Mississippi embodies the Deep South as much as any other of its neighboring states, a “magnolia state” characterized by its warm and hospitable people, scenic countryside, porch swings, lush greenery, antebellum houses, and idyllic small towns. For tourists, Mississippi is probably better known for its fine Blues music, delicious shrimp and oysters, lively riverboat casinos, sandy Gulf coast beaches, Civil War sites, and the mighty Mississippi River, which is the center of recreation areas for stream fishing, and waterfowl and deer hunting.
Mississippi’s history dates back about 1,000 years ago when Native tribes like the Choctaw and Chikasaw first settled the areas along the Mississippi. The Spaniards, specifically Hernando de Soto, arrived around 1540 in search of gold up this mighty river. The first European settlement came in 1699 near present-day Biloxi founded by Frenchmen Pierre Le Moyne and Sieur d’Iberville. The French eventually lost Mississippi to the British after the signing of the 1763 Treaty of Paris. And after the Revolutionary War, the Mississippi area was made a part of both Georgia and South Carolina.
During the War of 1812, Mississippi was a major battleground, witnessing the Creek Wars with the Indian nation and such conflicts like the Battle of New Orleans and the British capture of Fort Bowher in 1815. Colonel Andrew Jackson emerged as a war hero in Mississippi during this period and was honored with the naming of its present-day capital, Jackson.
Mississippi was also a fierce battleground during the Civil War and witnessed the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863, when General Ulysses Grant led the Union to a successful siege of Vicksburg. The state saw its railroads, telegraph lines, and infrastructure burned and destroyed. The war left Mississippi in ruins.
During the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, Mississippi implemented racial segregation laws and treated African Americans much in the same way as its southern neighbors. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s brought national attention to Mississippi thanks to the violence and hate employed by the Ku Klux Klan. The state’s civil rights record has improved significantly, as has its economy and industries in recent years.
Unfortunately, the 2005 Hurricane Katrina brought considerable destruction to Mississippi’s southern regions. However, the state has recovered largely from the catastrophe, rebuilding its riverboat casinos and Gulf Coast towns.
In recent years, the biggest attraction of Mississippi is its riverboat casinos along its Gulf Coast in towns like Biloxi and along the Mississippi River in gaming destinations like Tunica and Vicksburg.
For outdoor tourists, Mississippi offers recreation areas for swimming, sailing, fishing, waterskiing, swimming, camping, and boating in its national and state parks. It is also home to more than two million acres of hunting and fishing grounds. You can take your pick among the Holly Springs National Forest and the Tombigbee National in the northeast, the Bienville National Forest near Jackson, the Homochitto National Forest in the southeast, the DeSoto National Forest in the Gulf Coast, and the Gulf Island National Seashore off the coast. There are also close to 150 golf courses in Mississippi.
On the historical side, Mississippi features the Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg where the 1863 siege of the town by General Ulysses Grant took place. In Natchez, the Natchez Trace Parkway not only offers a scenic Native American trail through forests, swamps, lakes, waterfalls, and natural springs, but also a number of historic sights like the Meriwether Lewis Museum, the old Rocky Springs Methodist Church, and a host of antebellum homes, especially in Natchez.
Mississippi is also considered the “home of the blues”. You’ll find blues museums at Clarksdale, Leland, Greenwood, and the Dockery Plantation in Cleveland. You should also visit Indianola, which is the home town of B.B. King. The Delta in Mississippi and the capital of Jackson are both hotbeds of blues singers and musicians where you’ll find venues and digs where you can enjoy quality tunes. Also, if you are a big Elvis Presley fan, his childhood home in Tupelo features a museum with local Elvis memorabilia.