This summer was a crazy time for travel. As soon as I thought I had time to relax, it was time to pack my bags again. One trip that fell between two others was to Natchez, Mississippi. I’d always wanted to visit the historic town but didn’t have immediate plans until I was asked to speak at the Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism there, alongside my favorite PR folks Ruth and Laurie. So not long after I’d come home from Gulf Shores, I hit the road.
The town celebrated 300 years of settlement in 2016 and it shows. Around every corner, you’ll find massive Antebellum mansions. Some have become museums while others are bed and breakfasts, but most are featured on the twice yearly Pilgrimage, an event when visitors gain entry into the most beautiful homes, including private residences. After enduring an 8+ hour drive, we arrived just in time for the best sunset over the Mississippi River. Ruth and I checked into our room at the Natchez Grand Hotel before grabbing dinner at King’s Tavern, an interesting looking place we’d driven past on the way into town. Here, we tucked into the cozy tavern and learned about its haunted history. We both ordered cocktails made from local rum, the only “spirits” we experienced, and chowed down on a charcuterie plate and flatbreads. On our walk back to the hotel, we were invited to a private party. This was our first interaction with the friendly locals, but it wouldn’t be our last.
Since the conference, the main reason we were there, would begin the next day, we hit the ground running to see as much as we could before our presentations began. Thankfully, it’s easy to see Natchez in a day or so and you can get from one side of town to the other in a short amount of time. We stuffed our faces at the hotel breakfast buffet before driving out to Longwood, a unique “Oriental style” octagonal mansion that was never finished because of the Civil War. Fans of True Blood may recognize it as Russell Edgington’s home from the show. After a tour of the interior, we explored the grounds before having a late lunch at The Donut Shop. I liked the look of it, so we pulled over to the roadside dive for what turned out to be delicious Delta tamales and, of course, donuts. In order to prepare for evening festivities, I grabbed an iced coffee from Steampunk Coffee Roasters, a surprisingly hip coffee shop in a historic cabin. Ruth and I met back up for a pint at Bowie’s Tavern before the welcome event at Dunleith Historic Inn. The night ended at Smoot’s Grocery Blues Lounge with rum and dancing.
The morning before the conference started, I hopped on a tour of the city via golf cart. It showcased the most architecturally stunning structures in town. Later that afternoon, the conference shut down the street so attendees could enjoy appetizers and drinks along the river. My friends from Visit Oxford and I stopped by Fat Mama’s Tamales, for their famous “knock you naked” margaritas, on our way to dinner at The Castle, back at Dunleith. We went back to where we were invited to a party a few nights prior for live music, but in search for something livelier, we ended up at Under-the-Hill Saloon, a dive bar on the river. We left our mark upon dollar bills now stuck with darts to the ceiling.
On our final day in town, we attended some panels and took a lunch break for a private tour of Charboneau Rum before I hit the Natchez Trace to see Mammy’s Cupboard, a kitschy roadside attraction I’d read about. She didn’t disappoint. I didn’t make it to Natchez Brewing or a number of local restaurants, but all the more reason to return!