The Natchez Trace Parkway

Originally an Indian trail, the Natchez Trace connects Natchez with Nashville, going 444 miles through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, “Kaintuck” boatmen floated merchandise down river to New Orleans where they sold their flatboats and their goods and returned home on foot or horseback, following the Natchez Trace, a hazardous route also known as the "Devil's Backbone." The only hazard for today’s travelers are state troopers, who are vigilant in enforcing the 50 MPH speed limit, while the pleasures of the Trace include abundant wildflowers, 60 miles of hiking trails, historic exhibits and ancient Indian mounds. Bicyclists also enjoy the Trace, especially during the mild weather of the fall and spring. Although sections of the original Trace have been preserved, the current roadway dates from 1937, and has been part of the National Park Service since 1938. Download a copy of the milepost gazetteer from the National Park Service, or call the Visitor Center at 1-800-305-7417, so you don't miss some key stops.

 

Mississippi Capital/River Region  

Bridge over Mississippi River in Vicksburg

Getting Around

A car is essential for touring Mississippi; the main roads are excellent and traffic is generally a non-issue. Starting in Jackson, you might head west on I-20 to Vicksburg, then south on U.S 61 to Natchez. Returning to Jackson, follow the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway.

When to Go

Spring and fall offer the best weather and mildest temperatures, with spring offering the additional bonus of beautiful flowers. Natchez sits on high bluffs above the mighty Mississippi River; cooling river breezes usually temper the summer’s heat. Despite occasional cold snaps, mild winters, with highs in the 60s, are great for hiking, biking, and golf. Advance reservations are essential during the fall and spring pilgrimages in Natchez and Vicksburg, generally held in March and October.

Sights & Activities

Jackson: The newly renovated Mississippi Museum of Art offers impressive traveling shows, plus exhibitions from its own collections. Also worth a visit is the nearby International Museum of Muslim Cultures, the only museum of its type in the United States. Focusing on Jackson’s history, the Old Capitol Museum is nearby but is closed until January 2009 due to severe hurricane damage. The whole family will enjoy the Mississippi Museum of National Science, complete with a 100,000-gallon aquarium, extensive greenhouse, and walking trails. More information…

Natchez: Set high on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, charming Natchez offers antebellum plantations to tour, a historic downtown to explore, and much more. Consider starting your visit with a stop at the Natchez Visitor Center to get tickets and information, and watch a brief background movie. While strolling around the historic downtown, be sure to see the Natchez in Historic Photographs exhibit at the First Presbyterian Church, with more than 500 fascinating photos dating back to the 1850s, ranging from formal portraits to riverboats to scenes of daily life. More info...

Dating to 1822, the Natchez City Cemetery is fascinating to wander on your own, or with a tour guide who can fill you in on the legends and gossip. A tradition that originated in 1932, spring and fall pilgrimages are when celebrated private mansions are open to tour, guided by hoop-skirted hostesses.

 

Plantations and historic homes: Longwood was begun in 1860, but the construction stopped shortly after the Civil War began. The family lived in the lower level, originally intended for the servants, while the unfinished upper levels show you the

Longwood

“bones” of 19th-century architecture. Stanton Hall is a magnificent Greek revival mansion built in 1857. Melrose, a Greek revival mansion completed in 1849, is now a part of the Natchez National Historic park, along with the William Johnson House. Johnson was a freed slave and successful barber and businessman, and his 1840s home offers a rare picture of the life of a financially successful family of color. For more on the African-American history of Natchez, visit the NAPAC Museum on Main Street. The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians will teach you about the life of the first Natchezians. For a change of pace, take a short drive west into Louisiana on Routes 84/65 and visit Ferriday’s Delta Music Museum, home of Jerry Lee Lewis, among other Mississippi River Delta greats. Six miles west on Route 84 brings you to Frogmore, an 1,800-acre working cotton plantation where you can see both the restored slave quarters and the current computerized operation.

Restaurants: The grilled catfish, great iced tea, and dramatic river views made a perfect meal combo at the casual Cock of the Walk. For a classic Southern fried lunch, don’t miss Stanton Hall’s Carriage House, famous for its fried chicken, buttered biscuits, and mint juleps; check out the photos of Pilgrimage Kings and Queens taken over the decades. For elegant dining, the Castle at Dunleith has a limited but well-chosen menu with well-trained staff. For an amazing plantation dinner party, enjoy an elegant five-course repast at Monmouth Plantation served at an enormous dining room table.

Vicksburg: Located on the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, Vicksburg was an important port and railroad town, making it of key strategic importance in the Civil War, and a must-see destination for history buffs. Today’s visitors enjoy a restored city with activities for many tastes, and many appealing shops and galleries to visit. Although historic homes can be toured year-round, the fall and spring pilgrimages offer special events. Coca-Cola aficionados will want to stop by the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, where Coke was first bottled, and art lovers may find the H.C. Porter Gallery the ideal spot to find a piece of Mississippi life and culture to take home. More information…

Start your battlefield tour with a visit to the Vicksburg Battlefield Museum where a movie and a diorama of the 46-day siege will prepare you for a visit to the battlefield itself. Then head to Vicksburg National Military Park, starting with the museum in the visitors’ center. Be sure to buy a CD or hire a guide to come in your car – you’ll get much more out of the battlefield tour.

B&Bs and Inns

Jackson

The elegant Fairview Inn has spacious and inviting common areas, a charming fine-dining restaurant, a cozy library, and more. Guest rooms show equal attention to detail and are equally appealing for business travelers and romantic escapes. Owner Peter Sharp is taking years of big hotel experience and applying it to the Fairview, so that it will have the best of both worlds.


The family-owned Old Capitol Inn has involved owners and an exceptionally helpful and hospitable staff. Amenities include a courtyard with a swimming pool; free, secure off-street parking; and a rooftop deck with hot tub. Guest suites are comfortable and elegant, with different décor, colors and layout. The tasty buffet breakfast can be enjoyed in the breakfast/lunch room or on the patio.


More Jackson area inns…

Natchez

Longtime innkeepers Mimi and Ron Miller are always working to update and improve the 1888 Wensel House with immaculately clean, neat, comfortable, uncluttered guest rooms in two adjacent houses, plus a cottage out back. The Millers are great sources of information about all things Natchez. Great value; convenient in-town location close to shops, restaurants, river bluffs.



Bluff Top Bed and Breakfast, an 1894 Queen Anne Victorian cottage, has a great location high on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, just where the street ends and a cliff-top path runs along the bluff. Its three guest rooms are decorated in period furnishings.

Also overlooking the river from beautifully spacious grounds is Clifton View, a handsomely decorated private suite with its own entrance, living area, bathroom and bedroom with comfortable king-sized bed. Guests fix their own light breakfast of coffee, juice, cereal, and fruit from the pantry area. The friendly owners have an in-town suite as well, Locust Alley.

Ron and Eleanor Fry offer a warm welcome to their guests at the Devereaux Shields House, located on a beautiful residential street, convenient to both downtown and the river. Guest rooms are found in the 1893 Queen Anne-style main house and the 1873 Aunt Clara's Cottage.



A Greek revival mansion built in 1856, Dunleith has 26 Tuscan columns surrounding the house in a double gallery with floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests enjoy 40 acres of landscaped gardens and wooded bayous, a swimming pool, and the fine dining Castle restaurant and Bowie’s Tavern.


Cordial innkeepers Doug Mauro and Don McGlynn have done a brilliant job of renovating the 1835 Historic Oak Hill, balancing beautiful antique décor with comfort, both in the beautifully furnished guest rooms and the many different common areas. Outstanding breakfast of sliced fresh fruit and juice, sinfully delicious pecan French toast, eggs, bacon and biscuits. Doug’s green thumb ensures beautiful fresh flowers inside and out.

Built in 1818, Monmouth Plantation was extensively restored and renovated as a luxurious inn by owners Lani and Ron Riches. The 30 guest rooms are in the original mansion and several newer buildings scattered about the property’s park-like 26 acres, but all are decorated in period, and many have working fireplaces and whirlpool tubs.

Pleasant Hill is an 1835 Greek revival home where guests enjoy full use of the garden level of this raised cottage. Guest rooms are elegant, uncluttered and comfortable; our favorites are the two at the front of the house. We enjoyed having breakfast and relaxing in the common area, as well as on the spacious back porch/deck. Quiet residential location.


Cordial owner Tom Scarborough is helpful with advice and information about Natchez, but you have complete privacy in his cottages. Sunset View Cottage has amazing river views; Sunrise Cottage is a two-bedroom house perfect for a longer stay. Guests fix their own light breakfast from the stocked refrigerator.


Located on a beautiful residential street, convenient to both downtown and the river, The Burn was built in 1834; during the Civil War, it served as a Union Army headquarters as well as a hospital for injured soldiers. Today’s guests enjoy a more peaceful setting, with newly redecorated rooms and extensive grounds with lush gardens and a swimming pool.


Limited time did not permit us to visit the many B&Bs in Natchez; click here for a complete list.

Vicksburg

Named for the famous paddlewheel steamship that brought Teddy Roosevelt to Vicksburg, Ahern's Belle of the Bends is an elegant but uncluttered 1876 Victorian home, immaculate inside and out, and highlighted by the original crown moldings, hand-carved millwork, and original antiques. Best of all is the wonderful hospitality of Mary and Dan Lee, demonstrated at the delicious breakfasts and throughout your stay.


Choctaw for “happy home,” Anchuca is a Greek revival mansion built in 1830; it’s handsomely furnished with fine antiques and art representing the 19th century. Guests enjoy lunch or dinner at Café Anchuca, serving contemporary Southern cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Owners Tom Pharr and Chris Brinkley go out of their way to make guests feel relaxed and at home.


Annabelle B&B Inn was built in 1868 in the Italianate Victorian style; adjacent are the gardens, swimming pool, and 1881 Guest House. Rooms are decorated with beautiful antiques, highlighted by owner Carolyn’s lovely crystal and china.


A Greek revival home built in 1840, Cedar Grove was bombarded during the siege of Vicksburg, and a cannon ball is still lodged in the parlor wall; the home was later used as a Union hospital. Today’s guests will enjoy the Italian marble fireplaces, French Empire gasoliers, Bohemian glass, gold leaf mirrors, antique clocks and paintings, and Mallard furnishings in the original mansion. Guests can stroll the park-like grounds and enjoy a meal in the restaurant, or a mint julep in the bar.



For a peaceful country getaway, consider Linden Plantation,  offering the rustic and cozy Polly’s Cabin. Guests are invited to the main house – a reproduction 1790 Creole Plantation home – for delicious breakfasts cooked to order, and can wander eight acres of beautiful gardens.

Limited time did not permit us to visit the many B&Bs in Vicksburg; click here for a complete list.

Note: An active train line runs right through the Historic Garden District of Vicksburg where several B&Bs are located. Railfans will love hearing the train whistles; others should bring earplugs, and ask innkeepers for a radio with a white noise setting. The city is currently taking steps to close the railroad grade crossings, which will substantially minimize the noise.

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