Our Favorite Towns to Visit in Mississippi

Mississippi: Oxford
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

Mississippi doesn't get its personality from bustling metropolises, state-of-the-art stadiums, or pristinely pruned roadways. It gets it from old-fashioned town squares, crumbling antebellum homes, and highways marked with blues and barbecue. Civil War battlefields tell tales of a peppered past, while the Blues Highway sings a nostalgic song. The quirky coast makes you want to stay awhile, the northern reaches send you on a path to the Appalachian foothills, and the Delta commands the soul of the state. The melting pot of characters and history that makes up Mississippi is something even some of us Southerners don't understand, but we do know that the collection of charming small towns down on the coast, along the river, and up to the mountains gives us a privileged peek inside. These are the gems of Mississippi, and we've rounded up our best picks. Check out our favorite towns in Mississippi.

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Ocean Springs

The Shed BBQ in Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Fred Salinas/The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint

The Gulf Coast has come a long way since being hammered into devastation by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with restoration and cleanup efforts slowly giving life back to this quaint coastal town. Locally owned shops, galleries, and restaurants infuse your trip with the quirkiness and laidback attitude of the small town, while the warm ocean breeze calls for a relaxed mindset. Pay a visit to the The Shed Barbecue and Blues Joint, a rustic rickshaw of a restaurant that started with a shed made from dumpster-diving finds and expanded as the locals' love for the hometown joint increased. (It's now a full family affair, with grandma manning the beer bar.) You'll find dinner and a show with mouthwatering barbecue and live blues. ocean-springs.ms­

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Longwood Mansion in Natchez, Mississippi
Robbie Caponetto

Named for the Native Americans that once settled the area, this river town is steeped in character that you can see, taste, and feel around every corner. Historic antebellum homes with column-lined porches and a regal demeanor are flanked by towering live oak trees draped heavily with Spanish moss, showing the inherent historic respect this small town has for Southern culture. Tour historic homes before stopping in King's Tavern, the oldest standing building in Natchez, for an unreal atmosphere and wood-fired meal (or Roux 61 for your fill on authentic Cajun seafood). Fun annual events, such as the Natchez Biscuit Festival in September and Great Mississippi River Balloon Race in October, keep Southerners going back year after year. visitnatchez.org

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Bay St. Louis

Sycamore House Bay St. Louis Mississippi
Ellis Anderson

This artsy beach town feels old-fashioned Southern, but with a twist, with its offbeat storefronts, creative community, and time-worn architecture. You can venture to the popular Old Town for shops, art galleries, and good eats like The Buttercup on Second Street restaurant. Just minutes away from Main Street, you'll find the Depot District with the local Bay St. Louis Little Theatre. And don't skip a stop at The Mockingbird Café, a coffee house by day and music venue at night. Bay St. Louis one of those nostalgic towns that you'll find yourself missing after you leave. baystlouisoldtown.com

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Delta Meat Market/Grant Ellis

We can't figure out the je ne sais quoi of the Mississippi Delta. It's the soul of the state, the birthplace of blues, and the product of both historic joy and strife. It's full of the most Southern small towns, incredible hidden spots including ruins and abandoned towns, and majorly good eats; and Cleveland is one of those special towns. You have to go to Delta Meat Market, a butcher shop and farm-to-table restaurant located downtown, for amazing upscale Southern cuisine. Venture to Dockery Farms, where a cotton gin and restored service station still stand; but also where, in the early 1900s, impoverished black tenant workers worked by day and played the blues by night. Charley Patton, an early Delta blues trailblazer, learned the blues while at this farm. visitclevelandms.com

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Mississippi: Oxford
Robbie Caponetto

This Southern college town is more than just a four-year destination for co-eds; it's one of our favorite places to head during a trip with the family, for a weekend girlfriend getaway, or on a Mississippi road trip. We like to stick close to the Square for the cute shops, delicious restaurants, and charming scenery. Book a room at The Graduate for its prime location and hip atmosphere (rooftop terrace bar included), and shop around at popular spots like Cicada and Square Books while you're out and about. You can grab a bite at City Grocery for your Southern food, Oxford Canteen for your greasy food, and Bottletree Bakery for your sweet treats. visitoxfordms.com

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Scott's Hot Tamales, Greenville, Mississippi
Jennifer Davick

Other than being another must-stop in the Mississippi Delta, Greenville is home to some mighty fine eats. You have to pop into the popular Doe's Eat Place for fine Southern cooking and a cheerful welcome by Aunt Flo, the 91-year-old local icon who has been helping out at the restaurant for decades. But you can't leave the town until you've stopped at the easy-to-miss Scott's Hot Tamales. The red-and-white shack is barely the size of a snow cone stand, but it's been serving up famous tamales (beef brisket, corn meal, and a whole bunch of spices wrapped in corn husks) since the 1950s. You can attend the Delta Hot Tamale Festival every October for tamale cook-offs, countless tamale vendors, and a Hot Tamale eating contest. The small town has seen the likes of great Southern writers, famous blues musicians, and everything in between—all of which helped form that Mississippi soul. Popular Delta towns Clarksdale and Greenwood are just short drives away. visitgreenville.org

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Yelp via Scott P.

Corinth is the perfect destination for the history buff. You can head to the Veranda House, which served as headquarters for Confederates during the Civil War, and you definitely need to see the crossroads from which the bucolic town gets its namesake. It was originally named Cross City because of its notable cross-junction of railroads; but it was suggested by a local to change the name to Corinth in homage to the ancient Greek city that also served as a crossroads. You can pretty much hop, skip, and jump to countless historic sites from the Civil War and from earlier settlements. Your trip wouldn't be complete without a stop at one of the oldest running drugstore and soda fountains, Borroum's Drug Store and Soda Fountain, established in 1865. Old-fashioned staples such as vanilla, grape, and cherry sodas pair perfectly with cheesy melts and burgers. corinth.net

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Sweet Somethings Bakery

About a 30-minute drive northeast of Hattiesburg, this destination oozes Southern small town charm. It's now known for being the Waco, Texas, of Mississippi; as Erin and Ben Napier film the HGTV renovation show, Home Town, in Laurel, that promotes family-oriented and community values. You feel that sense of community while strolling down Main Street with its local shops and restaurants. Cafe la Fleur is a go-to spot for lunch or dinner with its New Orleans flair, while you can finish off the day at Sweet Somethings Bakery for cookies, candies, and truffles. The Napiers' downtown shop, Laurel Mercantile Co., is filled with heirloom wares and inspired goods to bring home. laurelms.com

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Biloxi Schooner
Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast (MGC Regional CVB)

Make sure to pencil in time to take in the gorgeous view of the sunset on the bay during a trip to this small coastal town. We love the traditional Southern exterior and sleek modern interior of the beachfront White House Hotel, and you can cook your own catch at local restaurants, such as Shaggy's or Morton's. Two Biloxi natives were featured in the 2016 lineup of legendary captains and crews (Hats off to you, Captain Jay and Captain Kenny), so if you're there during milder temperatures, make sure to charter a fishing trip. And, of course, you can visit one of the over-the-top casinos that the area is known for. biloxi.ms.us

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Facebook/Canton Tourism

Located only about a half hour from Jackson, Canton is filled to the brim with historic architecture and homes, most notably the Madison County Courthouse. The courthouse square is the local hub speckled with quaint shops and restaurants and the host of the Canton Flea Market. At Christmastime, this town is decorated with some 200,000 lights, everywhere from the historic courthouse square to the vintage carousel and carriage rides. The town even served as the backdrop for famous films such as A Time to Kill; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; and My Dog Skip, making it fun to visit for movie fans. cityofcantonms.com

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New Albany

New Albany
Facebook/I Love New Albany

This northern Mississippi town formed in the 19th century as the location of a gristmill and saw mill on the banks of the Tallahatchie River and was the birthplace of great Southern writer William Faulkner. You can meander your way (or bike, which is the popular choice) along the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on the 44-mile-long Rails to Trails pathway that begins in historic downtown New Albany, and you check out the Ingomar Indian Mounds to get a taste of history. The historic downtown is full of parks, specialty shops, eateries, and antique stores. Stop in The Vintage Market for an authentic soda shop experience complete with a coke float or ice cream sundae. newalbany.ms

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Port Gibson

Port Gibson
Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Port Gibson made its name as the city dubbed "too beautiful to burn" by Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War, keeping it safe from the blazes of his war campaign. The town abounds with sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so you can make your way through the relics kept safe from the rampages of time. Don't miss the Windsor Ruins, which consist of freestanding Corinthian columns from the largest Greek Revival antebellum ever built in the area (but you wouldn't be able to tell; the columns are all that's left)—it's eerily historic and incredibly cool. Port Gibson was also home to The Rabbit's Foot Company, a prominent player in the blues movement in Mississippi started by Pat Chappelle. It's now marked as a stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail. portgibsonms.org

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Most Haunted Places Cedar Grove
Stephen Saks/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Vicksburg is another favorite for history buffs due to the Vicksburg National Military Park and battlefield as well as its Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian homes dating back to the late 1700s. Learn about the siege of Vicksburg at local museums; tour local mansions; or visit downtown boutiques, antique shops, and galleries. Eat in an old service station resurrected as the Historic Klondyke Trading Post, which serves up some of the city's best hamburgers and fried catfish as well as specials like pistolettes stuffed with crawfish etoufee. Then try your luck at the casinos docked on the Mississippi River. visitvicksburg.com

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Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail Tupelo Mississippi
Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Tupelo in northern Mississippi is a must-see for fans of the King of Rock 'n Roll. Elvis Presley's birthplace puts it on the map in the Americana Music Triangle, along with Memphis and Nashville. Make sure to stop at the two-room home Elvis was raised in along with his childhood church—but take note that this town is also rich with Civil War and Natchez Trace historical sites. Get a bite to eat at one of Tupelo's many barbecue shacks or diners, including Johnnie's Drive-In, which the future King used to frequent as a boy. Then drop by the Blue Canoe, the town's original home for live music. tupelo.net

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