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List of Mississippi spring adventures, part deux

By Kara Kimbrough

List of Mississippi spring adventures, part deux
Gulfport’s Mississippi Aquarium is a can’t-miss attraction for family members of all ages.

After highlighting some (notice, I said "some," as there are hundreds more) of the best places to visit in Mississippi cities and towns north of the Capital City, it's only fair that I mention a few spots further south. Spring, which seems to have arrived a few weeks early, is the absolute best time to get out and explore all that Mississippi has to offer before summer's oppressive heat makes sheltering indoors under the a/c the only viable option.

There’s no way I can list them all, but here are a few on my top picks to enjoy spring break with the family or for anytime the urge to take a road trip emerges. 1. Mississippi's Capital City is blessed with an outstanding lineup of museums rivaling the number and quality found in any metropolitan area. A few that come to mind are, in no particular order: Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Children's Museum, Agriculture and Forestry Museum, Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and Museum of Natural Science. Learn more about these and other museums around the city at: visitjackson.com.


While each of these museums is amazing and worthy of a visit, the Old Capitol Museum holds a special place in my heart. Visiting this historic building during elementary schools field trips remains a favorite memory. This breathtakingly-beautiful structure, a National Historic Landmark and one of American's premier examples of Greek Revival architecture, has reigned supreme on State Street in downtown Jackson since 1839. Mississippi's most historically-significant building served as the first state house until 1903 and was the site of historic legislation, including crafting of the state's constitution and secession from the Union in 1859.

Wander through the cavernous, newly-renovated building and enjoy viewing interesting artifacts from Mississippi's past, interactive multimedia exhibits and information on historic preservation. Admission is free; learn more about the building and hours of operation at: mdah.ms.gov.

2. Hattiesburg is a typical "college town," filled with dining and shopping opportunities, museums, nightlife and recreation. However, there are plenty of activities geared to families, including those with children. One of the best places to visit is Kamper Park featuring its crown jewel, the Hattiesburg Zoo. It's not the largest zoo but does contain a more than respectable collection of animals from around the globe. In addition to the main exhibits, there's an Australian Wallaby Walkabout offering the chance to mingle with animals from Down Under, daily giraffe feeding opportunities, petting zoo and more. Other features include an electric train, high ropes adventure course, mining for gems and stones and plenty of pavilions and picnic spots. For more information, visit: hattiesburgzoo.com. A more detailed list of all the area has to offer can be found at: visithburg.org.

3. A trip to our beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast is always a good idea. Harrison, Hancock and Jackson Counties are packed with thousands of opportunities for family fun, ranging from water sports and excursions, museums, dining, shopping and much more. If I had to recommend just one Gulf Coast attraction, the spectacular Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport is near the top of the list. And since many of the aquarium's exhibits are located outside, spring is the perfect time to visit before heat and humidity descend.

Overlooking the gulf, the spectacular Mississippi Aquarium contains nearly 6 acres filled with an amazing collection of sea life, wildlife, birds and more. Over 200 species can be viewed in 12 habitats designed to allow visitors to safely view animals and sea creatures from a few feet away. A spectacular 30-foot, 360-degree tunnel allows up-close views of marine life - sharks, sea turtles and numerous species of exotic fish - from above and below. Outside, crocodiles and alligators are dozing in the sun and playful river otters and dolphins splash and play in open pools. Believe me when I say the adults (myself included) are every bit as entertained as the youngest visitor.

Last, no trip to the Gulf Coast is complete without a delicious meal, preferably one with a water view. Weekly, I receive emails from readers asking for restaurant recommendations. To receive my top picks for a memorable Gulf Coast dining experience to fit any budget, taste or age group, drop me an email and I'll gladly send it to you.

Happy spring, ya'll!

Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at kkprco@yahoo.com.


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