesburg hosts a number of events throughout the year, including national musical and comedy acts. “Downtown has become a student-friendly, funky nightlife venue,” Wiest says.

“Midtown is getting rolling and is right across from campus. And out west is loaded with lots of eating and entertainment options ... every (USM) student should know Hattiesburg’s a vibrant community with tons of stuff going on,” Davies says. Town Square Park is home to the city’s farmers market on Thursday afternoons March through October. The market features arts activities for children each week and live music and yoga on the first Thursday of each month. Local shops such as The Lucky Rabbit and Captain Kids Treasure House feature antiques and vintage items. CONTI NUED

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MISSISSIPPI | HATTIESBURG

T-Bones Records and Café ELIJAH BAYLIS/HATTIESBURG (MISS.) AMERICAN

Red Bluff ELIJAH BAYLIS/THE (JACKSON, MISS.) CLARION-LEDGER

EAT UP “Hattiesburg is as good a food town as you’ll find in Mississippi,” Davies says. “There are tons of local restaurants of every stripe and variety of food. Even during the recession, we didn’t lose too many restaurants.” One of Lundy’s favorite downtown hot spots is Blu Jazz Cafe, which opened in 2017 in a small building on Front Street. It outgrew its original space within months and moved to a larger location a block away. The restaurant features weekly live music and serves burgers and nachos, plus seafood options like fried catfish and shrimp po’boys. T-Bones Records and Café not only feeds the city’s need for vinyl records, CDs and books, it also dishes up a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and coffee drinks or brewed teas. The store also offers a jazz brunch on Sundays and occasional in-store performances. Barbecue is a Southern staple, and the city is home to Leatha’s Bar-B-Q Inn, whose past customers include NFL quarterback Drew Brees, actor Christian Slater and talk show host Dan Vega. Murky Waters BBQ hosts local musicians and offers an extensive menu of

drinks and smoked barbecue specialties. Chesterfield’s is popular for brunch, and Southern Prohibition Brewing, Hattiesburg’s first brewery, serves a variety of craft beers at its taproom, which is family-friendly, offering soft drinks and pizzas on the menu.

Camping is available at Paul B., Okatoma and Little Black Creek, which also offers zip lines and disc golf. About 45 miles from town is Red Bluff, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Mississippi. This picturesque hiking area offers amazing views.

GET MOVING LEARN FROM Recreational activities THE LOCALS “We’re a abound in the Hattiesburg Tom Michael is a area. Options include Hattiesburg native who has little town of biking, walking or running lived in various U.S. states 50,000 people, on the Longleaf Trace, and countries such as India which extends 44 miles Austria, but returned but there’s just a and from downtown Hattiesto the Hattiesburg area and burg to Prentiss; a variety lot of stuff going now works at Camp Shelby of outdoor activities at Joint Forces Training on for a town Paul B. Johnson State Center. “From all the places Park off U.S. 49 South; in the world that I have our size.” kayaking on the Okatoma lived, I’d say Hattiesburg— DAVE DAVIES, Creek north of Hattiesburg ers are so much more USM professor or Little Black Creek to friendly than anywhere the southwest; or taking else,” Michael says. “People canine family members to say ‘thank you,’ and they one of three dog parks — at Jackson Road ask how you’re doing. I love Hattiesburg, Station, Pine Street at Fourth Avenue and and I think it’s the best place in Missisin Petal on Dawson Cutoff. sippi.” Bike rentals are available at the Michael recommends a trip to the MisSouthern Miss entrance to the Trace. sissippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp

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Shelby, where visitors can learn about the state’s role in the military, starting in the 1800s. The African American Military History Museum, located on East Sixth Street, explores the contributions of black Americans to the armed forces. Those curious about civil rights can learn more about Hattiesburg’s role through the Freedom Summer Trail, which takes visitors to 15 locations of historical significance. And while there are plenty of things to do off campus, Michael suggests taking in a show at USM. Southern Miss is home to world-class opera, performing arts and dance theaters. Nearby William Carey University also has similar offerings with its annual dinner theaters and musical performances. On the second weekend in December, the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood Association and Visit Mississippi host Victorian Candlelit Christmas, with tours through the city’s historic neighborhoods. “We’re a little town of 50,000 people, but there’s just a lot of stuff going on for a town our size,” says Davies. Lici Beveridge writes for the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American.


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LOUISIANA | NEW ORLEANS

New Orleans skyline GETTY IMAGES

The Little Easy New Orleans isn’t just for grown-ups By Diane Bair and Pamela Wright

W

HEN WE TOLD A New Orleans mom we’d be visiting her city with two kids in tow, her advice was: “Just stay away from Bourbon Street after

dark and you’ll be fine.” In fact, we were more than fine — we were enchanted. Who knew that this soulful Southern city would totally charm our children with its albino alligators, spooky stories and sugar-sprinkled beignets? Here’s a sampling of family-friendly fun in our new favorite city:


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LOUISIANA | NEW ORLEANS SEE ART FOR KIDS BY KIDS

MAGGIE ROBERT/ PETER MAYER ADVERTISING

The big news now: the late-August opening of the Louisiana Children’s Museum alongside a lagoon in City Park. Thirteen years in the making, the $47.5 million-dollar, 58,000-square-foot museum is designed for kids ages 10 and younger and includes elements created by them. A 9-year-old conceived an exhibit featuring sounds of the city, and much of the artwork was done by 5- to 7-year-olds. “We’ve created a set of indoor and outdoor experiences that showcase the capacity of the young child,” says museum CEO Julia Bland. “Our strategy was, ‘Let’s be big and bold,’ ” she says. Features include a sensory room for infants and toddlers, an exhibit on food and where it comes from (with edible plants), and a Mississippi River display where kids can crank pumps, make dams and enjoy other aquatic activities.

CONNECT WITH CREATURES

AUDUBON AQUARIUM OF THE AMERICAS

There’s plenty more for small hands to touch at the state-of-the-art Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, including stingrays and sharks, when the new Shark and Ray touch pool opens this fall. There’s an albino alligator too, but no touching that one. Kids will be enthralled by the southern sea otters, sea horses, African penguins — and, of course, human divers swimming in the tanks amid the sea life. “With all the colors and things moving around, even the littlest people are entranced,” says Lauren Messina Conrad, director of public relations for the Audubon Nature Institute, which operates the aquarium and nine other parks and museums dedicated to nature. If your kids are more interested in creepy, crawly things, put the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium (a quick stroll down Canal Street from the aquarium) on your list. Insect encounters and edible creatures are among the wonders here, where you’ll gain added appreciation for the largest group of animals on the planet.

FEED A GATOR

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Show of hands: Who’d like to see alligators in the wild? They’re a real comeback story in Louisiana, according to guide Sonny Watts of Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour Company. Endangered in the 1970s, there are now roughly 2.5 million of the critters in the state, Watts says. Plan to see dozens of gators —and perhaps a wild boar named Little Mama — as you cruise through Honey Island Swamp on the Pearl River in Slidell (the bus ride to Slidell is included in the ticket). The guide will stop along the way to feed an alligator a snack pellet on a stick, so kids can see those fierce, spiky gator teeth up close ... but not too close!

MAKE A TRIP OF IT

The New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street is a short walk to the The French Quarter, the Mississippi riverfront, the Audubon Aquarium and the Insectarium. Plus, the streetcar is accessible right outside this 1,275-room hotel. The on-site Canal Street Pantry is open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. for snacks, salads, sandwiches and drinks — convenient for parents and children. Also popular with families is the 285-room Loews New Orleans Hotel. The property is near outlet shopping and attractions, and it’s partnered with NOLA food purveyors to offer local eats. The venue provides baby strollers and kiddie game tablets, too.

Some of the things you must try on a visit to NOLA include a feather-light beignet — basically, puffed-up fried dough with powdered sugar — at Café Du Monde and a classic muffuletta sandwich at Central Grocery & Deli, a true slice of New Orleans. You don’t have to avoid fine dining just because there are small fries in your party — the venerable Brennan’s offers a kids’ menu and skewers with banana slices or shrimp so children can feed the resident turtles at the turtle pond. The courtyard is always open, so rambunctious kiddos can stretch their little legs between courses. If your kids are Chopped TV show contestants in the making, sign them up for a kids’ clinic at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. They offer drop-off cooking classes for kids ages 7 to 11, a master class for 11- to 13-year-olds and teen clinics, plus their own version of Chopped that’s low-key and fun.


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SPEND A DAY IN THE PARK A trip to City Park accomplishes two things: 1. It gives the kids a chance to romp around a lovely space that is larger than New York’s Central Park, and 2. You can ride the Carrollton streetcar line. In addition to being the new site of the Louisiana Children’s Museum, the park is home to the recently expanded Besthoff Sculpture Garden, City Putt mini-golf, botanical gardens and Storyland, featuring larger-thanlife fairy tale motifs.

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NURTURE A LOVE OF NATURE

FRENCH QUARTER KIDS TOURS

HUNT FOR GHOSTS Wandering around the French Quarter is always interesting, and it doesn’t cost a cent (except maybe for the pralines you’ll ultimately spring for, and tips paid to busking musicians). Shops sell distinctive, colorful wares like Mardi Gras masks and palm readers ply their trade at Jackson Square. But a tour that caters to kids makes the city really come alive. There are several to choose from, including the Spooky Tour by French Quarter Kids Tours for tykes ages 5 to 10. Led by a teacher, the 90-minute tour begins outside the most haunted house in the city (once owned by actor Nicolas Cage) and gets kids involved looking for the presence of ghosts by following a paper clue left by pirate Jean Lafitte that leads to actual booty. It’s all great fun, interesting for adults as well as youngsters, and not at all nightmare-inducing.

AUDUBON NATURE INSTITUTE

Another great place to stretch your legs and get to know the city’s wild outdoorsy side is the Audubon Nature Center. It’s a wonderland of trails, including a 1-mile boardwalk, a 1.3-mile adventure trail and a shorter Discovery Trail, offering a look at Louisiana’s forest ecosystem. Get the skinny on everything you’ve seen at the 4,000-squarefoot interpretive center.

For older kids, options include venues such as the National WWII Museum, Mardi Gras World, where you can watch carnival floats being made, and some live jazz clubs. The Maison, on Frenchmen Street, is open to all ages until 10 p.m.


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TEXAS | CORPUS CHRISTI

Hidden Gems HORSE AROUND ON THE BEACH Guided horseback rides are available for people of all ages and experience levels. Individual and group experiences can be scheduled during the day or at sunset for a picturesque photo opportunity. ▶ horsesonthebeachcorpus. com

Adventurous activities in Corpus Christi By Meagan Falcon

C

ORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS, OFFERS a

plethora of sites to explore, including beaches, parks and museums, but these five lesser-known adventures just might be the perfect fit for your itinerary:

TAKE A HELICOPTER RIDE Espejo Helicopters offers trips in its two- and four-seat aircraft with day or nighttime rides available. Whether it’s to learn about aviation or get a bird’s-eye view of the beach, a helicopter ride will add an adrenaline-filled memory to your vacation. ▶ espejohelicopters.com

Meagan Falcon writes for the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times HORSES ON THE BEACH

ESPEJO HELICOPTERS

FLY IN A WORLD WAR II NAVY PLANE

ENJOY A WALK THROUGH WETLANDS

See the Sparkling City by the Sea in a ride in an authentic World War II warbird. Fly along Corpus Christi Bay with a view of downtown, the USS Lexington and the Harbor Bridge. The 30-minute flight also includes a trip to Port Aransas for an aerial view of the beach. ▶ texanwarbirdadventures.com

Explore South Texas’ wetlands in a free, one-hour guided nature walk at Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve & Learning Center every Tuesday and Saturday. Park visitors receive a pair of binoculars to view the various plants and animals that inhabit the 162-acre park’s coastal ecosystem. ▶ cctexas.com/parks

TEXAS WARBIRD ADVENTURES

SPEND THE NIGHT ON AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER You may have visited the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay during the day, but have you spent the night there? The museum offers overnight stays for organized youth groups (minimum of 15 people age 5 and older). Visitors will have a chance to tour the ship, watch a movie in the 3D Mega Theater, take part in a scavenger hunt, share ghost stories, dine in the chow hall and bunk in original crew quarters. ▶ usslexington.com

LEXINGTON MUSEUM ON THE BAY

CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI


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TEXAS | BEACHES ROCKPORT BEACH Rockport is the state’s first designated Blue Wave Beach, which means it’s managed with a focus on community services, cleanliness and environmental stewardship. Blue Wave Beaches are kept free of litter and debris, are handicapped-accessible and have public restrooms. Rockport Beach prides itself on its clean swimmable waters and crescent-shaped stretch of sand. Popular with families because of its calm and shallow water, the area offers convenient amenities such as numerous shaded picnic areas, grills, volleyball courts, playgrounds and a walking path.

Bigger, Better Beaches Dip your toes in some Lone Star State sand

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HE SAYING “EVERYTHING’S BIGGER in Texas” is true of the beaches, too. The Lone Star State is home to the world’s longest undeveloped barrier island, as well as some of the best coastal birdwatching in the country. USA TODAY’s 10Best has ranked these Texas beaches as the best of the bunch:

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MALAQUITE BEACH Located on Padre Island, which boasts that it has the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island anywhere in the world, Malaquite Beach is a short stretch along the island’s 70-mile-long seashore. It is located near a pavilion with a visitor center, observation deck, gift shop and restrooms. This section of the seashore also provides a family-friendly swimming area free of pets, fishing and public driving.

SOUTH BEACH South Beach runs for 60 miles along the undeveloped shores of Padre Island National Seashore. Driving and primitive RV and tent camping are allowed on the beach, making it a popular getaway for those looking to escape the busy beaches of South Padre Island.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE


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TEXAS | BEACHES PORT ARANSAS BEACH SOUTH PADRE ISLAND

This 18th-century pirate hideout is now one of the most popular beach destinations on the Texas coast. The only town on Mustang Island fronts 6 miles of sandy beach, popular for swimming, snorkeling, bird-watching and its annual sandcastle competition.

This family-friendly destination near the border of Mexico draws water sport enthusiasts eager for kiteboarding, kitesurfing, jet skiing and windsurfing. If visitors aren’t partying the night away or spending the day outdoors on the beach, they’re hitting parks like the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, popular with birders and nature lovers.

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CRYSTAL BEACH While the main beaches of Galveston Island can draw crowds during the hot Texas summer, catch the ferry to Bolivar Peninsula for a bit of seclusion on 7-mile-long Crystal Beach.

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EAST BEACH Situated on the far eastern tip of Galveston Island, East Beach offers a beach party vibe, thanks in part to a summer calendar packed full of festivals, live concerts and events. Alcohol is permitted on the beach, and amenities include a pavilion, boardwalk, showers, concessions and umbrella rentals.

DONNIE RAY JONES/FLICKR

MATAGORDA BAY NATURE PARK The 2-mile beach within Matagorda Bay Nature Park not only offers inviting blue waters, horseback riding through the surf and beach camping, it’s also located right in the heart of one of the nation’s top bird-watching destinations.

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FLORIDA | CAMPING

TIERRA VERDE Locals love to set up camp at Fort De Soto Park, south of St. Pete Beach, and enjoy all of the outdoor activities the park has to offer: fishing, canoeing, kayaking and boating, not to mention its nearly 3 miles of white sand beaches. More than 230 campsites for tents or RVs can be reserved six months in advance; each includes electricity, water, charcoal grills and picnic tables. Modern restrooms with showers, laundry facilities and a camp store are nearby. Campers can also hop the ferry or kayak over to Shell Key Preserve, accessible only by watercraft, for primitive camping. Permits (free) are required to camp.

Camp on the Beach Bond with nature and stargaze all night long By Susan B. Barnes

P

ITCH A TENT OR pull up your camper and be lulled to sleep by the sound of waves lapping onto the shore at these beachside campsites on Florida’s Gulf Coast — no white noise app necessary.

Grab a bite to eat or toast the sunset with a waterfront view at Billy’s Stone Crab and Seafood restaurant, which has been serving locals and visitors for more than 40 years.

Add a bit of surrealism to your beachside stay with a visit to The Salvador Dalí Museum in downtown St. Petersburg, which houses more than 2,400 of the artist’s works.

THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL

STEVEN P. WIDOFF; LORENBEDELI PHOTOGRAPHY


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FLORIDA | CAMPING

CAPTIVA

DESTIN

Accessible only by boat or ferry (Captiva Cruises from Captiva Island, Punta Gorda and Pine Island; reservations required) or kayak, campers who stay at Cayo Costa State Park will feel they have the entire 9-mile-long island to themselves. Each of the 30 primitive tent campsites has picnic tables, ground grills and access to potable water, and the nearby restrooms have cold showers and flush toilets. Other than that, campers are on their own to enjoy fishing, swimming, snorkeling, shelling, walking and bicycling along the nature trails, not to mention the 9.5 miles of undisturbed beach.

Henderson Beach State Park was established for the preservation and protection of the area’s natural features, including the last remaining coastal scrub area in Destin. The park’s 60 campsites can be reserved up to 11 months in advance and accommodate tents or recreational vehicles with water, electricity, picnic tables and grills. Additional amenities include heated and air-conditioned restrooms with showers and coin-operated washers and dryers. Follow the boardwalk through 30-foot white sand dunes to the pristine, mile-long coastline where you can swim, fish and watch for wildlife.

Make sure you visit The Bubble Room, an iconic restaurant on Captiva that has been serving lunch, dinner and fabulous desserts in its distinctive setting for 40 years.

Overlooking Destin Harbor, nearby Dewey Destin’s restaurant serves up a fresh catch of the day, plus a variety of other seafood options in a casual setting.

If you don’t find enough shells on Cayo Costa, ferry over to the islands of Sanibel and Captiva and do the “Sanibel Stoop” as you sift through the 400 varieties of shells.

THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL

The calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are perfect for paddleboarding, and for those who have some experience, Paddle Tribe Co. also offers paddle yoga classes.

EMERALD COAST CVB; PADDLE TRIBE CO.

Reservations at these campgrounds, aside from Fort De Soto Park and Turtle Beach Campground, can be made through ReserveAmerica at reserveamerica.com.

GETTY IMAGES


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Santa Rosa Beach

Fort De Soto

SANTA ROSA BEACH

SIESTA KEY

Grayton Beach State Park, also on Florida’s Panhandle, is considered prime camping real estate with 59 sites that can accommodate tents or RVs. The campgrounds are pet-friendly, come with electricity and water and can be reserved up to 11 months in advance. If you’d rather not camp, 30 two-bedroom, onebath duplex cabins are also available and feature heating and air conditioning, a kitchen, screened-in porch, outdoor grill and a gas fireplace for cooler winter temperatures. A 4.5-mile hiking and biking trail leads to the backwaters of Western Lake, popular for fishing and paddling.

Set up camp for up to 30 nights within 45 days at Turtle Beach Campground on Siesta Key, known for its powder-soft white sand and turquoise waters. Reservations for the 40-plus campsites, which accommodate tents and RVs, can be made up to 12 months in advance. Each campsite includes electricity, water, sewer and even free Wi-Fi; restrooms with showers and laundry are centrally located, and a picnic area with grills is available. From May through October, there’s a good chance campers can spot loggerhead and green sea turtles laying their eggs and even hatching on the beach at night.

Start your day with coffee and a pastry at Black Bear Bread Company. They also serve breakfast sandwiches and avocado, smoked salmon and banana tartines.

Take the free, open-air trolley from the campground to Siesta Village where you can find a variety of dining options, including Siesta Key Oyster Bar, which offers live music.

The Grayton Beach Bike Tour, offered by Eventure Tour Co., guides electric bike riders through the beach town to Western Lake and the Gulf of Mexico.

Campers can don their gear and enjoy some of the best snorkeling in the waters around Point of Rocks at Beach Access 12 (Crescent Beach), a short, free trolley ride away.

Turtle Beach GETTY IMAGES; VISITSTPETECLEARWATER.COM; VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY

ALISSA ARYN COMMERCIAL; SEAN MURPHY

VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY


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TEXAS | PADRE ISLAND

GO FLY A KITE Texas’ Padre Island National Seashore hosts an annual Kite Day every February with on-site tips and demonstrations, plus a free kids’ kite-making station. A national park located just outside of Corpus Christi, Padre Island features about 70 miles of undeveloped beaches and natural habitat.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE


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Profile for STUDIO Gannett

GO ESCAPE GULF COAST Winter 2019  

GO ESCAPE GULF COAST Winter 2019