Travelers looking for rich history, warm hospitality, and white sand beaches will be very pleased with a trip to Mississippi. While it may not get as much attention as its gulf coast neighbors, the Magnolia State is a bit of a hidden gem – and it’s nowhere near as crowded as Florida.
Situated just between Alabama and Louisiana, visiting Mississippi is a natural stop for those on a tour of the southern coastline. However, following the Mississippi River up through the rest of the countryside reveals small towns that big names came from, historic sites from the Civil War, and nature trails throughout the beautiful landscape.
Visiting Mississippi is easy from most parts of America, as there are relatively major airports in Jackson and Biloxi, as well as even bigger ones in bordering states such as New Orleans and Memphis. This is also a great place to road trip, especially if you like camping or traveling in an RV.
If you’re wondering what to do in Mississippi, there is no shortage of awesome attractions here. Read on to see our take on the top things to do in Mississippi and everything you need to know about them.
Looking to immerse yourself in the historical roots of the Confederacy? A visit to Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi is a must. Buy your tickets in advance to plan your visit and skip the line. With a tour guide in the lead, your ticket gives you access to all areas of the home and gardens, once belonging to Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America. You’ll get commentary on the home’s history as you tour through it, providing a well-rounded understanding of this significant piece of American history.
Looking to explore the stories and legacy of some of music’s most celebrated artists? You’ll want to pre-book your tickets to the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. This one-of-a-kind museum offers a high-tech, interactive experience that brings music history to life. From personal stories of GRAMMY-winning artists to engaging exhibits, there’s something for everyone at the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. Save yourself the hassle of long lines and buy your tickets in advance – trust us, it’s worth it!
Experience the truly unique Historical Haunted Bayou Cruise, where you’ll explore the mystery and legends of the Mississippi Sound. This one-of-a-kind tour features Mystic Molly as your narrator, taking you through beautifully eerie back bayous while sharing disturbing legends. You’ll enjoy an hour-long ride complete with soft drinks or beer, and a snack included – all while taking in the misty beauty of the night. Don’t miss this captivating experience that’s sure to leave you with goosebumps!
- Most significant landmark – The Elvis Presley Birthplace
- Best park – Vicksburg National Military Park
- Best free activity – Natchez Trace Parkway
- Best activity for kids – Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
- Best activity for adults – Mississippi Petrified Forest
- Best food – Carriage House Restaurant
- Best nightlife – Golden Nugget Biloxi
- Best all-around accommodation – Margaritaville Resort Biloxi
Best & Fun Things to Do in Mississippi
We’ve put together the below guide on what to see in Mississippi, the most popular tourist attractions, and some guided tours to take where they are available. We’ve also added some of the best hotels and vacation rentals in the major areas to stay.
1. Vicksburg National Military Park
Address: 3201 Clay Street, Vicksburg, MS 39183
One of the most historic Mississippi attractions is the Vicksburg National Military Park, an important Civil War battleground site. The park is located just west of the capital, Jackson, along the Mississippi River in the town of Vicksburg.
The Battle of Vicksburg was undoubtedly one of the most important battles of the Civil War and a major turning point that helped bring it to an end. Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold along the Mississippi and capturing it was vital to the Union’s battle strategy. Major General Ulysses S. Grant led the North to victory after a long, 47-day siege.
Today, the National Park Service maintains the battleground and all its historic places to preserve a dark moment in American history. There are over 1,000 historic monuments and markers, miles of walking and driving routes, and dozens of cannons throughout the site.
Adjoining is the Vicksburg National Cemetery, where more than 18,000 Civil War soldiers have their final resting place. Most of them are unidentified.
The Vicksburg National Military Park is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Tickets can be bought online on the National Park Service’s website or in person, but don’t forget to check if there is a free day aligning with your trip dates.
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2. Mississippi Museum of Art
Address: 380 South Lamar Street, Jackson, MS 39201
The largest museum in the state is the Mississippi Museum of Art, where you can find a large collection of works from Mississippi and other American artists. Visiting the museum is one of the top Mississippi things to do in its capital, Jackson.
The museum is home to a permanent collection featuring big names such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol and Mississippi artists like Theora Hamblett. Seasonal exhibitions are also always quite popular, with themes like pre-Columbian art and the Great Migration.
There is always a free exhibition open to the public at the museum, making this an easy choice if you have some time in Jackson. There is an admission fee for parts of the museum, however.
Jackson is a popular place to stay, as there is a wide range of accommodations in the city, and its location is central. Our hotel of choice is the Hilton Jackson, which offers upscale amenities at an affordable price just north of downtown.
3. Gulf Islands National Seashore
Address: 3500 Park Road, Ocean Springs, MS 39564
While most tourists searching for beaches to relax and play flock to Florida, the ones who choose the Gulf Islands National Seashore of Mississippi are in for a special treat. The small portion of the Mississippi gulf coast is a paradise for beach bums, nature seekers, and history lovers.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore is actually a federally protected preserve with offshore barrier islands in both Florida and Mississippi, as well as comprising some of the bayous on the shore. While many visitors are hesitant about including the coast on their Mississippi vacation due to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, all of the facilities and infrastructure of this preserve have been fully restored.
With a car, you can easily reach the Davis Bayous Area in just a few minutes from Biloxi. Ship Island, Petit Bois, and the other offshore parts of the preserve require a boat to access. These are the places to be if you want a beach day.
From March to October, passenger ferries run from Gulfport to Ship Island, where there are swimming beaches with facilities like showers and restrooms. Camping is available in the Davis Bayou Area.
If you’re looking to learn more about the bayou, there’s a fantastic Haunted Historical Bayou Tour in Bay St. Louis, just west of the preserve. It’s great entertainment and a fun way to learn about this typical Mississippi natural environment.
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4. Elvis Presley Birthplace and Park
Address: 306 Elvis Presley Drive, Tupelo, MS38801
Elvis lovers will argue that his birthplace and hometown are among the best things to see in Mississippi. And it’s probably true, as Mississippi is known to be the birthplace of the blues.
Elvis was born in a small house built by his father, his uncle, and his grandfather in Tupelo. This small town is in the north of the state, not far from the border with Tennessee and the city of Memphis, where Elvis would later record songs that changed the world of music.
Today, the grounds have been turned into a museum-like tribute to the King of Rock. The original house is there, and the church Elvis attended as a child was moved onto the grounds. It was at that church that Elvis was introduced to gospel music and became determined to play the guitar himself.
A reflection pool has also been added, along with an overlook pavilion and a statue of Elvis as a child. Whether a super fan or not, seeing the upbringing that inspired a legend is a cool experience.
If you’re looking to spend the night in Tupelo, the Holiday Inn & Suites Tupelo North is an affordable and comfortable choice. It even has an indoor pool and jacuzzi.
5. Natchez Trace Parkway
Address: Natchez, MS 39120
Beginning in the city of Natchez on the banks of the Mississippi River, the Natchez Trace Parkway is an incredibly historic route that runs 444 miles through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. This scenic drive consists of dozens of stops to enjoy the scenery, history, and adventure.
The Natchez Trace Parkway was once called the Old Natchez Trace and had been a trail long before America was established. It was known as an important route in Native American history and was later used by soldiers, missionaries, and settlers in the area.
As the trail became more and more used, the settlers around it set up inns along it to sell food and lodging to travelers, calling them Stands. Some are still standing, and parts of the trail are listed on the National Register for Historic Places.
Today, the Parkway runs mostly along the Old Trace, with some sections still available for hiking. Along the drive, there are stops for hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, fishing, and the list goes on. As a bonus, you can appreciate being along a route that was of great importance for centuries.
Don’t forget to spend some time in the historic beginning (or end) town of the parkway, Natchez. It’s full of beautiful antebellum houses such as Stanton Hall and great southern eateries like the Carriage House Restaurant.
In this area, you might appreciate a full house for everyone to come home to at the end of the day. The Piggy Haus has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, which should be plenty of space for the whole family after a fun day on the trail.
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6. LeFleur’s Bluff State Park & the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Address: 2148 Riverside Drive, Jackson, MS 39202
During your stay in Jackson, don’t miss the chance to enjoy some authentic Mississippi nature at a place like LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. The bluff, which is a rounded cliff-like formation that sits on a shore or a river, is located in the northeast of the city along the Pearl River.
LeFleur’s Bluff comprises over 300 acres, 2.5 miles of trails, several lakes, and plenty of Mississippi wilderness to enjoy. There’s also an open-air amphitheater for hosting events at times. The park is a great way to get outdoors, whether for a full day of exploring or just a quick jog in the morning.
Within the park, there is also the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, where over 200 species of animals live in their 100,000-gallon aquarium network. Their 1,700 square-foot greenhouse hosts an entire swamp ecosystem as well. Stop in to learn about the natural habitats and animals of Mississippi at one of their interactive exhibits or explore on your own.
The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science also operates a gift shop, as well as a children’s playground in LeFleur’s Bluff. A small entry fee is charged to visit the museum, as well as to access the park for day use, and camping is available by reservation.
7. Old Capitol Museum
Address: 100 State Street, Jackson, MS 39201
If you’re looking for some free things to do in Mississippi, the Old Capitol Museum is a great choice to appreciate some important state and national history. This free museum is, as you may have guessed, the former seat of government of the state where many important decisions in its history were made.
While it is the Old Capitol Building, it was not the first, which no longer stands today. This one was built in 1839 and was in official use until 1903 when the third State Capitol Building was finished. It then became a National Historic Landmark.
Today, you can visit the Old Capitol as a museum of the Mississippi government’s history. It’s where decisions such as seceding from the Union were made and where the state’s constitutions were drafted. It’s also an excellently preserved example of early 1800s architecture.
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Going back to the coast, the city of Biloxi is one of the most visited in Mississippi. It is well-known for its relaxed beaches and large resorts with casinos, where visitors come from all over to party, gamble, and have a good time.
There is no shortage of fantastic accommodation options in this coastal city. The Margaritaville Resort Biloxi has pools and fun for the whole family, while the Golden Nugget Biloxi is one of many great options for gaming and partying. If you are looking for somewhere more relaxing just to access the beaches, the Hyatt Place Biloxi is a comfortable and conveniently located choice.
There is plenty to see and do in the city. The Biloxi Lighthouse is a historic landmark standing since the 1800s, and the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum has an interesting theme appropriate for the town. You can also rent jet skis, take a boat tour, and get some of the best seafood on the Gulf in Biloxi.
Another interesting thing to do in Biloxi is to visit Beauvoir, the 19th Century mansion that Jefferson Davis called home. Pick up a skip-the-line ticket to get a look at the controversial figure’s life as a Congressman, Secretary of War, and President of the Confederacy from his very own residence.
9. Mississippi Petrified Forest
Address: 124 Forest Park Road, Flora, MS 39071
Just north of Jackson, the wilderness of Mississippi hides a natural phenomenon that can be seen in just a handful of places around the world: petrified trees. The Mississippi Petrified Forest is a Registered National Landmark and contains the remains of a forest from 36 million years ago.
Petrified wood is essentially a very, very old piece of wood that has been turned into stone. This complex natural process started with a roaring river that carried massive trees to this part of Mississippi, where they sank deep into the water and silt.
Over millions of years, the effects of storms, ice ages, glaciers, and more literally turned the trees into stone while deep in the ground. Wind and erosion of the land revealed them eventually, with some being large pieces still intact, while others have been broken into smaller pieces by the forces of nature.
Today, visitors are welcomed to the forest to learn about this process, see giant pieces of wooden trees up close, and wander the nature trails. The entry fee is quite low, and it is a very unique experience that nearly any visitor would enjoy.
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10. B.B. King Museum & Delta Interpretive Center
Address: 400 2nd Street, Indianola, MS 38751
Elvis was far from the only famous blues singer that Mississippi produced – it’s also the home state of blues legend Riley B. “B.B.” King. He was from the impoverished central Mississippi delta town of Indianola, where you can find the B.B. King Museum that tells the story of his life and success.
King didn’t have much growing up, but he did have a dream that he followed, which brought him around the world and to international fame. His humble beginnings and final resting place are right there in Indianola, where you can learn about his journey and pay tribute to a legend. The museum also exhibits the much larger themes of the delta area, such as history, society, and race relations.
If you’re on a blues tour of the Mississippi countryside, there’s also the Delta Blues Museum just over an hour’s drive north in Clarksdale. Another hour along the river will bring you to the Gateway to the Blues Museum, at which point you’ll have gotten the full tour.
11. GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
Address: 800 West Sunflower Road, Cleveland, MS 38732
Looking for some more Mississippi music attractions? The famous GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles has a sister location right here in Mississippi to celebrate the musicians that the state has produced.
Located in the small, central town of Cleveland, the museum was developed with the help of the same group that created the B.B. King Museum. In its over 28,000 square feet, visitors can have all kinds of interactive experiences, see films, and enjoy performances focused on all genres of music. Special exhibits rotate in and out of the museum several times per year.
The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi is a great addition to the other blues music museums mentioned above, as they are all in the same area. However, being located in a remote part of the state may mean you’d prefer to stay nearby. The Cotton House Cleveland, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, is a great boutique hotel option to stay in the town and get a feel for its identity.
This Mississippi attraction is best visited with a car due to its location. Also, don’t forget to buy a skip-the-line ticket for the museum to avoid waiting in line or missing out on busy days.
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12. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
Address: 222 North Street #2205, Jackson, MS 39201
Back in the city of Jackson, you can find the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in the downtown area. It’s just two blocks from the Mississippi State Capitol Building and the Old Capitol Museum, making it an easy addition to a day of seeing the city sights.
As many people know, Mississippi was one of the places at the center of the Civil Rights Movement. The museum exists to tell the story of the Mississippians who fought for their rights and how they changed a nation.
In eight interactive galleries, visitors experience the struggle of African Americans, the fight for equality, and the sacrifices that were made in the name of the movement. In the center of them all, a special statue glows as more people gather closer, in a tribute to the unity displayed during the fight.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is closed on Mondays, and admission is free on Sundays. Therefore, plan your days in Jackson strategically!
13. The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies’ Ocean Adventures Marine Park
Address: 10801 Dolphin Lane, Gulfport, MS 39503
Being a state on the Gulf of Mexico, the shores of Mississippi get a lot of visits from animals like dolphins and sea turtles. The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, located on a bayou in Gulfport, exists to protect them, study them, and ensure that these species continue to live alongside us.
The institute is a fully licensed rescue center for stranded and distressed marine life, and they are the ones called when a sea animal is found sick or injured. Their facilities and staff are highly capable and experienced in diagnosing and rehabilitating all kinds of ocean creatures, in order to return them to the natural world.
Besides their research and rescue efforts, the institute operates the Ocean Adventures Marine Park, where visitors can get an up-close look at the work they do. They also have educational shows with dolphins as well as swimming experiences with them, which is a huge hit for kids.
Other experiences at the park include snorkeling with stingrays, getting a kiss from a sea lion, and shadowing a caretaker on the job. If you can’t make it to the park, you can always track the sea turtles they’ve tagged in the past from their website!
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14. Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge
Address: 13723 Bluff Lake Road, Starkville, MS 39759
If you’re looking for some pristine nature in the inner part of Mississippi, the Sam D. Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent choice. It’s a nearly three-hour drive into the backwoods northeast of Jackson to reach this haven for wildlife.
The massive space consists of trails, swamps, creeks, and lakes throughout a vast area formerly used for farming and grazing. It was established as a wildlife refuge in 1940 and has since become an established woodland and an important area for migrating birds.
In fact, bird watching and nature photography are some of the most common activities in the preserve. Visitors can also hike, bike, hunt, fish, and otherwise enjoy the outdoor space.
There is an especially popular network of hiking trails around Bluff Lake, where a boardwalk will bring you around the swampy woods to see birds like waterfowl and other local residents like alligators. A visitor center is open Monday thru Friday in case you have any questions for the rangers.
15. Windsor Ruins
Address: Rodney Road, Port Gibson, MS 39150
As we’ve seen, Mississippi is packed full of the history of the Civil War and the 19th Century at large. One unique relic that’s been left behind from the era is the Windsor Ruins, located on the banks of the Mississippi River and not far off the southern Natchez Trace Parkway.
The ruins are what remains of one of the antebellum mansions that were once common around the region. The Greek Revival-style house was finished in 1861 and owned by wealthy cotton farmer Smith Coffee Daniell II. Sadly, it was built with the labor of slaves.
Despite being a slaver, Daniell and his family were allowed to live on the upper floor of the mansion following the outbreak of the Civil War and its capture by Ulysses Grant’s army. Grant’s forces would use it as a lookout station and hospital. While it survived the war, the mansion burnt to the ground in 1890 after someone smoked too close to construction materials.
All that remained of the building were the 23 massive Corinthian columns that surrounded the structure, which still stand today. The Windsor Ruins are a partially interesting view into our country’s history and partially a somber reminder of dark times. It certainly makes for a good stop on a Mississippi vacation.
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Is Mississippi worth visiting?
There are a ton of places to visit in Mississippi that are absolutely worth the trip. Between the natural beauty of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the abundant American history, and the rural countryside beyond the bayou, most visitors are thoroughly pleased by the end of their vacation.
What is Mississippi known for?
The Magnolia State has a reputation for hospitable locals, beautiful seashores, and being the birthplace of American blues music. It’s also known as a rural state producing a sizable portion of America’s crops, as well as having rich fishing grounds for species like catfish.
What are some things to do in Mississippi with kids?
There are plenty of Mississippi tourist attractions appropriate for the whole family. Kids love the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, where they can see animals like dolphins and sting rays up close and feel with their hands in the touch pools. On a sunny day, a visit to Ship Island is a fun adventure for swimming, fishing, and playing in the sand.
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