I’ll admit that visiting Mississippi was not high on my list of states to visit in the United States. I think it ended up being state number 42 that I visited (out of 50). I grew up a “northern girl,” so visiting the deep South didn’t hold a lot of appeal for me.
Natchez showed me what I was missing, and I fell in love with this charming small southern town. This article includes my recommendations for things to do in Natchez in one day and some suggestions for what I would have done if I had more time there.
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Start at the Natchez Visitor’s Center
The best place to start a tour of Natchez is at the Visitor’s Center. The people there are *amazing!* They are helpful, knowledgeable, and really incredibly nice.
We got so much valuable information from the woman we spoke with. She made personal recommendations, and when we told her our time limit, she even prioritized what she recommended. It was so helpful.
In addition to the people, there is a really interesting exhibit that walks you through the highlights of slavery in the area. From the French inception, that was more like indentured servitude and the use of slaves by the Natchez People, the local Native Indian tribe.
Then, it shares some key points in the history of slavery in the area as we know it today. It’s interesting and worth looking through.
Tour Antebellum Homes
The big draw in Natchez is touring the antebellum homes. These homes were from a time of prosperity in the South, mostly in the early to mid-1800s, just prior to the Civil War. It was a time when cotton was king.
More than 400 antebellum homes are remaining in the area. They were spared from being destroyed during and after the war as some of the Union leadership, all the way to General Grant granted Natchez a pardon of sorts.
Many of these homes survived and have been restored to their original grandeur. Some of the most popular homes offering tours include Longwood, Rosalie, Melrose, Stanton Hall, Chocktaw Hall, and Auburn.
There are more than 15 that you can tour in total. Some are restored to their original state with period furniture, and others have furniture on loan.
When you tour these grand homes, a guide shares the history of the house, including the families who once lived there. They all touch upon the dark history of slavery, however, more in the context of the families than the slaves.
To get that perspective, check out the Natchez Museum of African-American Culture. Though it’s awful to think of the massive wealth largely due to slavery, these homes are truly majestic, and they are worth visiting at least a few.
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Popular Antebellum Homes
There are more than fifteen antebellum homes you can tour in Natchez. It’s a tough choice as each of them is worth seeing, but here are some of the popular ones recommended by the Visitor’s Center:
- Rosalie Mansion
- Stanton Hall
- Chocktaw Hall
You really can’t go wrong with any of them, and there’s something to be said with touring some of the lesser-known mansions.
Walk Along the Mississippi River in Bluff Park
Natchez is right along the Mississippi, and Bluff Park is the best vantage point to view this majestic river. Not only is it a beautiful tree-lined walk along the river, but you can also enjoy some beautiful sunsets, weather permitting.
There’s a pedestrian bridge you can walk across and a pretty gazebo. Watch the riverboats cruise the river and take a stroll down the path to enjoy the pretty view.
Drive the Natchez Trace
The Natchez Trace is a trail used by the Native Americans in this area for hundreds of years. It connects Natchez to Nashville. The Natchez Trace, or “the Trace,” as it’s often called locally, was later used by European and American explorers and traders in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
When it was initially in use, some inns served food and provided lodging to travelers. The increased steamboat travel on the Mississippi moved transportation to the river and away from the Trace.
The path is now commemorated by an approximately 440-mile road called the Natchez Trace Parkway. It nearly follows the original Trace trail. Parts of the original trail do remain, and some segments are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a beautiful and windy drive on a well-maintained road worth visiting.
One of the most popular sites near Natchez includes the Emerald Mound. It’s a Natchez Indian burial mound used between 1250 and 1600 A.D. It’s the second-largest in the U.S. and is 35 feet high and eight acres.
Emerald Mound is located at milepost 10.3 from Natchez. Another popular site to see not far from Natchez is Mount Locust. It is one of the original inns remaining from frontier days, making it a significant historical landmark. It is located at milepost 15.5.
The Natchez Trace is part of the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS Natchez Trace website is a great resource for things to do along the drive and learn about road closures. Here is a map of the Natchez Trace.
Visit Natchez Museums
If you’re seeking a more robust view of the local history outside the grand mansions, there are a few history museums to check out.
Touring the antebellum homes provides one slice of life during the early-to-mid 1800s—that of the wealthy. These museums showcase the history of the African Americans in the South and the Natchez Indians, the local Native American People.
Natchez African American History and Culture Museum
The museum I really wanted to see was the Natchez African American History and Culture Museum and I, unfortunately, ran out of time before I could get there.
Having grown up in the North and in a very progressive area, I wanted to learn more first-hand about African-American history in the United States. But sadly, I’m a huge lover of architecture and historic buildings. So, it was too late by the time I toured the last one we planned to see.
This museum chronicles African-American history and culture in the South. It is dedicated to sharing the contributions of people of African origin and descent.
I read great reviews about the information presented and the large collection of content and artifacts. I’m sure it would be fascinating to see (especially for fellow history nerds).
The Natchez African American History and Culture Museum is located at 301 Main St, Natchez, MS 39120-3461. It’s open from 10 to 4:30, Monday to Friday, and 10 to 2 on Saturday. It costs only $7, but please consider donating if you visit.
Grand Village of the Natchez Indians
This site is a prehistoric indigenous village and earthwork mound. Construction began in around 1200 building three platform mounds.
The village was near the Natchez tribe’s political and religious center in the late 1600s and early 1700s, replacing Emerald Mound in importance. It was abandoned in 1730 due to invasion by the French.
A small museum offers information about the history of the mound builders and the Native Americans in this area. The French saved and recorded Information about their history in this area.
Go Under the Hill
At one time, Natchez was known for having more millionaires than any part of the country. When transportation shifted from the Natchez Trace to steamboats, the waterfront area grew quite a reputation as a “rough and rowdy” place, and Natchez with it.
It became known as the most dangerous port on the Mississippi. The area under the bluff at the river’s edge was named Natchez Under-the-Hill.
Of course, those days ended, and the area was cleaned up. A casino was added, as well as some stores and several restaurants (like the Camp Restaurant and Magnolia Grill).
Also, the historic Under-the-Hill Saloon, formerly a brothel, was established in the 200-year-old building and is still in business today. If you’re looking for a little “naughty Natchez” piece, check it out.
Recommended One-Day Itinerary
- Get Coffee at Steampunk or Natchez Coffee Co.
- Visit the Natchez Visitor’s Center.
- Visit the historic home of Longwood.
- Get lunch at The Camp Restaurant or Fat Mama’s Tamales.
- Visit Melrose and Rosalie (or the others recommended).
- If time allows, visit the African American History and Culture Museum.
- Walk around Bluff Park along the Mississippi River to watch the sunset.
- Dinner at one of the restaurants listed below.
- If you’re up for it, grab a drink at Biscuits and Blues or Under-the-Hill Saloon.
It’s a busy day but packed with lots of exciting things. On your way out of town, whether driving to another destination or the airport, spend a little while driving the Natchez Trace. There are several things to see within the first 10 to 15 miles.
Where to Eat in Natchez
Natchez is an incredible foodie mecca, and I’m sorry I didn’t have more time there to eat my way through the city! There are lots of great southern-style places, but there are also some other great ones as well.
The Kitchen Bistro & Piano Bar
When we visited Natchez, local entrepreneur and chef Regina Charbonneau owned Regina’s Kitchen, opened the year before. We met her and hung out for a while, a special treat. She brought us two of her special biscuits, something she’s known for. She’s often called the “Biscuit Queen.”
Unfortunately for us and Natchez, she retired from cooking and restaurant ownership. She sold it to a new chef-owner, and the new place is getting fantastic reviews.
Magnolia Grill was recommended by everyone we spoke with. It’s a very casual place with really good food. I got the shrimp and grits, and it tasted slightly different than I’d had before. It’s one of Tripadvisor’s top-rated places in Natchez, and I’d recommend checking it out.
Magnolia Grill is located at 49 Silver St, Natchez, MS 39120. It’s open from 11 to 9 Tuesday through Thursday and 11 to 10 Friday and Saturday. It’s also located in the Under-the-Hill historic district by the river.
The Camp Restaurant
We arrived in Natchez on a Monday night and found many restaurants closed. We lucked out that the Camp was open. It’s a fun and casual place with great food ranging from sandwiches and salads to melts, burgers, and tacos.
They are known for their pimento grilled cheese, a local favorite. It’s in the historic Under-the-Hill District, steps from the Mississippi River. There is indoor and outdoor dining.
This place was a pleasant surprise. We weren’t expecting much, and since many/most of the recommended restaurants were closed on Monday, we decided to try this. My friend loved her fish tacos, and my sandwich was also great.
(An interesting aside: we had a funny conversation with our waiter when my friend ordered the fish tacos. After sharing her thoughts before she first tried them, she recommended them, “fish tacos?! Whoever heard such a crazy thing as putting fish on tacos, but they are so good!”)
Fat Mama’s Tamales
Mama sure knows how to cook! We tried her Gringo Pie, which is something well-known in these parts of the South in Alabama and Mississippi. It’s a heaping bowl of tamales covered in chile and sprinkled with cheddar cheese and jalapenos.
We also got their sweet and spicy “fire and ice” pickles, which were a bit sweeter than spicy, though they were good.
Interestingly, tamales are big where I live in Phoenix, Arizona, with a high Mexican population. So, I found it curious that they are found in rural Mississippi.
I did a little research (being the curious history nerd that I am) and found an article on the introduction of tamales in the Mississippi Delta region.
They are a bit different. In Phoenix, the tamales are around 10 inches long and have different fillings, including chicken, chiles, peppers, beef, beans, and some others.
In Mississippi, at Fat Mama’s, at least, they are small, maybe 4-5 inches long, and have ground beef in them. And I have never seen tamales smothered in chile, though I liked it! Trying new things you can’t get at home is always interesting, and I succeeded and made an interesting comparison.
For the record, I like the Phoenix tamales better though I did enjoy the Gringo Pie as well. I like the taste of tamales, and the chile overpowers the subtle flavors of the tamales. I did not have a chance to try the “knock you naked” margarita, though it does sound intriguing.
As much as I love Starbucks, it was so nice not to see one in the town center. For that matter, I didn’t see any chain restaurants like McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken. So refreshing!
There are two coffee shops in town: Steampunk Coffee Roasters and Natchez Coffee Co. Steakpunk was closed when we tried to go (it’s closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday), so we stopped at Natchez Coffee Co. on the way out of town.
This place is quaint and cute and has great coffee, pastries, breakfast offerings, and lunch. There are plenty of tables to sit at and lots of cute things to look at around the shop.
We didn’t have time to go to all of the places we wanted to, but some great places should be on your list if you have the time. Check them out if you can.
Biscuits and Blues
Regina’s brother (of Regina’s Kitchen) owns this place, which looks like a lot of fun. Their menu has live music and some great Cajun and Southern favorites.
Pearl Street Pasta
I’m more than a little obsessed with pasta. I love it! I’m not sure why we didn’t get here, except there were far too many great places to choose from. And I was a bit on a mission to enjoy southern cuisine. Everyone we asked recommended this place, so I would consider checking it out.
Hotels in Natchez, Mississippi: Where to Stay in Natchez
We had booked an Airbnb since my friend planned to teach her online English classes early in the morning. However, there was a snafu, and the house wasn’t cleaned.
Since we checked in around 7 p.m., we didn’t want to wait around, so we decided to rebook at a hotel. The place recommended by the Airbnb owner was the Natchez Grand Hotel.
There are a number of B&Bs, and if you want to splurge, you can stay at some of the Antebellum homes. Two that look appealing to me are The Guest House – Antebellum Mansion and Monmouth Historic Inn and Gardens.
Natchez Grand Hotel
We were very happy with this hotel. It’s right on the banks of the Mississippi, and you can cross the street to walk along the Bluff Park trail. The hotel is not far from the action and is walkable to many great restaurants.
The room was a good size and comfortable, including Wi-Fi, a fridge, and a hot breakfast.
How to Get to Natchez
The Natchez airport, Hardy-Anders Field, is 6 miles from the central business district. It is served by the major airlines, though it is a small airport with limited flights. Another option is to drive and tour other fun places in Mississippi and Alabama.
When I went to Natchez, I started in Mobile, AL, then we drove to Vicksburg, MS, and last, to Natchez. The drive to Mobile directly from Natchez is around four hours (the same as going from Mobile to Vicksburg). It makes a nice weekend or a long weekend trip.
If you do drive from Mobile, Hattiesburg, MS, is a great place to stop for a break around halfway through the drive to either Natchez or Vicksburg.
If You Have Time — Visit Vicksburg
Vicksburg, Mississippi, is another quaint southern town, and this one has a big history. It was the location of a pivotal battle of the Civil War.
You can tour National Military Park, where the battle was fought (as well as many others). Driving through, you will see memorials from the states that lost people during these battles.
Downtown Vicksburg is quaint and has quite a few things to see. There are some beautiful murals by the waterfront with some historic images. Also, you’ll find several museums, including one with many local treasures from the Civil War times, in an old courthouse. There’s also a fun Coca-Cola museum for something a bit different.
The drive to Vicksburg also has some sights. Drive a portion of the Natchez Trace and visit the old ruins of Windsor. Or, stop to see Rodney, a ghost town. You can easily make it a day trip or longer if you have the time and interest!
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Natchez is located in the southeastern United States, so summers tend to be hot and humid, and winters are fairly mild. Average temperatures in the summer from June to September tend to be in the high 80s and low 90s (30.5° Celcius to 33° Celcius), with lows in the high 60s and low 70s (15 to 21° Celcius).
In the winter, from December through February, highs tend to be in the high 50s and low 60s (10 to 15° Celcius), and lows average in the high 30s and low 40s (-1 to 4° Celcius).
The spring and fall are the best times to go, though the winter is generally not too cold. Of course, we hit a cold spell where it was high in the 30s! So, you never know.
Pretty surprised, are you? If you thought there wasn’t much to Mississippi, I encourage you to think again. Natchez is a great place to visit, and so is Vicksburg. I’m excited to go back to Mississippi to see more!
All the Best of Natchez, MS Things to Do
There are many fun things to do in Natchez, MS. Whether you go for a day, weekend getaway, or longer, you’ll find many interesting places to go.
This city that rose to prominence before the Civil War has retained its southern charm, making it a great place to visit.
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