Mississippi is one of the country’s most underrated travel destinations. It has a broad spectrum of history covering the Civil War, Civil Rights Movement and Native American heritage. There is an entire subculture along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, while the Gulf Coast boasts some of America’s prettiest and most serene white sand beaches. Grab a car and hit the scenic byways to move between sleepy river towns, the buzz of Jackson and the balmy shores of the Gulf of Mexico. There are countless attractions along the way, from historic towns like Natchez to pivotal Civil War battlefields at Vicksburg.
Natchez Trace Parkway
The best way to experience the countryside of Mississippi is to drive the Natchez Trace Parkway. This national scenic byway runs for 444 miles along an ancient Native American trail with dozens of historic markers, sites and pullouts to break up the trip. Just as enjoyable is the Great River Road National Scenic Byway that runs along the banks of the Mississippi River. Combine them to create a truly memorable week-long cruise through the best this state has to offer.
Address: Western Mississippi
Mississippi’s capital is a useful base for exploring this corner of the state. It has some of best cultural institutes in Mississippi, most of which trace the Civil Rights Movement or the rich literary traditions that grew here. Check out the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center to learn about African American struggles or the Eudora Welty House and Garden to see where the famous author lived and wrote. Downtown Jackson is blessed with many historic buildings and homes such as the Governor’s Mansion and the State Capitol.
Address: Central Mississippi
The state’s original capital is arguably the most charming town in Mississippi. It boasts more antebellum homes than anywhere else in America, many of which sit on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The Natchez Spring Pilgrimage is the best time to tour these historic houses as dozens of them are open to the public in March and April. While the antebellum scenery is a highlight, Natchez is simply a great town to hang out in and soak up the lazy river atmosphere. It’s also the beginning of the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway drive.
Address: Southwestern Mississippi
Vicksburg National Military Park
One of America’s oldest national parks is also the site of one of the most important fights of the US Civil War. Begin at the visitor's center, which has a museum-quality exhibit of weapons, uniforms and other artifacts from both sides of the conflict as well as a film that sets the backdrop for the battlefield. You can drive through the park and stop at major sites along the 16-mile route. In addition, there are miles of excellent biking and walking paths to create a well-rounded outing.
Address: Vicksburg National Military Park, 3201 Clay Street, Vicksburg, MS 39183
The charming university town of Oxford is home of Ole Miss, the state’s best-known institute of higher learning, sports and partying. Besides the energy the students bring to this quiet little haven, Oxford has lots to enchant visitors around its 150-year-old town square and a myriad of historic buildings that branch off of it. For a small town, Oxford has a fantastic dining scene, great bars and art galleries, and plenty to do that warrants a couple of days to properly enjoy it.
Address: Northern Mississippi
Gulf Coast Casinos
In addition to the history and nature on Mississippi’s doorstep, it is also home to more than a dozen casinos. The Gulf Coast between Biloxi and Gulfport have 11 quality casinos, each with a full array of table games, slots, entertainment, and restaurants. You can also find casinos on the state’s Native American reservations like the Choctaw on the Pearl River or the Isle of Capri in Natchez. They’re invariably located next to or even on the Mississippi River, creating a truly unique environment for a night of gambling fun.
Address: Western and Southern Mississippi
Gulf Islands National Seashore
It may come as a shocker, but Mississippi has some of the prettiest beaches in America. The Gulf Islands National Seashore offers a protected environment to stroll miles of white sand on these barrier islands that stretch from Mississippi all the way to Florida. Vehicles are not allowed on the Mississippi section, which makes the quiet undeveloped scene all the better. There are plenty of beach resorts and amenities around Gulfport and US Highway 90 to choose from.
Address: Southern Mississippi