The Best Things to Do in Natchez, Mississippi

Known for its antebellum homes and haunted history, this Mississippi River city has another side to reveal.

Longwood Mansion in Natchez, Mississippi
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

In Natchez, Mississippi, even the surrounding landscape beckons you toward a storied past. Roads cut canyons through red-dirt forests that eventually arrive at the city's famous bluffs. All along the way, oak limbs are spread wide. Welcome to the oldest town along the Mississippi River.

Today, Natchez is filled with surprises, thanks in large part to a cohort of young natives who wandered away and then returned home with new ideas. Revived efforts to highlight the area's African-American history, along with a rejuvenation of the downtown scene that includes a bevy of brand-new businesses, have brought the city into a new era. It's one of our favorite Mississippi towns to visit. Here's our list of things to do on your trip to Natchez.

Under The Hill Saloon in Natchez, MS
Grab a stool at the Under The Hill Saloon, a historic dive bar. Robbie Caponetto

Explore Natchez Under-the-Hill

Any tour of Natchez ought to begin where the city itself did—on the riverside strip of land known, suitably, as Natchez Under-the-Hill. The very first French colonists landed here before the town was established in 1716. In the past, the neighborhood was bustling—and occasionally raucous, full of fishermen and grocers working next to bordellos and bars.

The Camp Restaurant in Natchez
The Camp Restaurant offers Southern-Cajun flavors and serves burgers topped with fried onions. Robbie Caponetto

Only one row of brick buildings has survived the river's floods, but they offer modern comforts behind a rustic veneer. Silver Street Gallery & Gifts is a bright and airy storefront with an eclectic collection of women's clothing, gifts, and river-themed trinkets. The outdoor bar at The Camp Restaurant is a favorite spot for munching on sliders and sipping microbrews while the sun sets over the water. For full frontier flavor, there is nowhere better than the Under the Hill Saloon, which purports to be the oldest tavern on the river. Dark wood and dusty brick walls, cluttered with centuries of river paraphernalia, will help you get into a suitably Huck Finn mood.

Steampunk Coffee Roasters in Natchez, MS
Start your morning at Steampunk Coffee Roasters with a pour-over or espresso in an old brick building. Robbie Caponetto

Eat and Drink Your Way Through Downtown

Stand on a downtown sidewalk, and you'll see enough historic storefronts to overwhelm you. But new characters now live and work inside those walls.

A stroll through the heart of Natchez reveals an architectural gold mine, where you'll spot everything from austere Greek columns to whimsically carved gables. The ideal fuel for ambling can be found at Steampunk Coffee Roasters. Named for its intricate brass espresso maker that serves custom-roasted coffee and Italian-style espresso, this spot is a surprising treat in a town of about 14,000. Owner Wilmer "Dub" Rogers, who had become accustomed to starting his day with espresso when he worked in Italy, started Steampunk in a late-1800s brick building to satiate his own need for craft caffeine in town. You can get more than a caffeine fix there; the coffee house also offers chocolate, tea, and cigars.

Natchez Brewing Company
Lisa and Patrick Miller own the Natchez Brewing Company. Robbie Caponetto

For daytime drinking, choose from excellent sour beers and other microbrews on tap at the family-friendly Natchez Brewing Company. Enjoy live music while sipping the day's features, and don't leave without trying the brick-oven pizza or one of the monthly food specials, like the Applewood Smoked Kielbasa with sweet slaw.

Smoot's Grocery in Natchez, MS
Robbie Caponetto

One of the latest additions to the town's burgeoning nightlife is Smoot's Grocery, which was previously a grocery store and also an "unofficial juke joint," according to manager Matt Willis. Now, this tin-sided shotgun shack has been updated and lined with salvaged wood. The taps flow freely, pool balls knock, and the dance floor echoes with live roots music (from zydeco to Texas blues) late into the night.

Take a Historic Tour

Natchez offers endless home tours, three of which are essential. The largest octagonal home in the United States, Longwood spans six stories and 30,000 square feet and is topped with a stately dome. But it's still unfinished. Construction, which began in 1860, was cut short by the Civil War the following year. Seeing its grand interior unvarnished only underscores the original owner's ambitions for this palatial home.

The National Park Service (NPS) offers detailed tours of the historic properties it manages. Melrose, a mid-19th-century town house, was passed on to each new owner with all of its original furnishings, making it an incredibly intact reflection of the past.

two-story brick with two-story portico supported with four two-story Tuscan columns beneath a classical pediment
Tuscan Columns of Rosalie Mansion, Natchez, Mississippi. Tim Graham/Getty Images (cropped)

Built in 1823, Rosalie Mansion also displays original artifacts. Tour the Federal-style town house and grounds, built on the site of the original Fort Rosalie, established by the French in 1716.

When it's time to refuel, The Donut Shop is the only place in town to enjoy a uniquely local combo: fried pastries and Mississippi-style hot tamales. Walk them off on the 26 acres of Monmouth Historic Inn & Gardens, a charming Southern setting that calls for a mint julep from on-site bar Quitman Lounge & Study. Afterward, head for Restaurant 1818, where a white-tablecloth dinner is served in the mansion's old parlors.

Natchez River View
Robbie Caponetto

Choose a Charming Stay

It's hard to go wrong with the many antebellum homes that double as bed-and-breakfasts. Choose from nine Victorian rooms and suites at the classic Devereaux Shields House, and be sure to spend ample time in the sunny courtyard and gardens. You'll find more relaxed luxury at the circa 1831 Magnolia Cottage, which is known for its delicious Southern breakfast and proximity to downtown attractions.

If you'd like a modern twist on your Natchez visit, Hotel Vue is a solid choice for budget travelers, with rooms starting at $76. As the name implies, the real treat is the setting: The hotel stands on a bluff with a sight line extending out into Louisiana.

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