Family time can always go one of two ways, either fun-filled joy, or a test of your patience and tolerance (or in most cases a little of both).
Every Thanksgiving, I do a road trip with Mama Dawn to somewhere fun. Past trips have included Branson, Natchez, Nashville, Natchitoches, Mobile, Pensacola, Memphis, San Antonio and Houston.
As she has gotten a little older (81 years young) and less mobile, we moved closer to home in our trips. Thus, this year, we decided to get an AirBnB along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and off we went to Bay St. Louis for a long weekend of drinking, eating, shopping and gambling.
Here is my adventure tale of a Gay on the Gulf.
The house we rented, one block off Main Street, was aptly entitled Le Petit Retreat. It was an adorable two bedroom house with quaint decor, an extremely comfortable sofa and beds, and an extra large television. It is perfect for a chill time. After getting settled, immediately we were off to our first casino, the Silver Slipper located in Waveland.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast basically stretches from Waveland to Ocean Springs with Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport and Biloxi in-between. Casinos brought the small beach communities back to life many years ago and turned each area into tourist destinations, each with its own atmosphere.
I was very familiar with Waveland having had a family camp there in the past. (Since Katina, it’s been just a vacant lot two blocks off the beach, but, one day, I will build my second home there.)
Besides the Casino, their next big tourist draw is the revamped Buccaneer Bay Waterpark with the fabulous wave pool. I remember having so much fun there as a kid. Now it is bigger with more attractions and right next door to the Casino. The Silver Slipper is a smaller casino known for its amazing all-you-can-eat buffet. We had a lovely time there gambling. I am a slots kind of girl, the more blinking lights and noises the better. Although we passed on the buffet, we had a delightful lunch at the Palm Court Cafe.
Dining well is one of the highlights of our Thanksgiving trips. We always try to pick unique places. For dinner on our first night, we went to “downtown” Bay St. Louis to Field’s Steak & Oyster Bar. Fields is one of my favorite restaurants on the Gulf Coast as well as being one of my top five steakhouses in the United States. Everything here is delicious, and the steaks are served flaming (like me), so very cool presentation. From the service to the cuisine, Fields is a “Must” when dining in the Bay.
The following day was Thanksgiving, so we woke up early and hit the Island Vieux Casino. I love to gamble in the morning when it’s really not crowded and I can get on all the machines I want to try. And one of my favorite casinos on the Gulf Coast is Island Vieux.
They have a large non-smoking casino building on the beach with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow gamblers great panoramic views of the beach. This is highly unusual since most casinos do not have windows at all, to keep people from seeing outside like in a cave.
Mama Dawn and I had our holiday lunch at their Dockside Deli, which had a complete Thanksgiving Day special with turkey, stuffing and all the fixings. The Deli also boasts some great views of the beach and the marina.
Not only did we have a great time at Island Vieux, but I left a big winner.
But Thanksgiving wasn’t over yet.
After going back to the Retreat and resting, we journeyed out later that night to meet some friends who live in Bay St. Louis for dinner at Hollywood Casino. After gambling a little (we have to try all the slots at as many casinos along the Coast as we can), we met up with my friends Ali, Chi Chi and Ross at the steakhouse Bogart’s. The food was delectable and service was exceptional. They had a reasonably priced three-course Thanksgiving Prime Rib special and the Flintstone-sized portion they served assured us that we would have something leftover for the next day. Between Fields and Bogart’s, the steakhouse scene in Bay St. Louis is outstanding.
If you have read any of my travel articles before, you know I’m a horrible shopaholic. So for me, Black Friday is just as much a holiday as Thanksgiving (and I am not lying around being lazy and eating all day). In fact, it is quite the workout, and much more fun than Peloton no matter how cute the instructor is.
Now, we all have heard horror stories about shopping on this very busy retail day. But I approach shopping in a more civilized way. I am not camped out all night at Walmart waiting to fight off hordes of idiots for a 90″ television for $100.
No, I am a classy lady.
I mix up a pitcher of Bloody Mary’s and off to the proverbial races I go. I do get an early start around 7 a.m. It used to be earlier in the day, but since cyber-shopping has taken hold, most retailers do not see the need to open at 3 a.m. and rightfully so.
We decided to start our little adventure at the Gulfport Outlet Mall, by targeting specific stores that had great sales and not walking aimlessly in the crowd.
When shopping, I am a queen on a mission.
We only went to Bath and Body Works, which had a “Buy three items, get three free” sale, and Banana Republic Outlet which had the entire store at 60% off even clearance.
Next we went to the Edgewater Mall in Biloxi for more retail adventures and finally a trip to my new favorite store Ollie’s (if Big Lots and % Below had a baby) in Gulfport which is huge.
And, we did all this by 11 a.m.
We went to lunch back in Bay St. Louis at La Chula. Strangely, this small city has an incredibly large number of Mexican restaurants. La Chula has a very voluminous menu with good food which was a nice reward after a day of marathon shopping. But when I got back to the house, I realized that most of the items purchased were for moi (which tends to be one of my problems). Oh well, that just means more shopping.
That evening, I met up with my friend Allie to see the talented Anais St. John perform her Tina Turner tribute at 100 Men Hall in Bay St. Louis. The show was sold out and Anais was her amazing and powerful self on stage. It was special seeing the show at the 100 Men Hall because Tina Turner along with Ike performed there in the 1960s.
The 100 Men Hall was founded in 1894 by 12 civic-minded African American Bay Saint Louis residents who organized under the name “Hundred Members Debating Benevolent Association” in order to “assist its members when sick, bury its dead in a respectable manner, and knit friendship.” What started as an organizing group for the African American community grew into an open-air pavilion.
Then, in 1922, a cornerstone was laid and the existing Hall was built. At that time, segregation forced Black musicians into a narrow yet robust performance corridor called “the chitlin circuit,” a historic network of performance spaces that eventually put the Hall on the Mississippi Blues Trail map.
The 100 Men Hall, as it came to be known, quickly became a Black energy center along the Coast, hosting music and all life events from baby showers to repasts in the African American community. Over many decades, the Hall attracted legendary musicians such as Ray Charles, James Brown, Etta James, Sam Cooke, BB King, Chuck Berry, Ernie K-Doe, Fats Domino, James Booker, Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair and countless other Black musicians at a time when white-only clubs forbid their entry.
The Hall is one of the rare physical sites still standing on the Mississippi Blues Trail, and is a testament to the rich birthing of American music that unfolded during a history of racial oppression. It is one of the few significant African American landmarks in Mississippi.
After the show, we decided to do a little bar hopping in the Bay which has some fun places. We started at Hinge, located in the Pearl Hotel and which has the best craft cocktails. Might I suggest their Smoky Old Fashion which is not only delicious but has an impressive presentation.
Next we went to this wonderful bar/restaurant called Tripletails where we ended up dancing our little hearts out to a lively band playing a mix of ‘80s and current dance hits. The crowd was sexy, fun and, most importantly, very welcoming. Their third floor also had spectacular views of the Bay and the city.
Next on the tour was Dan B’s which also had live music and was just steps away from the other two bars on the Beach Boulevard strip.
Our final stop of the night was Karako’s which is more of a dive type bar with a good vibe and a relaxed atmosphere. They also are “the” late night bar in the area staying open till 2 a.m. The thing about bars in the Bay is they pretty much shut down at midnight.
On Saturday we went to brunch at Brick and Spoon, a Gulf Coast chain that has some tasty brunch dishes as well as lovely craft cocktails and champagne. In the afternoon, I did some small business shopping in downtown Bay St. Louis. They have some cute shops and boutiques all up and down the main streets where I found perfect, unique gifts for friends and family. This time I shopped for others.
That evening, my friend Barrett DeLong came into town and met me and we decided to play holiday tourist and attend the Christmas Parade in downtown Bay St. Louis. When you think about small town celebrations and parades, this one fits the scene you see in your head to the hilt. It’s like a Hallmark movie, with families all lined up along the route, just one deep. The parade is composed of small floats, a few bands and antique cars & decorated golf carts that throw out candy, beads and holiday trinkets. It was a cute holiday event and everyone was so nice.
After hanging around families and kids for the start of the evening, Barrett and I needed to be around adults, so we drove to Beau Rivage in Biloxi which I consider the closest thing to a Vegas casino along the Gulf Coast. The other casinos are great but Beau Rivage is over the top and their holiday decor is spectacular with oversized ornaments, dazzling Christmas trees, giant nutcrackers and life size deer. Also their upscale shopping outlets are pretty sweet.
Saturday night at the Beau was hopping. It was packed with people, drinking, gambling and just having a good time. They had great energy and excitement. It also helped that I won there.
After a few hours of gaming, we needed to hang with the gays, so we drove to Gulfport to go to Sipps which had a drag show that night. If you have not been to Sipps, it is quite the hidden gem on the Coast. It is a very cool bar with great bartenders and a packed house. We had a few drinks, talked to some locals and watched a little bit of the show. It is definitely a scene on a Saturday night.
We concluded our trip on Sunday leaving early and, as is our tradition every year, we stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast and more shopping. It’s kind of quirky there, but I find it hysterical to not only eat, but people watch there.
All and all, it is quite fun to be a Gay on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Good times await you less than two hours from NOLA. I highly recommend you check it out.