Mississippi is a surprisingly diverse region. It is home to plenty of quaint small towns and hip urban areas, but some of the most interesting sights are little things that are easy to overlook. This state has a long history tied to the Civil War, and other cites celebrate its contributions to the blues and rock n roll. There is even an unexpectedly beautiful seashore to explore. Whether you're a history buff, nature lover, or looking for a nice place to relax on the beach, Mississippi has something for you.
The Great River Road follows the length of the Mississippi River, which runs through ten states including Louisiana and Wisconsin, but there's a lot to see on the Mississippi section of the journey. The scenic drive takes you along the western border, through more than 300 years of southern history, passing antebellum homes and fields of rice, cotton, and soybeans.
There aren't a lot of petrified forests in the U.S. and Mississippi hosts the only one in the southeast. Take a walk through a prehistoric forest filled with palm, fir, and maple trees turned to stone millions of years ago. Some are believed to have grown for more than a thousand years and were once more than 100 feet tall.
Tishomingo State Park is an ideal place for lovers of the outdoors and history buffs alike. Archaeological excavations have uncovered evidence of Paleo-Indians as early as 7000 B.C. You don't want to miss the natural beauty of the region. Walk among massive rock formations and hillsides dotted with colorful wildflowers and boulders covered in thick moss. Bear Creek Canyon provides plenty of opportunities for rock climbing, fishing, hiking, and canoeing.
Boardwalks and beaches may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of Mississippi, but that's exactly what you find at Ship Island. Located about 12 miles off the coast of Biloxi, this destination is a laid-back way to spend the day in the sun. Pack a picnic lunch or stop by the concession stand, then head to the beach to swim or just relax in the sunshine. You can catch a ferry to and from the island and might even spot stingrays and dolphins along the way.
Superfans have likely been to Graceland, but this house in Tupelo, Mississippi is where the legend began — literally. Elvis Aaron Presley was born here on January 8, 1935. While in Tupelo, Elvis was exposed to gospel music at the Assembly of God Church and the blues music so prevalent in this region; these experiences no doubt influenced the future King of Rock 'n' Roll. The home was built in 1934 with $180 his father borrowed and is today restored to its original condition, complete with period-appropriate furniture.
Gulf Islands National Seashore runs along the Gulf of Mexico for 160 miles, stretching from the Mississippi coast down into Florida. In Mississippi, it encompasses six islands and a marshy bayou and woodland area. The bayou features a boat launch and fishing pier, as well as camping areas and short hiking trails. Petit Bois Island and Horn Island are two of the best wilderness islands in the country.
Many gorgeous antebellum homes are scattered throughout Mississippi, but Longwood stands out from the rest. The largest octagonal home in the country was originally supposed to have 32 rooms, topped with an onion-shaped dome, but only the exterior and basement levels were completed after the Civil War broke out. Even the drive up to the property is grand, surrounded by huge trees covered in Spanish moss. Guides give tours of the unfinished property daily.
Mississippi played a significant part in the Civil War. One of the most notable conflicts was the Battle of Vicksburg, which lasted 47 days and claiming about 5,000 lives. The city was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, and emerging victorious from the battle was strategically huge for the Union. This park serves as a memorial, with more than 1,300 markers and monuments, 144 canons, a restored gunboat, and the Vicksburg National Cemetary, where more than 12,000 unidentified people are buried.
The first Mississippi State Fair happened in 1858. One of the biggest state fairs in the south, the event sees roughly 600,000 visitors every year. The festivities start on the first Wednesday in October and run for 12 days. There is so much to do, including live music, petting zoos, livestock shows, thrill shows, a car show, extreme off-roading, arts and crafts vendors, ice skating at the Mississippi Coliseum, and an insane amount of food.
The Noxubee Wildlife Refuge was founded in 1940 as a safe place for migratory birds to breed and to conserve other wildlife and plants. Perhaps its most notable resident is the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. The refuge covers about 48,000 acres and is open to hikers every day from sunrise to sunset. Stop by the Goose Overlook to see migrating Canada Geese or walk the Bluff Lake Boardwalk to the overlook at cypress island.