There’s a lot to see on a Mississippi road trip. Many people overlook this part of the Deep South, but “The Magnolia State” has plenty to offer in terms of civil rights history, blues and country music history, and much more.
I had personally overlooked Mississippi for far too long. So earlier this year, I spent a week in the state, driving around to check out the most interesting spots I could find.
This MS road trip guide focuses heavily on historic sites and small towns. There are a couple outdoor attractions, like a petrified forest and national forest. We’ll also throw in a few quirky roadside attractions to check out, since those always liven up any road trip!
The Best Mississippi Road Trip Route Map
DRIVE TIME: 17 hours, 34 minutes
TIME NEEDED: 4-7 days
Above, see the map for my recommended road trip in Mississippi. I’ve chosen to start the trip in Jackson, the capital and largest city (pop. 150,000) in the state. But because this route is a loop, you can join it anywhere.
Maybe you’re coming up from New Orleans, or coming down from Memphis. Or driving west from Alabama. Just jump on the loop at any point.
In this article, we’ll proceed clockwise from Jackson, moving north up the western edge of the state, then across to Tupelo, and down the eastern end of the state all the way to the Gulf of Mexico at Biloxi.
How much time do you need for a road trip through Mississippi? You could speed through this in as few as 4 days.
But a week would allow you to travel at a slower pace and enjoy all the sights at your leisure. It’s the Deep South, after all! Take your time!
Road Trip in Mississippi: Where to Stop and What to See
Let’s go through this road trip itinerary town by town and check out some of the coolest attractions in Mississippi! I’m also listing a recommended hotel for some of the cities where it makes sense to stay overnight.
Starting off in Jackson, you’ll want to take at least a full day to explore the city. The capitol building itself is a good place to begin. Tour the historic structure, or just take pics from the outside.
Visit the Fondren District, JXN’s coolest neighborhood, which has bars, local shops, and good restaurants. Head to Highball Lanes for bowling, or Capri Theatre for movies.
Make sure to grab a meal in the Fondren. Try Pig & Pint for barbecue and craft beer, or Saltine for an elevated take on Southern food, featuring dishes like blackened catfish, cajun ribeye, and an oysters rockefeller po boy sandwich.
Other spots worth visiting in Jackson: The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, and the Medgar Evers Home, the house where the respected activist lived.
Where to stay in Jackson: Walthall Lofts – entire suites at surprisingly low prices, with a nice swimming pool to boot.
One of the more interesting geological features in the state is the Petrified Forest near the town of Flora. For only $7, you can walk a shaded nature trail and see petrified wood from 36 million years ago. It’s a cool and unexpected find only 30 minutes north of Jackson!
Vicksburg National Military Park is one of the top Mississippi tourist attractions. This was the site of the Battle of Vicksburg, a three-month Civil War battle won by the Union in 1863. The crucial battle resulted in the Confederate Army losing its last major outpost on the Mississippi River.
Take a 16-mile driving tour to see the major points of interest on the battlefield. Visit the USS Cairo Museum to see the remnants of a ship that was destroyed during the war and buried in the river for more than 100 years. Maybe if you’re lucky, there will be a living history reenactment scheduled during your visit!
Vicksburg’s other interesting attractions include the McRaven House, a pre-Civil War home that has been called “Mississippi’s most haunted house”; and the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, the spot where Coke was first bottled in 1894 (not to be confused with the World of Coke Museum in Atlanta.)
Where to stay in Vicksburg: Oak Hall – a nice bed and breakfast in a beautiful old house
QUIRKY ATTRACTION: The town of Greenville has a welcome center (officially the River Road Queen Welcome Center) which is shaped to look just like an old riverboat, with a giant paddle wheel and everything! The building is home to the Museum of the Delta.
Iconic blues guitarist BB King grew up in the small town of Indianola. In 2008, the BB King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center opened here. This is a very cool facility that teaches visitors about King’s life and career, about blues music in general, and about life in the Mississippi Delta.
The museum moved his home studio here, so it’s on display for everyone to see. Several of King’s guitars and Grammy Awards are on display. They even have his personal vehicles and oversized tour bus!
When King passed away several years later, he was buried here. Make sure to check out the gravesite and see his life-size bronze statue outside the museum.
DETOUR OPTION: The hardcore blues fan may want to detour 30 miles east of Indianola to Greenwood. That’s where you can find the grave of Robert Johnson, another seminal figure in blues and rock & roll. Believe it or not, three different cemeteries claim to have his remains! All have gravestones in his name, but most evidence indicates his remains are actually located at Little Zion Baptist Church.
With so much musical history in this part of the country, the Grammy Awards had to get in on the fun. So in 2016, they established the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland. It’s a spacious and modern museum that documents the history of the Grammys, with special attention given to Mississippi artists like Faith Hill and Marty Stuart.
Some of the exhibits appear to have been moved here from the Grammy Museum Los Angeles, but they’re still worth seeing. You can play instruments, watch video highlights from the Grammys’ seven decades, and check out the memorabilia, like Bruno Mars’ drum kit and dresses worn by Beyonce and Taylor Swift.
Finding a top-notch music museum like this out in a rural area like Cleveland was a surprise. We were literally the only ones in the museum. Hopefully they won’t go out of business before you visit.
I hope you’re not tired of blues music yet, because Clarksdale has the Delta Blues Museum, the oldest music museum in the state. This one documents the history of the region’s music with old photos, footage, and rotating exhibits. Beware that this museum does not allow photography.
Clarksdale is where you’ll find the “Crossroads,” a famous art piece where Routes 49 & 61 intersect. This is supposedly the spot where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a prosperous blues career.
Another Clarksdale must is the Ground Zero Blues Club, co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman. It’s one of the most vibrant places in the city. Catch live music here every Wednesday through Saturday, and dine on Southern comfort food like a fried green tomato sandwich, a catfish BLT, fried pecan pie, and peach cobbler.
Ground Zero also serves hot tamales, which, it turns out, are a traditional Mississippi Delta food. There’s even a Hot Tamale Trail from Vicksburg to Tunica. Who knew?
Downtown Clarksdale has definitely seen better days, but I love that artists are brightening up the area with vibrant murals on empty walls. See also the Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art shop, a funky store that sells unique gifts, artwork, music, and clothing.
Where to stay in Clarksdale: Clark House Inn – relaxed B&B in the oldest house (1859) in Clarksdale
Head north on Highway 61 to Tunica, home of the Gateway to the Blues Museum. See exhibits about legends like Robert Johnson and Charley Patton.
Tunica boasts about its old-fashioned downtown, with century-old storefronts from another era. The city has plenty of good restaurants to chow down some traditional Southern fare, as well as multiple casino resorts.
Oxford is the home of the main campus of the University of Mississippi. Drive or walk around the 3500-acre campus. Then head to Oxford Memorial Cemetery to the impressive grave site of acclaimed novelist William Faulkner.
Also, I want to plug a fast food restaurant in Oxford called Cook Out. Just trust me on this one. This is a chain with locations around the South, but they have very few stores in Mississippi. The food is alright, but go for the milkshakes. The milkshakes are unbelievable. They have more than 40 flavors. Look at those options!
Everyone knows Elvis lived and was buried at Graceland, but where was he born? Turns out, his birthplace was in Tupelo, and it has been preserved as a tourist attraction.
There it is! That tiny house is where Elvis was born and grew up. The city of Tupelo bought it, and it has become one of the top Mississippi tourist attractions. I went inside and saw the two-room place, with a single light bulb lighting each room.
This site also has a museum, a statue of Elvis at age 13, a memorial chapel, and even his childhood church, which was moved to this location.
For more history in Tupelo, visit Johnnie’s Drive-In. That’s the small diner where Elvis would often go for cheeseburgers. In fact, you can sit in his favorite booth! If the dining room is open, that is. When we visited, the dining room was inexplicably closed. The Elvis booth is literally the only reason for anyone to come here, so you’d think they’d keep it open at all costs.
One other attraction worth seeing is the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo. The zoo houses exotic animals like bison, sloth, llama, peacock, giraffe, monkey, and zeedonk (a zebra-donkey hybrid).
Where to stay in Tupelo: Tru by Hilton – it’s mostly chain hotels in Tupelo, and this brand-new property rates highest.
DETOUR OPTION: There’s nothing like a quirky niche museum! An hour from Tupelo, way in the northeast corner of the state, sits the town of Iuka. That’s where you can find the Apron Museum. Yes, an entire museum dedicated to kitchen aprons! See aprons dating all the way back to the Civil War era.
Country music legend Tammy Wynette grew up in the town of Tremont in very rural Itawamba County. If you find your way here, explore the Tammy Wynette Legacy Center, a celebration of her life and music. They also have a restaurant, if you need a lunch break.
Wynette is known for classic country songs like “Stand By Your Man” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” But I’ll always love her innovative 1991 rap-country collab “Justified and Ancient,” featuring eccentric British hip hop duo The KLF. That song was bizarre, and completely ahead of its time.
The Tennessee Williams Welcome Center in Columbus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The playwright (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire) grew up in this 1875 Victorian house. Stop here on your way south from Tupelo.
The Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Meridian pays tribute to one of country music’s all-time greats. Some even call him “The Father of Country Music.” He lived only 35 years, but his 1920s recordings were hugely influential. You can find them on Spotify today!
The museum has an old Rodgers guitar and memorabilia and information from throughout his life. Just double check the museum hours – it’s only open from Thursday to Saturday, and only for a few hours each day.
Hattiesburg is the fifth-largest city in the state, and it’s a good spot to stay overnight on the long drive from Tupelo to Biloxi. There are multiple military-related museums here, including the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum and the African American Military History Museum.
More offbeat attractions include the massive Lucky Rabbit vintage store, and the tiny Pocket Museum, which is essentially an artsy storefront window. And make sure to find a good seafood or Creole restaurant for dinner!
Where to stay in Hattiesburg: Hotel Indigo – a trendy boutique hotel near the University of Southern Mississippi campus.
DeSoto National Forest
Did you know about the half-million acres of pine forest in southern Mississippi? De Soto National Forest is one of the best places in the state for outdoor recreation, so if you like hiking, camping, or fishing, add the forest to your road trip itinerary.
Finally, we’ve arrived on the southern coast at the Gulf of Mexico. Casinos and beaches are some of the biggest tourist attractions here. Make a few bucks on the slots, then grab your towel and go soak in the sand and sun!
Other options in Biloxi: The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, the Historic Redding House, and MGM Park for a Double-A baseball game. Also see the Hurricane Katrina Memorial, which remembers the devastation caused to coastal towns and the 238 Mississippi residents who lost their lives in the 2005 disaster.
Where to stay in Biloxi: Hard Rock Hotel and Casino – a 5-minute walk to the beach, and cheaper than you’d expect.
Gulfport is actually the second-most populous city in the state. It has some unique attractions, like an Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (see dolphins and sea lions up close!), a model railroad museum, an aviation heritage museum, and a water park. Don’t miss Fishbone Alley for cool outdoor art and murals.
Drive the Gulf Coast Scenic Byway, a 19-mile road that goes from Gulfport through Long Beach and Pass Christian, to see a bunch of historic buildings along the shore.
QUIRKY ATTRACTION: Dedeaux Clan Furniture has a 35-foot tall rocking chair outside its factory building in Gulfport. They call it the world’s largest rocking chair, though that claim is disputed. Somehow the chair survived Hurricane Katrina with only minor damage. Sadly, you can’t sit on the chair, but you can take some cool pics!
Finally, as this road trip in Mississippi heads back north to Jackson, make a final stop in Natchez, located along the Mississippi River.
Natchez National Historical Park details the history of slavery in the region. The park includes Forks of the Road, which for three decades was one of the largest slave markets in the country. The Melrose Mansion and William Johnson House give insight into what life was like in the 1800s. And the visitor center provides exhibits and tour information.
From Natchez, you can head back to Jackson and complete the full loop drive around the state of Mississippi. Whew!
Day Trips and Road Trips Outside Mississippi
Want to extend your road trip a bit? You can travel out of Mississippi in several directions to add more fun to the journey. Here are a few more places outside the state to consider adding on to your itinerary.
To the south: New Orleans
New Orleans is just over an hour from Gulfport, so if you’ve never been there, by all means go and check it out! See the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, the Mardi Gras World attraction, the Voodoo Museum, and the colorful Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.
To the north: Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee is less than an hour’s drive from Tunica. There’s so much music history in Memphis, from Sun Studio to Elvis Presley’s residence, Graceland. Also don’t miss the moving National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the very hotel was Martin Luther King’s life was tragically taken.
To the northeast: Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Yes, even more music history! Visit two studios – FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios – where legends like Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, and dozens of others recorded some of their biggest hits. These studios are still in use all these decades later, and they offer daily tours.
Also buy a ticket to tour the Rosenbaum House in Florence, Alabama. It’s the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structure in the state. Then see the Helen Keller Birthplace in Tuscumbia to learn about her life.
To the southeast: Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida
Go east from Biloxi and you’ll soon hit Mobile, followed an hour later by Pensacola. Both are coastal cities with culture. Mobile has fascinating museums and old mansions. Pensacola has a gorgeous white sand beach and other outdoor adventures.
To the west: Little Rock and Hot Springs National Park
Arkansas looms to the west of Mississippi. There aren’t any major cities in eastern Arkansas along the Mississippi River, but head into central Arkansas to reach the cities of Pine Bluff and Little Rock, as well as Hot Springs National Park.
Little Rock has the state capitol building and the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. Hot Springs is one of only a couple national parks located in a city, and features hiking trails and thermal springs. Stop by Superior Bathhouse Brewery – the only brewery operating in a national park!
To the far west: Texas
Some folks like to do a Texas to Mississippi road trip. If you’ve got enough time and gas money to make that journey, go for it! You’ll pass through northern Louisiana towns like Grambling and Monroe.
Tips and FAQs About the Drive
Let’s wrap up with a few quick tips and answers to commonly asked questions about driving through this part of the country.
What’s the best time of year for a Mississippi road trip?
You can drive through the state any time of year. Mississippi has warm temperatures most of the year. During the summer, temps do warm up and get a bit more uncomfortable.
June through August average high temps exceed 90 F, but as long as your car has air conditioning, you’ll be fine. December through February high temps hover around 60 F. The most comfortable months are spring and fall. But you really can visit this state any time that fits your schedule.
Are there more attractions in Mississippi not included in this article?
Yes, loads! Fans of blues music should check out the entire Mississippi Blues Trail, which features dozens of historic markers all around the state related to blues music, from musician birthplaces and gravesites to old venues and record company buildings.
There’s also a Mississippi Country Music Trail, which is the same concept, but dedicated to the legendary country singers from the state, including Elvis, Tammy Wynette, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, Faith Hill, and more.
There are plenty of other small towns in Mississippi that have their own unique charm as well, but we can’t include them all here. Adventurous road trippers are encouraged to freelance and deviate from the guide as much as they like!
Do you have any other suggestions or ideas for road tripping through Mississippi?