(UPDATED NOV 2021) The state of Mississippi calls to mind all things magnolia, blues, catfish, and Hotty Toddy, Ole Miss. But, Mississippi is also a great vacation destination, perfect for road trips, day trips, week-long beach retreats, and girlfriend getaways. With attractive towns like Oxford, Columbus, Tupelo, and Biloxi, Mississippi is chock full of fun and adventures. Here are 50 cool things that we like to do in Mississippi.
1. Visit Elvis’ Birthplace (Tupelo)
See the tiny house that The King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley was born at in Tupelo. His house (now museum) is quite an attraction with world-class exhibits and visitors who flock from around the world year after year. On the property are Elvis’ childhood church, two-room house, museum, gift shop, bronze statues, Fountain of Life, and Mississippi Music Markers. The Elvis Presley Birthplace is a stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail.
2. Shop at a Fantastic Mall (Ridgeland)
Get lost in retail therapy at Renaissance at Colony Park. This elegant outdoor mall features stores like Apple, Aerie, Williams Sonoma, Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry, The Orvis Company, and Soft Surroundings. Make a day out of it and enjoy the dining options and an overnight at Hyatt Place Hotel, within walking distance of the mall.
3. Admire a Cotton Field (MS Delta)
I was in “high cotton”, literally and figuratively when I stopped beside the road to admire this beautiful cotton field near the Mississippi Delta. Cotton is one of the top exports and crops in the state (third in the US), generating more than $400 million per year. This staple has been grown on Mississippi soil since 1795. Isn’t it gorgeous?
4. Tour a Historic Lighthouse (Biloxi)
The Biloxi Light is the only active lighthouse in the state of Mississippi. It overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi Sound, and has the claim of more female light keepers than any other in the country. First lit in 1848, this classic lighthouse, which has survived multiple hurricanes and World War II, is one of the most photographed things in Mississippi. The Biloxi Lighthouse is unique in that its located between busy highways, and not on the shoreline as most.
5. Visit A Local Art Gallery (Ocean Springs)
Celebrating the art and works of Walter Anderson, the gallery of the same name inspires artists and visitors with a quality collection from Mississippi’s beloved local. The colorful collection features Anderson’s oil paintings, drawings, watercolors, carvings, and decorative arts. Most impressive to me are the colorful and whimsical murals, but The Little Room is said to be the museum’s crown jewel.
6. Tailgate in The Grove (Oxford)
Saturdays in the fall are reserved for one thing in Mississippi–college football. Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) is home to the holy grail of tailgating, and there’s no better time to visit than during a home football game. See the 10-acre space in the center of campus known as The Grove transform into a field full of the most elaborate tailgates you have ever seen.
Two hours before kickoff, gather around the Walk of Champions to watch the Ole Miss Rebels football team walk from the Student Union, through the Grove, to Vaught Hemingway Stadium. It’s a tradition unlike any other in college football.
7. Visit a Top-Ranked Independent Bookstore (Oxford)
You may not have lived until you see “four bookstores on five floors in three buildings” all within a hundred feet of each other at The Square, in Oxford, Mississippi. Continually ranked as one of the nation’s best independent bookstores, you can find anything and everything at Square Books, a book-lovers dream store. Check out the incredible selection of signed books and unique titles when you visit one of our favorite and the best reasons to visit Mississippi.
8. Sip Smooth Spirits at Cathead Distillery (Jackson)
Belly up to the bar in Jackson, Mississippi, and enjoy the smoothness of Cathead Vodka from the first and oldest distillery in Mississippi. In operation for over 40 years, Cathead Distillery is a widely recognized name in spirits not only in Mississippi, but all over the country. Looking to sample something unique? Try the honeysuckle or pecan vodka, both made with pure Louisiana cane sugar.
9. See Picturesque Murals (Vicksburg)
The pictorial scenes of the Vicksburg Riverfront Murals depicts the state’s colorful history through larger-than-life displays along the Mississippi River flood wall. This area is often called Catfish Row and were created in 2002 by artist Robert Dafford. Panels include the Vicksburg Flood of 1927, the first Coca-Cola bottling in America, Gold in the Hills, and The Turning Point in the Civil War, to name a few.
10. Retrace “The Help” Filming Locations (Greenwood)
The Help was an award-winning book and movie filmed in Greenwood, Jackson, and Clarksdale, Mississippi. It starred Viola Davis, Octavia Spender, Emma Stone, and Jessica Chastain. Visit the filming locations around the town of Greenwood as you explore Avent & Clark Booksellers, Minnie’s, Holly Holbrook’s, Skeeter Phelan’s, and Elizabeth Leefolt’s houses, Jackson Junior League, and Jackson Courthouse.
Greenwood provided the backdrop for the DreamWorks Studios 2010 award-winning movie, “The Help“, starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain. Mississippi native Kathryn Stockett even wrote the bestselling novel, “The Help”. See the movie’s filming locations by taking a self-guided driving tour and strolling the downtown streets of Church and Howard. Favorites include Celia Foote’s house, Hilly Holbrook’s house, and Avent & Clark Booksellers.
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11. Stay in Mississippi’s Best Hotel/Casino (Biloxi)
Mississippi’s #1 rated luxury hotel is Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi. This casino hotel (an MGM resort) features 1800 slot machines, table games, a handful of restaurants, two nightclubs, beautiful gardens, and fantastic shopping. I love the chintzy patterns and fabrics of the Beau Rivage, which fits perfectly with its Southern address. Hotel rooms are spacious and stylish with ceiling to floor windows.
12. Kayak on the Rez (Ridgeland)
Mississppi’s Ross Barnett Reservoir, known as The Rez, is the 33,000 acre lake with 105 miles of shoreline. It is perfect for boating, water skiing, kayaking, and fishing. Types of fish you might catch are paddlefish, black crappie, and bowfin. There are also campsites at The Rez, a popular spot for outdoor activities.
13. See the Braves Play Baseball (Pearl)
See the Mississippi Braves (class AA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves) play baseball at Trustmark Park. This ballpark is fun for the whole family and offers really cool promotions during the week, like Military Monday, First Responders Wednesday, Bark in the Park, and Fan Friday’s.
14. Take an Animal Safari at McClain Lodge (Brandon)
McClain Lodge is a multi-faceted attraction in Brandon, Mississippi. Besides several food shops, restaurants, general store, and clothing store, there is also a well-kept, fun animal attraction for the whole family to enjoy. You can choose to walk through or do the McClain drive-through safari tour. A petting zoo is offered for both. Animals you will see include camels, zebra, bison, lemurs, kangaroos, ostrich, and much more.
15. Tour a Nobel Prize Winning Author’s Home (Oxford)
Rowan Oak was home to literary giant and American author William Faulkner and his family for over forty years. Retrace his steps in this quintessential Southern property, also a National Historic Landmark.
Aside from the picturesque four acres of hardwoods the home (circa 1844) sits on, you will also see treasures from Faulkner’s private and work life inside the house, including Pulitzer Prizes, manuscripts, and his typewriter, just as he left them. If you’d like, you can visit Faulkner’s gravesite right off The Square, a popular place for his devoted fans.
16. Drink in a Speakeasy (Brandon)
Step back in time into the world of speakeasys at the latest creation from the Georgia Blue. The Gallows Bar (underneath Genna Benna’s Restaurant in historic downtown Brandon) is great for creative, prohibition-style cocktails, tiki drinks, and conversation pits. The Gallows has a tapas menu for snacking, plus craft beer and wine.
17. Eat Really Good Food (Fondren)
Fondren is the hipster neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi, and home to many noteworthy restaurants. We love Pig & Pint, with delicious, award-winning bbq, scrumptious side dishes, and a great local craft beer selection. The rustic-looking indoor and outdoor dining options go perfectly with the Instagram-worthy meal that you’ll be feasting on. Do yourself a favor and try the pork rinds & queso before indulging in a bbq plate, nachos, sandwich, tacos, or fries.
18. Attend Mistletoe Marketplace (Jackson)
The most anticipated activity in the whole state (aside from those really coveted football games) is the annual Mistletoe Marketplace, 40 years in the books. This huge holiday festivity is held at the Mississippi Trade Mart. It boasts hundreds of booths selling clothing, accessories, arts, crafts, kids items, and food from all over the country. Mistletoe Marketplace is not your cheesy craft fair, but a well-thought out, organized, high-end shopping extravaganza, with Santa.
19. See the Dentzel Carousel (Meridian)
Whimsical and playful will describe your step back in time as you climb upon one of the 28 hand-carved wooden and brass animals (lion, tiger, deer, giraffe, horses—two rows deep) on the Dentzel Carousel. The antique carousel, made in 1896 for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, is housed in an enclosed building in Highland Park. The Dentzel Carousel is a National Historic Landmark and is one of the finest remaining in the world.
20. Learn at the MS Ag and Forestry Museum (Jackson)
Perhaps the least-known, most-impressive museum in the state of Mississippi is the Agriculture and Forestry Museum, the state’s only living history museum. Stroll through a 1920s cotton-era village as you learn about life back in the day. Historical artifacts and hands-on activities, complete with costumed interpreters, educate and entertain in this fascinating attraction. Check out the website for the activities and events coming to the museum.
Note: the museum is closed on Sunday.
21. Visit HGTV’s Home Town (Laurel)
Roll into the darling town of Laurel, where the inspiration and popular Home Town TV show is filmed at. From shopping at the Laurel Mercantile to driving around to see the houses that have been renovated and gone from shabby to chic at the hands of Erin and Ben Napier, the local hometown and Home Town stars. Caution: you will fall in love with this sweet place.
22. Eat the Best Biscuits in Mississippi (Ocean Springs)
Indulge in the most delicious sweet and savory biscuits ever at The Greenhouse on Porter in Ocean Springs. From the Pregnancy Biscuit (with dill pickle flavor, Comeback sauce, and fried onions) to Cinnamon Raisin, Lemon broccoli biscuit with feta fluff to carrot cake biscuit with sweet fluff and pecan crumbles, there is something to please every palate…and then some.
23. Visit a National Military Park (Vicksburg)
See the site of the “battle that changed the course of the Civil War” when you drive through Vicksburg’s National Military Park. The 16-mile loop take you through hundreds of monuments, gravesites, and historical markers. Be sure to make time to see and learn about the USS Cairo Museum, the first ironclad warship built for the Civil War.
24. Indulge in the Best Cake of Your Life (New Albany)
Sugaree’s is an advertisement we had seen for years in Southern Living Magazine. It certainly lived up to its hype when we visited the adorable store in New Albany. Known for their scratch-made layered caramel or strawberry, red velvet, and pound cakes, Sugaree’s also has a gorgeous rainbow cake with bold, colorful layers is a perfect gift for someone special, or to just indulge in.
25. Chant the Hotty Toddy Cheer (Oxford)
While on the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) campus, you are sure to hear the words Hotty Toddy. What does “Hotty Toddy” mean? ESPN’s Doug Ward said it best: “Hotty Toddy has no real meaning, but it means everything in Oxford. For students, fans, and alumni, it is a greeting, cheer, and secret handshake all rolled into one. Hotty Toddy is the spirit of Ole Miss.”
Pro Tip: Be sure to check out the Hotty Toddy Potties.
26. Attend the Mississippi State Fair (Jackson)
Everybody loves a fair, and the Mississippi State Fair is a fun-filled 12-days long extravaganza. Channel your inner child on rides such as the Ferris wheel, sky ride, and Scrambler, or practice milking a cow or enjoying the petting zoo attraction. There is live entertainment daily as well as livestock showings and games.
You can’t attend a state fair and not eat yourself silly on the fair faves. Roasted corn, deep-fried Oreos, ribbon fries, cheese nuggets, and chicken-on-a-stick are the more popular eats at this festival.
27. Visit the Only Grammy Museum Outside of LA (Cleveland)
Step into the $22 million dollar GRAMMY Museum Mississippi for a stroll down memory lane through iconic songs, artists, and songwriters. Exhibits include timelines of music news, performer’s clothing and music memorabilia, red carpet clothing, Mississippi Music Table, and a video of exceptional Grammy performances through the years in a mini surround-sound theater, and more.
Step onto the stages for your own band experience (the Roland Room), and dance on a light-up dance floor that mimics the Saturday Night Fever disco explosion.
28. Relax and Unwind at a Great Day Spa (Ridgeland)
Voted the best spa in the state of Mississippi, Drench Day Spa is a perfect place to invest in yourself and a day of relaxing. Choose from hydrating facials to relaxing or invigorating massages, as you let the experts help you unwind and detoxify in the glamorous setting. Drench Day Spa also has a lash and brow studio, waxing, spray tanning, and microblading.
29. Visit the Mississippi State Capitol (Jackson)
In my book, you can’t be in a state capital and not visit the State Capitol complex. The Mississippi Capitol building (a National Historic Landmark since 2016) is stately and picturesque, with pristine grounds dotted with lots of sculptures, statues, and plaques. The Mississippi State Capitol dome is limestone-colored terra cotta, topped with an eight feet tall copper and gold eagle. Inside, the rotunda is spectacular and worth getting out of your car for.
30. Have a Perfect Slice of Cake (Vicksburg)
Oh, Vicksburg, you have so many toothsome places to enjoy a memorable bite. My favorite is Walnut Hills, where the list of homemade cakes and pies can bring you to your knees. Though the choices change often, the strawberry cake is 10/10 amazing, as is the caramel cake, a Mississippi staple. Walnut Hill’s cozy and friendly atmosphere will have you lingering a little longer than you anticipated, and the sweet delicacies will more than satisfy.
31. Check out Priceless Art (Jackson)
Visit the Mississippi Museum of Art in downtown Jackson. This attraction is filled with impressive works of art and is the largest museum in the Magnolia State. This absolutely free museum (donations are accepted) offers pieces by Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, . Watch for special events including art nights, museum after hours, look and learn, and creative healing studio.
32. Waste Away at The Margaritaville Resort (Biloxi)
Want to visit the Caribbean but don’t want to spring for airfare? Head to the Margaritaville Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. With a “no worries” vibe, beach themed decor, and enough fun for the whole family, you won’t believe you are in Mississippi. The hotel even pipes in tropical smells! Have your own island-inspired getaway at the Margaritaville Biloxi.
33. See 100 Animals (Hattiesburg)
The Hattiesburg Zoo is a manageable sized year-round zoo with dozens of animals to see and learn about. Walk the 12-acres of this family-friendly attraction that has a cute train ride, high-ropes adventure course, carousel, and picnic area.
Animals to look for are flamingos, sloth, lemur, panther, tiger, wallaby, porcupine, elephant, and one 90 other species. Bonus, the entrance fee is unbelievably affordable.
34. Dine in a Beloved Chef’s Restaurant (Hattiesburg)
Step into an adorable eatery inside an unlikely venue when you visit the Birdhouse Cafe, Chef Katie Dixon’s crown jewel in Hattiesburg. Her culinary prowess for healthy eating comes through in signature dishes like the Curry Chicken Salad, Açaí bowls, and creative smoothies, bowls, and juices. Chef Katie is all about cooking and eating healthy, and could convince even the most finicky eater.
35. Visit the Civil Rights Museum (Jackson)
Jackson was chosen to be the site of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. This thought-provoking museum documents, educates, and exhibits the American Civil Rights Movement from the years of 1945 to 1970 in the state of Mississippi. Learn about the lives and hardships from Medger Evers and Vernon Dahmer, and the climb to black empowerment, as well as dozens of other opportunities.
36. Have Sunday Brunch (Meridian)
Mississippi’s oldest operating restaurant is also one of the finest. At Weidmann’s, you’ll find a classic, yet upscale menu and an inviting, chic dining room. Come for Sunday brunch and enjoy live jazz music and dishes such as Fried Green Tomatoes, Shrimp and Grits Ya-Ya, Eggs Benedict, Peanut Butter and Banana Stuffed French Toast, and Chicken & Waffles. Pair these with a morning cocktail Bloody Mary or Mimosa for the ultimate brunch experience.
37. Check Out 600+ Historic Homes (Columbus)
The National Historic Register of Historic Places is filled with entries of grand antebellum plantation homes from the town of Columbus, Mississippi. Over 600 of them are scattered around town, some beautiful enough to take your breath away. If these walls could talk, it would be amazing to hear the stories of what they have seen. Get your cameras ready, the scenery is A+. Whitehall, circa 1843, is my fave!
FYI: During the Civil War, many of these homes were makeshift hospitals.
38. Make a Splash at a Family-Friendly Water Park (Choctaw)
Right outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi is the town of Choctaw. Here lies a Mississippi hidden gem, Geyser Falls. Voted Southeast Mississippi’s #1 Family Attraction, Geyser Falls is an upscale water park that is fun for everyone. Whether you like water slides, riding waves in the wave pool, or relaxing on the beach, Geyser Falls has it a
39. Shop the Canton Flea Market (Canton)
The Canton Flea Market is a shopping extravaganza taking place the second Thursday in May and October from 7 AM to 4 PM. More than 1,000 vendors from across the country take over the city of Canton, Mississippi selling their handmade items. Shop clothing, home decor, furniture, bath products, pottery, artwork, food, gifts, and jewelry–just to name a few Canton Flea Market finds. It’s a lot of fun, but overwhelming, especially if you’re a first time visitor.
40. See A Big Name Concert (Brandon)
Brandon, is home to the states’s most impressive concert venue, the Brandon Amphitheater. Come here to see big name acts in a small-scale setting where no seat is a bad one. Scheduled for 2020 are Def Leppard, Kane Brown, and Kidz Bop.
The amphitheater has a clear bag policy.
41. Learn about Famous Mississippians in a World-Class Museum (Meridian)
The MAX (Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience) is a savvy collection of famous Mississippians gifts to the arts, sciences, and nature in one building. From galleries and legends to a Hall of Fame, Walk of Fame (stars on the sidewalks in downtown Meridian), and Recording Studio, you will have a blast at this interactive and informative attraction. The Walk of Fame commemorates B.B. King, Jimmie Rodgers, Morgan Freeman, Hartley Peavey, Tennessee Williams, Muddy Waters, and Jim Henson, plus many more.
42. Stroll Fishbone Alley (Gulfport)
Fishbone Alley is a funky and artsy spot is situated between restaurants and bars in downtown Gulfport Mississippi. You will find it between 26th and 27th Avenue and 13th and 14th Streets. The festive alley has fantastic live music and cool artwork to admire and enjoy.
43. Drink the State’s Best Mead
Queen’s Reward, in Tupelo, Mississippi, is an award-winning meadery with a picturesque tasting room and friendly staff. Sip on honey-based wines, the oldest recorded alcoholic beverage, in a comfortable venue complete with live music and tons of fun. I recommend the Delta Gold (grape mead) and the Traditional Sweet, both small-batch native Missisissippi wines. Seriously, this is the best mead I’ve had in the whole country!
44. Tour the Home of Tennessee Williams (Columbus)
See the birthplace and home of America’s most prolific writer, Tennessee Williams, in Columbus, MS. The historic home is now a designated Literary Landmark and the town’s Welcome Center, making it easy to pick up literature about Columbus. Tennessee Williams best-known works include The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, all of which were Broadway shows, too.
45. Play at the Interactive Exhibits (Jackson)
Kids of all ages will enjoy spending the afternoon at the Mississippi Children’s Museum. Exhibits include Exploring Mississippi (experience and learn about all of the state’s unique regions), Healthy Fun (demonstrates how body systems work), Wild About Reading (celebrating the wonder of literature), and Express Yourself (hands-on visual, performing, and fine arts projects and activities).
46. See an Incredible Silver Collection (Laurel)
Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, also Mississippi’s first museum, is a treasure trove that was inspired by a sad story and lots of love. The welcoming establishment has a British Georgian silver collection that is mind-blowing, as well as a beautiful Chihuly piece, American Indian baskets, and both American and European art. LRMA has a well-stocked library and gift shop on the premises, too.
47. Learn the History of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast (Biloxi)
A visit to the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi provides an intellectual look at how the Gulf Coast’s shrimp industry has evolved and created delicious seafood for the country, as well as a look at the heritage of Biloxi. The story behind the shrimp peeling machine is especially interesting. The beautiful three-story museum also has a treasure trove of boats on display and great data about hurricanes (especially Katrina) and preservation.
48. Eat Delectable Southern Dishes (Ridgeland)
Ridgeland is one of the top foodie destinations in Mississippi, so don your stretch pants and try the delicious dining options at Local 463 Urban Kitchen (my personal fave), CAET, Ely’s Restaurant and Bar, or High Biscuits. Need help deciding what to order? Chicken and Waffles, Crawfish and Shrimp Dip, Bread Pudding, Baked Crab Fondue, and Portobello Fries with Comeback sauce are all lip-smacking choices.
49. Drive the Natchez Trace (Natchez)
The Natchez Trace runs through the state of Mississippi from the Alabama state line to the city of Natchez. This historic driving destination in whole, extends 440 miles from Nashville to Natchez. It was one of America’s first National roads (1800s) and has a speed limit of 40 to 50 mph. From scenic overlooks to waterfalls, there are plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the sites along the drive.
50. Nosh on a Perfect Charcuterie Board (Cleveland)
Treat yourself to a restaurant that is every bit as beautiful as it is delicious when you dine at Delta Meat Market inside the Cotton House Cleveland Hotel. From the house-smoked meats to imported cheeses served on a spectacular piece of McCarty pottery, James Beard Award nominated Chef Cole Ellis’charcuterie boards may be the best in the state.
Mississippi is a beautiful state to road trip to, visit with the whole family, or attend sporting and special events. Enjoy your time in The Magnolia State.