Mississippi is an underrated Southern state. I became familiar with it when my daughter, Taylor, went to the University of Mississippi. She loved it so much that she stayed—for almost ten years now, so I visit frequently and still find plenty of new things to see and do—and places to fall in love with. Mississippi may surprise you with its rich history, fabulous food, festivals (for everything you can think of), and impressive SEC college football. This is one state that you do not want to miss! Here are five great places to visit in Mississippi, the Magnolia State.
This article was originally published in March 2019. It was reworked and updated in July 2022.
The capital of Mississippi, Jackson, offers its impressive capitol building and governor’s mansion, which are great for photographing and strolling the picturesque grounds. The architecture of these old buildings is amazing, to say the least, which goes for all of downtown Jackson.
Foodies will enjoy the Fondren area of Jackson, a quaint village with exquisite eateries and bakeries. Stop in Saltine Oyster Bar for fresh oysters and Brent’s Drugs for delicious burgers, soup, and shakes. For date night, visit the impressive Walker’s Drive-In bistro for fabulous food and impeccable service.
One of my favorite things in Jackson is attending a Mississippi Braves baseball game. This upscale ballpark (Trustmark Park) offers good food and lots of entertainment, plus it’s fun for the whole family.
History buffs looking to seek out civil rights historic sites should visit the homes of Medgar Evers and Eudora Welty. If you visit Jackson in the fall, the Mississippi State Fair is a must, and you’ll go crazy for Mistletoe Marketplace, the way to gear up for the holidays by shopping for gifts and Christmas decorations.
Read more about the best restaurants in Jackson in this post.
Oxford touted as the “Cultural Mecca of the South,” is home to the University of Mississippi, better known as Ole Miss. This is a school of Southern traditions and the swankiest football tailgating in the nation. The school was founded in 1848 and is one of the nation’s best public universities.
When arriving in Oxford, the first thing to do is to explore The Square, the area around the downtown Lafayette County Courthouse, the town’s focal point and a landmark since 1872. Expect upscale eateries, high-end shopping, a 180+-year-old department store (Neilson’s), and one of the best independent book stores in the country, Square Books.
If you need help deciding where to eat, my bet is always on Bouré and Ajax Diner, where Southern specialties are the stars and a good state representation.
The SEC Ole Miss Rebels are a favorite sports team in Mississippi. Famous alumni include Archie and Eli Manning, Michael Oher, Kate Jackson, and John Grisham.
Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner lived in Oxford on a property called Rowan Oak. Tours of Rowan Oak are available, and I recommend taking one. The property is gorgeous, and the landscape is adorned with moss-dripping live oaks and rowan trees.
Faulkner’s house still contains pretty much everything as it was left, including penned manuscripts and his Nobel Prize. You’ll find his gravesite at St. Peter’s Cemetery, just a short distance away.
Hattiesburg is a big town, much bigger than you would expect. Home to many historic sites and Southern Miss (The University of Southern Mississippi), this part of Mississippi is growing by leaps and bounds. I almost don’t recognize it every time I come back. Expect chef-inspired restaurants (lots of them!), colorful, eye-catching murals, interesting sculptures, and fun shopping in Hattiesburg. They even have a pocket museum in the downtown area.
The Lucky Rabbit is one of the most fun places to shop, maybe of anywhere USA. This carefully-curated antique meets treasure cove is only open on weekends (sometimes every other) and follows themes that change often. There are two floors to browse and a backyard full of treasures, too. Items range from vintage neon signs to Tupperware and Corningware from the 50s and 60s to trendy t-shirts, seasonal decorations, gourmet foods, and retro toys.
Fun Fact: The Lucky Rabbit was featured on an episode of HGTV’s Home Town.
My favorite restaurants in Hattiesburg are Depot Kitchen & Market for breakfast, Ed’s Burger Joint for lunch, and Keg and Barrel for dinner. If you are traveling with kids, the Hattiesburg Zoo is a manageable-sized zoo with an excellent selection of animals, a merry-go-round, tasty snack stands, and a splash pad.
Read more about things to do in Hattiesburg in this post.
Known for the battle that changed the course of the American Civil War, Vicksburg honors Southern hospitality and is an enjoyable place to visit. Take a stroll down Washington Street to enjoy all the local boutiques and restaurants. While you are there, stop in 10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill for lunch, and then visit the Old Depot Museum along the riverfront.
Gambling fans will prefer spending their time at Ameristar Casino or one of the other local casinos.
The waterfront is home to the Vicksburg Murals, depicting all the historical events in the town over the years. The photogenic murals and Old Depot Museum sit along the Mississippi River. The museum allows visitors to explore early railroad artifacts.
A stop at Vicksburg’s Walnut Hills is a must. This restaurant, serving Southern plantation cuisine, bursts with Southern charm and the most friendly, respectful staff. The homemade cakes and pies attract visitors across the United States and earn rave reviews from magazines and tourists. Try the layered caramel or strawberry cake for one of the best desserts of your life!
Walnut Hills also features a roundtable luncheon that showcases everyone’s favorite traditional Southern foods.
History buffs will love driving the 16-mile visitor loop at the Vicksburg Military Park, home to over 1,300 monuments and war markers. This park is the perfect example of a military battlefield, with hills and crests that allow you to envision the battle going on. The special tribute to Ulysses S. Grant is my favorite part, and if you walk to the top of the hill it sits on, the views are terrific.
Oh my. The Mississippi Delta is such a special place that I honestly don’t know where to begin. The first is getting there. The Delta is an area comprised of many small towns—Cleveland is the heart of the Delta. From there, you can make day trips to see the region, but find incredible lodging at Cotton House, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel. The rooms are stylish and hip, with sumptuous fabrics, furnishings, and even a record player in your room (with albums) should you want one.
Two notable places in Cleveland are Dockery Farms and The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. Dockery Farms is said to be the birthplace of the blues. The sheer number of talented musicians that played here is mind-boggling (think Charley Patton and Howlin’ Wolf), and it would have been amazing to see how alive it became on weekends.
The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, the only one outside of Los Angeles, is a real Mississippi treasure. Hands-on exhibits, singing/songwriting pods, and iconic costumes and instruments belonging to many famous musicians are only some of the things you will find here. Plan to spend about 90-120 minutes in the museum.
Be on the lookout for menus with catfish and tamales—the local favorites—and spend some time shopping in downtown Cleveland. Hey Joe’s Cafe & Record Shop and No Way José are two do-not-miss places in town. Cleveland also has several spots and markers along the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Are You Ready to Explore the Magnolia State?
I love history and seeing new places around the country. Still, I am also happy for the opportunity to familiarize Wherever I May Roam Blog’s readers with locations they might enjoy but maybe had no idea existed. I hope you enjoyed learning more about these five great places to see in Mississippi. Happy travels.