Biloxi, Mississippi, USA at Biloxi Lighthouse.

Mississippi's Best Small Towns for a Weekend Escape

Do not miss out on the weekend wonders of Mississippi, where some of the best small towns provide innumerable thrills and intrigue. Within the Magnolia State—so called because of the abundance of magnolia trees in the region—you will come across Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields such as Bay St. Louis, Natchez, Corinth, and more. You will be captivated by towns like Cleveland and Canton, where Mississippi’s pastoral side prospers with growth and merriment. But most of all, you will fall in love with Mississippi’s best small towns, which are suitable for a weekend escape from major cities like Jackson, Gulfport, and Southaven.

Bay St. Louis

Birds at Sunset...Bay St. Louis, MS.
Birds at Sunset, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

Bay St. Louis overlooks the St. Louis Bay and the Mississippi Sound, the latter being an embayment of the Gulf of Mexico. Early settlers named their town in 1699 after the man who launched the Crusades, King Louis IX of France. Since then, Bay St. Louis has thrived as a premier resort village for wealthy planters traveling 58 miles from the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. These days, travelers from all over the country and the world can revel in wins and losses at the Hollywood Casino & Resort Gulf Coast.

Aside from this addicting amalgam of Hollywood and Las Vegas, Bay St. Louis was where the Battle of Pass Christian was fought during the War of 1812. You can gawk at the newly restored Bay St. Louis Historic L & N Train Depot, a building that Hurricane Katrina once wrecked in 2005 alongside many others. Consider touring the John C. Stennis Space Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or traipse through the verdant fields of the Jourdan River Coastal Preserve. Most importantly, seek accommodations at the Carroll House Bed & Breakfast or the Pearl Hotel.


The Dockery Service Station on the grounds of Dockery Plantation in Cleveland, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Nina Alizada /
The Dockery Service Station on the grounds of Dockery Plantation in Cleveland, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Nina Alizada /

The best way to describe the town of Cleveland is how Ulysses Everett McGill, a protagonist in Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou, whom George Clooney plays, details it: “Well, ain’t Cleveland a geographical oddity… it’s less than an hour from just about anywhere in the Mississippi Delta!” And the college town of Cleveland proves this by being home to the illustrious Delta State University, which in turn houses many educational landmarks. Take the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, for example. There, you can admire interactive exhibits about showbiz music and musicians who won several GRAMMY awards.

Elsewhere, you can tour the Amzie Moore House and Interpretive Center, where key Civil Rights leaders such as Stokely Carmichael, Bob Moses, and Dr. Martin Luther King Junior convened. Those of you who like learning about steam locomotives can find your knowledge at the Cleveland Train Museum. Meanwhile, the Bologna Performing Arts Center (BPAC) is a captivating venue for national performances, films, and concerts. In mid-December, Cleveland celebrates the annual 50 Nights of Lights, which brightens every street with Christmas lights in preparation for the holidays. No need to feel unwanted because fine lodgings like the Cotton House and the Lyric Hotel will keep you entertained and content in Cleveland.


Shiloh Battlefield in Corinth, Mississippi.
Shiloh Battlefield in Corinth, Mississippi.

Feel like a jolly Corinthian while exploring the lovely town of Corinth. Originally called Cross City until it was renamed in 1857 after the ancient Hellenic city of Corinth, the town was once the site of the Battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War. Because Corinth is a strategic railroad center, it has also been referred to as the Gateway City, which is why the Confederate and Union armies battled to control Corinth. Those of you who love history can learn more about the Battle of Shiloh at the Shiloh National Military Park Corinth Interpretive Center.

You can also pay homage to the 5,500 Civil War soldiers interred at the Corinth National Cemetery. Additionally, you can appreciate the story of 6,000 freed African-American enslaved people at the Corinth Contraband Camp or learn all about how Confederate leaders planned for the battles around Corinth at the Verandah-Curlee House. Less than two hours away from Memphis, Tennessee, feel safe and sound while spending your merry evenings at The General's Quarters Inn.


Gulf Coast Coastline of Biloxi.
Gulf Coast Coastline of Biloxi.

Biloxi is similar to Bay St. Louis—which is only around 29 miles east of the town—in that they both attract thousands of people with their Las Vegas-themed casinos. In Biloxi, specifically, one can make merriment during the annual Mardi Gras of Biloxi, or you can simply learn about the town’s version of the wild festival at the Coastal Mardi Gras Museum. Other museums in Biloxi include the Maritime Seafood Industry Museum, which showcases Biloxi’s importance in fisheries, and the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, which is dedicated to expressing Biloxi’s cultural side.

Biloxi was originally founded as Fort Maurepas in 1699 by French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. It was also the first capital of the Louisiana Territory from 1699 to 1702. Indeed, the nations and communities of France, Spain, Great Britain, the West Florida Republic, the Confederacy, and finally, the USA have taken control over Biloxi throughout its turbulent existence.

After all the fun and games, you can lounge in Biloxi Beach or get a great view of the Mississippi Sound atop the historic Biloxi Lighthouse. Animal lovers can also appreciate the flights of pelicans and the waddling of loggerhead turtles at Deer Island. But if you want to truly slumber your lovely evenings in Biloxi, then allow the Rue Magnolia Bed & Breakfast, Hilton Garden Inn, or Harrah’s Gulf Coast to attend to your needs.


Madison County Courthouse in Canton, Mississippi, USA. Editorial credit: Bennekom /
Madison County Courthouse in Canton, Mississippi, US. Editorial credit: Bennekom /

Struggling to find the right destination for you? Fear not, because the town of Canton is a 30-minute getaway from the city of Jackson, replete with antebellum edifices that will thrust you back into a pre-Civil War period. With its location in the low divide between the Pearl River and Big Black River, Canton is also home to a handful of idyllic destination outdoor playgrounds such as the ancient trees of the Mississippi Petrified Forest.

You might also be interested in traveling the Natchez Trace Parkway, a panoramic and historic route that the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw peoples once traveled. This parkway crosses through Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama for miles and miles. For those of you who are experienced in fishing, the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir gives plenty of opportunities to reel in fresh fish. Do not miss out on the Mississippi Championship Hot Air Balloon Festival every late June. And lastly, the perfect place to wind down in Canton is the Relax Inn.

New Albany

New Albany, Mississippi. In Wikipedia.,_Mississippi By Chillin662 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
New Albany, Mississippi. In Wikipedia. By Chillin662 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia

Approximately 28 miles from Tupelo, New Albany beckons travelers from near and far with an assortment of Mississippi’s beautiful and serene wildlife. At the Tanglefoot Trail, you can travel for 44 miles to witness panoramic vistas of the Mississippi countryside. Whether you are on foot or on a bike, there is no shortage of wonders to behold along the Tanglefoot Trail. Additionally, you can traverse the Holly Springs National Forest, a forested wilderness concealing many surprises. Learn all about New Albany’s past and the history of local author William Faulkner at the Union County Heritage Museum. Attend the annual Tallahatchie Riverfest every September along the splendid Tallahatchie River, in which a bustling bazaar and marketplace offer many exquisite items to serve as mementos of your visit to New Albany.

Port Gibson

Windsor ruins in Port Gibson, Mississippi.
Windsor ruins in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

Port Gibson is an oddly named town since it is nowhere near a coastline. Instead, Port Gibson lounges beside a little river called Bayou Pierre. Port Gibson happens to be a pivotal site during the American Civil War, as best seen in the Battle of Port Gibson, which gave Ulysses S. Grant victory over the town of Vicksburg to the north. The town itself, however, was spared Grant’s wrath when he found the town’s antebellum beauty “too beautiful to burn.”

Aside from crucial battles in the past, Port Gibson is home to a Greek Revival mansion called Windsor, in which only 23 Corinthian columns remain in the ruins. You can also see the remains of two Confederate forts, Cobun and Wade, at the Grand Gulf State Park. You can easily reach Port Gibson by traveling in style across the historic Natchez Trace Parkway; once you do reach Port Gibson, you can stay a while at the Isabella Bed & Breakfast or the Collina House.


Fair Park in front of Tupelo City Hall in Tupelo, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Chad Robertson Media /
Fair Park in front of Tupelo City Hall in Tupelo, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Chad Robertson Media /

Tupelo may seem like an unassuming town, yet it was from this humble place that the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, was born. One can visit Presley’s first home, which serves as an interpretive museum chronicling his life and works. You can even celebrate Elvis Presley’s contributions to the musical world during Tupelo’s Elvis Festival on June 5 - 9. Although Tupelo is renowned for being the birthplace of the King of Rock, it is also home to the largest buffalo park in Mississippi, alongside 260 or more exotic animals in a nearby zoo.

Additionally, Tupelo was also the site of crucial battles during the American Revolution. At the Chickasaw Village Site, for instance, you can learn all about the Battle of Hikki’ Ya’ (Ackia), where the proud Chickasaw people battled French colonizers. During the American Civil War, on the other hand, Tupelo witnessed the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, the Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg, and the Battle of King’s Creek—dozens of trail markers and murals highlight the precise locations these battles transpired. Those interested in seeing more of what Tupelo offers should first seek accommodations at either the Hotel Tupelo or the Scottish Inn.


Natchez-Vidalia Bridge crossing the Mississippi River near Natchez.
Natchez-Vidalia Bridge crossing the Mississippi River near Natchez.

If you travel along the Natchez Trace Parkway, you will inevitably come across the splendid town of Natchez on the banks of the Mississippi River and near the state border of Louisiana. This historic town is filled with resplendent antebellum mansions, such as the octagon-shaped and byzantine-domed edifice called the Longwood and the gilded vestibules of Stanton Hall. Curious folks can explore the Grand Village of the Natchez Native Americans to learn all about the indigenous culture that existed in Mississippi long before immigrants from Europe moved in.

Within the Natchez National Historical Park, you will find three more antebellum properties, such as Fort Rosalie, the humble estate of Melrose, and the William Johnson House that a freed African-American once owned. You can always roam leisurely through the Homochitto National Forest, Natchez State Park, or the Emerald Mound.

Now, the best time to visit Natchez is during the Spring Pilgrimage, when the Natchez Garden Club and the Pilgrimage Garden Club guide visitors through a historical tour of Natchez’s compelling past. Some of the best lodgings to spend your nights include the Natchez Grand Hotel, Concord Quarters, and Stone House Musical B&B.

Holly Springs

Wall Doxey State Park. Holly Springs, Mississippi State of U.S.
Wall Doxey State Park, Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Approximately 60 miles from Corinth, the town of Holly Springs serves as a convenient gateway to the vast Holly Springs National Forest, part of the Mississippi Pine Belt. European-Americans founded the town in 1836 on former Chickasaw territory. It was originally called Suavatooky, but it was renamed a year later. For many years, Holly Springs extensively used a slave population to mass-produce cotton. When the Civil War raged, Ulysses S. Grant used the town as a supply depot and headquarters, while Confederate General Earl Van Dorn—renowned for the Battle of Pea Ridge—raided Holly Springs’ depots relentlessly.

Visitors can offer their respects and gratitude to the many soldiers who skirmished around Holly Springs at the Hill Crest Cemetery. The Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum highlights the African-American history of Holly Springs’ people and beyond, or you can be part of the “Behind the Big House” tour during the springtime for a deeper understanding of American history. At the Kate Freeman Clark Art Gallery, one can be enamored by the breathtaking arts and culture in Holly Springs. And in pristine establishments like The Wynne House Inn or Magnolia Inn, you can feel safe and satisfied in the jolly town of Holly Springs.

Mississippi was named after the great Mississippi River, which derives from the Ojibwa word "misi-ziibi” for "great river." And along this great river are some of the best small towns that will serve as a much-needed weekend escape for you. There, in the Magnolia State, you will be immersed in the deeper and greater American past in historic towns like Tupelo, Bay St. Louis, Port Gibson, and more. You will be mesmerized by the awesome sights and sites in Holly Springs, Natchez, New Albany, and more. But most of all, you will be enthralled by the prosperous communities in Mississippi’s best small towns you should visit for a weekend escape. So pack your gear and travel the Natchez Trace Parkway or some other route in your adventure through Mississippi.

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