Situated along the mighty Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast, Mississippi is located right in the heart of the American South. And it is safe to say that no state does southern hospitality like Mississippi, making it easy to find a charming spot for a getaway. So, while it is a challenge to narrow down the list, check out the seven towns listed here for a fantastic weekend escape. Whether you like great music, intriguing history, mouth-watering food, spectacular waterfront views, or a little of all of these, you are sure to find a town in Mississippi that fits the bill.
Canton, established in 1836 and with a current population of around 13,500, is conveniently located 20 minutes from the state capital, Jackson, and halfway between Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana. As the seat of Madison County, Canton has an ornate Georgian-style courthouse that has been a backdrop for numerous movies. Canton, in fact, is sometimes called the “Hollywood of Mississippi.” A charming and historic shopping district surrounds the courthouse, and the town is home to the widely-known Canton Flea Market Arts and Crafts Show, held each May and October. And, if you are a hot air balloon enthusiast, Canton hosts Mississippi’s oldest hot air balloon race each year.
Ocean Springs is situated along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, on the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay (and about two miles from the city of Biloxi). With a current population of around 17,000, Ocean Springs is called the “City of Discovery” because it was the site of a French settlement way back in 1699, and was an important site for local Native Americans for centuries before that. While natural resources like timber and seafood initially brought people to the area, Ocean Springs became known as a resort destination in the mid 1800s. The town maintains that status today due to the natural beauty of the bay, excellent restaurants serving fresh seafood, and a vibrant local arts scene.
Originally called Cross City when founded as a railroad junction in 1853, Corinth sits in far northern Mississippi, right along its border with Tennessee. As the location of two battles and several other events during the Civil War due to its strategic importance, Corinth maintains numerous monuments, markers, and historic sites. Corinth remains a conveniently located community, easily reachable from several southern cities, but its 14,000 residents now live in a peaceful and welcoming town that draws in visitors with its shops, galleries, and restaurants. Corinth contains several parks and is only a 20 minute drive from Pickwick Lake, one of the area’s most popular and picturesque bodies of water.
Bay St. Louis
The Mississippi Gulf Coast community of Bay St. Louis, with a population of about 9,000, is the seat of Hancock County. Bay St. Louis sits about 30 miles west of Biloxi and 60 miles northeast of New Orleans. The town’s location along the Mississippi Sound at the opening to St. Louis Bay results in spectacular water views and ample options for anglers and recreational boaters. In recent years, a growing share of tourism has been tied to casino resorts: there are two in Bay St. Louis (Hollywood Casino Resort and Silver Slipper Casino Resort) and several others in nearby coastal communities. Additionally, NASA’s Stennis Space Center is only 15 miles west of town.
Tupelo, a larger town of roughly 38,000 situated in northeast Mississippi, is best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley. While Tupelo continues to celebrate this association, including with a statue of “The King,” the town boasts many other attractions for visitors as well. Tupelo’s vibrant downtown, with a range of eateries, shops, and music venues, has garnered several awards over the years. Meanwhile, non-Elvis history buffs can check out the Tupelo National Battlefield park for information on the 1864 Civil War battle. Visitors with kids are often drawn to the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo, which covers over 200 acres, houses 260 animals, and hosts an annual pumpkin patch in autumn.
Perched on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in the southwestern part of the state, Natchez is brimming with history. Named for the Natchez people who inhabited the area for centuries before the arrival of French colonists in 1716, Natchez was one of the key ports for the antebellum slave trade and a strategic location during the Civil War. Today, the town of about 15,000 works to honor the legacy of the Native American, African American, and European American peoples whose histories have overlapped in the area. Along with numerous museums and historic sites, Natchez boasts a busy downtown area and spectacular river and sunset views from its bluff.
Oxford, home to the University of Mississippi, is one of the top tailgate party destinations in America during home college football games on autumn Saturdays. The rest of the year, Oxford is a more relaxed college town of about 25,000 full-time residents in the hilly landscape of north-central Mississippi. Aided by the presence of the university, Oxford has numerous restaurants, bars, music venues, theaters, museums, and other cultural and entertainment sites. As the seat of Lafayette County, Oxford is home to an imposing 1872 courthouse and numerous other antebellum and postwar buildings. For visitors looking to get out of town for a few hours, Kyle State Park, Wall Doxey State Park, and Holly Springs National Forest are all nearby.
Mississippi is a great state for a weekend escape, no matter what you like to do on your getaways. Seemingly every county seat is a charming southern town with a beautiful courthouse and downtown area, and the waters of the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River are never too far away. You can always expect to find a lively music and arts scene in Mississippi towns and cities, as well as an appreciation for history (and the good and bad that comes with it).