Hey y’all! Welcome to our Mississippi Delta road trip, an exploration of the most “Southern” place in the world. My sister and I spent 11 days this year cruising Highway 61 in search of what makes the Delta special. We zig-zagged from Greenville to Greenwood to Cleveland to Leland, with the blues as our soundtrack and trail markers as our unofficial guide. We encountered the friendliest people, recorded our own songs, ate all the comfort food and ultimately learned that the Delta is a place like no other. It has somehow taken a sad and tragic history and churned out soul-stirring, world-changing hope through music.
“Blues is a tonic for whatever ails you, I could play the blues and then not feel blue anymore.” B.B. King
You can’t swing a cat without hitting a blues trail marker in these parts, so it’s easy to step on the gas and see where the road takes you, as they say in the Delta. But take note if you’re planning a Mississippi Delta road trip of your own, this is not a place of myriad “things to do” or adventure activities. It was a weird transition to go from our usual itineraries filled with activities and appointments to a wide open floodplain of cotton and corn between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, where a typical day is more about what you might stumble upon – a classic juke joints, a roadside tamale stand, a Civil War tombstone – than sticking to any kind of schedule.
Buckle up as we roll the windows down in search of mudbugs, history, blues legends and even a little pampering. First stop on this Mississippi Delta road trip — Tunica!
They say the Delta begins at the front door of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, where a young Elvis signed his first recording contract, so that’s where we started our Mississippi Delta road trip, making our way south to Tunica. It’s only about an hour from Memphis down famed Highway 61, and it’s is a hot spot for round-the-clock entertainment, restaurants and museums dedicated to the history of the Delta.
WHERE TO STAY IN TUNICA
Tunica’s (or Robinsonville, depending on who you ask) casino area is an interesting place to start a Mississippi Delta road trip, as the glittering lights and sounds of slot machines ker-chinging is so very different from the agricultural, small town rest of the region. Stay close to the action at Gold Strike Casino Resort or Horseshoe Tunica Casino. We had the best time catching comedy shows and concerts, playing roulette and even relaxing at Horseshoe’s luxurious spa.
WHERE TO EAT IN TUNICA
In a casino town, naturally there are buffets galore. There are also plenty of stand alone restaurants. We loved 8oz Burger Bar (with burgers so juicy we’re still talking about them!) and the award-winning Jack Binion’s Steakhouse.
Just a few miles away from the resort area is The Hollywood Cafe. Known for inventing the fried pickle, The Hollywood Cafe is the perfect spot to indulge in all-things fried. Not just famous for comfort food, this cafe was immortalized in Mark Cohn’s music video “Walking in Memphis.” It’s a can’t-miss spot in Tunica and a photogenic stop on the Mississippi Delta road trip trail.
THINGS TO DO IN TUNICA
Learn all about the area at the Tunica Riverpark & Museum. Just a few minutes away from the casinos, this museum provides interactive exhibits, a history of the Delta and its culture and a rooftop with photogenic views of the Mighty Mississippi River.
The Mississippi Delta is home to dozens of musical legends, and this is the perfect spot at the beginning of the Blues Trail to start learning all about the influential musicians from this region at the Gateway to the Blues Museum. You can even write and record your very own blues song!
If you’re in the area in April, don’t miss the Rivergate Festival, held in downtown Tunica. It’s a perfect way to get to know the locals and eat your weight in crawfish. Crawfish Alley comes to life with 12,000 pounds of fresh mudbugs every year – yum! If you’re into crawfish, definitely consider planning your Mississippi Delta road trip around the Rivergate Festival.
Head back to the casinos for live entertainment at the Bluesville Showcase Nightclub. Check out the show schedule to see your favorite comedians or bands. In one weekend, we got to see Kool and the Gang and Sinbad! For a little rest and relaxation, the Spa at Horseshoe is a great place to step away from the nightlife and focus on yourself.
WHERE TO STAY IN CLARKSDALE
We cruised through Clarksdale only for a day, but if you’re staying overnight, check out the Bluestown Inn or The Clark House.
WHERE TO EAT IN CLARKSDALE
Stuff your face with a juicy burger or fried chicken at Ground Zero Blues Club. Located right downtown, this eatery celebrates blues heritage while serving up delicious entrees. And you might run into Morgan Freeman because he owns the place.
THINGS TO DO IN CLARKSDALE
With a variety of events throughout the year, Clarksdale is a great place to catch music festivals and live entertainment year-round. In October, the Deep Blues Festival is a weekend of live music scattered throughout the downtown area. You can catch both local and national artists and it’s a perfect way to catch the real blues on a Mississippi Delta road trip.
WHERE TO STAY IN CLEVELAND
We didn’t get to stay overnight in Cleveland, but if you do, here are some options.
WHERE TO EAT IN CLEVELAND
You could easily spend a few hours grabbing a drink and feeding your appetite at Hey Joe’s or Mosquito Burrito. Both restaurants are located downtown, so it’s a great place to stop after strolling around and checking out the big red caboose. We had lunch at The Warehouse, another great spot for Southern comfort food and friendly people.
THINGS TO DO IN CLEVELAND
Check out Dockery Farms, the birthplace of blues. (I know – the whole place seems like the birthplace of the blues!) The farm was established in 1895 to produce cotton while offering better pay to workers. One of those laborers was Charley Patton, known today as the “Father of the Blues.” Charley became a best-selling artist and now the farm where he worked is an interactive display.
After visiting the farms, head over to the Grammy Museum. This interactive museum pays tribute to the Grammy-winning artists from the Delta, as well as all the talented musicians throughout Grammy history. You can easily spend two hours here watching performances, producing your own songs and even dancing. Because the Mississippi Delta has been dubbed as the “birthplace of American music,” it’s a must see.
WHERE TO STAY IN INDIANOLA
We didn’t stay overnight in Indianola, but if you do, check out The Blue Biscuit Bungalows or Bed on the Bayou.
WHERE TO EAT IN INDIANOLA
Looking for Southern comfort food? The Crown might be your new favorite restaurant in Mississippi. Not only is the food delicious, but it’s basically like getting a home-cooked meal from your grandmother. Good luck leaving without a piece (or FIVE) of pie! For a quick snack, the Indianola Pecan House has any flavor pecan you can think of, the perfect Mississippi Delta road trip treats.
THINGS TO DO IN INDIANOLA
You can’t drive to Indianola with stopping at the B.B. King Museum. Since 2008, the B.B. King Museum has drawn thousands of visitors to learn about “King of the Blues” and his trusty guitar, Lucille. His influence on music is so inspiring and comes to life through these interactive exhibits. We were in tears as we finished the final exhibit, a testament to the impact B.B. King’s music has had on so many people.
While cruising around Indianola, snap a photo of the Historic Club Ebony. Built after World War II, Club Ebony was one of the South’s most influential African American nightclubs. World-famous musicians like James Brown and Ray Charles have all played in this historic building.
WHERE TO STAY IN GREENVILLE
Within walking distance to many attractions in the downtown area, The Lofts at 517 are a modern, comfortable place to stay in Greenville. Some of the rooms come with a living room, full kitchen and bedroom.
WHERE TO EAT IN GREENVILLE
There’s more history than meat at Doe’s Eat Place, and that’s saying something. Established in 1941, Doe’s Eat Place is a former honky tonk famous for giant steaks. Today, they preserve the family tradition of greeting customers in the front kitchen that was the original honky tonk.
THINGS TO DO IN GREENVILLE
Try your luck at Trop Casino. We lost about $100 on roulette in 10 minutes, a new record for us! We *bet* you’ll do better! The casino is located right on the river and is a great place to watch the famous Mississippi Delta sunset.
At this point you might think that a Mississippi Delta road trip is all about the blues and nothing else, and then you pull into Vicksburg with its stately antebellum homes and rolling hills. It’s a totally different vibe from the other small towns and 100% worth a visit! It’s one spot we wish we had 2-3 days to explore.
WHERE TO STAY IN VICKSBURG
Have you ever wanted to stay in a former Civil War hospital? Duff Green Mansion was that as well as an orphanage and Salvation Army Headquarters. Today, it’s a bed and breakfast for visitors that is said to be haunted. We didn’t see any ghosts but you can see blood-stained floors and grand antebellum bedrooms, parlors and dining areas. There’s also a pool and private courtyard and a delicious family-style breakfast where you can meet your fellow house guests.
WHERE TO EAT IN VICKSBURG
For a real feel of the South, have lunch at Walnut Hills. Built in 1880, this home was transformed into a family style comfort food restaurant that that’s been drawing visitors for decades. Later on, schedule dinner just right so you can watch the sunset over the Mississippi River at 10 South. Ten stories above Vicksburg, this rooftop eatery has live entertainment, great food and the best view in town.
THINGS TO DO IN VICKSBURG
The National Military Park is home to more than 1,300 monuments, tablets and markers that commemorate the 47-day siege held here during the Civil War. The best way to see this park is on a driving tour. In a couple hours, our guide made the park come to life and we were in awe of the history of Vicksburg.
Looking for even more history? Vicksburg is chock full of it. The Old Courthouse Museum is two-stories full of antiques donated by the local families. The courthouse was damaged by canon balls in the Civil War, but not destroyed. The kind volunteers at the museum are ready to share their knowledge on the town. Honestly, I could’ve spent all day just listening to them talk about history.
If you’re into ghost tours (Angie is decidedly not) check out the McRaven House. Known as the most haunted house in Mississippi, McRaven just might scare your socks off. Other than ghosts, this home is popular for being built in three distinctly different periods – all Antebellum. The first portion was built in 1797; the second in 1836 and the last in 1849. You can tour McRaven during the day or at night, but you’re crazy if you go at night like we did. (Someday we might share the full story!)
WHERE TO STAY IN YAZOO CITY
The Main Street Hotel is the most colorful hotel you will ever visit! Located in the center of downtown, the interior decor is as colorful and quirky as the exterior. The owners said, “We decorate exactly how we want!” Angie and I spent A LOT of time taking photos in front of the shops around the hotel. It’s an Instagrammers dream.
WHERE TO EAT IN YAZOO CITY
Haven’t had enough crawfish yet? Visit P-Reaux’s Cajun Mudbugs & Shrimp for some Po’Boys, Oysters and of course, crawfish! For breakfast, Yazoo Donuts is a great place to grab coffee and a sugary treat before hittin’ the road.
THINGS TO DO IN YAZOO CITY
Opened in 1948, the Blue Front Cafe became famous for its buffalo fish, blues and moonshine whiskey. In the 1970s, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes took over the cafe from his parents. Today, it’s a gathering place for blues musicians. If you stop in, you might meet Duck and hear him play!
Schedule a tour with world-famous Charlie Carlisle at sprawling Glenwood Cemetery. Dating years before the Civil War, there are many layers of history and even more legends to sort through. But be warned, you may come across the Yazoo Witch!
WHERE TO STAY IN GREENWOOD
A must on any Mississippi Delta road trip is at least one night at the Alluvian Hotel in historic downtown Greenwood. It’s a comfortable spot in the middle of everything and it’s across from the Viking Cooking School so you can get a hands-on lesson from notable chefs in a Viking kitchen.
WHERE TO EAT IN GREENWOOD
Grab lunch at Fan and Johnny’s, which might be the most Instagrammable little spot in town.
THINGS TO DO IN GREENWOOD
You can’t come to Greenwood without treating-yo-self at The Alluvian Spa. We tried the Muddy Waters Blues Bath and Delta River Rock Massage, two great options for relieving the aches and pains of an 11-day Mississippi Delta road trip. There are dozens of Mississippi-themed treatment options including the Delta Sunrise Facial and the Sweet Tea Refresher. I just LOVE when spas have themed treatments!
Be sure to make a quick stop at the Museum of the Mississippi Delta. Here, you’ll learn more about the region’s history through art, archaeology, agriculture and antiques. And the best part: there are costumes!
Afterward, cruise down Money Road in search of the infamous Tallahatchie Bridge, the very same one that inspired Bobbie Gentrie’s “Ode to Billie Joe.”
The Mississippi Delta tells many stories, and Emmett Till’s echoes to this very day. At Bryant’s Grocery in 1955, a series of events unfolded that lead to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s almost too sad to think about, what happened to 14-year-old Emmett Till. There are times in America’s past it would be easier to sweep under the rug and forget, and many folks do. But if we don’t remember the tragic moments in history, what’s to stop us from repeating them?
WHERE TO STAY IN DESOTO/SOUTHAVEN
Check into the historic home in historic Hernando, Magnolia Grove Bed & Breakfast or the gorgeous 23-acre Bonne Terre Country Inn.
WHERE TO EAT IN DESOTO/SOUTHAVEN
There are so many delicious food options in DeSoto County. Check out Memphis Barbecue Co. or the Underground Cafe. (Side note: there is a Texas Roadhouse and one of Rae’s life goals is to go to Texas Roadhouse in every state, so we did have to make an appearance.)
THINGS TO DO IN DESOTO/SOUTHAVEN
Stuff your suitcases at the Tanger Outlets! Just in case you didn’t already have loads of souvenirs from all the antique shops and cute boutiques you’ve seen along the way on your Mississippi Delta road trip, you can spend a few hours browsing the shops and checking out the blues markers inside the outlets. Afterward you can take one last trip back in time at the DeSoto County Courthouse. There are enormous rotunda murals depicting explorer Hernando DeSoto’s time in the Delta. Outside the courthouse is a super cute square with shops and eateries.
The blues are more than music, and going on a Mississippi Delta road trip, you can’t help but hear the bittersweet song reminding us where we came from entwined with a hopeful prayer of where we can still go. For such a laidback and unassuming destination, the Mississippi Delta was the site of the turning point for the Civil War, the birth of the Civil Rights Movement and the home of American music. I’d say if you don’t already have this region on your radar, it’s time to plan a trip!
Special thanks to the Mississippi Delta and its many tourism partners for hosting our visit. Travel was sponsored, but all opinions and observations are mine. Always. Thank you for supporting the destinations that keep Angie Away a free travel resource! Also please note, AngieAway.com contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for keeping Angie and Rae… away!
Tell me…would you go on a Mississippi Delta road trip? What would you be most excited to see?
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