2011: Out Of Town | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

2011: Out Of Town

<b>Best Day Trip: NOLA (New Orleans)</b>

New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras and Second Line parades, a million music festivals and bars out the wazoo. Hear great music at One Eyed Jacks, Tipitinas or Howlin' Wolf; admire street performances on Jackson Square. Pick up a mufaletta at Central Grocery, or Mid-Eastern fare at Mona's. Stay overnight, get up early for Café Du Monde's beignets and coffee, and meander to the River Walk to watch the boats and barges go by on the Mississippi River, and hit up the aquariums, including one at the Audubon Zoo, and insectarium. Pick up an Off Beat or Gambit for current haps. —Charlotte Blom

Second: Natchez
Third: Vicksburg
Good Showing: Oxford

Best College Town: Oxford

Home of Ole Miss, Oxford's town square has a 19th-century courthouse and three bookstores: Square Books, Square Jr., and Off Square Books with the Thacker Mountain Radio Show and resident cat Mamacita. Concerts at The Lyric or The Library have featured bands like Modest Mouse. The upstairs bar at John Currence's City Grocery attracts writers, and dishes at Currence's Big Bad Breakfast are named for local authors. Newer venues include Bottletree Bakery, Amelia's (with cupcakes from Oxford's Honey Bee Bakery and goods from local artisans), and Maker's Market (spotlighting local art). Double Decker (art & music) and the Oxford Film Fest are stand-out annual events. Check out a Quaker Friends meeting or tour Rowan Oak, Faulkner's house, where you can literally see his writing on the walls. —Charlotte Blom

Second: Starkville
Third: Hattiesburg
Good Showing: Clinton; Jackson

Best Casino Hotel and Best Casino for Shows: Beau Rivage Resort & Casino
875 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, 228-386-7111

Aside from its famed and well-choreographed Cirque du Soleil performances, the Beau Rivage is known for big-name headliners in its Magnolia Ballroom, with upcoming performers like Gladys Knight, Huey Lewis and the News, Tony Bennett and Lord of the Dance. The casino also offers special-event big-bang parties, as well as a theater, a jazz bar and a nightclub. With 12 restaurants, including a buffet that has a cook-to-order station, you won't go hungry. And for beer drinkers, the Beau houses the oldest microbrewery in Mississippi: Coast Brewing Company. It's a bit of a maze, but find your way to the solarium to get some sun, take a breather on the off-site Fallen Oak Golf Course, or head to the spa or salon to relax. When you're ready to chill, the 1,780 rooms boast top-of-the-line accommodations. All rooms include Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and panoramic windows with views of the Gulf or overlooking downtown Biloxi and the gardens of the Beau Rivage. More upscale suites offer amenities like wet or dry bars, separate living rooms and/or dining areas, whirlpools, and luxurious spa robes and slippers to wrap up in. —Charlotte Blom

Casino Hotel
Second: Hard Rock Hotel Casino (777 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, 228-374-7625)
Third: Ameristar Hotel Casino (4116 Washington St., Vicksburg, 601-638-1000
Good Showing: Golden Moon (13541 Highway 16 W., Choctaw, 601-663-0066)

Casino for Shows
Second: Hard Rock Hotel Casino (777 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, 228-374-7625)
Third: Pearl River Resorts (13541 Highway 16 W., Choctaw, 601-663-0066)
Good Showing: Ameristar Hotel Casino (4116 Washington St., Vicksburg, 601-638-1000)

Best Casino for Gaming: Ameristar Hotel Casino
4116 Washington St., Vicksburg, 601-638-1000

Floating in place on the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, the 70,000-square-foot Ameristar Casino is just a 45-minute trek away. Whether it's for an all-night poker tournament—or some other table game, with 32 to choose from—playing video poker, or simply slotting with only a (virtual) penny from your pocket, this casino offers complimentary drinks to get you toasty. Also, the Bottleneck Blues Bar, the Casino Café and live performances will keep you entertained. If you're going to stay the night, keep in mind that the hotels are separate, but a free shuttle ride can get you to your bed. —Charlotte Blom

Second: Beau Rivage Hotel Casino (875 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, 228-386-7111)
Third: Pearl River Resorts (13541 Highway 16 W., Choctaw, 866-447-3275)
Good Showing: Hard Rock Hotel Casino (777 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, 228-374-7625)

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