Mississippi presents a brilliant tapestry of culture, nature, and history. Its warm embrace is not just in the smile of those you meet but also in the inspirational stories they share.
The state’s legendary hospitality makes every visitor feel like an old friend. Whether it’s sharing a meal at a roadside diner or a conversation on a front porch swing, the warmth of Mississippians is unforgettable.
I spent my childhood in Mississippi, ventured away for a quarter of a century, and then returned over a decade ago. I’ve had a unique opportunity to explore the Magnolia State with both the wonder of a child and the discernment of an experienced traveler.
Today, I’m thrilled to share my fun and thought-provoking things to do in Mississippi. It’s a state that effortlessly intertwines its soulful hospitality with the backdrop of its outdoor paradise.
As an outdoor enthusiast, I’ve walked the lush trails of Tishomingo State Park, driven the Natchez Trace, and marveled at Mississippi Gulf Coast sunsets. Mississippi’s diverse landscapes are an outdoor paradise for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.
If you enjoy cultural tourism, Mississippi may surprise you.
Its complex history, thriving arts scene, and natural wonders make it a destination like no other.
Join me on an adventure into the heart and soul of Mississippi, a journey that promises to captivate and inspire.
The Geographic Regions of Mississippi
Mississippi’s five distinct geographic regions have unique characteristics but share a common story of hospitality, natural splendor, and cultural influences.
The Hills Region
In the northeast, the Hills Region is home to the vibrant college towns of Oxford and Starkville. With its literary heritage and quintessential Southern charm, Oxford is a hub of art and intellect. Starkville, energized by Mississippi State University, vibrates with youthful enthusiasm for agriculture and engineering businesses. This geographic area offers a historical narrative about the Chickasaw people’s regional influence and the rolling landscapes.
The Delta Region
Along the mighty Mississippi River is a land where music tells stories of hardship and triumph. The Delta’s rich, fertile soil, once the bedrock of cotton plantations, now supports a myriad of crops and agricultural industries.
The Pines Region
The Pines Region, characterized by its lush forests, was an area with few cotton plantations, It presents a different perspective on Mississippi’s culture in the 1800s. This area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with its extensive trails, deep forests, and serene landscapes.
The Capital/River Region
The region includes Jackson, the state capital; Vicksburg, a key site in Civil War history; and Natchez, the oldest permanent settlement on the Mighty Mississippi.
Finally, the coastal region along the Gulf of Mexico is a paradise for beach lovers and seafood enthusiasts. Towns like Biloxi and Gulfport have sandy beaches and delicious cuisine. The shorelines’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina demonstrates Mississippi’s resilience and diversity.
I’ve discovered stories, landscapes, and a warmth that defines Mississippi in each zone. Whether it’s in the echoes of blues music in the Delta, the literary whispers of Oxford, the tranquil trails in the Pines, the historical value of the Capital Region, or the soothing waves of the Gulf Coast, Mississippi is a journey through an outdoor paradise, rich in history and culture.
Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez community influences are not just historical footnotes but relevant today as living parts of the state’s identity, shaping its communities and landscapes.
The Civil War significantly impacted all Mississippians. The state was a battleground from the beginning. The war’s immense devastation left many towns and cities irreparably destroyed. Learn more at historical sites such as the Vicksburg National Military Park and the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center.
Southern Music and Literature
The Mississippi Blues Trail
Mississippi has a solid societal influence when it comes to music. The state is the birthplace of blues music, with legendary musicians such as Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters (aka McKinley Morganfield) hailing from Mississippi.
The Mississippi Blues Trail is a pilgrimage for music lovers worldwide. This trail reflects the profound global influence of blues music, a genre birthed amidst this state’s cotton fields.
The trail takes you to several sites linked to blues music history, including the birthplaces of renowned blues artists, juke joints, and grave sites. With over 200 markers, the trip is not just about having a list of things to do or about hearing the music, but instead, it’s a deep dive into the emotional and spiritual contexts that shaped this powerful form of vocal and instrumental expression.
The Magnolia State is the cradle of the blues but also played an instrumental role in the genesis of rock and roll. The transition from blues to rock and roll was a vital evolutionary step in the music industry, and Mississippi was at the heart of it.
Pioneers like Elvis Presley were heavily influenced by blues, gospel, and country music that seeped from Mississippi’s soil.
Today, the Mississippi Blues Trail recognizes the musicians, radio personalities, and promoters from Mississippi who established rock and roll as an enduring international phenomenon.
Mississippi Country Music Trail
While Mississippi’s contribution to blues and rock and roll is celebrated, the state also has a significant history in country music. The Mississippi Country Music Trail recognizes the state’s impact on music industries by documenting locations connected to well-known Mississippi artists, including Jimmie Rodgers, Charlie Pride, Tammy Wynette, Faith Hill, and Marty Stuart.
The trail features over 35 markers placed throughout the state, guiding you through the history of country music in Mississippi. From honky-tonks and recording studios to birthplaces and home sites, this trail meanders through many things to do in Mississippi and is a fun experience for any country music enthusiast.
Mississippi’s Literary Gems
Mississippi has been the birthplace of many literary giants who have significantly influenced American literature. The Mississippi Writers Trail markers honor the state’s most significant writers. This trail provides insights into the lives of these authors and the places that inspired them. Here are a few of the many noteworthy authors:
William Faulkner, born in New Albany, MS, is one of the most celebrated authors in American literature. He is best known for his novels set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. This setting was inspired by Lafayette County, where he spent most of his life. Faulkner’s home in Oxford, Rowan Oak, is now a museum and a landmark site on the Mississippi Writers Trail.
Eudora Welty was a master of the short story. Her works reflect the Southern experience with a unique blend of humor and emotional persuasion. Her home in Jackson, the Eudora Welty House and Garden, is a National Historic Landmark. Nearby, visit the Mississippi Writer’s Room at the Eudora Welty Library.
Richard Wright, born in Roxie, MS, was an influential author whose works, like Native Son and Black Boy, dealt with racial themes and the plight of those citizens in the early 20th century. He is honored on the Mississippi Writers Trail with a marker in Natchez.
The renowned playwright Tennessee Williams, author of A Streetcar Named Desire, was born in Columbus, Mississippi. His childhood home is now the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center.
Mississippi’s Natural Wonders and Outdoor Activities
Boating On the Mississippi River
Water sports on the mighty Mississippi are a unique experience. Connect with nature while exploring this iconic river’s geography, history, and economic impact. Whether you opt for a day trip or an extended journey, river access points cater to all skill levels.
Kayaking and fishing are popular activities along the Mississippi River and other rivers, providing peace and serenity. These rivers are abundant with various fish species, including bass, catfish, and crappie.
Guided Wildlife Tours and Birdwatching in Mississippi
Mississippi’s diverse ecosystems make it a prime destination for wildlife tour industries and birdwatching. One of the most popular locations for guided wildlife tours is the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is one of the few places to view the endangered Mississippi Sandhill Crane in its natural habitat.
Birdwatching is another prevalent activity in Mississippi due to its extensive variety of bird species. The Mississippi Flyway, a migration route from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, passes directly over the state. The Delta region and the Gulf Coast, in particular, attract many bird species, offering exceptional birdwatching opportunities. The Coastal Birding Trail is always popular with avid birdwatchers.
The Best State Parks in Mississippi
Mississippi has 24 state parks, each offering unique outdoor experiences and breathtaking scenery. Here are a few to consider for your next visit:
Tishomingo State Park
Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Tishomingo State Park has a picturesque landscape with steep cliffs, rock formations, and cascading waterfalls. This park, at the state’s northern edge, is a hiker’s paradise with over 62 miles of nature trails. The park also has a variety of recreational activities, including fishing and swimming. Overnight accommodations include basic tent camping, installed tent rentals (with Tentrr), RV camping, and cabin rentals.
Roosevelt State Park
Roosevelt State Park, in Morton, MS, is named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed it during the Great Depression. This park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including camping, fishing, and boating on the 150-acre freshwater Shadow Lake.
Buccaneer State Park
Buccaneer State Park is on the Mississippi Gulf Coast beaches and offers stunning ocean views. Visitors enjoy camping, picnicking, and swimming in the park’s pristine waters. The park also has a water park and hiking trails, making it an ideal destination for families.
Percy Quinn State Park
Located near McComb, Mississippi, Percy Quinn State Park offers a tranquil setting with beautiful lakes and abundant wildlife.
Mississippi’s Best Things to Do Outdoors
Natchez Trace Parkway (extends through the state)
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a scenic drive that stretches over 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. Bison, Native Americans, and early European settlers once used this historic trail. It offers stunning views of forests, rivers, and historical landmarks.
Clark Creek Natural Area (Wilkinson County)
Clark Creek Natural Area is sometimes called “Tunica Falls” due to its lovely waterfalls and cascades. This natural area has outdoor activities, including hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. The park’s highlight is the stunning Clark Creek, which provides a refreshing spot for swimming on hot summer days.
De Soto National Forest (southern Mississippi)
De Soto National Forest is a vast expanse of over 518,000 acres, offering guests endless opportunities to explore nature. This national forest is a favorite destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with miles of hiking and biking trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas.
Gulf Islands National Seashore (Harrison County)
Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is a paradise for beach lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. With more than 12 miles of beautiful beaches, visitors enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and fishing while admiring stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico.
The park has hiking trails through marshes and forests, providing opportunities to spot various bird species and other wildlife.
Fishing in Mississippi
Mississippi’s reservoirs and lakes are teeming with various fish species, making them a paradise for anglers. Whether you prefer fishing from a boat or the shoreline, there’s something for everyone. Ross Barnett Reservoir is lauded for its largemouth bass. However, Grenada Lake is renowned for its crappie. The thrill of the catch, combined with the serene beauty of these water bodies, makes for a gratifying day near the water.
Hunting in Mississippi
Mississippi’s vast undeveloped lands are a paradise for outdoor sports enthusiasts. Lush forests present ample hunting opportunities, with abundant deer, turkey, and waterfowl populations. The hunting season in Mississippi brings a surge of outdoor enthusiasts eager for exhilarating hunting expeditions.
Birdwatching in Mississippi
Mississippi is a birdwatcher’s paradise, particularly during the migration seasons when birds pass through the state. From the Gulf Islands National Seashore to the inland forests, birdwatchers can spot a wide variety of native and migratory birds, including warblers, hummingbirds, and eagles.
Celebrate the Museums in Mississippi
The rural lifestyle of many Mississippians, characterized by a deep love for the outdoors, is celebrated and honored in various museums across the state.
Mississippi’s museums provide historical education, lifestyle insights, and outdoor activities, allowing you to engage more deeply with the rural areas and regional customs.
Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (Jackson)
The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science features interactive exhibits that showcase the state’s diverse wildlife and habitats. The museum’s outdoor nature trails display native plants, wildlife, and bird species. The museum’s highlight is its 100,000-gallon aquarium, which houses various fish species found in Mississippi’s waters. A rare two-headed snake is on display, which will pique your curiosity.
Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum (Jackson)
Located on Lefleur’s Bluff State Park grounds, the Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum showcases the state’s agricultural industries and rural lifestyle. The museum’s outdoor exhibits include a working farmstead and an old-time village.
Vicksburg National Military Park (Vicksburg)
The Vicksburg National Military Park is a notable destination for history enthusiasts and outdoor lovers alike. This park preserves the site of the Civil War’s Siege of Vicksburg and includes over 1,400 monuments, markers, and plaques. Walk the park’s paved roads on foot or take a scenic drive along its 16-mile tour road with a map.
Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (Moss Point)
Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Moss Point provides a fascinating view of Mississippi’s coastal ecosystems. The reserve is home to diverse wildlife, including many bird species. Walk along the reserve’s boardwalk and nature trails, or climb the observation towers. Guided tours and educational programs teach participants and students about Mississippi’s coastal habitats.
Gulf Islands National Seashore Visitor Center (Ocean Springs)
At the Gulf Islands National Seashore Visitor Center, you can learn about the unique ecosystems of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Visitor Center offers an array of educational exhibits and films, plus a bookstore with informative materials about the seashore’s natural and influential history.
Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center (Tupelo)
The Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center in Tupelo is the perfect starting point for exploring the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. The center offers comprehensive information about the scenic 444-mile route, its history, and key attractions. Take in the short films about the parkway and study exhibits about Native American history, European exploration, and early American settlers. The route begins in Tennessee, continues into northern and central Mississippi, and ends in Natchez. Whether you plan to hike, bike, or drive, the Natchez Trace Parkway offers an unforgettable journey.
Two Mississippi Museums (Jackson)
The Two Mississippi Museums, comprised of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, are a deep dive into the state’s complex history. Learn about the state’s early history through the Civil Rights era. Dwell on Mississippi’s past and the events that shaped its present. These interactive museums provide a comprehensive and thought-provoking exploration of Mississippi’s history.
The Crosby Arboretum (Picayune)
The Crosby Arboretum is a living celebration of Mississippi’s native flora and fauna. The arboretum displays plants native to the Pearl River Drainage Basin ecosystem.
Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum (Tupelo)
The Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum in Tupelo is a pilgrimage destination for music fans. This historical site marks the beginning of Elvis Presley’s extraordinary life, featuring the two-room house where the King of Rock’ n’ roll was born.
The museum showcases a variety of memorabilia, including Elvis’s childhood artifacts. The grounds include a chapel, a memorial garden, and the “Becoming” statue that symbolizes Elvis’ transformation from youth to becoming the King of Rock’ n roll.
Mississippi Children’s Museum (Jackson)
The Mississippi Children’s Museum is a world of wonder for kids. This interactive museum encourages learning through play, with exhibits focusing on literacy, health, and science. Children can explore a giant heart, experiment with engineering marvels, play with shadows and light, and even create masterpieces in the art studio. The museum aims to inspire each child’s passion for learning and discovery with year-round events.
Delta Blues Museum (Clarksdale)
Immerse yourself in the soulful blues music at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Exhibits include a vast collection of artifacts, music, and memorabilia from legendary blues musicians. The museum hosts the annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival.
Hattiesburg Zoo (Hattiesburg)
The Hattiesburg Zoo is a family-friendly attraction that houses over 80 species of animals from around the world. The zoo features a variety of exhibits and experiences, including a petting zoo, a splash pad, a high ropes adventure course, and animal encounters. This zoo is a fantastic place for a day of fun and learning for children and adults alike.
Walter Anderson Museum of Art (Ocean Springs)
The Walter Anderson Museum of Art, located in the heart of historic Ocean Springs, pays tribute to the works of Walter Inglis Anderson, his brothers, and other influential Southern artists. The museum showcases a fascinating collection of paintings, ceramics, murals, and sculptures that capture the spirit of the southern United States and the coastal region.
Mississippi Petrified Forest (Flora)
The Mississippi Petrified Forest is a unique natural attraction with a fascinating collection of petrified wood dating back millions of years. A walking trail meanders through the forest, passing various displays of ancient logs turned to stone. It has some gentle slopes, however there is a minimal risk of falling if you stay on the designated paths. The on-site museum features a collection of prehistoric fossils and displays that give additional insight into the land’s ancient past.
Traditional Southern Cuisine: A Taste of Mississippi
Mississippi’s culinary landscape is steeped in tradition, offering an authentic taste of the South. The state’s cuisine is a flavorful mix of African, Native American, and European influences, marrying old-world recipes with abundant resources in the local land and waters.
Mississippi’s cuisine is a delicious blend of Southern comfort, local flavors, and culinary traditions passed down through generations. Here are some quintessential recipes that showcase the essence of Mississippi’s culinary heritage:
Mississippi Mud Pie
Let’s start with dessert, please. This decadent treat is a Southern classic, featuring a crumbly chocolate crust and a rich and gooey chocolate filling, often layered with pecans and topped with a layer of whipped cream or marshmallow fluff. The mud-covered banks of the legendary river inspired the name.
A staple in Mississippi cuisine, the Catfish Po’Boy is a sandwich that features crispy, cornmeal-breaded catfish, served on a baguette or French roll with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and often a tangy remoulade sauce. It reflects the state’s love for the abundant catfish and its river culinary influences.
Southern Fried Chicken
Mississippi’s version of this Southern classic often involves marinating the chicken in buttermilk, then coating it in seasoned flour and frying it to perfection. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, it’s a testament to the state’s mastery of comfort food.
Mississippi Delta Tamales
These tamales blend Southern and Hispanic culinary traditions, unlike their Mexican counterparts. Made with cornmeal and usually pork, chicken, or beef, they are simmered rather than steamed and often served with hot sauce.
Pecans are abundant in Mississippi, and the state’s version of pecan pie is a true Southern delight. It typically features a buttery, flaky crust filled with a mixture of pecans, eggs, butter, and syrup (often corn syrup, though molasses or maple syrup can be used), creating a sumptuous and nutty dessert.
Deep-fried catfish is a Southern classic, often served with a side of hush puppies and coleslaw. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Mississippi ranks top in catfish production. It’s no wonder Mississippians are masters at frying up this river fish to crispy perfection.
Mississippi’s Most Iconic Cities and Towns
Mississippi’s population is 2,967,297, and its people embrace a storied history, diverse culture, and unforgettable southern charm. Whether you’re wandering through its larger cities or exploring quaint towns, Mississippi promises memorable experiences brimming with adventure, discovery, and a warm, welcoming community.
Jackson, Mississippi, the heart of the Deep South, is rooted in America’s history and represents a diverse culture. As the state capital, landmarks like the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Medgar Evers Historic District paint vivid pictures of its past. In contrast, the lush greenery and the meandering Pearl River complement its urban scene and feature strongly in the LeFleur’s Bluff district north of downtown.
Perched on the bluffs that overlook the Mighty Mississippi and the Louisiana shoreline, Natchez exudes Southern charm with its antebellum homes, picturesque gardens, and quaint downtown.
Home to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), Oxford is a bustling college town with a thriving food scene and literary roots. You can spend the day shopping at the historic Square, tour the university grounds, or check out William Faulkner’s home and old haunts.
Located on the Gulf Coast, Biloxi is known for its beautiful beaches, lively casinos, and fresh seafood. Visit the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum and see the Biloxi Lighthouse. Although the area was heavily damaged during Katrina, it has remarkably recovered and draws beach lovers from near and far.
The birthplace of the blues, Clarksdale is a must-visit for music enthusiasts. Catch live performances and plant your feet deep into the soulful music at iconic venues like Ground Zero Blues Club and visit the Delta Blues Museum.
Steeped in Civil War history, Vicksburg is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts. From the back porch at the Mississippi Visitor Center, look west to see the Mississippi River. Then, explore the Vicksburg National Military Park and the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum. Stay in one of the haunted B&B locations or at the nearby casino hotels.
Tupelo, Mississippi, is known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley and offers many attractions, including the Natchez Trace Visitors Center and the Queen’s Reward Meadery. It’s near the highest point in the state, Woodall Mountain, at 806 feet above sea level.
Meridian has an exciting railroad history, well-documented in attractions such as the Meridian Railroad Museum. The Amtrak Crescent passenger train line (en route from New Orleans to New York City) stops in Meridian twice daily and provides railroad access to other states. While in the Meridian vicinity, visit the Merrehope Mansion or stop by Rose Hill Cemetery to see the burial sites of city founders and even a King and Queen!
Home to Mississippi State University, Starkville is a bustling college town in the North Central Hills region. It has small-town charm and big-city amenities. Catch a Bulldogs game at Davis Wade Stadium or explore the Cotton District for unique shopping and dining experiences. I was a student here for my bachelor’s degree program for accounting students. It was tough, but I never gave up. During my university master’s program in business marketing, I lived in the Cotton District and loved the atmosphere.
Mississippi’s cities and towns offer diverse experiences, from cultural attractions to culinary delights, making it a fascinating destination for travelers seeking an authentic taste of the South.
Tips for Travelers Visiting Mississippi
The best time to visit the Deep South is during the spring and fall when the weather is mild and pleasant. However, summer can be hot and humid, while winter can bring unpredictable weather.
Mississippi offers a variety of accommodation options, from charming bed and breakfasts to luxury hotels. The best way to get around and explore the state is with a car or RV.
Southern hospitality is a hallmark of Mississippi, and you can expect to be greeted with warm smiles and friendly conversation.
With all its Southern charm, Mississippi is a treasure trove of unforgettable experiences. The state’s unique allure lies in the diversity of its landscapes, from the rolling hills of the north to the sun-kissed beaches of the Gulf Coast.
Mississippi’s true gem, however, is its people. Known for warm hospitality, the locals will welcome you with open arms and make you feel right at home, whether you’re dining in one of their renowned restaurants or exploring their historic neighborhoods.
Visiting Mississippi isn’t just about seeing a place—it’s about experiencing a culture, a lifestyle, a community. So don’t just read about it—come and experience the magic of Mississippi life first-hand. We promise you’ll leave with more than just memories. You’ll carry a piece of the Magnolia State in your heart.