“The Birthplace of American Music” is a title Mississippi proudly holds. Though the title may have been born from the state’s connection to blues music, Mississippi continues to have some of the best musicians in the South. Mississippi is home to an eclectic music scene that spans genres, with rising hip-hop, indie rock, blues, country, and folk musicians. Hop into nearly any venue in the state or visit music festivals like Jackson Indie Music Week or Mighty Mississippi Music Festival for a reminder why Mississippi is not only where music was born, but where it lives.
Of course, another reason to visit Mississippi is the food. The farm-fresh produce found in the state’s fruitful land, as well as the fresh gulf seafood, offer chefs a chance to showcase creativity and taste. Mississippi does southern staples best and is home to two James Beard “America’s Classics” award-winning restaurants, as well as James Beard award-winning chef John Currence of Oxford’s City Grocery. While southern staples reign, Mississippi offers food that caters to all palates. Authentic Asian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern restaurants might be unexpected in Mississippi, but they certainly don’t disappoint.
Mississippi has a rich history, showcased in museums throughout the state. The Delta Blues Museum, Jimmie Rodgers Museum, and the Birthplace of Elvis Presley are just a few of the abundant museums that highlight Mississippi’s musical history. The Smith Robertson Museum and newly-opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum beautifully document the sordid past of Mississippi in ways that both educate and inspire. Art museums are also in no shortage, with the Mississippi Museum of Art, Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, showcasing both nationally traveling works and the work of Mississippi natives. Family-friendly options also include the Mississippi Children’s Museum or the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.
Mississippi has a thriving community of artists. It’s hard to miss the art in Mississippi, with visual artists expressing the unique soul of the South through painting, photography, street art, printmaking, and ceramics. It’s also home to a strong dance community, with Jackson hosting the International Ballet Competition (IBC). Occurring every four years, the IBC is one of the top dance competitions, bringing competitors from all over the world to Mississippi.
It’s hard to visit Mississippi and not leave with a friend. “How are y’all?” is not just a courteous greeting from Mississippians, but instead, a question to which they expect an answer. The people who live in Mississippi have created a deep sense of community that’s unlike anywhere else. It’s not uncommon to hear a bartender ask a patron about how his family is, or a woman working the grocery store checkout line to check in with customers about how work has been. Out-of-town visitors will likely be required to tell their restaurant server everything they can about what their lives are like back home. Don’t mistake this interest for nosiness!
The College Towns
Mississippi is home to many colleges and universities that are often central to their home city’s day-to-day life. Three schools stand out as having the draw of a “college town” feel. Starkville, or “Starkvegas,” as the locals call it, houses Mississippi State University and some of the best nightlife in Mississippi. While Hattiesburg, home to the University of Southern Mississippi, offers a small-town feel in a Main Street community. The University of Mississippi brings charm to Oxford, with the famous stores and restaurants along the “Square” and tailgating in “The Grove.”
The scenic drive into Mississippi allows drivers to know they’ve entered the state. Lush green trees line the interstates, with abundant magnolia blossoms, flowering azalea bushes, and dogwoods lining the cities. Drive or hike along the Natchez Trace for swamplands and ancient sites, head to the coast for a sunset along the glimmering gulf beaches, or take a trip through the delta for rolling farmland. Whatever your view in Mississippi, it won’t disappoint.
Mississippi nightlife, full of music, dancing, and exceptional drinks, has something for everyone. Smoky dive bars full of pool tables and local characters offer a hometown feel, while upscale cocktail bars provide creative libations. Jackson has some of the state’s best bars and dance clubs, but be sure to check out Hattiesburg’s Branch Cocktail Bar or Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale.
Along the coast of Mississippi sit cities like Biloxi and Ocean Springs, dotted with small towns along the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. These sandy shores are more quiet spots that make a perfect destination for a getaway, far from the crowded beaches full of spring breakers, often found on the shores of the gulf.
The Small Towns
Mississippi has towns with names like “Coffeeville,” “Whynot,” and “Panther Burn,” but the novelty of small towns in Mississippi doesn’t lie simply within the names. Bed and breakfasts, one-of-a-kind sites, and hidden gems lie in the small towns that color Mississippi. A couple of favorites include Lorman, Mississippi that holds a population of fewer than 2,000 people and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Lorman is home to The Old Country Store, whose fried chicken Food Network personality Alton Brown chose as “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Vicksburg has a larger population, but a small-town feel and is home to art galleries, historic battlefields, and the Bidenharn Coca-Cola Museum, where the bottling of the famous soda first took place.
Mississippi’s capital city bears the slogan “The City with Soul,” but that soul runs statewide. Mississippi offers an intangible feeling of intensity, love, and warmth that wraps around locals and visitors alike. It’s this soul that inspired the music, food, and culture Mississippi so proudly created and happily shares.
The Rising Artists
This state has a history of being home to some of the most popular musicians, writers, and artists, and it hasn’t stopped producing creatives. With emerging musical acts featured at venues across the state as well as annually at Jackson Indie Music Week, authors showcasing at the Mississippi Book Festival, and filmmakers presenting at Crossroads Film Festival, head to Mississippi now to ensure you’ll be able to say, “I knew them when.”
The State Parks
There are 25 state parks across Mississippi, offering top-quality camping, hiking, fishing, and recreation. Reserve America’s list of “Top 100 Campground Awards” features seven of Mississippi’s state parks. The parks’ highlights include their kid-friendly spaces, historical sites, canoeing, romantic spots, cozy cabins, and more. Mississippi’s warmer temperatures throughout the seasons ensure that the parks are fit for a visit all year long.
The Road Trip
From The Delta to the coast, Mississippi is the perfect destination for a road trip. Whether it’s a day trip down the historical sites and swamps of the Natchez Trace or an extended adventure through the state, Mississippi’s attractions won’t disappoint. Check out some of the state’s oddities, like the nation’s only apron museum in Iuka, or the World’s Largest Cedar Bucket in Oxford. The Mississippi Blues Trail, Mississippi Freedom Trail, or Southern Literary Trail also offer great options for guided trips around the state.