Overlooking Natchez city with residential buildings in Mississippi, the jewel of the Mississippi River.

7 Best Small Towns To Visit In Mississippi

The magnificent state of Mississippi is in the Southeastern part of the United States and is bordered by Tennessee in the North, Alabama in the east, Arkansas and Louisiana in the west, and Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico in the south. The Gulf Coast gives the state its unique charm with beautiful landforms, islands, rivers, and a pleasant climate. Every town in the state has a unique vibe with a rich history and cultural heritage, quaint architecture, scenic natural beauty, and close-knit communities resonating warm Southern hospitality with a laid-back atmosphere. 

Here are some of Mississippi’s best small towns that vacationers must add to their itinerary for a fun, relaxing, and fulfilling holiday experience.

Bay St. Louis

Archway for Bay of St. Louis Mississippi, a coastal beach town.
Archway for Bay of St. Louis Mississippi, a coastal beach town. Image credit clayton harrison via Shutterstock.com

Bay St. Louis is one of the Gulf Coast’s most underrated towns. Set in the southernmost part of the state, it has a population of about 9,300 and sits on the picturesque shores of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This quaint little Hancock County town with its Southern charm gives its visitors a glimpse of laid-back coastal living, rich history, and breathtaking natural beauty. It is famous for its cultural tapestry and lively arts scene, festivals, exhibits, music performances, theatrical productions, and welcoming atmosphere. The hidden gem of this town is the Old Town district which has restored buildings, boutique shops, art galleries, and dining places. Walking along the streets lined with trees, tourists can imbibe the local culture, and dine at some delicious seafood restaurants that all reflect the town’s coastal heritage. 

Since the town is nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and the waters of the Bay of St. Louis, tourists are often amazed by the natural wonders of this town that, includes the nearby Barrier Islands, marshlands, and sun-kissed beaches that allow visitors to swim, fish, enjoy the waters, explore wildlife and go on hikes and trails. Once hit by a devastating hurricane in 2005, the coastal Mississippi community worked hard to rebuild the town. Some more exciting places to visit while in Bay St. Louis are Bay Saint Louis Beach, Bay St. Louis Little Theatre, Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum, Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church, and Saint Rose de Lima Catholic Church.


Façade of the Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland, Mississippi
Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland, Mississippi. Image credit Kilobytezero via Wikimedia Commons

Situated in the heart of the Mississippi Delta or the northwest part of the state, this beautiful Bolivar County town is along Mississippi Highway 8, about 19 miles southeast of Rosedale and the Mississippi River. This warm and hospitable town has a population of about 10,600 with a rich history and a vibrant cultural scene. It has a diverse range of attractions and things to do, while also being famous for its musical heritage. The musical legacy of this town is preserved through Delta Blues music, a famous part of the town’s history. Besides its musical influence, the town is famous for encouraging creative talent and art lovers. Regular art exhibits, workshops, and performances hosted by The Delta Arts Alliance provide opportunities for regional and local artists to showcase their talent, celebrating creativity in various forms through theaters, galleries, and community events; one such amazing center is the Bologna Performing Arts Center. 

Other great historical places to visit include the Grammy Museum Mississippi, and Martin & Sue King Railroad Museum. Outdoor lovers can stroll along the areas surrounding the Mississippi River or explore historical landmarks such as the Mississippi Blues Trail and other places like Bear Pen Park for hiking, picnics, and bird watching, or the Roy L. and Clara Belle Wiley Planetarium and the Dockery Farms. The downtown area is packed with cafes, boutique shops, and tasty cuisine for everyone to enjoy. While in Cleveland, visitors must consider attending annual festivals like the Crosstie Arts & Jazz Festival to experience the town’s interesting culture.


Welcome to Laurel, Mississippi mural in historic downtown Laurel, Mississippi
Laurel, Mississippi mural in historic downtown. Image credit Chad Robertson via stock.adobe.com

Located towards the southeast region of Mississippi, this Jones County town has a population of about 17,000. The beautiful town is close to Ellisville, which has the first county courthouse. Offering its visitors a delightful blend of rich history, vibrant residential neighborhoods, lively community spirit, and warm Southern hospitality, Laurel is a charming small town that is popular for its architectural marvels and as being the host of the well-known show HGTV (Home & Garden Television) that highlights home restoration projects. The town’s downtown area is another brilliant place with tree-adorned streets, historic buildings, rustic shops, and comforting eateries. Tourists can pick unique gifts for family and friends at local places such as The Laurel Leaf and the Southern Antique Gift Mall or explore the exciting Bolton Home Town Tour. 

Laurel hosts many events and festivals, such as the Loblolly Festival and Downtown Thursdays, to celebrate its cultural heritage. The Loblolly Festival, held every autumn, gives local artisans, musicians, and chefs a platform to exhibit their talent while Downtown Thursdays combines Farmer’s market and movie night, allowing locals and tourists to experience live music, local treats, and family-friendly activities all through summer. While in the town, tourists can enjoy an impressive collection of diverse exhibits of American and European art at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art. Other places of interest are Veterans Memorial Museum, Laurel Mercantile Co., and Landrum's Homestead & Village.


Building in Natchez, Mississippi
Building in Natchez, Mississippi.

The idyllic small town of Natchez, with a population of about 13,000, is one that exudes history, elegance, and a captivating charm. The town is about 85 miles north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Located in the Southwest region of the state and being one of the oldest continuous settlements along the lower Mississippi River, this Adams County town has many iconic landmarks, and beautiful old homes, offering its visitors some great cultural experiences. This town played a pivotal part in the Civil War. All history enthusiasts can learn and explore more about its past by visiting places such as the William Johnson House and the Natchez National Historical Park. Natchez’s grand mansions, such as the Longwood and Stanton Hall and other stately houses, will take its visitors back in time, offering them a glimpse into the lives of its wealthy owners. The town is not just an expression of artistic homes and nostalgia but also a host for events such as the Natchez Pilgrimage, a yearly event that offers tours, live performances, and reenactments as well as a platform to showcase the town’s antebellum homes. The Natchez Festival of Music is another fantastic event that features wonderful music and performances drawing talent from all around the globe.

Nature lovers can appreciate the town’s breathtaking beauty as they traverse through the lush landscapes, including the Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic road that goes through pristine forests offering opportunities for hiking, biking, and bird-watching. There is much to do and explore in this small town, and other great places to visit are the Natchez Brewing Company, St Mary's Catholic Church, Natchez Museum-African American Culture, Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, and The Towers of Natchez.

Ocean Springs

Gulf Coast beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Gulf Coast beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Image credit Fotoluminate LLC via Shutterstock

Set along the picturesque Gulf Coast, this Jackson County town lies to the east of Biloxi and west of Gautier. Being a rare combination of coastal town charm and a thriving arts and culture scene, Ocean Springs is a hidden gem with a historic downtown area, beautiful beaches, and a vibrant arts community. With a population of about 18,300, this picturesque town is a great blend of small-town hospitality, artistic inspiration, and scenic natural beauty. The coastal beauty at Ocean Springs is breathtaking and a perfect relaxation spot for locals and tourists. Visitors can enjoy the beaches and indulge in activities such as fishing, swimming, sunbathing, and kayaking. Other outdoor recreational activities include hiking, bird-watching, and exploring the town’s diverse ecosystems at places such as the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, Fontainebleau Nature Trail, and the Davis Bayou Area Gulf Islands National Seashore. The town also has many award-winning restaurants, seafood shacks, and cozy cafes serving mouth-watering Gulf Coast cuisine where visitors can also enjoy stunning waterfront views. 

History and art lovers can visit The Walter Anderson Museum of Art, which celebrates the work of local artists, Walter Inglis Anderson and his brothers, or attend the annual Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival and the Ocean Springs Art Walk. Ocean Springs's downtown region is another lovely area to explore, bustling with studios, galleries, and boutiques celebrating the work of local artists. Other interesting places to visit in Ocean Springs include the Ocean Springs Museum of History, Front Beach Drive, Lost Spring Brewing Company, Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Pershing Square, and Charnley-Norwood House. The town hosts frequent festivals, parades, and live music events that unite visitors and locals to celebrate and enjoy together.


The Oxford, Mississippi town hall sits prominently on the town’s historic square.
The Oxford, Mississippi town hall sits prominently on the town’s historic square. Image credit James Kirkikis via Shutterstock.com

Situated amidst the scenic hills of north-central Mississippi, Oxford is about 85 miles to the southeast of Memphis, Tennessee. It is an enchanting town famous for its lively arts scene, abundant literary heritage, and hospitality. This Lafayette County town has a population of about 26,500 and exudes a delightful blend of small-town allure and an intellectual vibe. The locals are warm and hospitable, with an inviting atmosphere that captivates all who visit. The town’s bustling historic square is the heart of its community, with amazing local shops, restaurants, and boutiques. The square becomes a vibrant center with food festivals, live music, and farmer’s markets where visitors and locals can gather. 

Oxford is popular for being the home of William Faulkner, a well-known American writer whose work revolved around the intricacies of Southern life. Visiting Faulkner’s old residence to explore Rowan Oak, preserved as a museum, offers insight into the author’s life and work. Beyond the literary magnificence of this town, visitors can also experience the town’s spirited arts scene by attending the annual Double Decker Arts Festival, which showcases live music, art vendors, artisan crafts, and more, as well as the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, which promotes local artists, organizes art exhibitions, theater performances, and cultural events all throughout the year. Nature lovers will enjoy the town’s natural beauty. The serene landscapes provide a peaceful retreat from the busy town center. Some beautiful places to visit are the nearby Holly Springs National Forest and Sardis Lake. Both places allow visitors to enjoy recreational activities like camping, fishing, hiking, and boating.


Willie Hinton Park pavillion in the City of Petal, Mississippi
Willie Hinton Park pavilion in the City of Petal, Mississippi. Image credit Cayla.campPR via Wikimedia Commons

Set in the southeastern part of the state, along the Leaf River, Petal is a Forrest County town with a population of about 11,600. With a thriving spirit, charming neighborhoods, top-rated public schools, natural beauty, and a close-knit community, this little town embodies the warmth of Southern hospitality. Nature lovers can enjoy the town’s green spaces and outdoor activities at places such as Hinton Park, Petal River Park, Friendly Park, and Petal Relay Park. These places provide opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, and relaxing, and are also great places for children to play. The Leaf River allows visitors to explore boating, canoeing, and fishing.

The town has many unique shops, boutiques, and restaurants that line its streets. Visitors may explore local flavors or enjoy a cup of coffee, shop at local areas, dine at restaurants, and enjoy Petal’s small-town charm. Locals and tourists anticipate events such as the Fall Festival and Christmas Parade, where they can enjoy and celebrate these exciting seasons. While in Petal, visitors can visit museums such as Hattiesburg Pocket Museum, African American Military History Museum, Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, and the Infinity Science Center. Other fun and exciting places to explore are the Hattiesburg Zoo, Roll Around Fun Center, and Alley Cats Axe Throwing Company.

Perfect for weekend getaways or even longer stays, every town provides a glimpse into the heart and soul of Mississippi. Be it Bay St. Louis’s laid-back holidaying or Natchez’s rich architectural heritage, visitors can enjoy the simpler pleasures of small-town living along with exploring each town’s rich history and natural beauty. Each town offers a delightful escape leaving lasting memories of relaxation, culture, and natural beauty. These small towns are a perfect blend of Southern hospitality, rich history, architectural beauty, cultural heritage, natural wonders, and a sense of community that make them special and worth exploring.

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