From the Gulf Coast to the northern border with Tennessee, the state has a wealth of history, Southern hospitality, and delicious food. From prestigious colleges to notable authors, the state offers various stops throughout unique cities perfect for a vacation.
Mississippi borders the Mississippi River, which runs nearly the length of the state, and fittingly gets its name after the river. About three million people live in Mississippi; Jackson is the state capital and the largest city.
If you are planning a vacation with your family, many cities across Mississippi offer in equal parts cultural diversity, educational museums, and exciting activities.
Let’s take a look at some of the best family weekend getaways in Mississippi.
Oxford, Mississippi, is home to the University of Mississippi, commonly known as “Ole Miss.” During football season, it is well worth a visit to “The Grove,” an ample green space on campus where thousands of students and fans gather to cheer on the football team. Be sure to greet fans with a hearty “Hotty Toddy,” the team’s cheer.
Oxford was also the home to notable author William Faulkner, and visitors can take a peek at the writer’s house and land, which is just steps from campus. Interestingly, Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak, has preserved some of the writer’s notes which he’d scribbled along the walls of a guest bedroom.
The town’s square has an abundance of local shops, particularly a book store called Square Books and one of the South’s oldest department stores, Neilson’s. For live music, visit The Lyric, and for exquisite dining, try out BBB or Bouré, both restaurants by renowned Chef John Currence.
The city’s proximity to Memphis and New Orleans and the ever-rotating influences of a college crowd play into Oxford’s music scene. Venues like Proud Larry’s often host live music artists like the Mississippi All-Stars and other local favorites. Performing arts troupes, like Hinge Dance Company, often perform at the Powerhouse Arts Center, and other artists plat or perform at the Gertrude Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the University of Mississippi’s campus.
Jackson, Mississippi, is the state capital and the most populous city. It is famously known as the location where Johnny Cash said he was “going” in the hit song named after the city. The capitol building is a national historic landmark, and there are tours available for those visiting Jackson. One of the most popular spots for families to visit during family weekend getaways in Mississippi is the Jackson Zoo, so be sure to check it out if you’re in the area!
For families with younger children, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science within the LeFleur’s Bluff State Park in Jackson educates guests about the natural history of Mississippi via cultural exhibits, collections, and interactive environments. Additionally, the Mississippi Children’s Museum is filled with STEM exhibits and is a must-see attraction.
Author Eudora Welty was born in Jackson in the early 1900s and won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, in 1973. Welty lived in the Belhaven neighborhood until she died in 2001.
Additionally, you can find the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in downtown Jackson. Before you leave, be sure to try some barbecue spots like The Pint & The Pig or Hog Heaven BBQ.
Elvis Presley, known as “The King of Rock and Roll,” was born on January 08, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is considered one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. All across the city, private businesses and the government have installed painted guitars to honor his legacy–be sure to look for them as a fun, family-friendly scavenger hunt!
The city offers lots of fun activities for the whole family. The Tupelo Buffalo Park is a 175-acre zoo, the largest in the state, and features animals like buffalos and giraffes. In downtown Tupelo, the BancorpSouth Arena hosts various concerts regularly. Indeed, the downtown area is very walkable, with many photo opportunities and restaurants. A short drive from downtown lies the Tupelo National Battlefield, a historical site remembering a Civil War battle.
The Tupelo Community Theater is near the downtown area as well. Grab a coffee at Crave or a meal at the Nautical Whimsey Italian, a local restaurant serving up pizzas and kinds of pasta. Be sure to play Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey as you cruise through the city!
Natchez, Mississippi, is a city along the Mississippi River known for antebellum mansions and the Natchez National Historical Park. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a scenic drive that runs through the town and across the state. Many stays, eateries, and museums are by the Natchez Convention Center. For instance, the Natchez Museum-African American Culture is a museum displaying exhibits on African American history in the region.
You’ll find the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians nearby, which consists of a reconstructed Natchez house and three ceremonial mounds. One mansion near the town center is Longwood; it is now a museum with a unique onion-shaped dome. The Auburn Antebellum home is also centrally located. Be sure to visit Texada, a stone mansion that briefly served as Mississippi’s State Capitol.
Interestingly, The Old South Winery is a charming local winery with a homey tasting room serving various Muscadine wines, a traditional Southern creation. The Natchez Brewery is near the Natchez City Hall in a very walkable area of town. The Magnolia Bluffs Casino, located along the river, is entertaining for games and a seafood buffet.
Clarksdale, Mississippi, is along the Sunflower River. Clarksdale gets its name from John Clark, the city’s founder who established a timber mill business. Clarksdale is known for the blues. The Delta Blues Museum, which is home to exhibits and host to performances, is located in a historic train depot.
When in Clarksdale, visit the Ground Zero Blues Club that features local blues musicians and Southern foods, like fried catfish. The club is co-owned by the famous actor and blues aficionado Morgan Freeman. Additionally, the Blues Crossroads, where lore tells us that blues musician Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul, is located in Clarksdale.
Finally, the Cutrer Mansion is an educational community center offering various programs and events to the public and visitors. Grab a bite to eat at the Yazoo Pass bistro; the grilled Pimento Cheese sandwich is delicious!
Bay St. Louis
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is located on the Gulf Coast on the west side of the Bay of St. Louis. About 10,000 people call the city home. Many amusing attractions fill the town, like the Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum, a free museum in a train depot that highlights folk art.
The Washington Street Pier is an excellent place to go fishing! Right beside the pier is a shop called The Pineapple that offers jet ski rentals. The Bay St. Louis Historic L & N Train Depot is a beautiful building worth visiting. With many recreational vehicle parks in the area that are adjacent to waterways, camping might be an excellent option for a weekend getaway.
Checking out a new move at the Beacon Theatre is a great family-friendly event. Mockingbird Cafe in Bay St.Louis is the first plastic-free restaurant. If traveling with your four-legged family member, visit the Dunbar Dog park.
Hattiesburg is also called “Hub City.” It got that name through a newspaper contest in 1912 and because the city is an intersectional hub for various railways. The city houses the University of Southern Mississippi. The University has a football team that plays in Conference USA; additionally, the theatre studies department at Southern Miss produces plays at the Southern Arena Theatre.
The Updown Trampoline Park is an indoor trampoline park with laser tag and a snack bar, perfect for a day of family fun. Nearby, the Hattiesburg Zoo has a carousel and more than seventy-five animal species. The Hattiesburg Saenger Theater was built in 1929 and still hosts live events.
On a sunny day, Duncan Lake is a great place to feed the ducks or try your hand at fishing. Then, try a sandwich, soup, or salad from Newk’s Eatery or burger from Hattiesburgers and Blues. The city even has a reliable municipal airport.
Biloxi, Mississippi, is on the Gulf of Mexico and is known for its waterfront casinos. The picturesque Biloxi Lighthouse is adjacent to Biloxi Beach, which lies along the Mississippi Sound. The Biloxi River Marshes Coastal Preserve separates the city and holds many native species like pelicans.
The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum shows exhibits on processing seafood and building boats. The Biloxi Historic Tours group provides a guided tour of the city with additional information about events and hurricanes. Savarro Park is a local green space with a park for baseball and basketball, as well as a picnic pavilion and a playground, making it a nice stop for a vacationing family.
The Beauvoir estate explores the life of the Confederate leader, Jefferson Davis. The docents at the estate are experts and provide crucial historical context. For a great cup of coffee, visit the Jacked Up Coffee Bar, and for delicious seafood, stop by the Half Shell Oyster House, an upscale yet casual Southern seafood restaurant with oysters and po’ boys.
Hernando, Mississippi, is in the northern part of the state, about an hour south of Memphis, Tennessee. Hernando is the seat of DeSoto County, both getting their names from the famed Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto. Conger Park is a beautiful grassy park with a large playground that is perfect for family entertainment.
With the county courthouse as its centerpiece, the town square is Rockwellian, with small shops encircling the area and a local farmer’s market that shuts down traffic during the weekends. The Hernando Farmers Market is open on Saturday mornings, and it is an ideal experience, be sure to try some local honey and freshly baked bread.
The DeSoto County Museum houses preserved buildings and shares the cultural relevance of the area with guests. Hernando is also known for soft-serve ice cream from a regional favorite – the Velvet Cream, serving ice cream and cheeseburgers since 1947. Across town, Hernando Donuts serves up delicious homemade donuts every morning.
Vicksburg, Mississippi, is located in the Western portion of the state near the Louisiana state line. The city held Civil War battles, which is now the location of the Vicksburg National Military Park, the Vicksburg National Cemetery, and the restored USS Cairo gunboat. Visit the Catfish Row Art Park with a splash pad, children’s art, and a paddlewheel steamboat on the river for family fun.
The Lower Mississippi River Museum features an aquarium and interactive exhibits. Additionally, near the town center sits The McRaven House, a pre–Civil War home with a preserved pioneer kitchen and antique furnishings. The Martha Vick House and the George Washington Ball Houser are nearby and equally worth visiting. Vicksburg offers an incredible view of the Mississippi River and the Yazoo River.
Interestingly, Coca-Cola began bottling its beverage for mass consumption in 1894 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum serves refreshing cola and offers a history of the time. Casinos line the water’s edge. If you are searching for a meal, try Martins At Midtown or Bohemia Cafe & Bakery.
Pascagoula, Mississippi, is located along the Gulf Coast and adjacent to Mobile, Alabama. Pascagoula is the home of the Old Spanish Fort; it is the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley, built in the 1750s. Pascagoula is an excellent location for family weekend getaways in Mississippi, especially during the spring or summer.
Pascagoula Beach Park spans fourteen acres and includes a playground, picnic area, splash pad, fishing pier, and hiking trail. Famous musician Jimmy Buffet, who sings among many other songs, “The Pascagoula Run,” was born in the city. Guests can visit Jimmy Buffett’s Childhood Home. Also, visit the nearby Coastal Mardi Gras Museum, a historic building that displays costumes and artifacts preserving the region’s Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday celebrations.
Families can also visit the Mississippi Maritime Museum & Activity Center. The Round Island Lighthouse is still standing and is a beautiful reminder of the history of Pascagoula as a port city. The city hosts many annual events, including a St. Patrick’s Day parade and a Blues & Heritage Festival.
Water Valley, Mississippi, is an excellent place for a relaxing weekend breakaway, and the Main Street features on the National Register of Historic Places. In the center of Water Valley, City Park is a beautiful outdoor space with lots of green grass and a gazebo that you’ll often see decorated in line with any particular holiday.
Water Valley was the home of the now-infamous train engineer, Casey Jones. The Water Valley Casey Jones Museum tells his story and shows preserved artifacts related to working the railroads and the Casey Jones legend. It is a unique stop in one of the best cities in Mississippi for a family vacation.
The Trusty Diner is a local eatery with a huge following, and its pulled BBQ chicken is a delicacy. You can find the diner on the historic Main Street alongside hardware stores, cafes, and art studios. An artistic rebirth has been building in Water Valley for some time, and you can visit one of the art crawls that occur seasonally.
Starkville, Mississippi, is primarily the home to the Mississippi State University. Located in the city center, McKee Park is a lovely green space with pavilions, concession stands, and a public restroom. The park also offers a tennis court and a baseball field. Starkville Community Theatre hosts various plays led by local actors.
The Mississippi Entomological Museum is an exciting place to visit in Starkville and exhibits extensive collections of various bugs and butterflies.
Interestingly, you can find the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library on the campus of Mississippi State University. The University has one of only six on-campus presidential libraries, showcasing Grant’s artifacts because of Mississippi’s role in propelling the career of the famous civil war general and president.
Additionally, a walk through Unity Park, a powerful civil rights exhibit, will make for an impactful yet educational moment on your trip.
Visiting the campus is an adventure, especially on a Saturday in the fall when the football team plays at home. The fans ring specially decorated cowbells to cheer on their team. Various local bars and restaurants abound in Starkville, like Georgia Blue or The Little Dooey.
Are You Planning Your Family Weekend Getaways in Mississippi Yet?
In college towns like Oxford, Hattiesburg, and Starkville, families can experience the unique cultures of the universities, the excitement of seasonal sporting events, and the various restaurants that accommodate the collegiate population.
Vacationers can visit museums that exhibit colonial and Civil War-era life in historic towns like Natchez and Biloxi. In cities like Vicksburg, Pascagoula, and Bay St. Louis, the Mississippi River and its tributaries build a waterfront lifestyle filled with histories of ports and incredibly fresh seafood bites.
In other cities like Hernando and Water Valley, the charm and excess of Southern hospitality can transport visitors to a calmer, kinder South focused on cultivating agriculture and arts.
Mississippi is a large state with cities that offer various experiences for families searching for a weekend getaway. Families with small children to parents touring high-schoolers to local colleges will find some of the best family weekend getaways in Mississippi. Let “The Hospitality State” welcome you for your next vacation!
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