A state rich in controversial history, Mississippi is now known for falling on hard times. Although this doesn’t mean you should overlook it as a travel destination – it’s still an intriguing, beautiful place and genuine taste of the South. Aside from being home to one of the world’s most famous rivers you’ll find a heady mix of scruffy juke joints, native magnolia trees and acres of gorgerous cotton country. From the Blues Trail to Natchez’s Antiques’s Row here are my favourite things to do in Mississippi:
The Mississippi Blues trail
With the blues originating in the Mississippi Delta and the humble origins of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, the state is justifiably proud of its legendry musical status. Blue’s fans should head to Clarksdale for the famous Mississippi blues trail. The Blues Trail is a route through the state which passes through significant landmarks in the history of American blues and extends from the border of Louisiana in southern Mississippi and winds its way to Memphis, Tennessee.
Some of these sites visited include buildings, homes, streets, bars, cotton fields, cemeteries, churches and also the Clarksdale Riverside Hotel, where Bessie Smith died. The long list of sites can be seen independently or you can join an organized tour. More blues singers have come from the state of Mississippi – especially the Mississippi Delta – than all the other Southern States combined. These include Son House, Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Muddy Waters, Skip James, Bukka White, John Lee Hooker, and the legendary B. B.King.
Take a Literary Pilgrimage to Oxford
The prosperous town city of Oxford is included on The Best 100 Small Towns in America list. It was also the adopted home of one of the most important writer’s in American history - William Faulkner. Every year, about 25,000 literary pilgrims come from around the world to visit Oxford, Mississippi to visit everything from Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak, to his grave. Oxford is the model for the city “Jefferson” in his fiction.
Go on a traditional River Trip
The mighty Mississippi River (as well as several smaller rivers) runs through the state. Once the most historical cruising region in the U.S there are still many traditional cruises on offer in the state. The most popular is to take a steamboat ride on an iconic Paddlewheeler riverboat. Take a steamboat from Natchez and enjoy a jazz band and dinner on board or take an overnight river cruise for a traditional Southern evening out.
Take a gamble on Mississippi’s Casinos
The legalization of gambling during the early 1990s stimulated the downcast Mississippi economy, with the giant casinos drawing people to the state. Biloxi, Vicksburg, Choctaw, Tunica, Gulfport, Grenville and Natchez is where you’ll find the state’s greatest casinos as well as on the Indian reservation of Philadelphia. Players must be over 21 years old to gamble. The major casinos offer low cost deals on hotel rooms and tours in order to draw in the gamblers and you can also catch top international performers at these casino resorts. The IP Casino Resort Spa in Biloxi was the first casino to reopen after Hurricane Katrina. Many of the casino resorts consist of several casinos together offering all the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas.
Explore Cotton Country
When you get your flights to Mississippi it would be a crime to not explore the acres of beautiful cotton country. Take a drive through the cotton country of Mississippi along the Great River Road. See the patchwork of agricultural fields through the fertile Mississippi Delta along Highway 61. The area is rich with history and along the route you can pass by several state landmarks like the Vicksburg National Military Park, the beautiful town of Gibson, antebellum mansions and the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.
This historic river town should be added to your Mississippi itinerary and has many great attractions. Visit Franklin Street in Natchez for its famous”antiques row” and also see the largest concentration of antebellum homes in the South. These are the traditional plantation mansion homes and in spite of their highly controversial past they still have a haunting beauty.
Head for the wooded Natchez Trace Parkway which is a 444-mile drive through exceptional scenery and 10,000 years of North American history. Used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” settlers, and future presidents, the Old Trace played an important role in American history. It’s an excellent place to hike, cycle, camp or just enjoy a scenic drive.
Canton is a town situated near Jackson on I-55. It’s renowned for its biannual flea market held in the historic city square as well as the many beautiful antique stores its home to. Much of the city is on the National Register of Historic Places and you can see many historic buildings here including the majestic courthouse (pictured above). The city is also on the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Go to the B.B. King Homecoming Festival
August 22nd is B.B. King Homecoming which is celebrated at the B.B. King Museum with musical performances by many greats in the blues and jazz world. The museum tells the story of B.B. and the music in the American south through interactive exhibits, video clips and music clips. The museum is located in Indianola which was B.B.’s hometown; the King of the Blues had a 60 year career. At the time of writing this B.B still performs at the homecoming festival concert each year on the grounds of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.