Once the turkey is gobbled and the shopping is done, families will be looking for things to do together this holiday weekend that appeal to all ages, from grandparents to the little kids.
Check out the fun awaiting across the Coast.
▪ Harbor Lights
Harbor Lights at Jones Park in Gulfport begins for the season on Friday night and adults and kids will “ooh and ahhh” at the waterfront lighting displays set to music each night. Families can walk or ride the trolley among the lights, then take a twirl on the carousel, the train or other rides available for an extra cost. Admission for an evening of bright lights is $10 per person, with kids 4 and under free. A holiday savings pass is $80, so 12 people can go for the price of eight.
▪ Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum
The kids and their grandparents will experience a bit of holiday magic at the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum at 504 Pass Road in Gulfport. A new addition provides space for more model train displays and almost 1 million Legos in space and other creations that wrap around the room. Trains run overhead and through a tunnel outside, where families can board a train and take a spin, check out the new Jurassic Park layout and turtles and alligators at the Swamp Train. Families often spend hours, said Tinah Kippes, volunteer coordinator. The attraction is free, although donations help keep the place open and operating.
▪ Ice skating
Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest times for ice skating at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. “We get all ages. It’s really a family event,” said Kendra Simpson, director of marketing and entertainment. This year there’s skating on Thanksgiving, so “between lunch and dinner you can come and burn some calories,” she said. Admission is $12 and includes skate rentals, and they even have toddler skates that strap onto shoes. Hours are Wednesday at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Thursday at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday at 3:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
▪ Dophin Watching Cruises
Dolphin Watching Cruises with Ship Island Excursions is an adventure the whole family will remember. The boat leaves the dock in Gulfport for a 2-hour shoreline cruise looking for Atlantic Bottle-nose dolphin. Cruises are at 11:59 a.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $19 per person, $16 for military and seniors age 65 and older and $12 for children ages 3-10.
▪ Infinity Science Center
Infinity Science Center in Hancock County is where the Apollo program that grandparents remember meets the Mission to Mars that is expected to come over the next decades. High-tech, interactive displays let families learn the difference between X-rays and gamma rays at the electromagnetic table, create a hurricane and see if it makes the news and other adventures. The gift shop is a great place for fun stocking stuffers. Hours this weekend are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is $15 for adults, $12 for military and seniors age 55+ and $8 for children ages 4-13.
▪ Edgewater Mall
For those who want entertainment while they shop, Edgewater Mall has a carousel for young and old and a rock climbing wall at the main entrance on U.S. 90 in Biloxi. Santa’s there listening to Christmas wishes everyday and the food court has choices for a variety of tastes.
▪ Pascagoula River Audubon Center
Families can learn about the the early inhabitants of the area at Pascagoula River Audubon Center, where on Saturday at 10 a.m. a presentation will look at the Pascagoula people and what legacies and legends remain of their time here. The center is at 5107 Arthur St., Moss Point.
▪ Biloxi Tour Train
Learn more about the history of Biloxi aboard the Biloxi Tour Train, which picks up passengers at the Biloxi Lighthouse Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Cash fares are $16 for adults and $15 for seniors and military. A child up to age 10 rides free with each paid adult ticket.
▪ Biloxi Visitors Center
The Biloxi Visitors Center is the No. 1 attraction in Biloxi, according to Trip Advisor, and is a good place to start. Take a free tour of the local history museum, check out the wood carvings and the view of the water from the porches, watch the Biloxi Katrina movie and admire the Elvis and other celebrity memorabilia on loan from Hard Rock Casino Biloxi. Those who get there early enough can climb the 57 steps to the top of the Biloxi Lighthouse. The cast iron lighthouse gets very warm during the day, so get there between 9-9:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday for a view from the lantern room.
For the kids
Kids love the games at Margaritaville Resort Biloxi, and the adults will find virtual golf and other games they like, too. The climbing wall goes right through the ceiling of Escape and into the floor of the restaurant above.
▪ Trampoline parks
▪ Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport engages kids and adults in play. This weekend is the last Friday of the month, so admission is free Friday from 5-8 p.m. and on Sunday the museum celebrates Charles Schulz’s birthday by reading “A Charlie Brown Christmas” during storytime at 12:30 p.m. Regular admission is $10 or $8 for military and seniors, or $6 for everyone on Sundays.
Swing through the trees at Zip’n Fun Adventure Park in Gulfport Friday through Sunday, or challenge the ropes courses for adults and kids. Adventures range from about $15-$35, and the price is less for those who make online reservations.
▪ Laser tag
Big Play Family Entertainment Center in Biloxi has a laser maze along with bowling, an arcade, go-karts and bumper cars. For fun with older kids and adults, check out Hero’s Laser Tag in Gulfport for video game-style tactical laser tag.
An exploding volcano can be found at mini golf at Lava Links at Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort in D’Iberville. Weekend prices range from $5 for kids under 5 to $15 for adults.
Move the fun inside and go bowling at Cypress Lanes in D’Iberville or bowl . With gutter bumpers, the little kids can possibly get a strike, too. Big Play also offers kid-friendly bowling.
▪ Escape rooms
Older kids will want to join their parents and grandparents in solving the puzzle at an escape room. Try one of three adventures at Hint Hunter Puzzle Rooms in D’Iberville ($15 for 30 minutes or $25 for 60 minutes) or Escape This Biloxi, which also manages the “Krampus Returns” escape room at Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort. Prices range from about $15-$25.
The new Star Wars movie isn’t out for a couple of weeks, but there are a few choices in the movies this weekend that are rated PG for grandparents and kids. Getting good reviews are “The Star,” an animated story of the first Christmas, and “Wonder,” about a boy with facial differences attending public school for the first time. Check them out at Cinemark 16 in Gulfport and The Grand 18 in D’Iberville.
If turkey and all the trimmings plus Christmas shopping has stretched the budget, here are some ideas that won’t cost anything, and you can bring along a picnic of turkey sandwiches and leftover pie:
▪ Dress up and go see the Christmas decorations and poinsettias in the lobby of Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. It’s where many Coast families take their Christmas card photos every year.
▪ Make sandcastles or toss a Frisbee on the beach.
▪ Go to the playground. Some of the favorites have views of the water, such as Fort Maurepas Park at 499 Front Beach Drive, Ocean Springs, the Point Cadet Plaza just across the bridge in Biloxi and Pass Christian War Memorial Park off U.S. 90.
▪ Walk the bridges — the views are amazing and the birds might fly along as you burn off pumpkin pie calories crossing the Biloxi Bay Bridge or Bay of St. Louis Bridge.
▪ Let the kids make a cellphone video, asking everyone what they are most grateful for or to name the best Christmas gift they ever received. They can add music and family photos and share the video as a great Christmas gift.