Making Mississippi...Well, Mississippi

Perhaps William Faulkner was on to something when he said “to understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.”

And as any well-heeled traveler knows the best way to understand a destination is by exploring. While there are many things to do, see and eat in Mississippi, it might be difficult to know where to begin. Here are a few places that shouldn’t be missed when spending time in the Magnolia State.

If you’ve overlooked Meridian before, it’s time to take a closer look. This small city is filled with more than meets the eye. From the historic districts to Dentzel Carousel at Highland Park to Dunn’s Falls, there is enough to see and do to satisfy every interest.

Must-See: You can’t come to Meridian without visiting Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Museum. Honoring the Father of Country Music, displays include records and other memorabilia from his life and career. A point of interest in his guitar on display. Enclosed in a temperature- controlled environment, look closely and see his name is spelled out with mother of pearls.

Eat Here: Be sure to enjoy a meal at Weidmann’s. Serving lunch, dinner and brunch (Sunday), items on the menu include such southern staples as Fried Green Tomatoes, Weidmann’s Seafood Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, Shrimp Remoulade and more. A special touch found here is the peanut butter crocks on the tables. The tradition began during World War II when there was a shortage of butter, and something was needed to spread on the crackers.

Fun Fact: Rose Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for the first king and queen of American gypsies as well other members of the Gypsy royal family.

While Tupelo is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Elvis, it is also home to the headquarters of the Natchez Trace Parkway. History is prevalent as well with Tupelo National Battlefield and Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield site.

Young Elvis: No matter what age, everyone has an interest in Elvis. Why not explore his beginnings at Elvis Presley Birthplace. Want more Elvis? Download and print out self-guided driving tour that takes you to such sites as Tupelo Fairgrounds and Tupelo Hardware among others.

Worth Trying: Indulge in the Smoked Bologna sandwich or the Fried Green Tomato Turkey BLT at Romie’s BBQ.

Something Different: Looking to see/experience something out of the ordinary? Tupelo Automobile Museum houses over 100 antique cars, including rare ones. See where the buffalo and other exotic animals roam at Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo.

History is only part of the reason to visit Corinth. Located in the northeast corner of the state, the small city boasts a thriving downtown as well some culinary specialities, like slugburgers (White Trolley Cafe and Borrums’s Drug Store) and tamales (Dilworth’s Tamales). It is also rich in arts as well with events like Pickin’ on the Square and places like Corinth Artist Guild Gallery and more.

Civil War: There are many sites related to the Civil War worth visiting that you might want to devote a full day (or even a day and a half) to take in everything. Do make sure that you visit Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center and pay close attention as you are walking toward the building. The zig-zag entrance similar to the route troops took, and the art work at different spots on the walkway represent what might have been left behind as they retreated. Established by the Union as a refuge for escaped slaves, Corinth Contraband Camp was a mini-town of sorts and considered as a “model” camp. The artwork depicts scenes from the Camp. You can take in some earthworks as well, such as Battery F or Battery Robinett. If time permits, make it over to Shiloh National Military Park (in Tennessee)

Pop-In: Get a feel for the vibe of Corinth by visiting institutions like Borroum’s Drug Store (oldest drug store in continuous operation in the state) and Waits Jewelry and Fine Gifts (learn about the fascination man before his time, Ernest J. Waits.) Looking for a nice gift to take home, or just want to browse? If you answered “yes” to either, check out Sanctuary (housed in a former Episcopal Church) or The Shops at The Barn.

Something Interesting: Civil War Outfitters C&D Jarnagin are located in Corinth. They create wares for re-enactments covering wars from 1750 through 1865. They also sell tin ware and accoutrements to accompany the uniforms.

Home to Ole Miss (that’s University of Mississippi for the non-southerners out there) and William Faulkner, Oxford is where old South meets new South. There’s  the standard southern-issued Courthouse Square. While the Square is home to Neilson’s Department Store, the oldest in the South and 16th oldest in the nation. there are also numerous boutiques and speciality shops to explore. You can also find culinary masterpieces at John Currence’s City Grocery, or tasty goodies at the eclectic Bottletree Bakery.

Lay of the Land: Download Oxford’s walking tour and get going. The guide highlights four areas: north of square, south of square, Courthouse square and University Avenue, highlighting important homes and buildings.

Finding Faulkner: Aside from touring Rowan Oak, you can see other sites related to Faulkner throughout Oxford (and beyond) as well. Don’t forget to pay a visit to St. Peter’s Cemetery, Faulkner’s final resting place as well as the final stop for many notable Oxford residents.

Worth Driving: There are not too many places the size of Oxford that provides such a diverse array of culinary options. However, if you are looking for an experience that you’ll remember, head to Taylor Grocery in nearby Taylor. Offering meat and vegetables (opt for the catfish), it’s also a live music venue. During Ole Miss home season, arrive at least an hour early to be seated with the first wave.

There’s a musical beat in Clarksdale. It’s not one that you can hear, but one that you definitely can feel inside stores, restaurants, clubs and on the street. It’s a beat that keeps people moving and the blues alive. Home to the Crossroads (as the story goes, this is the site where blues guitarist Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil), it’s said that Clarksdale is where blues were born.

Gotta See: A must-visit is the Delta Blues Museum where you can immerse yourself in everything blues. See the cabin where Muddy Waters lived as well as the Muddy Waters guitar. Different exhibits highlight other musicians, and the music and lifestyle in general. Stop by Ground Zero Blues Club, where you just might get a glimpse of Morgan Freeman, co-owner. If he isn’t there, still stick around for some food and music. Cat Head is the go-to place to browse (and buy) folk art and catch some live music.

Stay Here: Forgo the typical hotel for one of the seven Delta Cotton Company Apartments above Ground Zero Blues Club. Complete with a living area, DirectTV and wireless internet, apartments house two to four occupants. And yes, it is above a blues club, so you’ll hear the music.

Road Trip: For more blues, get on the road and head to B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola (a little over an hour). The museum details the Delta and well as King’s life. It also has a guitar studio where you can try your hand at some blues.  Dockery Farms in Cleveland (about 40 minutes) is another site that claims to the birthplace of the blues. Numerous musicians, like Henry Sloan, Charley Patton, Howlin’ Wolf and notable others lived on or near the farm, and played and sang their music. You can listen to the stories as a walk around the grounds.

Charming just may be the best word to describe Greenwood. It still retains much, if not all, of its small town appeal, but don’t think Greenwood stuck in the past. The town is vibrant; and as the home of Viking Range Corporation along with Viking Cooking School, it is also making a name for itself among foodies. And being the Delta, there is a tie into the blues. Blues legend Robert Johnson briefly lived here and died here, but it’s a mystery about where he is buried. There are three markers at three different cemeteries, all claiming to be the final resting place of Johnson.

Movie Tour: See the sites used in the filming of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. The self-guided driving tour takes you to Hilly’s house (without the toilets in the front yard), Aibileen’s house, Minnie’s house, Skeeter’s house among others.

Gotta Eat: Savor such fare as Black-Eyed Pea Cakes, House-Made Potato Chips, and Bourbon and Coke Fried Chicken Sliders at Delta Bistro. There is much more to the menu as well as daily specials, so you are sure to find a dish or two or three that you would like to try.

Stay Overnight: For a true Greenwood experience, choose from either the boutique Alluvian (and be sure to arrange a spa treatment) or Tallahatchie Flats, six sharecropper-style structures located along the banks of Tallahatchie River. (And if you are wondering, yes, that is the same Tallahatchie mentioned in Bobbie Gentry’s song “Ode to Billie Joe.”)

While history is the main draw to Vicksburg, it’s also rich in arts and outdoor offerings as well. Depending on your mood or interest, you can visit Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, where the first Coca-Cola was bottled or Old Depot Museum, with over 200 ship models along with other displays. Perhaps you would like to take a scenic drive that offer up views of the mighty Mississippi River. Lose yourself in thought as you take in various forms of folk art at Attic Gallery.

Have to Visit: If you only have time to do one thing, tour Vicksburg National Military Park. Not only is it a historic site, but a work of art as well. In fact, it is considered to be one of the world’s premier outdoor art museum. The park is also considered as one of the most accurately marked battlefields in the country. Don’t forget the view the USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum. Sunk in Yazoo River, the gunboat remained there, preserved by the mud, for 102 years until it was recovered, raised and restored. Also at the part is the Vicksburg National Cemetery, the country’s largest burial site of Union soldiers.

Good Eatin’: Dig into good southern food at Walnut Hills Restaurant. Of course, you have to order the fried chicken, but there are many other options on the menu, too. Be sure to save room for dessert.

Worth Seeing: Located at the entrance to the downtown waterfront are 32 pictorial murals, Riverfront Murals that detail certain periods in Vicksburg’s history.

Situated on a bluff 200 feet above the river, Natchez is home to more surviving antebellum structures than any other city in the South. In fact, Natchez Under-the-Hill, the former port, is an original part of the city. It’s here where you can find Under-the-Hill Saloon still going strong in one of the oldest buildings in the area.

Open House: A handful of historic homes are open year around for tours. Take a half of a day or a day exploring stately sites like Longwood, Rosalie, Melrose, Stanton Hall and others. If you just want to be out and about, grab a map from the Visitor Center and take a self-guided tour of downtown on foot.

Take a Break: Enjoy a sunset overlooking the river at Bluff Park.

Rest Your Body: Located downtown, Eola Hotel offers two on-site restaurants and has a courtyard with a fire-and-water fountain. Built in 1927, the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The allure of the beach and the casinos attract many to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but there is more to explore in this area. There’s history (Beauvoir), arts (Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art and Walter Anderson Museum of Art) and heritage (Biloxi Shrimping Tour) to experience as well.

Newest Attraction: Make your way to Infinity Science Center at NASA Stennis Science Center in Hancock County. The center was designed to provide a window to the public of the work at Stennis. There are outdoor exhibits that include a tsunami buoy, and indoor exhibits such as Science on a Sphere and a full-sized International Space Station module, among other space-related items. If time permits, be sure to take a bus tour of Stennis Space Center.

Climb Up: Climb up Biloxi Lighthouse for a different view of Biloxi. The lighthouse is the only one in the U.S. that is standing in the middle of a four-lane highway. It is also perhaps the best known icon of Biloxi as well.

Dine Here: Enjoy Gulf seafood dishes at its finest at Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi. Don’t expect frou-frou or airs here, it’s a very relaxed and fun atmosphere. Can’t go wrong with dishes like Lump Crabcake Remoulade or Shrimp and Crab Au Gratin, just to name a few. They also serve steak as well.