In late October I made my first visit to Mississippi! Even though I was excited to experience a new state even, I was there to attend a convention (SATW 2013) so I spent most of my time in the host hotel.
I flew from Los Angeles to New Orleans (MSY) and then drove 100 miles to Biloxi, Mississippi. I could’ve flown into Gulfport (GPT), which is just 19 miles from Biloxi, but that would’ve meant two planes from LAX and who wants to make a stop?
When I made the reservation to fly to MSY, I thought I was saving some money since it usually costs a lot more to fly in and out of GPT. But then, the inexpensive frequent shuttle service from MSY to Biloxi was discontinued. As I found out, taking the 90-minute drive by taxi will now set you back about $150 (luckily I was able to split the charge with some other writers).
The moment you arrive in Mississippi, you’ll no doubt notice that the folks here (and across the South for that matter) are genuinely much friendlier than those in the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, the first thing most people think of when talk turns to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf is Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the whole area in 2005. I learned from my taxi driver that even though New Orleans got all of the media attention, Biloxi actually took the brunt of the blow. When he found out I was staying at the Beau Rivage, he told that I needed to search for this video which was filmed DURING Hurricane Katrina from the hotel’s parking lot. It’s kind of long but you can definitely see and feel the destruction.
Beau Rivage hotel
The convention’s host hotel was the Beau Rivage, which is a waterfront casino resort. It’s the nicest hotel in Biloxi and the best hotel in Mississippi, and it’s owned and operated by MGM Resorts International.
The Beau Rivage has 1,740 rooms and opened in March 1999. At the time it was the largest hotel/casino in the United States outside of Nevada, but after Hurricane Katrina, the hotel was rebuilt. It reopened in 2006 and with its 28 stories (346 feet) it’s now the tallest building in Mississippi.
The term ‘Beau Rivage’ is French for ‘beautiful shore.’ The name was originally meant for the now-famous Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, but developer Steve Wynn reserved this name for his new waterfront casino in Biloxi.
Beau Rivage restaurants
From the moment you walk through the Beau Rivage doors you feel like you’re in a mini Las Vegas hotel—and just like in the the hotels out west, there are a variety of restaurants to choose from at the Beau. I went to BR Prime Steakhouse, which rivaled any steak house I’ve ever been to. I shouldn’t have been surprised because it earned a 4-star rating from AAA as well as a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
The other restaurants are: Jia (pan-Asian cuisine), Memphis Q (smokehouse and barbecue), Coast (seafood and wood-fired pizzas), Stalla (Italian cuisine), The Buffet, Terrace Cafe (24-hour casual dining), Roasted Bean (coffee bistro), Snacks (fast food), and Scoops (ice cream).
Rooms at the Beau are a pretty good size and attractive as they are decorated in a palette of warm hues. The highlights were:
- Panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows
- A 32-inch flat-screen LCD television
- Free high-speed internet access
- A bathroom with Italian marble floors
- A soaking tub and separate stall shower
- Free bottled water
- The maids respect the privacy tag
The lowlights, which everyone seemed to agree on, were: There’s no coffee maker in the room and I could hear the neighbors’ water pipes now and then.
Beau Rivage spa
Of course, I skipped out on one of the conference sessions and hit the hotel’s 20,000-square-foot salon and spa. I signed up for their 75-minute signature therapeutic massage, which the brochure description describes as, “This specialty restorative massage includes slow strokes and firm pressure to relieve suffering from chronic muscle tension or soothe areas that simply ache or feel contracted.”
I then followed that up with a 50-minute transformation facial. The technician was awesome and removed so many dead skin layers that I looked like a different person when it was all over. Seriously. The brochure says they use “a powerful antioxidant Vitamin C Serum which is applied to fight free radical damage and protect the cells while Vitamin A stimulates new cell growth to provide a more vibrant, smoother complexion. Skin tone is instantly brighter; pores are reduced while fine lines and wrinkles are softer and smoother after one treatment.”
Good to know:
- You don’t have to wait long for the elevators even when there’s a convention in town and the hotel is sold out.
- Just because you are in the hot south don’t think the hotel will be warm. Bring a sweater. I found most of the hotel to be freezing. I think they do it on purpose so you don’t get tired while gambling.
- If you’re into loyalty and rewards points then be sure to sign up for M life before checking into the Beau Rivage. M life used to be Players Club but since not everyone gambles, MGM executives came up with a program that rewards guests who spend their money not only in the casino but practically everywhere else as well at any of their 15 properties around the world. FYI: Their resorts are: ARIA, Bellagio, Vdara, MGM Grand, The Signature at MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor and Excalibur in Las Vegas; Beau Rivage and Gold Strike in Mississippi; and MGM Grand Detroit. Here’s more on the M life program.
- Waffle House: If the line to the hotel’s buffet (“The Buffet”) is too long like it was both times I went for breakfast, just walk outside and go to the Waffle House right outside. I didn’t have to wait more than five minutes and a waffle costs just $2.95—plus $0.25 extra to add a flavor like blueberry.
My Mississippi highlight was going for barbecue at The Shed. It’s about a 20-minute drive down the interstate and it’s a locally beloved BBQ joint that has won all kinds of awards. The family owners are a real trip, which is probably why they have a show on the Food Network. Don’t miss eating at The Shed.