Bay St. Louis Mississippi is a cool little Gulf Coast community with a funky, laid-back beach vibe that automatically makes you cooler simply for being there.
We fell in love with it — colorful buildings and independent shops and restaurants. It’s the kind of town that often surfaces on lists like “coolest small towns in America.”
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What Makes Bay St. Louis So Special
Just 60 miles from New Orleans, Bay St. Louis is almost as old, dating to the early 1700s. Some buildings date to the 1840s, having survived hurricane after hurricane.
That includes the 100 Men Hall, a former African-American social club. The dance hall/blues club has been restored and is one of the few physical locations that exist on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Musical geniuses such as Fats Domino, Otis Redding and Ike & Tina Turner have played on this stage.
The restored building hosts regular blues jams, drawing musicians from N’Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis and beyond.
To ensure your visit coincides with one of those performances, plan to be in Bay St. Louis the second Saturday of any month.
That’s when the community hosts its monthly art walk. Sure, lots of communities have art walk events. But how many of them include a shop operated by one of only two certified doll doctors in the country?
Hollywood’s Connection to Bay St. Louis
Remember the 1966 movie “This Property is Condemned,” starring Robert Redford, Natalie Wood and Charles Bronson? It was shot in Bay St. Louis. Often throughout the summer or during art walks, community leaders play the movie on a big screen outside the old train depot, which was featured in the movie.
There’s a walking tour of movie sites for those who are passionate movie buffs.
The train depot includes Mardi Gras costumes from the city’s many celebrations over the years and an art gallery devoted to the work of Alice Mosely, a sassy little octogenarian who made Bay St. Louis her home late in life. From a little blue cottage nearby (that is now available as a vacation rental) Alice created some delightful folk art that shows off her sense of humor looking back on life in Mississippi.
Overall, we found the town just adorable, in that breezy, low key feel that calls your name on those days when you’re back at work, but just can’t sit in the cube farm another minute. Ya, it’s one of those places where shorts, t-shirts and flip flops are all you need to pack. And you want to visit again and again.