Natchez, Mississippi: Paddle steamer river cruise boat, American Queen, departs under the interstate bridge. Editorial credit: Steve Heap /

8 Coolest Towns in Mississippi for a Summer Vacation in 2024

Mississippi is known for its rich arts and culture scene, fascinating Civil Rights history, vibrant music heritage, and trademark Southern hospitality. This impressive lineup draws visitors from around the country looking for first-hand experience of the diversity of this delightful state. While famous destinations like Jackson and Gulf Coast beaches attract multitudes each summer, some of the coolest and most authentic experiences can be found in Mississippi’s small towns.

2024 presents the perfect opportunity to make up for your previous oversights and discover the charm of small towns in Mississippi. Consider exploring the Magnolia State’s hidden gems for a low-key vacation with cultural depths far beyond the tiny populations might suggest. The following destinations offer outstanding attractions, historic charms, and a genuine slice of Southern living that exemplifies the natural beauty and people who define Mississippi.


Columbus, Mississippi: Birthplace of American playwright and screenwriter Tennessee Williams.

Columbus, Mississippi: Birthplace of screenwriter Tennessee Williams. Editorial credit: Chad Robertson Media /

Mississippi's "Friendly City" features on many state travel itineraries due to its well-preserved Antebellum architecture, historical significance, musical heritage, and host of fun social events. Exploring the historic downtown reveals a display of unique Victorian-era structures, and in the heart of the district, visitors will come across the Tennessee Williams Home & Welcome Center. A quick tour offers guests a great insight into the legacy of the award-winning playwright. Summers in Columbus can be spent soaking in its natural beauty along the scenic Columbus Riverwalk & Trail. The 4.4-mile route welcomes hikers and bikers to enjoy the great outdoors while spoiling them with pleasant views of the Tombigbee River.

The Magnolia Motor Speedway is also a hit with visitors, allowing car race enthusiasts to witness an adrenaline-inducing spectacle on a dirt track. For those traveling with young ones, taking them to Kidz-N-Play is a great way to get them engaged and entertained around their peers.


Cleveland, Mississippi: The Grammy Museum Mississippi is dedicated to the history of the Grammys.

Cleveland, Mississippi: The Grammy Museum Mississippi. Editorial credit: Nina Alizada /

Cleveland is a top destination in the Mississippi Delta region that travelers can visit for the summer. It hosts an eclectic mix of attractions led by the Grammy Museum Mississippi. This world-class venue documents the history of music in Mississippi, with a focus on The Grammys. The Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum is an excellent stop for culture connoisseurs and preserves Chinese heritage in the Mississippi Delta through oral stories, memorabilia, and relics.

Cleveland also boasts a lively art scene, best exemplified by the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Within Delta State University, this fantastic facility stages a series of captivating live performances, ranging from plays and concerts to musicals. Finally, visitors can get an insightful glimpse into local railroad history at the Martin & Sue King Railroad Museum, which exhibits a fine collection of related artifacts, including a model train layout.


Clarksdale, Mississippi: Downtown neighborhood in an area made famous by blues musicians and civil rights activism.

Clarksdale, Mississippi: Downtown. Editorial credit: Heidi Besen /

Spend your Mississippi summer listening to feel-good blues tunes in this beautiful community that lies along the Sunflower River. Steeped in musical heritage, Clarksdale has produced high-profile names in the blues music circles, including Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. This rich legacy is preserved and documented at the Delta Blues Museum, where guests can explore exhibits, programs, and memorabilia celebrating the blues music genre. Throughout Clarksdale, there are various music venues, from bars to nightclubs, at every corner of the town, presenting a rich cultural experience for tourists. You can stop by Ground Zero Blues Club after hours to enjoy great live music and drinks.

But for the ultimate experience, tourists can immerse themselves in the local blues culture during the Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival in August 2024. Music aside, visitors may want to discover interesting heritage about the town at Cutrer Mansion, which depicts the history and culture of the Mississippi Delta region.


Natchez, Mississippi: View of historic Main Street with Convention Center, 19th century buildings, parked cars, and Christmas decorations.

Natchez, Mississippi: View of historic Main Street. Editorial credit: Nina Alizada /

This quintessential Southern community, set along the banks of the Mississippi River, presents one of the best displays of antebellum mansions among the small towns in Mississippi. Natchez houses a collection of historic homes that not only uniquely decorate the downtown skyline but also offer a window into its past. Stanton Hall is a great example, sporting a gorgeous Antebellum Classical Revival facade from the 1850s. Historians will also want to check out Melrose, a historic Greek Revival mansion on an 80-acre property housing period furnishings and artifacts dating back to the pre-Civil War era.

Natchez also hosts a bustling wine and dining scene, with an assortment of restaurants and eateries dotting its downtown. Culinary enthusiasts can sample sumptuous Southern cuisine at trendy spots like Pig Out Inn Barbeque. Remember to plan your Natchex visit to coincide with the Natchez Food & Wine Festival in July 2024 for the best of wine, food, and the art of craft brewing.

Port Gibson

Port Gibson, Mississippi: Windsor Ruins.

Port Gibson, Mississippi: Windsor Ruins.

Unlike what its name may suggest, Port Gibson is nowhere close to the coast, but this does not stop summer tourists from having fun in the town. It is especially an excellent destination for history buffs, thanks to its rich Civil War heritage. A varied mix of historical war sites across its territory hints at the vital role it played during the momentous conflict. At Grand Gulf Military State Park, visitors can find insight into the Battle of Port Gibson.

Port Gibson is also home to the A.K. Shaifer House, which was built in the 1820s for Abram Keller Shaifer and his wife. The building harbors a wealth of historical significance in Port Gibson, as the first shot leading to the Battle of Port Gibson was fired from here. If you want a break from the historical experiences, you can try playing a relaxed game of golf at Mosswood Golf Club.

Ocean Springs

Ocean Springs, Mississippi: View of the city located near Biloxi in Jackson County.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi: View of the city located near Biloxi in Jackson County. Editorial credit: EQRoy /

There is no better setting for a summer vacation than the coast, and Ocean Springs lets you spend the warm season amidst the beauty of the Gulf Coast. Only 2 miles from Biloxi, the town provides a more serene beach scenery, with thinner crowds and less commotion. The Ocean Springs Beach offers the perfect setting for basking in the smooth sand and watching stunning sunsets against the backdrop of the Gulf islands. A bustling art scene also makes Ocean Springs a prime spot for culture vultures, with an opportunity to explore beautiful pieces at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.

Meanwhile, a great experience awaits vacationers at the Ocean Springs Fresh Market. This Market is a nice spot to interact with the locals, learn about their culture, and shop for fresh produce from them. Finally, outdoor enthusiasts can explore the town's open spaces at the Davis Bayou Area Gulf Islands National Lakeshore.


Greenville, Mississippi: Aerial view of the bridge.

Greenville, Mississippi: Aerial view of the bridge.

From music venues and exciting museums to beautiful nature spaces, Greenville promises an array of experiences for your summer in Mississippi. The town is dotted with bars, taverns, and nightclubs, preserving its rich musical heritage, and making for an electrifying nightlife. After a long day of exploring, tourists may fancy jamming to live music and sipping on refreshing cocktails at Walnut Street Blues Club. Greenville also offers an escape to the great outdoors at the Greenville Cypress Preserve Trust, home to a quaint nature park with scenic hiking trails which allows guests to discover the charm in the backcountry.

There is no shortage of fun museums worth checking out in Greenville. Those with a soft spot for the arts will naturally gravitate toward the EE Bass Cultural Arts Center, which hosts a series of art-based events. Finally, one of the best times to visit Greenville will come during the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival in September 2024, promising an absorbing cultural experience.

Bay St. Louis

Scenic view of the shoreline along St. Louis Bay with piers and a river running through the town.
Scenic view of the shoreline along St. Louis Bay with piers and a river running through the town.

Set on the picturesque Gulf Coast in Southern Mississippi, Bay St. Louis promises an easygoing summer retreat with a mixed bag of touristy delights to explore. Art is a vital part of local culture, as seen through the various art centers across the town. Those who enjoy live performances can join townsfolk at Bay St. Louis Little Theatre to catch family-friendly stage performances. With multiple restaurants dotting the downtown district, foodies are in for an unforgettable experience. Opportunities abound to savor scrumptious Southern-style flavors, particularly the seafood at Cuz's Old Town Oyster Bar & Grill.

Meanwhile, the historically inclined will feel at home touring the Bay St. Louis Historic L & N Train Depot. Constructed in 1928, the venue offers a taste of local railroad history by exhibiting an assortment of fascinating archives and artifacts.

Discover Mississippi's Hidden Gems

The small towns in Mississippi deliver a memorable cultural experience without the crowds. From county fair traditions to riverside celebrations and outdoor roots events, each community gives a glimpse into local heritage and lifestyle through music, food, and cultural activities. For travelers hoping to dive deeper into the soul of the Magnolia State beyond well-trodden paths, venturing to these underrated gems rewards with genuine southern hospitality and charm. Their low-key events make for the perfect way to unwind while gaining new insights into Mississippi's diversity.

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