The mighty river that gives Mississippi its name is an unmistakable influence on this state’s past and present. Like a massive artery, the river snakes its way along the western edge, providing nearly everything for this state, from transportation and cotton irrigation to inspiration for authors and blues musicians. It is one of the iconic American waterways.
As you’d expect, most of the big attractions are found along the river’s banks. From beautiful antebellum towns like Natchez to floating casinos, focus your itinerary on the sweet shores. The Natchez Trace Parkway provides the perfect means of travel, history and scenery through the length of the state. At the southern end of Mississippi is the Gulf of Mexico, a whole other world where seafood replaces barbecue and beach towns trump antebellum mansions.
The folks in Mississippi are a mixed bag. They can be really friendly when they want to, but are as stubborn as anyone. One thing that is consistent, however, is the food. This state likes its shrimp and grits, fried chicken and biscuits and slow-smoked barbecue. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better prices on dining, drinking and lodging anywhere else in America.
The tourist attractions in Mississippi are not readily apparent, so you'll need to dig deep to find hidden gems. Its beaches along the Gulf Coast are as pretty and tranquil as any. Head upland along the mighty Mississippi River and you’ll pass town after town steeped in history. There are major Civil War battlefields and sleepy waterfront towns where the blues are as real as the stories they carry. In between are state parks and recreation areas at every turn where the historic and the natural overlap in perfect harmony.
To truly experience any of this Deep South heritage you’ll need your own wheels. Mississippi is about as rural and undeveloped as any state in the country. Its roads are fine, but without a car you’ll be at a loss to get anywhere of interest. Some of America’s top scenic byways provide the ideal means of transportation from the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway to the Great River Road along the Mississippi.
- Walk for miles on the crystal sands of Gulf Shores National Park, where seagulls and waves are your only company
- Admire the grandeur of antebellum architecture in Natchez, the first town of Mississippi and its original capital
- Hang out with the college kids in Oxford, home to Ole Miss as well as one of the state’s most enjoyable dining and drinking scenes
- Learn about the state’s role in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement at the cultural centers in the capital, Jackson
- Follow the Mississippi Blues Trail from town to town to discover your own new favorite unknown Delta Blues legend
- Pay respects to the fierce fighting that occurred at Vicksburg in its sobering Military National Park.
- Try your luck in one of the state’s many casinos along the Gulf Coast or inland on the Indian reservations