Capturing the essence of the deep south, the state of Mississippi is an often overlooked travel destination due to its poor economy and relatively unknown cities, however, peel back the layers and you’ll find some of the most welcoming folk in the nation who have provided the world with famous icons such as Delta Blues, Elvis Presley and Oprah Winfrey.
Mississippi is nicknamed the Magnolia State due to the state’s unusually large number of magnolia trees. It has a mix of urban and off-the-beaten-path destinations to explore, from the sandy shores of Biloxi along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast to the streets of Tupelo which have spawned one of the 20th century’s greatest cultural and musical figures. There’s no shortage of incredible things to do throughout Mississippi for anyone looking for a Southern experience. Here’s what Mississippi is famous for.
- What Is Mississippi Known For?
- Plan Your Trip
- Top Tours
- 1- The Mississippi River
- 2- Delta Blues
- 3- Jackson
- 4- The Natchez Trace Parkway
- 5- Cotton
- 6- Catfish
- 7- Mississippi’s Southern Charm
- 8- Magnolias
- 9- Elvis Presley
- 10- Gulf Islands National Seashore
- 11- Oprah Winfrey
- 12- Biloxi
- 13- The American Civil War
- 14- Comeback Sauce
- 15- Mississippi Sandhill Crane
What Is Mississippi Known For?
1- The Mississippi River
The second-longest river in the United States behind only the Missouri River, the mighty Mississippi is a vital 2,340-mile-long (3,766 km) artery which is responsible for draining almost 60% of all freshwater waterways in the United States.
Originating in Lake Itasca in Minnesota, the Mississippi River meanders its way down south before connecting with the Gulf of Mexico at the Mississippi Delta near New Orleans.
Both the Magnolia State’s namesake and arguably the most important waterway in the nation, the Mississippi and the communities along its shores have provided the United States with cultural, economic and biodiversity benefits.
Music genres such as blues and jazz can both trace their roots to the cities and parishes along this iconic river.
The Mississippi played a crucial role in the establishment of cities such as Cincinnati, New Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis, Minneapolis, and many other smaller cities and towns, and is best experienced aboard a riverboat along the shores of the Magnolia State where it creates the natural state border between Mississippi and Louisiana.
2- Delta Blues
One of the many cultural influences spawned along the Mississippi River’s southern section is Delta Blues, the earliest-known style of modern-day blues music which was said to have originated near the Mississippi Delta in the Magnolia State’s southwest.
Delta Blues is widely considered to be a variant of country blues and is mainly performed with instruments such as a guitar or a harmonica, with musicians such as Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson credited with popularising the genre throughout the American South during the early 1900s.
Detroit Blues and Chicago Blues can both trace their roots to Delta Blues, which can best be experienced in any of Mississippi’s many blues bars or along the Mississippi Blues Trail, which whisks travellers on a journey back in time to explore the roots and growth of Delta Blues in the Magnolia State.
The official capital of Mississippi and the state’s most-populated city, Jackson is the economic, cultural and political hub of the Magnolia State, home to world-class retail, dining and entertainment spaces rivalling the very best that the South has in store.
Jackson was founded in 1822 and was named in honour of former US president Andrew Jackson, with the city purposefully designed to be Mississippi’s capital thanks to its centrality and locale near the once-busy Old Natchez Trace.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Mississippi State Capitol are two of the most popular tourist attractions travellers can stop by in Jackson, a city steeped in history and fostering the region’s blues, jazz and gospel music.
4- The Natchez Trace Parkway
Spanning a distance of well over 440 miles (708 km) and spilling over into parts of Tennessee and Alabama, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a one-of-a-kind natural attraction in the Magnolia State connecting the city of Natchez in southwest Mississippi with Nashville over in Tennessee.
The parkway follows the same path as the historic Old Natchez Trace, a once major passageway for the region’s Native American tribes, soldiers during the American Civil War and the South’s early European settlers.
Dotted with dozens of parks, hiking trails, scenic outdoor areas and an endless amount of outdoor recreational activities, the Natchez Trace Parkway was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and remains one of the most popular attractions in Mississippi.
While Mississippi is home to a strong agricultural industry, no single crop has made more of an economic and social impact in Mississippi than cotton, the state’s fourth-largest agricultural export and quite the sight between July and October, when puffy white clouds of blooming cotton dot the Mississippi countryside.
Approximately 380,000 acres (153,781 ha) of Mississippi’s farmland and rural countryside is used for growing cotton, with the Magnolia State the third-largest producer of cotton in the entire United States.
Used in the manufacturing of everything from clothes to bedsheets, cotton farms are most prevalent near the Mississippi Delta region in southwest Mississippi and attract large numbers of tourists between August and October eager to gaze out across the state’s picture-perfect cotton fields before they’re harvested.
Thriving in shallow, murky waters, catfish are perfectly suited to the muddy waters of the Mississippi River, which have earned the city of Belzoni near the Mississippi Delta the nickname of the “Catfish Capital of the World”.
Easily recognisable due to their unmissable barbels, which some say resemble a cat’s whiskers, catfish can range quite dramatically in size, with catfish known to grow more than 9 feet (274 cm) in length.
Due to their popularity and availability along the Mississippi River, it’s no surprise that catfish are among the most widely enjoyed seafood delicacies in the Magnolia State, so much so that Belzoni hosts the World Catfish Festival, an annual celebration of this staple Mississippian delicacy.
7- Mississippi’s Southern Charm
Nestled in the proverbial heart of the Deep South, Mississippi has long been synonymous with that quintessential Southern charm and hospitality travellers to this unique part of the United States are greeted with and exposed to when exploring the South.
Proud of their culture and traditions, Mississippians are some of the most welcoming folk in the US and love sharing their unique foods, stories and sounds with anyone interested in experiencing authentic Mississippi living.
The state’s charm extends to Mississippi’s architecture, which English, French and Spanish styles combine to create urban hubs such as Jackson great destinations to explore and discover filled with exciting attractions and bustling nightlife options.
So prevalent are magnolia trees in Mississippi that the state decided to formally adopt the eye-catching blossom as the state’s official symbol, nickname and state flower, hence why Mississippi’s official nickname is the Magnolia State.
Symbolising elegance, warmth and beauty, Magnolias perfectly embody the spirit and ideals of the state and her people, and is as aesthetically pleasing as it was a practical resource used to develop traditional medicine and build the state’s early wooden settlements.
The magnolia makes several appearances in Mississippi literature, music and general pop culture, and was even used to represent those who stood up against injustice during the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century.
9- Elvis Presley
Touted by many as one of the greatest American musicians of all time, Elvis Presley is an iconic figure of the 20th century who spent his first 13 years growing up in the Magnolia State.
Born Elvis Aaron Presley on January 8, 1935, in the city of Tupelo in northwest Mississippi, Presley began his journey to international music stardom when he first entered a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show at age 10.
The “King of Rock and Roll” moved to Memphis with his family in 1948, and by the early 1950s, Elvis was a local sensation in Memphis, before the release of his 1958 debut album titled “Elvis Presley” turned him into an overnight national celebrity, topping the Billboard chart for 10 weeks in a row.
Elvis went on to sell over 400 million records worldwide and holds the record for most songs featured on the Billboard Top 40 chart, with a whopping 115 to his name.
A massive cultural icon worldwide during the 50s, 60s and 70s, and one of the most impactful people of the 20th century, Presley remains a popular figure in his hometown of Tupelo, where fans of Elvis can stop by important Presley landmarks such as the Elvis Presley Birthplace museum and the Elvis Presley Park.
10- Gulf Islands National Seashore
Sheltering southern Mississippi’s coast from the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is among the most visited outdoor attractions in the American South, drawing well over 5 million visitors every year.
The Gulf Islands are managed by the National Park Service and are among the NPS’s top 10 most-visited parks, boasting incredible bird-spotting opportunities, stunning beaches and even prettier sunsets.
Officially established by the NPS back in 1971, the Gulf Islands National Seashore spills over into the Florida Panhandle and is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including brown pelicans, seals, orcas and porpoises.
11- Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is undoubtedly one of the greatest daytime personalities ever to grace the screens of American television sets, born right here in the Magnolia State.
Born Orpah Gail Winfrey on January 29, 1954, in the small city of Kosciusko, Winfrey began going by the name ‘Oprah’ when people started mispronouncing her birth name, with Winfrey spending most of her childhood growing up in Milwaukee following her and her mother’s move there when Oprah was just 6 years old.
Oprah began hosting her daytime television talk show “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1986, which became must-watch TV for millions of viewers worldwide before the show’s final season in 2011, 25 years after it first aired.
Dubbed the “Queen of All Media”, Oprah achieved tremendous critical and financial success, with Oprah achieving billionaire status by 2003 as well as the title of the world’s most influential woman during the 2000s.
Situated along Mississippi’s southern shores overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and within 13 miles (21 km) from nearby Gulfport, Biloxi is a popular summertime vacation destination in the South.
Among the top five most populated cities in Mississippi, Biloxi is home to more than 49,000 people and is one of the first cities settled in the Magnolia State, with Biloxi’s European roots dating back as early as 1699.
Once known as the “Seafood Capital of the World”, Biloxi is home to a selection of excellent seafood restaurants and boasts a rich maritime past, with some of the South’s best beaches within a short drive from central Biloxi.
13- The American Civil War
A former “slave state” belonging to the Confederacy, Mississippi was a fierce battleground during the American Civil War, with a total of 21 battles and sieges taking place in the Magnolia State throughout the 4-year-long war.
Mississippi became only the second southern state to join the Confederacy in 1861 and was an important strategic point of interest due to the state’s location along the Mississippi River.
Some of the most infamous Civil War battles which took place in Mississippi include the Battle of Vicksburg, the Battle of Jackson and the Battle of Corinth, with Union victories in Mississippi responsible for effectively splitting the Confederacy’s eastern and western territories, which ultimately led to the end of the Civil War.
14- Comeback Sauce
Poured and enjoyed in large quantities across Mississippi, Comeback Sauce is the Magnolia State’s most popular condiment, used to dunk everything from chicken tenders to fried pickles across the Depp South.
The sauce is rumoured to have been invented in the city of Jackson during the 1930s and 40s, with both the Rotisserie Restaurant and the Mayflower Café claiming to have been the first to create the popular dipping sauce.
Typically made from a secretive blend of mayo and chilli sauce, with some recipes calling for Worcestershire sauce, ketchup or paprika, Comeback Sauce has become a staple in restaurants across Mississippi, with each restaurant adding its unique twist to the original 1930s recipe.
15- Mississippi Sandhill Crane
Categorised as a subspecies of the typical Sandhill Crane, the Mississippi Sandhill Crane is a bird species native to the Magnolia State which once thrived in the state’s cypress marshes and bottomland forests.
Critically endangered and teetering on the brink of extinction, Mississippi Sandhill Crane numbers have been continuously dropping for decades due to overhunting and the disappearance of their natural habitat, with only about 125 Mississippi Sandhill Cranes remaining.
It’s not all gloom and doom for the beloved Mississippi Sandhill Crane though, as successful conservation efforts fuelled by the establishment of the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge in 1975 have seen the species’ numbers more than triple.
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