If you’re visiting New Orleans, take a day to explore Bay St. Louis, a small but diverse community and artist colony less than an hour away on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Bay St. Louis came into the national spotlight three years ago when the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed through town, destroying many of its homes and businesses. However, locals and volunteers acted to get the town back on its feet quickly, and today visitors can witness the town’s artistic revival, dine at its homey restaurants and cafes, and walk or kayak along its scenic waterways.
Most of the town’s art galleries are located on Main Street near the beach, including The Artists of 220 Main, a cooperative of about a dozen local artists who banded together to open a new gallery a month after the hurricane. The best time to check out this gallery and others (such as Maggie May’s and The Purple Snapper Gallery) is the second Saturday of each month, when the downtown galleries stay open late and host open studios, artist talks, and music performances for free.
When you get hungry, stop by the cozy Mocking Bird Cafe (entrees $7 to $9), a popular gathering place that’s a coffee shop and cafe by day and bar and performance space by night. For more upscale dining, try The Sycamore House (entrees from $11 to $26), which serves up gourmet Creole and comfort-food dishes like shrimp remoulade and poblano barbeque meatloaf.
After stuffing yourself, work it off with a walk on the three-mile paved path that runs along the beach from Main Street. Or, if you have more time, go on a guided sea-kayaking tour with Natural Adventures (from $49 per person).
Read more of the 50 Affordable Stateside Escapes.
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