Little Zion Church in Greenwood, Mississippi (Photo Credit: jmanaugh3 / Shutterstock.com)
There is no better time to explore our beautiful country than now. With vacation ideas constantly creating an itch and road trips being more popular than ever, you’re certainly thinking of new places to go and what to see. I recommend the small towns that make up the Mississippi Delta, one of the most unique regions in the nation.
I have visited the Mississippi Delta several times because I have family in Mississippi, and since the area is quite rural and windy, knowing where to go is important. Here are six Mississippi Delta towns, plus a bonus entry, to inspire your journey.
Cleveland is where you’ll find the only Grammy Museum outside of Los Angeles. The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi is chock full of interactive exhibits, a stage and instruments perfect for taking selfies and making videos, clothing from your favorite performers, and much more.
One of the most fabulous places, in nearby Merigold, is McCarty’s Pottery, a gorgeous and cozy house filled with cherished earthenware pieces. People literally come from around the world to buy these gorgeous collectibles.
Suppose you fancy a stay in the Mississippi Delta. In that case, I recommend the Cotton House Cleveland, a Marriott Tribute Portfolio boutique hotel with stylish rooms, a fabulous lobby, and two noteworthy restaurants.
Steak frites from Delta Meat Market (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)
Delta Meat Market serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner (mainly on McCarty Pottery) and offers choice gourmet market items in the market. The second dining option, Bar Fontaine, is on the hotel’s rooftop. Both are owned by James Beard Award-nominated Chef Cole Ellis. If steak frites are available, you’ve got to try this perfect dinner entree. Finish up with Moonpie bread pudding.
Dockery Farms is often considered the birthplace of the blues, and a tour is crucial for fully understanding the way of life in the rural Mississippi Delta’s cotton fields. Charley Patton and Howlin’ Wolf were regular musical acts here.
Stop by Hey Joe’s Burgers + Beer, a lively and fun restaurant, at the end of the day for a nightcap, appetizer, or to play a round of trivia.
The Help filming location in Greenwood (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)
Greenwood (my favorite) is a Mississippi Delta town with a walkable downtown area with a world-class hotel and spa, a historic restaurant, and quite a few boutiques. The Alluvian Hotel, which has been featured in many major magazines and publications, is an excellent place to relax and unwind in the Delta. Take your physical and mental health to the next level with a massage or skin treatment from the Alluvian Spa.
The Crystal Grill, circa 1933, is one of the most well-known eateries in the Magnolia State, and trust me — it is fantastic. Whether you go for lunch or dinner, save room for mouth-watering desserts, namely pies. I recommend roasted turkey with celery dressing and cranberry sauce, but the spaghetti and meatballs are wonderful, too. Crystal Grill is currently closed Monday through Wednesday.
One of the most extraordinary things you can do in all of Mississippi is participate in a cooking class at Viking Cooking School, which you can do right here in the Delta. I’ve been to several. Learning how to prepare a new recipe, tasting the delicious results, meeting new friends, and cooking on world-class kitchen appliances is a fun time. Sign me up anytime!
Pro Tip: You can take a “Southern Specialties from Hit Movie The Help” three-hour cooking class every other Saturday for $99 at the Viking Cooking School.
Perhaps you will recognize Greenwood as soon as you arrive, especially if you’ve seen the movie The Help. Browse several of the filming locations around Greenwood, including the exterior of Skeeter Phelan’s home at 7300 County Road 518 (Money Road). The family is so kind to allow tourists to drive through their property for a photo-op, a testament to Southern hospitality. You’ll find more of the Greenwood The Help film locations in this helpful blog post.
My husband and I like to stop at casinos all across the nation, and Tunica is one of the best places to do so. There are four main ones to visit: Horseshoe Tunica (Caesar’s property), Sam’s Town, Hollywood Casino, and Gold Strike (an MGM property). These casinos and resorts are genuinely as impressive as any in the country, and you’ll have your own little Las Vegas getaway right here in the Mississippi Delta. Remember that the casinos feature touring headliner musical acts and performances, too.
Tunica also has two other prominent offerings: the River Bend Links, a Scottish links golf course, and a Delta blues museum. For golfers, there are 6,900 yards of perfectly manicured grounds with lakes, grass, and sand bunkers on this par-72 course. You may even spot some wildlife during your game. I haven’t been to the Gateway to the Blues Museum and Visitor Center, but I’ve heard and read good things about it.
Hungry? The Hollywood Cafe will meet your culinary needs for a lunch or dinner stop. Offerings include U.S. farm-raised catfish, a Mississippi must-try item.
The Crossroads (or the intersection between Route 61 and 49) in Clarksdale (Photo Credit: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com)
Known as the “Birthplace of the Blues,” Clarksdale is the Delta town to experience mind-blowing live music 365 days of the year. Settle in for a night of fun and pulsating music. Ground Zero Blues Club, co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman, is the most famous place in the Delta to experience the blues. This world-famous institution has been featured on dozens of TV shows, voted one of the top nightclubs/bars in America, and is used for filming purposes. Check out the Blues jam on Thursdays.
Fun Fact: A few months ago, a second Ground Zero Blues Club opened in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Pro Tip: You can see live blues-streaming of Clarksdale music events in the comfort of your living room via Live from Clarksdale.
Yet another museum to explore the Mississippi Delta region and culture is the Delta Blues Museum of Clarksdale. This museum was opened in 1979, branded as a stand-alone in 1999, and is the oldest music museum in the state.
Grab a barbecue meal (ribs, pulled pork, or beef) or famous Mississippi tamales from Abe’s Bar-B-Q, serving delicious eats since 1924.
Again, my husband and I are gamblers, so we spent some time at Trop Casino Greenville, which proved lucrative, but the one thing you can’t miss in Greenville is the world-famous green frog. Jim Henson hails from Greenville, where you will find a darling little stop, the Birthplace of Kermit the Frog, with a treasure trove of all things Muppets and even some of Henson’s earlier and lesser-known works. You can buy souvenirs, let the kids play and read books, and see the craftsmanship behind these lovable characters. Be sure to check out Deer Creek behind the museum, where you’ll see some bonus Jim Henson nuggets.
Leland has several museums to add to your travel itinerary, including the Highway 61 Blues Museum.
Vito’s Marketplace is raved about for po’boys and pasta dishes for dinner, while Cicero’s is a tasty spot for family-style foods, including sandwiches, salads, and pulled pork at lunchtime.
Indianola Pecan House (Photo Credit: Melody Pittman)
Home to legendary B.B. King, you’ll find B.B.’s burial site and collection of his career at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.
Another biggie in Indianola is the Indianola Pecan House, which creates those gourmet specialty packaged pecans. Before I visited the Mississippi Delta, I ordered them online and sent them as gifts. Try the key lime for a sweet snack or the cajun roasted for more unique flavors. Sugar-free options are available, too.
In Greenville (though at 30,000 residents, it’s a little over what qualifies as a small town) you’ll want to see Winterville Mounds, a National Historic Landmark on the site of “a gathering place and ceremonial site for Mississippian Indians” who inhabited the area from 1000 to 1450 A.D. Also in Greenville, Delta’s Museum Mile has a hodge-podge of museums to check out, including the River Road Queen Welcome Center and Museum of the Delta, which resembles a Victorian riverboat.
Downtown Greenville has a few shops to browse through and a farmers market Wednesdays and Saturdays from June through September.
Greenville is also not far from Lake Chicot State Park — about 20 minutes away across the bridge into Arkansas. It is a great space for bird-watching, fishing (bass and crappie, in particular), or boating and has an exceptionally photogenic bayou-like environment with elegant cypress trees and wildlife. There are also 14 cabins at Lake Chicot State Park for making an overnight of your Delta visit. You can also visit the 16-acre Greenville Cypress Preserve for more of that same beauty and take a hike along the natural area, complete with benches for resting.
Pro Tip: October brings the Delta Hot Tamale Festival to Greenville, a three-day event with local and regional artists, musicians, and of course, tamale makers. Greenville is the Hot Tamale Capital of the World. In case you aren’t familiar, hot tamales are savory meats and spices wrapped in corn husks. Caution: You unwrap to eat; the husks are inedible.
All of these small towns have Mississippi Blues Trail markers denoting locations and fun facts about the talented musicians from this unique area. A few to seek out are the birthplaces of Muddy Waters (Rolling Fork), Sam Cooke (Clarksdale), W.C. Handy (Tutwiler), and John Lee Hooker (Vance).