20 Things To Do In Gulfport

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The city of Gulfport is a scenic seaside destination along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast and the Magnolia State’s second-largest city in terms of population. Due to its size, prominence and summertime appeal, Gulfport has some of Mississippi’s top-rated museums, art galleries, shopping areas and culinary scenes, including the state’s largest aquarium.

Gulfport even doubles as a hub for NASA’s space research and development, with the nearby Stennis Space Center playing a crucial role in the success of the Apollo Space Program during the 20th century.

80 miles (128 km) from New Orleans, Gulfport has a treasure trove of attractions and activities to enjoy, including excellent accommodation options and stunning coastal views from the shores of the balmy Gulf of Mexico.

Gulfport, Mississippi

20 Things To Do In Gulfport

gulfport beach
Going to the beach is one of the things to do in Gulfport ms.

1- Visit The Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum

The Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum in downtown Gulfport showcases Mississippi’s rich aviation history through exhibits and unique aviation displays.

Opened in 2020, the museum is among the more recent additions to the Gulfport tourism scene and makes use of several interactive exhibits to teach visitors young and old about STEM subjects and the world of aviation.

The museum is home to a couple of highlights, including a flight simulator, a theatre modelled after the interior of an airliner, and live demonstrations of aircraft repair and restoration.

The Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum is at 429 Pass Rd, Gulfport, MS 39507.

2- See Where NASA Rockets Get Tested At The Stennis Space Center

The John C. Stennis Space Center, or just Stennis Space Center (SSC) for short, is a NASA-operated rocket testing facility situated near the Louisiana State border that has played a key role in several of NASA’s most famous space missions.

Opened in 1961, the facility was used to test rockets for the Apollo and Artemis space programs as well as the main engines of the Space Shuttle and has been used more recently for the testing of Blue Origin’s spacecraft.

Those interested in visiting and learning more about the Stennis Space Center should swing by the nearby INFINITY Science Center, a NASA-affiliated museum dedicated to STEM education and showcasing artefacts related to some of the projects tested at the SSC.

3- Explore The Mississippi Aquarium

things to do in gulfport for kids
Visiting the aquarium is one of the things to do in Gulfport for families.

Not to be confused with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies’ Ocean Adventures Marine Park, the Mississippi Aquarium is a world-class tourist attraction where visitors can observe marine animals and Gulf Coast ecosystems up close.

The aquarium officially opened to the public fairly recently in 2020 and covers an area of about 5.8 acres (2.3 ha) that’s inhabited by over 200 animals and about 50 native plant species.

Situated in the heart of downtown Gulfport, this is a popular attraction for families and is home to populations of penguins, sharks, dolphins, otters, stingrays, crocodiles and alligators.

The Mississippi Aquarium is at 2100 E Beach Blvd, Gulfport, MS 39501.

4- Spend A Summer’s Day At Gulf Islands Water Park

The seasonal Gulf Islands Water Park is a thrilling summertime attraction situated about eight miles (12 km) north of downtown Gulfport where visitors get to cool off and get an adrenaline rush at the same time.

The waterpark sits right next to Zip’N Fun Adventure Park and has undergone a series of expansions, additions and renovations since first opening in 2005.

Among the themed rides are a six-lane racer slide, a lazy river, a wave pool and eight unique slides and rides for the whole family to enjoy along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The Gulf Islands Water Park is at 17200 16th St, Gulfport, MS 39503.

5- Visit The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center

The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center became Mississippi’s first dedicated children’s museum when it opened its doors back in 1998.

Housed inside Gulfport’s renovated Mississippi City Elementary School which was constructed in 1925, the museum was the brainchild of Joe Meadows and Carole Lynn and features more than 15,000 square feet (1,394 m2) of indoor exhibition space.

There are six outdoor zones where young minds are encouraged to play and interact with their surroundings.

The centre also hosts other events, such as cooking classes and educational camps throughout the year.

The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is at 246 Dolan Ave, Gulfport, MS 39507.

6- Have Flutter At Island View Casino

If you’re feeling lucky, swing by Gulfport’s state-of-the-art Island View Casino, which opened in 2006.

The entertainment and accommodation hub was built to replace the city’s “Grand Casino Gulfport” and “Copa Casino” which were razed when Hurricane Katrina hit Gulfport in August 2005.

Gambling is not the only activity or attraction that the casino is known for, with Island View Casino also housing a steakhouse, an award-winning buffet, a couple of 24-hour shops and an authentic beignet cafe.

The Island View Casino is at 3300 W Beach Blvd, Gulfport, MS 39501.

7- Go Shopping At Gulfport Premium Outlets

Gulfport Premium Outlets is one-stop destination for the latest fashion trends and other shops. You’ll also find a good selection of eateries. 

The open-air shopping venue is occupied by about 70 stores and fashion boutiques from brands such as Nike, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.

The venue is Gulfport’s premiere shopping destination and is renowned for its old-school storefronts and stores catering to multiple price points.

Gulfport Premium Outlets is at 10000 Factory Shop Blvd, Gulfport, MS 39503.

8- Explore The Beauty Of The Crosby Arboretum

The Crosby Arboretum is a Mississippi State University-affiliated arboretum created in 1979 to protect and preserve the local ecosystem and the plants native to southern Mississippi.

Spanning an area of around 104 acres (42 ha), the arboretum is home to hundreds of tree and shrub species found only in the Pearl River Drainage Basin and is roughly 50 miles (80 km) west of downtown Gulfport.

The arboretum is a halfway point between Gulfport and New Orleans and is perfect for stretching your legs when travelling between the two Southern cities.

The Crosby Arboretum is at 370 Ridge Rd, Picayune, MS 39466.

9- See The World’s Largest Rocking Chair

Spanning a height of about 35 feet (11 m) from top to bottom, the World’s Largest Rocking Chair is a popular roadside attraction in Gulfport that was first propped up back in 1995.

Despite its name, the chair is not officially the largest rocking chair in the world (a hotly contested title changing hands almost every year), however, it is one of the largest made from wood, making it an eye-catching landmark.

Free to visit and painstakingly restored following damages sustained during Hurricane Katrina, the chair is an ideal backdrop for snapping memorable photos of your visit to Gulfport.

The World’s Largest Rocking Chair is at 11451 Canal Rd, Gulfport, MS 39503.

10- Get Creative At The Gulfport Arts Center

The Gulfport Arts Center is a non-profit visual art gallery housed inside the historic Carnegie Library Building in downtown Gulfport that’s home to an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, books, jewellery and woodcraft.

The venue hosts a variety of educative and informative art classes and workshops for all ages to get the local community interested and excited about visual arts.

Several special rotating exhibits and events take place at the centre throughout each calendar year, with the centre open to the public free of charge.

The Gulfport Arts Center is at 1300 24th Ave, Gulfport, MS 39501.

11- Spend An Afternoon Exploring Jones Park

Jones Park is a large 60-acre (24 ha) urban recreation destination in downtown Gulfport home to pretty much any outdoor attraction you can think of.

Nicknamed the “Front Yard for the State of Mississippi”, Jones Park overlooks the Gulf Coast and is situated at the entrance of the busy Mississippi State Port, with the park playing host to the annual Gulfport Harbor Lights Festival during December.

The park was named after prominent businessman Joseph T. Jones and features an amphitheatre, a 319-slip marina, a promenade, a pavilion, a splash pad, a walking track and an eye-catching lighthouse replica.

Jones Park is along US-90, Gulfport, MS 39501.

12- Stop By The Joseph T. Jones Statue

The Joseph T. Jones Statue was erected in honour of Mississippi oil tycoon Joseph T. Jones, the founder of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad and a co-founder of the city of Gulfport.

Jones was born in Philadelphia to Albanus and Jane Jones in 1842 and fought for the Union Army during the American Civil War before becoming the largest crude oil producer in the United States by 1883.

Despite formally residing in Buffalo, New York with his family, Jones spent a lot of time in southern Mississippi overseeing his investments, which prompted the city of Gulfport to erect a statue in 1942 to honour “the city’s greatest benefactor”. 

The statue is in Jones Park. 

13- See Train Models At TrainTastic

Formerly known as the “Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum”, the rebranded TrainTastic centre is an expansive STEM and model railroad museum situated about halfway between Gulfport and Mississippi City.

The venue features interactive exhibits, various model train sets, an on-site gift shop and even miniature trains that visitors can board outside.

Among TrainTastic’s line-up of things to see is the venue’s model railroad display featuring scale replicas of 50 iconic local Gulf Coast landmarks.

TrainTastic is at 615 Pass Rd, Gulfport, MS 39507.

14- Face Your Fears At Zip’N Fun Adventure Park

Next door to the Gulf Islands Water Park, Zip’N Fun Adventure Park is a one-of-a-kind attraction along the Gulf Coast that offers adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers a series of obstacle courses, zip lines and sky bridges to tackle.

The park officially opened to the Gulfport public in 2016 and features eight zip lines, two adventure courses and over 50 outdoor games and obstacles for visitors to choose from when stopping by.

The Zip’N Fun Adventure Park is at 17200 16th St, Gulfport, MS 39503.

15- Attend An Event At The Harrison County Fairgrounds

Spanning an area of more than 640 acres (259 ha), the Harrison County Fairgrounds is a multipurpose outdoor and cultural attraction that plays host to a multitude of sporting events and festivals throughout the year.

The fairgrounds feature eight soccer fields, three dedicated outdoor arenas and several concession stands, and can accommodate gatherings such as sports matches, motocross races and live music concerts.

The fairgrounds also play host to the annual Gulf Coast Winter Classics equestrian event, a spectacle that draws some 1,000 world-class show jumping horses as well as crowds of over 12,000 spectators.

The Harrison County Fairgrounds is at 15321 County Farm Rd, Gulfport, MS 39503.

16- Explore The Gulfport Museum of History

Managed by the Historical Society of Gulfport, the Gulfport Museum of History exhibits a collection of permanent and rotating exhibits detailing the city’s earliest history and rise to become the second-largest city in Mississippi.

The museum is within the old Union Train Station which dates back to 1904 and includes displays on topics and persons that are important to the people of Gulfport.

The Gulfport Museum of History is at 1419 27th Ave, Gulfport, MS 39501.

17- Go Beer Tasting At Chandeleur Island Brewing Company

beer mug in a brewery
Going on a brewery tour is one of the fun things to do in Gulfport at night.

Opened in 2013 by brothers Cammack and Cain Roberds, alumni of the nearby University of Southern Mississippi, the Chandeleur Island Brewing Company is among Gulfport’s top independent breweries.

It produces a wide selection of beer styles inspired by the Gulf Coast.

The brewery was named after the nearby Chandeleur Islands just off the coast of Gulfport and is open for beer tastings and guided tours, where you can get a sneak behind-the-scenes to learn how stouts, porters and ales are brewed.

There’s more to this low-key dog-friendly downtown Gulfport establishment than just beer though, with special events and live music hosted at the brewery almost every night of the week.

The Chandeleur Island Brewing Company is at 2711 14th St, Gulfport, MS 39501.

18- Attend A National Sporting Event 

The 250-acre (101 ha) Gulfport Sportsplex is a world-class community sports facility that is capable of hosting some of the largest local, regional and national sporting tournaments in the country.

Created in 2018, the massive facility has nine terraced baseball fields, four regulation-sized soccer fields and several concession stands, with the ability to host everything from volleyball tournaments to basketball and racquetball.

The venue hosts several large national sporting events every year, so check what tournaments are happening while you’re in town.

The Gulfport Sportsplex is at 17200 16th St, Gulfport, MS 39503.

19- See A Community Play At 

Hosting its first show in 2013, the Downstage Productions Theatre in central Gulfport is the go-to destination in the city for high-quality, community-led theatrical productions.

The venue is situated in Gulfport’s downtown district and was founded by a trio of aspiring performers who wanted to bring expensive, high-quality theatre to the general Gulfport population.

The theatre hosts a large selection of productions and community events throughout the calendar year and recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in its brand-new downtown venue.

The Downstage Productions Theatre is at 12100 US 49 #418, Gulfport, MS 39503.

20- Visit The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

Established in 1984, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is a non-profit marine conservation centre and marine zoological park rolled into one where visitors get to learn more about marine creatures in a fun and interactive way.

The institute is home to the Ocean Adventures Marine Park, a popular tourist attraction in Gulfport among travelling families with dolphins, sea lions, stingrays and sharks on display to the public.

Aiding in the rehabilitation of sick and injured marine animals along the Gulf Coast, the institute hosts several educational camps and programs for visitors of all ages, as well as choreographed dolphin shows.

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is at 10801 Dolphin Ln, Gulfport, MS 39503. 

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Jessica Shaw is a storyteller who has lived in four U.S. states - Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois - and has visited many others. She loves history and nature and is a big fan of road tripping.