Mississippi Holiday Planning Guide
Still relatively unspoiled by mass tourism, Mississippi epitomizes rich history and offers warm hospitality to vacationers. The Mississippi River forms most of the state's western border, so it's no surprise that this mighty waterway shapes the lives of those who call the "Magnolia State" their home. The river influences everything from the food they eat to the music they listen to. Perhaps the easiest way to discover Mississippi is to take a drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which follows a route used since pre-colonial times that's famous for its scenic beauty and historical attractions. At the end of the parkway sits a town packed with nearly 600 antebellum homes.
Places to Visit in MississippiBiloxi
: Home of the first Mardi Gras party, Biloxi keeps the celebration coming with endless entertainment, recreation, and things to do. Vicksburg
: The site of an important Civil War battle, Vicksburg plays a significant role in preserving the state's history through its many historic sites and museums. Natchez
: Filled with historical homes and friendly people, Natchez is brimming with southern charm, heritage, and entertainment. Tupelo
: Home to the king of rock and roll and dedicated to his legacy, Tupelo is all things Elvis. Aside from the King, the city is also a hotspot for classic and antique car enthusiasts.Jackson
: Where southern hospitality meets rich heritage, you'll find the city of Jackson. As the state's capital, the city is brimming with museums on the Civil Rights Movement and other important historical events. Gulfport
: A nature lover's paradise on the Gulf Coast, Gulfport offers many scenic nature areas to explore, including barrier islands, white beaches, tidal pools, and boardwalks.
Things to Do in Mississippi
Popular Mississippi Tourist AttractionsVicksburg National Military Park
: Take a step back in time to 1863 at Vicksburg National Military Park, where a monument and welcome center recount tales of the Battle of Vicksburg, one of the Civil War's most crucial campaigns. Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum
: See where the inspiration all began at Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum. The King's childhood home, town, and church preserve his magic through a collection of memorabilia. U.S.S. Cairo Museum
: Climb aboard the U.S.S. Cairo Museum and immerse yourself in the Civil War era, when this ironclad ship sank to the bottom of the Mississippi River. Longwood
: Tour this elegant Byzantine-style mansion, the largest octagonal mansion in the country. Longwood's second floor and basement remain unfinished, and are yours to explore. Natchez Trace Parkway
: Take the scenic route with a trip down the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 715 km (444 mi) long road originally traced by Native Americans and their herds. Today, you can explore the parkway by car, on foot, or on horseback.Beauvoir
: Step into the home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis on your Mississippi vacation with a trip to Beauvoir. Davis retired to the Beauvoir plantation following the Union's victory in the Civil War, and the estate now houses a Civil War museum and a Confederate cemetery. Stanton Hall
: This enchanting Greek Revival-style mansion has served as a family home, a home for Civil War troops, and a ladies' college. Ship Island
: Swimming, exploring, and dolphin-watching are just a few of the things to do at Ship Island. This group of barrier islands is also home to a historic 19th-century fort. Delta Blues Museum
: Pay tribute to blues legends such as BB King and Muddy Waters with a trip to the Delta Blues Museum, where you'll find an expansive collection of instruments, posters, costumes, and other memorabilia. Rosalie Mansion
: Tour this elegant 1820 riverfront estate, complete with period furniture, which tells the tales of the families that passed through its halls.
Planning a Mississippi Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Mississippi with Kids
Mississippi's wealth of nature centers and historic sites yields an abundance of family-friendly things to do. You may want to avoid the glittery big cities, however, which tend to focus more on adult entertainment and gambling. Instead, stick to the sunny swimming holes off the coast of Biloxi
, or head to Tupelo
, where you'll find plenty of nearby national parks, zoos, aquariums, and water parks.
Things to Do in Mississippi with Kids
If traveling with youngsters, check out Mississippi Children's Museum
. The museum presents plenty of educational material in a kid-friendly way, and appeals to visitors of all ages. If your kids are a little bit older, they might find Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
more their speed. The museum presents several dinosaur skeletons and reptiles bound to keep the whole family entertained. Lastly, Hattiesburg Zoo
is a popular addition to any Mississippi family vacation. The facilities are clean and the staff is remarkably friendly. The zoo hosts a broad collection of animals, including awe-inspiring tigers and cheetahs.
If you find yourself looking for a bit of a break from the usual tourist attractions, or if you just need a rainy day plan, look no further than INFINITY Science Center
. This hidden gem is loaded with curiosity-inspiring space exhibits, including real rocket ships that the kid in everyone will enjoy.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Mississippi
For a more relaxed Mississippi family vacation, opt to spend your time at the beach rather than in the busy casino towns. Make sure your bag includes sunscreen and snacks, as the grocery stores are usually packed on popular arrival days. Familiarize yourself with the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico to find out which ones are kid-friendly, and which ones aren't. Set your alarm clock early to make sure you can grab a prime beach spot.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Mississippi
Cuisine of Mississippi
When on a Mississippi vacation, you'd be missing out if you skipped the fried catfish. A state favorite, fried catfish is often served with fried dill pickles. The town of Belzoni is especially known for this popular dish. If your Mississippi itinerary takes you through Indianola
, be sure to check out the local pecans that the town is renowned for. In keeping with the rest of the South, Mississippi has also perfected its barbecue pork ribs and pulled pork, served in sandwiches with tomato-based sauces. The state is also known for its other staples: biscuits, cornbread, fried chicken, fried steak, collards, and greens.
Shopping in Mississippi
Shopaholics on a Mississippi holiday will enjoy the state's many major shopping malls, mostly found in the larger cities and towns. If you branch out to the smaller towns, you'll still find some bigger brand name stores, along with local antique and furniture stores. The town of Natchez
is especially known for its collection of antique stores. If you're looking for a unique shopping experience particular to the state, check out Cat Head Delta Blues-Folk Arts
. This charming shop is bursting with blues music, records, books, and original art.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Mississippi
History of Mississippi
Before Europeans inhabited Mississippi, Native American tribes dominated the area, particularly in the present-day towns of Biloxi
. The first European explorer in the area, Hernando de Soto, led an expedition into Mississippi in 1540, though the first European settlement was not established until 1699. The town now known as Natchez
, then known as Fort Rosalie, was the first major town and trading post.
In the years to come, the area would pass through the control of many countries, including Spain, Great Britain, and France, until it was ceded to the British following the French and Indian War. Through the end of the 1700s and early 1800s, the area began to reorganize, reclaiming land from Georgia and South Carolina, and purchasing land from Native American tribes. In 1817 Mississippi became the 20th state admitted to the Union.
In the 1850s, the state's cotton plantation owners became very wealthy due to the high international price of cotton and Mississippi's fertile soil. The uneven distribution of wealth and increasing dependence on slave labor influenced the state's politics, and many citizens began to support secession from the Union. On January 9, 1861, Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union and join the Confederate States of America. Following the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War, Mississippi was readmitted to the Union on February 23, 1870, under Reconstruction. Learn more about Mississippi's role in the Civil War with a trip to Vicksburg National Military Park
In the early 20th century a series of restrictive racial segregation laws were put in place, resulting in the mass emigration of almost half a million people in the 1940s, of whom 75% were black. In the 1960s Mississippi gained a negative reputation for its reactionary response during the Civil Rights Movement. The actions of many white politicians, the White Citizen's Council, and the violent acts of the Ku Klux Klan put the state in the spotlight. Change has slowly come to the state, however: in 2013, Mississippi finally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which had abolished slavery after the Civil War.
Landscape of Mississippi
Southern Mississippi is entirely comprised of lowlands. The state has higher elevations, foothills, and small mountains in the north, and is at its lowest along the Gulf of Mexico coastline. The majority of the state is part of the East Gulf Coastal Plain, characterized by its low hills. In the western part of the state you'll find yellow-brown loess soil, while in the northeast is a region of fertile black soil known as the Black Belt where cotton thrives. In the northwest you'll find the Mississippi Delta, rich in silt from floods.
If you want to get in touch with nature, look no farther than Clark Creek Natural Area
, a state park and popular Mississippi attraction sought out for its hiking trails, birdwatching, and geocaching.
Holidays & Festivals in Mississippi
Mississippi offers plenty of fun-loving, old-fashioned holidays and festivals that embrace southern culture. Natchez
hosts many festivals throughout the year. If you're passing by on your Mississippi trip, you might catch the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, where hot air balloons take to the skies and plenty of musicians take to the stage. The town also hosts Christmas in Natchez, a month-long festival that embraces and celebrates the magic of a southern Christmas. The hometown of the king of rock and roll, Tupelo
, annually hosts the Elvis Presley Festival. Held every June, the festival features great music, food vendors, a carnival, and a pet parade. Last but not least, Belzoni annually hosts the World Catfish Festival, a family-oriented event where they serve up plenty of the state's favorite dish.
Mississippi Travel Tips
Climate of Mississippi
Mississippi enjoys a humid subtropical climate with long, hot summers and mild winters. The state is noticeably warmer the farther inland you go during the winter months. Snowfall is not unheard of, and precipitation and humidity generally increase as you move farther south toward the Gulf of Mexico. During the late summer and early fall the state sometimes sees hurricanes, particularly in the south. The south also sees a higher frequency of thunderstorms, which sometimes escalate into tornadoes.
Transportation in Mississippi
The easiest way--and sometimes the only way--to get around on your Mississippi vacation is undeniably by car. Greyhound Bus lines do operate, but the routes are limited and the stops are often in remote locations.