From the mighty river to the Gulf of Mexico,
Mississippi’s landscape spreads into hills, farmland, sandy beaches and the great piney woods and features a multitude of National and State landmarks and manmade destinations for families around the world to enjoy. So why leave Mississippi for family summer vacation when these destinations are just around the corner from your house? Here are some favorite Mississippi destinations this summer:
With festivals, historical reenactments, musical tributes, parades, powwows, music and arts, and events with Tricentennial themes, there will be something for all ages. Discover Southern belles, cotton barons, Civil War soldiers, and Civil Rights pioneers while exploring antebellum homes and historical landmarks for a glimpse of the past. Visit museums for history on the Natchez Indians or daily life in antebellum Natchez. Enjoy bird watching, tour an ornate historic cemetery, or watch the sunset over the Mississippi River.
Connecting Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee, the 444-mile long Natchez Trace Parkway penetrates incredible scenery and over 10,000 years of history. The Old Trace was the path through early Choctaw and Chickasaw lands used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” settlers, and future presidents. This path became a vital, though rugged, roadway for General Andrew Jackson and his troops during the Creek War. The seven mound groups along Natchez Trace parkway in Mississippi display rich American Indian culture and legacy. Today along the Natchez Trace, families can hike, bike, horseback ride, and camp in this resilient, almost untouched territory. The Natchez Trace Corridor Birding Trail features six state parks and one natural area perfect for bird viewing.
From its headwaters in Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River Trail offers approximately 3,000 miles of on-road bikeways, pedestrian and bicycle pathways for the recreational enjoyment, health, conservation and tourism development of river communities, river states, and the nation. As a part of the Southern Trail, Great River Road State Park provides a breathtaking natural landscape ideal for picnics and a 75-foot high overlook tower for panoramic views of the Mississippi River. Along this trail, Leroy Percy State Park, the oldest of Mississippi’s state parks, has artesian springs, cypress trees and ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss and is the only state park with a wildlife preserve. Natchez State Park is located approximately 10 miles north historic Natchez, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River.
This 40,000 square foot museum houses five galleries of educational, interactive exhibits and enriching weekly programs that focus on literacy; health and nutrition; the cultural arts; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and Mississippi heritage. The Literacy Garden encourages early language and reading skills development. MCM has been recognized for excellence by the Association of Children’s Museums, Trip Advisor, Parents & Kids Magazine, and Mississippi Magazine. Exhibits include the World at Work Gallery, Exploring Mississippi Gallery, Healthy Fun Gallery, Express Yourself Gallery, Wild About Reading Gallery, and Wild About Reading Gallery.
Located in Jackson, Mississippi, this 73,000-square foot complex introduces you to a world of exciting exhibits, nature trails and an open-air amphitheater. Here you enjoy a series of life-size displays like the Monsters of the Deep exhibit as well as a 1,700-square foot gigantic greenhouse aptly called The Swamp. Children enjoy their interactive aquarium where they handle live marine creatures and learn more about how to conserve the environment.
Built in 1839 and restored to its original grandeur, the Old Capital reopened as a free museum focusing on the history of the building and the events that took place there. Interactive multimedia exhibits explore the roles of the legislature, governor, and high court, as well as the importance of historic preservation to the state, the activities that took place in the building after the New Capitol was constructed in 1903, and much more. A National Historic Landmark, The Old Capitol is one of the country’s premier examples of Greek Revival public architecture with a limestone exterior, copper dome, and massive interior spaces. Enjoy a guided tour that covers the construction of the building as the statehouse, its architect and caretakers, and the ways the Old Capitol has been used.
Located near the State Capitol in Jackson, this museum houses art, artifacts, and photography, the work, lifestyle, and artistic contributions of African Americans to not only celebrate their heritage, but evoke a greater understanding of the African-American experience in the deep south. Exhibits such as From Slavery to America, 1670-1864 and in the Hall of Fame, which includes personalities from the state who are pioneers in their respective positions highlight the contributions of black Mississippians through struggle and achievement. In addition, the museum houses the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Services organized exhibition, Field to Factory: The Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940, which explores and interprets the great migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North.
The Mississippi Petrified Fhttps://www.mspetrifiedforest.comorest lies within hills and ravines hollowed out by nature during the past century. According to the size of the petrified logs, as living trees, these stones were over one hundred feet tall and could be over a thousand years old. According to history, a thunderous, flood-swollen river snatched everything in its path as it roared southward, ripping into ancient trees, leaving behind only remnants to settle deep into the watery ooze. More floods from the North sent more sand and silt, burying the old trees even deeper and petrifying the living trees into stone logs. The perfect spot for history and science discussions while having fun, families enjoy a Nature Trail where nature continues to thrive alongside the huge stone logs that are close enough to touch. There is also a museum, campground, gem mining flume.
Vicksburg National Military Park offers historical, cultural, and natural resources through options tailored to the visitor’s interest and timeframe. Included is the U.S.S. Cairo, one of seven ironclad gunboats named in honor of towns along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These powerful ironclads were formidable vessels, each mounting thirteen big guns (cannon). The Heritage Garden is based on the typical Victorian-era kitchen garden, flower beds, and traditional commodities grown on 19th-century southern farms. Visitors also discover the 116-acre Vicksburg National Cemetery that holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers, more than any other national cemetery. “Soldiers’ Rest,” the plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery, is the final resting place for an estimated 5,000 Confederate soldiers. The African American Monument memorializes over 178,000 black soldiers who served in the Union army and the almost 18,000 African-Americans who joined the Union navy. Service figures for the Confederate States remain unknown. Licensed Park Guides make history come alive at Vicksburg National Military Park through their knowledge of civilian life and military operations of the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg in the spring and summer of 1863. Visitors may also use the self-guided driving tour
Located 20 miles north of Vicksburg, off of Highway 61 North, 24 miles on Highway 465, Chotard Landing Resort sets on the banks of Chotard Lake, a Mississippi River Oxbow. Chotard Landing Resort offers a place of tranquility for the Fisherman and Outdoors Person. A large common area with grills and tables under the tavern accommodate family cookouts, reunions and all kinds of outdoor get-togethers. Fish and hunt on the Mississippi River oxbow lakes and over 100,000 acres of public land. Bait and fishing supplies are available, as well as a boat ramp. Guided fishing tours available.
Located just south of Meridian near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, Clarkco State Park has been a favorite Mississippi recreation spot since 1938. Situated on 815 acres of gently rolling woodlands, Clarkco State Park offers camping, cabin rentals, and water sports in a convenient, unspoiled location for an afternoon or weekend getaway. There are 43 camping sites, 7 primitive tent camping sites, 20 vacation cabins, and 1 vacation cottage plus laundry facilities, picnic sites, pavilions, playgrounds, playing fields, nature trails, tennis courts, disc golf. Clarkco lake offers a boat launch, fishing and water skiing, plus a zero depth splash pad.
The 65-foot waterfall in Lauderdale County, just outside of Meridian, was once used as a power source for a gristmill and the manufacture of Stetson hats. The park is a natural wildlife refuge with a picnic area with barbecue grills, a gristmill pond, hiking and swimming areas. The 1857 grist mill was moved from Cave Springs, Georgia in 1987 and reconstructed on the site of Dunn’s original mill, as well as the rustic homestead fascinate history buffs. Stocked with catfish and complete with ducks, the mill pond and picnic area are a great spot for a family outing. Here you can fish, canoe and swim or enjoy the nature trails weaving through the woods where wild turkey, deer, squirrels and other wildlife run free. Historic Carroll-Richardson Gristmill is also open for tours. Also available are primitive camping sites.
Over 150,000 visitors annually participate in activities including fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, environmental education, and research at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Photographers capture photos of alligators, waterfowl, warblers and other species living in the refuge. The 42,500-acre refuge serves as an outdoor classroom for Mississippi State University and other local educational institutions and was designed by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA), one of five of global importance in Mississippi. Four green-tree reservoirs (GTRs), two major lakes (Bluff Lake – 900 acres and Loakfoma Lake – 400 acres), 16 small impoundments, and assorted wetland areas provide important habitat for the wood stork, American alligator, bald eagle, and wintering waterfowl. Here, fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the refuge system. The refuge visitor center exhibit hall features a timeline describing how the land was formed, what it is now and how it is managed, and the creatures inhabiting it. Guided walks and talks by volunteers provide opportunities for visitors to connect to wildlife. Enjoy great views of alligators and look for any of the seven species of common wading birds. Boardwalks and overlooks provide great vantage points as well, so bring your binoculars and camera.
Mississippi legend Elvis Presley returned to his hometown Tupelo on September 27, 1957 to perform a benefit concert for a new Youth Center and park in Tupelo. The proceeds helped purchase his birthplace and as well as build a park for the neighborhood children. Within the Elvis Presley Birthplace Park visitors find the Birthplace, Museum, Chapel, Gift Shop, “Elvis at 13” statue, Fountain of Life, Walk of Life, “Memphis Bound” car feature and Story Wall.
Located on Highway 82 between Greenwood and Greenville, in the Mississippi Delta, close to the Crossroads at Clarksdale, The B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center honors the life and music of B. B. King. Museum exhibits and educational programs build bridges between the community and the world and preserve the Mississippi Delta’s rich cultural and musical heritage. Exhibits explore King’s 60-plus year career through Mr. King’s personal papers, materials, and objects from his life and work, and multi-media and film.
The Delta Blues Museum, Mississippi’s oldest music museum, is housed in the historic Clarksdale freight depot, which was built in 1918 for the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. The Museum preserves, interprets, and encourages interest in the blues and its story. The museum’s hometown, Clarksdale, situated where Highways 61 and 49 connect, has been a center for blues culture since the 1920s. Numerous music legends have been born and raised in this Delta area, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Ike Turner, Jackie Brenston, Sam Cooke, Junior Parker, and W. C. Handy. Today, visitors flock to Clarksdale where the blues culture has been preserved and the Delta blues tradition continues. The museum offers many current exhibits.
In advance of National Trails Day in 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis designated 10 local and state trails as national recreation trails, adding more than 150 miles to the National Trails System. Tanglefoot Trail® was included. Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails, preserves the abandoned 43.6-mile railroad corridor passing through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage. These rails were assembled in part for the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad by Col. William Clark Falkner, beginning in 1871. Replacing the rails with a trail, the Tanglefoot Trail® offers outdoor opportunities to families, groups and visitors of every age. The Tanglefoot Trail® towns include Houston, New Houlka, Algoma, Pontotoc, Ecru, Ingomar, and New Albany.
Opened in 1942, in the segregated army of World War II, the USO Club served as a home away from home for African American soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby and is the only remaining USO constructed especially for African American soldiers in public use in the United States. It is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a Mississippi Landmark. Hundreds of artifacts, photos and unique displays, including one of the most complete sets of authentic Spanish-American War medals, fill the restored main hall. Each item tells a story of pioneers such as Hattiesburg’s own Jesse L. Brown, America’s first black naval aviator, and lesser-known heroes such as Ruth Bailey Earl, also of Hattiesburg, whose image and actions represented the more than 500 black nurses who served during World War II. Docent-guided and self-guided tour, available Wednesday-Saturday, last approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
The beautifully landscaped Landrum’s Homestead & Village is located off Highway 15 in Laurel. With exhibits, wagon rides, gem mining, nature trails, a Confederate soldier encampment, an Old West Shooting Gallery, and a Native American Village, every visitor steps back into the late 1800s. In addition, through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Landrum’s created an educational display on the Civilian Conservation Corps and South Mississippi’s reforestation history to show the importance of preservation and conservation. Biscuits are cooked on an old wood stove and there is a nature trail and a small lake with a pier where people can feed the catfish. You can also play horseshoes and basketball.
Ship Island played an important role in the history and settlement of the Gulf Coast. In 1699, French explorers named Ship Island, which soon became an important port for French Louisiana. Here, many colonists took their first steps on American soil and Ship Island became known as the “Plymouth Rock” of the Gulf Coast. Once a single island, 1969’s Hurricane Camille split the land mass in two. Ship Island with its tranquil stretches of National Park beaches offers an affordable family vacation to explore, swim and relax for a fun-filled day. Experience the pristine gulf waters, explore the beaches and tour historic Fort Massachusetts, all part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Mississippi’s finest beaches are located on Ship Island approximately 11 miles south of Gulfport and Biloxi and are accessible by Ship Island Excursions’ ferry boats, located in the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. During the 50- minute ferry boat ride, watch for Bottlenose dolphins. Ship Island MS
Located in Gulfport, Mississippi, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) is an educational outlet with programs for conservation, education and research of marine mammals and their environment. The facility also houses an educational museum, a 200 seat auditorium for media presentations and lectures, classrooms, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, and more. Visitors of all ages engage in hands-on learning experiences to help them understand and appreciate the species that make Mississippi Gulf Coast waters unique. Explore the interactive museum, and encounter sea creatures such as stingrays, sharks, horseshoe crabs, fish, blue crabs, sea stars, and sea urchins in the new Discovery Room touch pools. There is a fossil dig and a dock to meet dolphins face-to-face.