Proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln to be the key to ending the Civil War, Vicksburg, Mississippi, is truly a remarkable place to visit. As the site of one of the greatest battles in the US, this sprawling Southern city is a hidden gem for history aficionados, home to several Civil War battlefields, reenactments, cemeteries, and museums.

Here are three ways to get the most out of a trip to Vicksburg:

Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell

Visit Vicksburg National Military Park first

If you have time constraints or don’t know much about Vicksburg or the Civil War, Vicksburg National Military Park is the first place you need to stop for a refresher course. Be warned though, with a national cemetery housing 1,340 monuments and markers, and a 16-mile road to tour, you can easily spend a full day here. To ensure you see all the park has to offer, make reservations for the two-hour guided tour in advance. The friendly staff will give you much more history than the marquees and will point you in the direction of the things that will interest you the most.

Plan ahead for the reenactments

The Vicksburg Campaign occurred during the spring and summer of 1863. To help commemorate the event and to portray them in all their glory, most reenactments are held during that time for historical accuracy. Summer holidays like Memorial Day are some of the best times to catch a reenactment, but are also the most crowded. If you’re worried you’ll miss the opportunity to see one, Vicksburg Tourism regularly updates its events page with listings several months in advance.

Photo Credit: Aquistbe

Visit the museums and the Antebellum homes

Walking through the battlefields and the cemeteries can take a heavy toll on the mind. End the day on a high note with a visit to one of the museums or beautiful Antebellum homes in the area. The Old Courthouse Museum captures the entire culture of the city — and not just the Civil War — with its displays of Native American art and relics from early French settlers. For even more beauty, two favorite historic Antebellum houses are the Anchuca Mansion and McNutt House, the oldest and grandest historic homes in Vicksburg.