Fifteen years to the day after Hurricane Katrina battered Mississippi's Gulf Coast—and just a few days after a fresh spate of storms made landfall in neighboring Louisiana—the coastal city of Gulfport opened the brand-new Mississippi Aquarium to the public on Saturday, August 29.
At a ribbon-cutting event on Friday, Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes called the nearly $100-million facility "a monument to all of us, to our ability to recover, to the resiliency of our community and our spirit.”
Located in downtown Gulfport, not far from Coastal Mississippi's casinos and white, sandy beaches, the 80,000-square-foot aquarium houses scores of species from local waters and beyond, including alligators, stingrays, otters, and river fish.
There's an outdoor boardwalk for exploring the grounds, an aviary for shorebirds, and, back inside, a see-through tunnel that guests can walk through for wraparound views of colorful fish, turtles, and other creatures.
Dolphins will soon move into the facility as well, but their transport was held up by the tropical storms, according to local news reports.
The aquarium was originally slated for a spring opening, but that was delayed by Covid-19.
Among the pandemic precautions put in place to protect visitors are required masks and timed tickets to control crowd sizes.
That means you'll need to purchase tickets in advance online. Admission costs $26.95 for adults and $22.45 for kids ages 3 to 12.