For a taste of the Old South, look no further than Natchez, Mississippi, a town that dates back over 300 years. Its location on the Mississippi River and near the Natchez Trace Parkway makes it steeped in Native American history. African, French, Spanish and British settlers also left their mark on the land. The area is also home to some of the country’s oldest African American church congregations.
Twice a year, guests can enter the private homes that date back to before the Civil War for the Pilgrimages. The Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, Natchez Powwow, and the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race are among other favorite annual events. Downtown has a number of shops and restaurants for visitors to peruse.
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What to Do
Longwood– Unlike any other antebellum home in the country, Longwood is a circular “Oriental-style” mansion featured in True Blood. Tours of the home go through the basement, where the family lived, and the unfinished upstairs. Other nearby homes open for tours include Rosalie and Stanton Hall. 140 Lower Woodville Road
Grand Village of the Natchez– Learn about the Native tribes that lived here before the Europeans at this museum, which features burial mounds and a museum with artifacts found during excavation. 400 Jeff Davis Boulevard
Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture– Natchez is home to a number of historical markers, including the Natchez Burning blues trail marker, and this museum details the importance of African Americans in local and state history. 301 Main Street
Forks of the Road Historical Site– The small but important monument educates visitors on the large slave market that once operated in Natchez, supplying African slaves to nearby plantations. 232 St. Catherine Street
William Johnson House– Named for the freed slave that lived here, Johnson was a barber. He even owned slaves himself and his house and diary are reminders of the time in which he lived. 210 State Street
Natchez Brewing Company– Home to the city’s only craft brewery, come by for a pint of locally made beer and a tour of their facilities. They’re all inspired by their surroundings like the Bluff City Blonde. 207 High Street
Rhythm Night Club– One of the deadliest fires in our nation’s history killed 200 people at a nightclub in Natchez. A monument stands in memory of the mostly African American crowd as well as the musicians lost that day. 5 Saint Catherine Street
Old South Winery– Sip muscadine wine at this winery on the outskirts of town. The company makes sweet and dry red, white and rose varieties. They’re open throughout the week for free tours and tastings. 65 South Concord Avenue
Charboneau Distillery– Operated by a longtime Natchez family, Charboneau makes the first legally distilled rum in Mississippi. It’s won countless awards for the white and gold styles made in copper stills. Tours of the facility are available every weekend. 617 Jefferson Street
City Sightseeing Natchez Hop On Hop Off Tour– See the city’s historic homes and attractions on this informative bus tour that makes twelve stops around town. Your pass is good all day, so take your time.
Where to Eat
King’s Tavern– In addition to being in the oldest building in Natchez, and reportedly haunted, King’s Tavern has some of the best food in town. Their craft cocktails and brisket flatbread, pictured, are must try items. 613 Jefferson Street, (601) 446-5003
The Donut Shop– This roadside spot is a counter with picnic tables, but fills up quickly in the mornings and afternoons. The varied menu includes donuts, of course, as well as hamburgers and Delta tamales. 501 John R Junkin Drive, (601) 442-2317
Steampunk Coffee Roasters– For the best cup of java in town, check out this former cabin turned hip coffee shop. Grab a seat at the counter and watch your coffee get made on the copper machine. 114 High Street, (601) 870-6882
Fat Mama’s Tamales– Known for their Mississippi tamales and “knock you naked” margaritas, this colorful eatery is a great place to relax with a cold drink. 303 S. Canal Street, (601) 442-4548
Castle Restaurant– Located at Dunleith, this original carriage house is now one of the town’s best restaurants. Opt for crab cakes and bread pudding as well as cocktails. 84 Homochitto Street, (601) 446-8500
Restaurant 1818– Located at parlors of the Monmouth Historic Inn, the restaurant has Southern favorites like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and collard greens. 1358 John A. Quitman Boulevard, (601) 442-5852
Biscuits & Blues– Po boys and seafood are the main specialties, along with live music. They have a full-service menu of beer and wine as well. 315 Main Street, (601) 446-9922
The Camp Restaurant– For cold beer and good food, head under the hill to the river. Grab a pint of local and regional brews in their beer garden and order elevated pub fare like their burgers, sliders, and sandwiches. 21 Silver Street, (601) 897-0466
Carriage House Restaurant– Known as some of the best fried chicken in the South, this classic restaurant at Stanton Hall makes for a perfect meal out. Pair your bird with silver dollar biscuits and Thai curry shrimp bisque. 401 High Street, (601) 445-5151
Bowie’s Tavern– Originally a cotton warehouse, the bar has images of its former life on the walls and the bartop itself dates back to the 1800s. Sandwiches, burgers, and pizza are all favorites, best paired with a cold beer. 100 Main Street, (601) 445-6627
Where to Stay
Monmouth Historic Inn– The 26-acre estate surrounding one of the oldest homes in Natchez offers an unrivaled guest experience including full Southern breakfast, light hors d’oeuvres, and tours of the property. 1358 John A. Quitman Boulevard
Devereaux Shields House– Guests enjoy a full Southern hot breakfast and 24-hour coffee, sofa, and tea service at this Victorian bed and breakfast. Accommodation options include rooms in the main house and the adjoining cottage. 709 North Union Street
Clermont Bluffs Bed and Breakfast– The impeccably designed inn has terrace rooms. Guests enjoy free WiFi, bike rentals, and daily breakfast. Relax in the library or outside in the garden. 42 Cemetery Road
Natchez Grand Hotel– The centrally located hotel has modern rooms with televisions and full baths. Guests enjoy free parking, WiFi, and daily breakfast. 111 North Broadway Street
Hotel Vue– Set on the river bluffs, the Ascend Collection hotel has an outdoor pool, free WiFi, and free parking. There’s also a restaurant and fitness center. 130 John R. Junkin Drive
Camping- If you’re traveling with your camper or are saving money, Natchez State Park has cabins, RV sites, and tent sites with bath facilities.
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My trip to Natchez was with assistance by the Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism, where I was a speaker.