Biloxi tourist attractions add more family-friendly options

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Tourism leaders have said it over and over again. The Mississippi Gulf Coast can't recapture the success we had before Katrina in luring visitors without offering families more to do when vacationing here.  Two tourist attractions that are expanding their operations to try to fill that void.

The 2011 Biloxi Shrimping Trip season launched on Tuesday. Returning customers found a sail was a little different from what they remembered.

"We have expanded to do a $35 family fishing trip for three hours. We take them out and do a light tackle fishing," said owner Brandy Moore. "We also have the two hour sunset cruise where we cruise up and down the coast."

Parents and children spent the day working on their swing at Big Play, a miniature golf course located on the Biloxi beachfront. The business just doubled the size of the arcade, and owners say several more attractions should be up and running by mid-April.

"We're adding go carts and  bumpers cars," said Brandon Woodridge, owner. "And a new game called Water Wars which is basically a balloon fighting game which gives our customers a way to cool off in some of our hotter months. "

The upgrades at both businesses could make a big splash on the Gulf Coast tourism market. The owners say they decided to offer families more because of the popularity.

Woodridge said, "There's such a large unmet demand for family entertainment. If you look at it; the Tourism Commission, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, everyone is saying we need more things for families to do. Casinos are great. It brings people to the area but once they're here we need other things for them to do.

Moore said what is offered also has to be affordable.

"It just seemed like when we started the shrimping tour, when we took over four years ago, people were asking for different things," said Moore. "We figured if we did something close in shore at a really affordable rate, then that would give them that experience they normally would not get."

The hope is more people will come, bring their families and stay longer. The owners of Big Play are also about to open a new barbecue and blues restaurant on Highway 90 in Biloxi.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.