Mississippi may be the home of bustling metropolises, massive stadiums, and 24-hour casinos, but it’s the small towns in-between all of those that give this state its magic. Discover the roots of some of history’s best soul, blues, jazz, and rock musicians, or dive into the wilderness that houses unique and remarkable creatures. Whether you’re traveling alone or with a family, the smaller towns of Mississippi have all of the southern charm and fun that you could want.
Widely known as “The City of Lights,” Canton is a small town that exudes the energy of a big city. This scenic city has rapidly grown in popularity thanks to being a popular filming location for everything from documentaries to blockbuster films. Stop by “The Square” and check out all varieties of unique shops, incredible museums, and so much more. Plus, if you love handcrafted goodies, you can’t miss the annual flea market, where all kinds of artists and crafters show off their skills.
A lot of small towns give off a charming or inviting vibe, but Bay St. Louis straight-up embodies cool. With offbeat storefronts, innovative galleries, dreamy beaches, and more live music than you could possibly imagine, Bay St. Louis is among the trendiest small towns in America. Make sure to visit Old Town to make some memories that’ll have you missing the town long after you leave.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast and devastated everything in its wake. However, the human spirit endures, and these towns have come back bigger and better than ever. Ocean Springs came together as a community and created a place that always feels like home, even if you’re a stranger. Art festivals pop up throughout the year, allowing you to enjoy a vibrant and growing community of local talents. The rustic restaurants and gentle sea breeze make Ocean Springs a place where you can just kick back and relax. Plus, who can say no to some of the best live blues music in the country?
Throughout Mississippi, you’ll find markets for historic sites as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail. Few towns have as many of these markers as Clarksdale. From legends like Muddy Waters and Sam Cooke to modern-day greats like Rick Ross and Nate Dogg, Clarksdale is the birthplace of many of music’s most influential artists. Of course, the town celebrates its music history with plenty of festivals, live music venues, and museums.
When you travel through rural Mississippi, it’s not unusual to feel like you’ve been transported back in time. Holly Springs is a charming little town that really does feel like it was plucked straight out of the past. Dating back to the Civil War, Holly Springs is full of unbelievable antebellum homes and ancient, vibrant forests. Don’t forget to visit the Ida B. Wells Museum to learn more about one of the most influential journalists, educators, and civil rights leaders, as well as everything she contributed to the world.
If you’re visiting Mississippi for its music culture, you need to spend some time in Cleveland. Sitting in the heart of the Delta, Cleveland’s history is deeply wound around the state’s music industry. It’s even home to the Mississippi Grammy Museum and has dozens of music festivals every year. As if that wasn’t cool enough, Cleveland also hosts the “Art in the Alley” event, where local vendors can showcase their goods.
If there’s one thing the south is known for, it’s legendary cuisine. From soul food to country classics, Greenville is the epitome of southern cooking. If you’re feeling confident, you can even compete in a hot tamale eating contest at the Delta Hot Tamale Festival. Plus, other popular Delta towns are just a short drive away, so you can fill your vacation with small-town joy.
History buffs should do whatever they can to spend some time in Corinth. This small town contains so many historical sites, from Civil War battle sites to old school railways. The Veranda House once served as the headquarters for the Confederates during the Civil War, placing it among the most historically important sites in the country. And no trip to Corinth would be complete without a visit to Borroum’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain, which has been in business since 1865.
Unless you’re a geography expert, you may not realize that Mississippi actually has a pretty sizable coastline full of incredible coastal towns. Biloxi may be pushing the definition of “town,” but despite its size, it has never let go of its small-town feel. Hop on a sailboat and enjoy a gorgeous view of the sunset from the Mississippi sound. Local restaurants let you cook your own catch, which you are sure to remember for the rest of your life. Biloxi is also home to several extravagant casinos if you’re feeling a little lucky.
USA Today once named Tupelo one of the ten best small-town getaways, and it’s easy to see why. Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis Presley himself, which is made clear by the numerous bronze statues in his likeness and the annual Elvis Presley festival. Of course, even if you’re not that interested in the music legend, Tupelo is rich in Civil War history. It also has an incredible buffalo park that houses many exotic animals. For people interested in even more distant history, Tupelo is just a short jaunt away from the 2,000-year-old Pharr Mounds of the Natchez Trace, one of the most important sites of that era.
The Mississippi wilderness is full of majestic creatures, hidden paths, and unforgettable vistas, just waiting for someone to discover them. New Albany is a town that sits on the banks of the Tallahatchie River and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. A 44-mile-long Rails to Rails pathway begins in the town’s iconic downtown area, so start your journey with some cozy eating or shopping for chic finds before heading out on a grand adventure.
Being a small town doesn’t necessarily mean the area is rustic. A short drive northeast of Hattiesburg lies Laurel, a destination that is far trendier than even some major cities. This town has been steadily growing in popularity thanks to the HGTV show Home Town, filmed in Laurel. Stroll down Main Street and take in some New Orleans-style flair, unique heirloom shops, and some majorly delicious cafes and restaurants.
Far above the Mississippi River lies the picturesque town of Natchez, a beautiful place that seamlessly blends old-world charm with modern sensibilities. Like many small towns, Natchez has a collection of historic homes and churches dating back hundreds of years. Thanks to being just a stone’s throw from Louisiana, Natchez also has a deep food culture full of Cajun, Spanish, and Native American influences. Don’t miss the Biscuit Festival in September or the big balloon race in October!
During the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant proclaimed this town “too beautiful to burn,” and he was absolutely right. This entire region is home to some of the most breathtaking views in all of Mississippi. It’s also full of sites from the National Register of Historic Places, so there’s plenty of the past to uncover. Among them all, the Window Ruins stand out the most. These freestanding Corinthian columns make it feel like someone dropped a small piece of Greece right in the middle of rural Mississippi.
Don’t let Tunica’s population of fewer than 1,000 people fool you; this is a town for fun and thrills. With many massive casinos, Tunica fuses the thrills of Vegas with some small-town coziness, making the town a truly unique entity. Plus, this exciting town is a mere 20-minute drive from Memphis, so it’s an easy addition to a traditional big-city vacay.