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Live Like a Local on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
January 12, 2022
Mississippi Gulf Coast Millennial Oyster
Courtesy Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast
Ready to get wild, eat great, and hear the best live music? Our network of Gulf Coast locals serve up their best tips.

From the incredible natural beauty of the Gulf Islands National Seashore to fun water sports on the Pascagoula River, from Gulf-fresh seafood to BBQ and craft beer, from fine art to the hottest live music, the Mississippi Gulf Coast offers a getaway for every type of traveler. We spoke with some of the locals who make the Coast tick for their favorite hotspots.

WHICH ISLAND IS BEST FOR YOUR TRAVEL PERSONALITY?

Each of the Gulf Islands National Seashore’s barrier islands offers opportunities for casual-to-adventurous travelers who want an authentic, wild experience (before they head back to shore to grab some gourmet seafood and world-class craft beer at sundown, that is!).

Chandler Borries, a travel photographer who hails from Biloxi, says “I’m a big outdoors enthusiast, and I love a boat excursion to one of the islands and taking a nature walk through Gulf Islands National Seashore.”

Each of the six barrier islands offers something unique to adventure-minded visitors. Ship Island, Borries’s favorite, is home to the historic 19th-century Fort Massachusetts, and a beach that’s perfect for swimming, hiking, or fishing. Cat Island boasts bayous and marshland that serious birders will love. Deer Island’s beach is just a short boat ride from Biloxi. Horn Island is a magnet for vacationers seeking peace, sand dunes, and pelicans. Round Island and Petit Bois Island are the smallest islands but offer glimpses of migratory birds and much more. Learn more about outdoor adventures on the Mississippi Gulf Coast here.

PADDLE, CYCLE, OR HIKE THE GULF COAST

Borries says, “I also love that the Gulf Coast has plenty of places to kayak and paddleboard.” From gentle paddling to downright wet & wild water adventures, the Gulf’s open Coast waters, scenic bayous, and beautiful “blueways,” make the region one of America’s best places to hit the water. You can charter a deep-sea fishing boat, sail on a historic schooner, or even try paddleboard yoga. And be sure to check out the Pascagoula River Blueway (the largest free-flowing river in the lower 48 states) for great kayaking, fishing, and wildlife-watching. Learn more about paddling the Mississippi Gulf Coast here.

If you want to stay on dry land, the Coast is packed with recreational trails and walking or biking tours. Borries suggests, “One of my favorite morning activities is a bike ride down Front Beach in Ocean Springs followed by a savory biscuit and coffee from The Greenhouse on Porter.” Learn more about the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s recreational trails here.

OYSTERS, SHRIMP & MORE

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is justly renowned for its fresh seafood. That’s one reason why Foursquare named Darwell’s Cafe, in Long Beach, one of America’s greatest diners, citing its crawfish étouffée with seasoned shrimp on top. We asked our locals to take travelers off the beaten path to find the tastiest joints serving up seafood, BBQ, and more.

Alex Perry, chef and owner of Vestige, a modern American restaurant in Ocean Springs specializing in seasonal, market-inspired dishes, including a Gulf-fresh catch of the day and jumbo lump crab croquettes, suggests, “Pop over to Eat Drink Love, in Ocean Springs, for their lunchtime salads, fresh cheeses, cured meats, and crostini. Some of my favorite hidden gems are La Nortena in Biloxi for excellent Mexican cuisine and Kien Giang in D'Iberville for Vietnamese.”

Corey Christy, communications director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, in Ocean Springs, and bassist for the 10-piece jam-funk band Blackwater Brass, says “My favorite place for lunch is Le Bakery, on Oak St. in Biloxi, where everything is extra-fresh and the prices are unbelievably affordable. My current favorite dinner spot is Patio 44, in Biloxi, with great bar service and a very diverse menu, including seafood gumbo with shrimp, oysters, and crab meat.”

Borries says, “Woody’s Roadside, in Biloxi, is definitely at the top of my list.  Every time I’m home I make sure to stop by and grab one of their signature burgers. Phoenicia Gourmet Restaurant, in Ocean Springs, is another good option if you’re in the mood for local seafood like blackened shrimp, red snapper, and crab cakes.”

Learn more about eating like a local on the Mississippi Gulf Coast here.

CRAFT BEER

From the beer snob to the party animal, the Gulf Coast has some sipping opportunities to satisfy all tastes. And Christy reminds us that his place of work, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA), in Ocean Springs, throws an annual craft beer tasting. Popular local Gulf Coast breweries include Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, in Kiln, with its refreshing Lazy Saison Belgian-style pale ale, Jefferson Stout, and hoppy Southern Hops’pitality India pale ale; Biloxi Brewing Company’s award-winning flagship Black Gold; and Chandeleur Island Brewing Company, in Gulfport, with its Surfside Wheat Ale and Freemason Golden Ale, perfect for waterfront sipping. Learn more about the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s craft breweries here.

LIVE MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE

No day on the Coast is complete without music, and Mississippi boasts a musical history like no other state. If you want to enjoy cool street art with your live entertainment, you can’t go wrong on Fishbone Alley, a new pedestrian walkway in Gulfport that links several music venues, bars, and eateries, allowing travelers to carry beer and cocktails in go-cups from joint to joint.

Our locals chime in on their other favorite night spots. Christy says, “The Government Street Grocery, in Ocean Springs, is my fave for drinks and live music.”

Borries agrees that Government Street Grocery is a must-stop. “Some of my other favorite venues are Mosaics and Murky Waters. They are all within walking distance of each other and have a relaxed laid back atmosphere.”

You must also experience the Mississippi Blues Trail’s coastal sites, where historic theaters, blues joints, and other important structures help visitors trace the history of blues and jazz in communities such as Biloxi, Bay St. Louis, and Pass Christian.

Learn more about the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s music and nightlife here.

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Inspiration

Locals Know Best: Telluride, Colorado

Mention Telluride to anyone and chances are they’ll immediately think of an elite ski town full of second homes and all the things hedge fund dreams are made of. But there’s far more to this picturesque village nestled at 8,800 feet above sea level in the Colorado Rockies. Old Western fanatics will tell you that Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank here. Architecture junkies will tell you it’s chockablock of Victorian homes and it was illuminated by streetlights before Paris. Entertainment historians will tell you that Lillian Gish played shows there. And scholars of American history will tell you that at the turn of the 20th century, there were more millionaires per capita there than Manhattan. By the 1960s, however, due to the slowdown of the local mining industry, the boom started to go bust. Thanks in large part to entrepreneurial developer and hotelier Joseph Zoline, who leveraged the area’s exquisite mountains and built up the local ski industry in the late 1960s, Telluride underwent a renaissance and got its glitzy groove back. But beyond the allure of its ski runs, Telluride is actually just a small town of about 20 by 15 blocks. In the off-season its population is around 3,000 and it draws all sorts of artists, festival followers, nature lovers, and culinary-minded vacationers, giving it an energy that suits travelers of all stripes. We recently checked in with Eliza Gavin, owner of and chef at 221 South Oak since 2000, to learn a bit about what goes on in town today. She’s the chef owner at 221, a restaurant she’s owned since 2000, but you might recognize her from season 10 of Top Chef, which aired in 2012. As a native of Telluride for 20 years, she's seen the town change and grow. Here's where she recommends you go when you visit.  TRAILS FOR STROLLING, HIKING, AND SKIING Telluride is essentially located in a canyon surrounded by southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, which are as high as 13,000 feet. Waterfalls abound. There’s a tangle of trails across mountains and flatter lands that lure hikers, bikers, and anyone else who loves spending time outdoors. With so many different paths to take, it helps to have someone familiar with the landscape to offer tips. Eliza, who’s done her fair share of exploring, has the low-down on what to expect on different trails.  Beginners and anyone just wanting a casual stroll would be best off on Bear Creek. It’s not strenuous, Eliza says, and it’s manageable to go off-trail if the urge to wander strikes. Anyone seeking more intensity should try Jud Wiebe, a three-mile loop that’s pretty much a straight shot up and a straight shot down. And for a completely different experience, hop in a car and head to Ouray, about 40 minutes away. Those who travel will be richly rewarded with hot springs and waterslides.  And, of course, there are the famous ski trails, which offer world-class terrain regardless of your experience or ability, not to mention different options with regards getting to the top of the mountain via lift or hike. In addition to the slopes, though, Eliza raves about Terrain Park, a veritable winter playground of man-made jumps where kids flips and spins.  Yes, Telluride’s reputation is built largely on adrenaline-fueled afternoons, but plenty of people here snap on skis for a cross-country expedition. It’s so embedded in the local culture, in fact, that there are Nordic tracks in the town park as well as an area known as The Valley Floor, a giant swath of land cut through by a river. Very generous donors paid nearly $50 million to have it condemned so that nothing can ever be built on it. In 2017 it celebrated its ten year anniversary as a public space that locals love for mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and elk-spotting.   OFF-SEASON DELIGHTS The one thing to know about Telluride before you go is that when people refer to it, they're generally referring to the adjacent towns of Telluride and Mountain Village. Mountain Village is the ski-hub and Telluride is more of the town. A 14-minute free gondola ride shuttles people back and forth between the two. There are also free buses if heights aren't your thing.  A visit in the spring or summer is rewarded with all kinds of outdoor spaces above and beyond the hiking trails, like skate parks and bike trails along the river. "There's so much freedom in the summer," Eliza says. "Everyone walks everywhere. It's really safe."  And then there are the festivals. There's pretty much something every weekend, she says. Among the arts and music happenings, the Bluegrass Festival brings in up to 12,000 music lovers each June. Then there are other events that can't really be classified, like the Nothing Festival, a summer occurrence when everyone bikes through town without clothes. Seriously.  EAT YOUR HEART OUT In addition for being known for its elegant and creative seasonal New American dishes, 221 South Oak, Eliza’s restaurant, is popular for the appetizer and wine and pairing classes she offers on a regular and by-request basis. It’s quite an extravaganza: over the three-hour session, she prepares up to 14 dishes and pairs them with eight or 10 wines. Or cocktails. The options are endless. She explains the different varietals and the philosophies behind which wine compliments what food. But don’t expect your familiar dishes. Eliza prefers to use what she calls “weird ingredients,” like kaffir lime leaves and nutritional yeast. So where does this topnotch chef eat in her off-time? No town where creative people dwell would be complete without tacos. The go-to here is Tacos del Gnar, which Eliza loves for its creative concoctions, like the sloppy joe taco and tater tots with queso. For sushi, it’s Pescato, which, in a quirky turn of events, spotlights Indian food each Wednesday. Even chefs at the world’s highest end fine dining restaurants knows how to appreciate pub grub. In Telluride, Smuggler’s Brew Pub is the name of the game. The staples at this gastropub (which happen to also be Eliza’s top picks on the menu) are the pulled lamb sliders, crawfish mac’n’cheese, and fried pickles. They brew their own beer, she’s quick to note. She also recommends hitting Last Dollar Saloon (AKA: “the Buck"), a “local, lovely corner spot on Main Street with a cozy retro look," she says, complete with lacquered wood, a pressed tin ceiling, pool tables, and foozball. More importantly, though, it boasts the city’s largest beer selection, offering up to 60 beers. Eliza appreciates all those assets, but most impressive of all is the fact that each night, one of the three owners—Moussa, Jay, Michael—can be found working the bar, giving it a truly neighborhood feel. Speaking of beer, Telluride Brewing Company is a must for anyone who loves beer. (And chances are, if you’re the type of person who plans a vacation to Colorado, you likely love beer. There are, after all, 348 in the state as of May 2017. That’s roughly six breweries for every 100,000 people) It’s eight miles outside the city, and more than worth the trip, Eliza ensures. But if you don’t take her word for it, consider the many awards they've won over the years at the annual Great American Beer Festival. They don't have formal tours, she notes, but they always welcome visitors. "You just go in and they're like, 'Hi! You wanna look around? You want a tour?' They’re just very friendly and fun." As further evidence of their obsession with fun, they participate in the Telluride Blues and Brews festival each September.  Right about now it’s worth noting that Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012 (with Washington) and its dispensaries have been a tourist attraction since that went into place. When Eliza sees tourists wandering through town staring at their phones, chances are they’re looking for the weed stores. There’s six dispensaries and though Eliza doesn’t partake, she says it’s not hard to find someone in town who can recommend which has a better inventory than the rest.

Inspiration

Locals Know Best: Tennessee's Small Towns

America is summed up by many things: Baseball, mom and apple pie; stars and stripes; rock and roll; and, of course, the countless brands of food and drink that started ages ago and are familiar now as they were then. (Think: Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, Coca Cola, and so on.) Not least among them is Jack Daniel’s, the now iconic Tennessee whiskey that was founded in Lynchburg, Tennessee, in the south-central part of the state, in 1875. The distillery and the live old-timey, down-to-earth vibe of Lynchburg have made the town a celebrated tourist attraction, but if you’re among the 275,000 or so people who head there annually, it’s worth tacking on an extra day or two to explore the surrounding area. We caught up with Jeff Arnett, master distiller at Jack Daniel’s, who tipped us off on what to see, eat and do in the area's various small towns, each its own unique portrait of America.      TULLAHOMA IS FOR FOODIES Thirteen miles northeast of Lynchburg, Tullahoma sits adjacent to Arnold Air Force Base, home to the world’s largest wind tunnel where most US military aircrafts are tested. But the area’s military history is even more intriguing, as it was the site of Camp Forest, where German and Italian POWs were taken during World War II; General Patton trained troops on the grounds between here and Lynchburg. Against that historic backdrop today is a rejuvenated downtown, home to restaurants, like One 22 West, which is located in a former department store. It’s been serving locally minded classic American fare since 1997. The lively bar puts a premium on local beer and spirits, so you better believe that means plenty of Jack Daniel’s to go around. Another spot Jeff recommends for good eats is Emil's Bistro, a longstanding cottage-style restaurant with a long oak bar for classy yet casual meals. It's right next door to the Grand Lux, a homey inn in a refurbished old house, which comes highly recommended by Arnett if you're looking to spend the night in the area.   And if you’re a nature lover, then stay you should. Tullahoma’s Rutledge Falls, a tucked-away 40-foot waterfall is a destination for hikes, nature walks and swimming. Short Springs, a mere three miles northeast from Tullahoma, is a 420-acre landscape where the vibrant wildflower blossoms are said to be the best in the state. Its biodiversity is mind-boggling (think: springs, waterfalls, forest, ravines.) There are the natural wonders that are easy to find, like Machine Falls, which has a 60-foot cascade, as well as the hidden gems that Jeff is partial to, like various pop-up springs. But perhaps the town is most widely known by aviation enthusiasts who make pilgrimages here to see the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, which boasts an unparalleled collection of vintage aircrafts and aviation curios. Jeff notes that once a year, people who own staggerwings, those quaint, if rickety-looking planes that ruled the skies in the 1930s, fly to Tullahoma from all over the U.S. for a competition, of sorts. "It’s truly amazing how many people get into it," he says.  SHELBYVILLE IS FOR EQUESTRIANS  Louisville has the Derby, Boston has its marathon, and Park City has the Sundance Film Festival, but Shelbyville, about 70 miles south of Nashville and 16 miles north of Lynchburg, becomes a destination every August for a very particular kind of equestrian showcase. Once known as the Pencil City for its role in pencil manufacturing, today it’s the Walking Horse Capital of the World and hosts the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration each August. The event is an opportunity to witness horses move like they’re up on their back legs, shunning the laws of nature and physics. As they kick and flail their front legs, the rider manages to look like he’s hardly moving. “It’s like they’re on a magic carpet,” Jeff explains. “The horse puts on quite a show.”   FAYETTEVILLE IS FOR TIME TRAVELERS Fifteen miles west of Shelbyville is Fayettville, the county seat of Lincoln county, which means it boasts a beautiful old courthouse square, complete with official Main Street District designation and an historic theater. Going into the Lincoln Theater “is like going back in time,” Jeff says, even though they play the latest film releases. Much of the décor, like the lush velvet curtains, are kept in good repair. While you’re in a vintage frame of mind, you can swing by one of the several antique stores in the area or at the Antique Mall that's located on the Square. The sprawling emporium, located in an historic building, features furniture, art, jewelry, home goods, It’s not all time capsules, though. The old town jail has been transformed into a homey restaurant called Cahoots, which dishes out familiar pub grub. There’s also Honey’s, a country diner-style joint, complete with a counter overlooking the stoves, that Jeff is partial to. He advises—rather, insists—on ordering the slaw burger, which involves a mustard- and vinegar-heavy slaw. “Everyone always argues that they make the best barbecue. In Tennessee, it’s mostly pulled pork and it’s known to have vinegar-based sauces. This burger concoction morphed from the slaw that people were putting on pulled pork,” he explains. “So catch a movie, shop for antiques, and grab a burger and I’d say you made a good day of Fayetteville.”  WINCHESTER HAS OLD-WORLD CHARM Winchester, which 20 miles southeast of Lynchburg, is also a county seat, so, like Fayetteville, it boasts a lovely court square. Businesses around the square have a distinctly old-world charm, The Oldham Theatre, which first opened in 1950, plays new releases in a vintage setting; John T’s BBQ is a barbecue restaurant retrofitted into an old furniture store with brick walls and wood panel walls. The eatery’s own furniture, like tables with receipts from the old shop displayed under glass, pays homage to that past. But at its core, Winchester is a quaint lakeside town with lots of enticements for outdoorsy types. (Trout fishing, anyone?) Arnett has a lake house here, so he’s well acquainted to its many virtues, the crystal-clear water of the rocky-bottom Tims Ford Lake not least among them. Part of the Tennessee Valley Authority, it’s a 20 to 25-mile ride from one end to the other and its many channels lend themselves to lots of exploration in any number of kinda of boats. (Rent one at one of the three marinas.) The town claims one of the more unusually situated restaurants in the region: To reach Bluegrill Grill requires walking across the single gangway that connects it to land. Makes sense, then, that many approach by boat. Its hours are seasonal. Back on land you find a state park with 20 modern cabins and Bear Trace, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

Inspiration

Easy & Affordable Autumn Escapes From NYC

PICK YOUR OWN APPLES & PUMPKINS Hurd’s Family Farm, in Modena, NY, offers views of the gorgeous granite Shawangunk Mountains and the opportunity to pick your own fresh apples and pumpkins, take a hay ride, and enjoy family-friendly games and rides. Free admission! You just pay for what you pick and for certain activities. Eat at the Big Apple Cafe on the grounds. You'll find reliable lodging in nearby New Paltz, NY, for well under $200.  GET ROMANTIC Montauk, NY, at the very east end of Long Island, is a super-romantic "beach town bargain" in fall, when the summer crowds have gone home but the oceanside vibe remains as awesome as ever. Stroll the perfect beaches, grab amazing seafood, and visit the iconic lighthouse. We love the cozy and snuggle-worthy Ocean Resort Inn, with rates under $175/night in October DO SOME LEAF-PEEPING Who says New England has cornered the market on vibrant autumn colors? Milford, PA, one of Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns In America 2017, is just 85 miles west of NYC in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, which light up in bright red and gold in October and early November. It's an artsy place to enjoy the autumn splendor, boasting a charming historic district, adorable shops, restaurants, and bars. You'll find great lodging for under $150/night. ENJOY HIKING & CAMPING State parks often play second fiddle to the marquee national parks, but in the Northeast, state parks offer some of the best affordable fall getaways. High Point State Park, in Sussex, NJ, has it all: hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and canoeing in a park designed and landscaped by the legendary Olmsted brothers, whose father designed Central Park. TREAT THE KIDS - AND YOURSELF - TO A COOL UPSTATE TOWN Beacon, NY, is a bustling, forward-thinking town in Dutchess County, NY, that is about to lose its “under the radar” status. Kids adore the big, colorful contemporary art at the DIA Beacon museum, easy hikes on Mount Beacon, and the gourmet hand-made palapas (popsicles) at Zora Dora alongside Main Street's great restaurants and cute boutiques (Zora Dora's flavors include spicy pineapple, fresh fruits, and - for the parents - espresso). Insider tip: As you stroll along Main Street, don't miss the two inspiring murals painted by local artist Rick Price. You'll find affordable lodging in nearby Poughkeepsie and Hopewell Junction. BOOK YOUR FALL ESCAPE RIGHT HERE AT BUDGETTRAVEL.COM

Inspiration

Houston Tourism Bounces Back

Though many Houstonians are still piecing their lives back together, the city’s downtown area was mainly spared from the wrath of Hurricane Harvey. Both airports are fully operational and reachable via the normal roads, as are all METRORail and most local bus routes. The vast majority of hotels (98 percent of Hotel & Lodging Association of Greater Houston members, more than 350 at last count) have reopened, as have most major attractions and restaurants near downtown, the Heights, the Galleria, and the other central districts. The city may be bouncing back, but it won’t heal overnight, and its residents will need long-term support. “The best way to assist Houston in its recovery is by coming to visit,” the city’s tourism office says. “Keep your planned travel, keep your scheduled meetings, and keep coming back.” Volunteer opportunities abound—from food banks to clean-up crews, there’s a serious need for extra hands—but if you can’t get there in person, The Greater Houston Community Foundation’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, the Texas Diaper Bank, the Houston Humane Society, and plenty of other worthy organizations are accepting donations. On the ground, here’s where things stand for three major sectors of the tourism industry: Dining A whole lot of the 12,000-plus restaurants in the greater Houston area were affected by the storm—most were closed for at least three or four days in the immediate aftermath, and supply-chain issues persisted for a week to ten days—but the majority are now back up and running, according to Jonathan Horowitz, CEO of Legacy Restaurants and president of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association. That’s thanks in part to “more than extraordinary” efforts from members of the local service industry, such as the Houston publicist who coordinated food donations and distribution to shelters and first responders, all while stranded in Atlanta, and from internationally known chefs like José Andrés, who traveled to Texas just days after the hurricane to cook for those in need. “I could write ten paragraphs on this,” Horowitz says. “The entire hospitality community came together to prepare and distribute literally hundreds of thousands of meals, and everyone who joined in was and continues to be greatly appreciated.” Obviously, though, it’s not all wine and roses. “There are a couple of areas still flooded where recovery is going to take a very long time,” says Horowitz. “Some may not reopen as the financial burden of being closed for so long becomes too great to handle.” For employees, these closures, temporary or permanent, mean a loss of work and pay on top of often significant personal losses, and given the belt-tightening that can follow in the wake of such tragedies, they may lose more hours in the coming weeks. “Even now, many restaurants are reporting slower sales as customers continue to deal with their own personal recovery efforts and try to conserve financial resources,” he says. The good news, he adds, is that, although some previously scheduled events have been postponed or canceled, many charity events have been turned into recovery fundraisers, and most large conferences and conventions have stuck with their plans to come to Houston. One way visitors can help? Be sure to eat out often and well—those dining dollars will go a long way toward getting beleaguered local businesses back on track. Sports Other than a few games that had to be moved to different locations or forfeited entirely, Houston’s professional and college-level sports teams have returned to their regular schedules, and there shouldn’t be any additional impact over the course of the next few months. “For the most part, teams are back on track,” says Doug Hall, vice president of special projects for Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. But don’t think athletes were unaffected by the devastation—on the whole, they were moved to participate in various relief efforts, donating money or time or both. “Many Houston athletes were involved through their teams or their own foundations or charities, and many also donated to the hurricane relief funds,” Hall says. “Obviously, JJ Watt was front and center, as was James Harden, Carlos Correa, and Dynamo and Dash players, but all of the professional teams pledged funds to the relief efforts as well as linking in with first responders. Most of the university teams participated in relief efforts of various kinds as well, cleaning out houses, donating food, and volunteering at or touring shelters.” For its part, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority collected money from both sports commissions nationwide and local vendors, and its members volunteered at shelters, collected and made donations, and helped catalogue what came in for distribution. (The organization led a similar effort in Jacksonville, Florida, post-Hurricane Irma.) Plenty of sports-related entities are still in need of assistance, though, so there’s more work to be done. Arts Some of the city’s marquee performing-arts venues were hit hard by the flooding: After the Wortham Theater Center was damaged extensively, companies such as the Houston Ballet and the Houston Grand Opera had to reschedule performances and scramble to find new homes for their new seasons, as did plays slated for runs at the Alley Theatre Centre. Renovated to the tune of $46.5 million just two years before Harvey, the Alley sustained an estimated $15 million in damages, but even so, the theater is eyeing a November reopening; Jones Hall for the Performing Arts is currently selling tickets for late-October performances, but the Wortham will remain closed for repairs until at least May 2018, and Theater District underground parking facilities are closed for the foreseeable future. The Houston Museum District fared better, but that’s not to say it came away unscathed. “While several Museum District institutions had some water damage, collections, exhibitions, and libraries were well protected by dedicated staff and good advance planning,” says Houston Museum District executive director Julie Farr. “It is the staff, freelancers, and independent artists that have been severely impacted with loss of housing, vehicles, wages, and studios.” The Texas Cultural Emergency Response Alliance and Harvey Arts Recovery provided (and continue to provide) workshops and resources to help this vulnerable segment of the population get back on its feet, and those in the community who could offer assistance to others did so without hesitation. “The arts community came together quickly and responsively to Hurricane Harvey, not only for their own organizations and people, but also city-wide,” Farr says, with The Children’s Museum of Houston, Houston Center for Photography, and The Health Museum providing kid-friendly activities at shelters and art-making activities and photography programs at Congregation Emanu El’s Hurricane Harvey Day Camp. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Bayou Bend and Rienzi, 1940 Air Terminal Museum, Mercer Arboretum and Botanical Garden, and parts of Buffalo Bayou Park remain closed (though the 1940 Air Terminal Museum is slated to reopen in October), but all Houston Museum District institutions have reopened, many with special activities and promotions. Here, Parr outlines what’s on the calendar:   The Health Museum is offering one free admission for every four non-perishable food items to donate to the Houston Food Bank. Houston Center for Photography (HCP) also collected donations for the Houston Food Bank and is taking in gently-used cameras for school photography programs. Asia Society Texas Center is promoting food donations and from September 23 to December 31, offering complimentary entrance to their Wondrous Worlds exhibition. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is offering $5 tickets to Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism 1910-1950 through October 1 and has been providing free gallery and studio experiences to hundreds of HISD elementary students. The Children’s Museum of Houston is collecting school supplies and HISD uniforms while offering free admission to families in transition from shelters. Rothko Chapel is open and free 365 days a year and providing special programs every Wednesday from 12 to 1pm through the end of October to support healing as we individually and collectively discover new ways to work and serve together in the days ahead.