By Amanda Wells
The Magnolia State is more than the sum of its parts. Towns and cities scattered throughout the state, from north to south and east to west, are home to southern cuisine unlike any other, shopping that rivals anywhere else and a culture filled to the brim with art. Stop in to these towns to see what’s new and what’s happening.
TUPELO >>> ART HOTSPOT
In recent years, the Northeast Mississippi city of Tupelo has become a cultural hotspot, thanks to a dedication to the celebration of art at its finest. Whether it’s performing arts that tickle your fancy or visual arts that catch your eye, there’s no shortage in Tupelo.
Award-winning Tupelo Community Theatre makes its home in downtown’s historic Lyric Theatre, where Elvis Presley himself is rumored to have received his first kiss in the theatre’s balcony. The Theatre was formed in 1969 when 16 enthusiasts set out to create a collaborative outlet. Since then, it has presented more than 230 different productions, seen by tens of thousands of spectators. For smaller performances, don’t miss Tupelo Community Theatre’s Off Broadway location.
The GumTree Museum of Art features various exhibits, workshops, lectures and special events year round. The museum exists to promote visual arts and organizes the GumTree Arts Festival, the city’s juried arts festival held around the courthouse square each May. At downtown’s Caron Gallery, you’ll find an array of work by a curated selection of Mississippi artisans. The gallery represents roughly 50 artists from all over the state and regularly offers special exhibits, artist workshops, and art and wine dinners.
It’s no secret that tunes run deep in Tupelo, the birthplace of the King himself. But it’s not all just rock n’ roll. Founded in 1971, the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra offers an impressive annual season and presents a selection of music education opportunities and community outreach projects.
All that music may have you wanting to shake it a little. The Dance Studio offers classes related to specific dances and lessons for those looking to learn more about the subject. Group dance events happen each Friday night. For over three decades, the Tupelo Ballet has presented its annual performance of The Nutcracker each December, with Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score performed live by the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra.
If getting a little culture is on your radar, get it the Mississippi way in Tupelo. Visit tupelo.net for more info.
STARKVILLE >>> GET FRESH
Ten years ago, a group of volunteers set out to offer local, fresh food in Starkville. The Starkville Community Market first began on Lafayette Street downtown, and was moved to a vacant corner lot at Jackson and Lampkin Streets, which was offered by a local business owner. In 2013, the Starkville Main Street Association took the reigns and in 2015, the market settled at the Fire Station Park on Russell and Lampkin Streets, a picturesque and up until that point, underutilized, green space in the downtown corridor.
Local growers, food producers and artisans showcase their wares weekly. In addition to top quality vendors sharing fresh produce, live plants, baked goods and original art, market goers can partake in cooking and gardening demonstrations, kids activities, live music and more. Families flock downtown on Saturdays from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m., and on Tuesdays from 4 to 6 p.m.
The Starkville Community Market is a certified Farmers Market through the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, meaning that one hundred percent of all products sold at the market are grown or made by the vendors. Farm certifications are conducted to maintain quality, and no wholesale or resale is permitted.
Authentic Mississippi goods are what you’ll find at Starkville Community Market. Come see (and taste) what they mean when you hear about the fertile Mississippi soil.
Go to starkville.org for more info.
HATTIESBURG >>> DOWNTOWN DESTINATION
Downtown Hattiesburg is alive, kicking and not looking to stop any time soon. While Hardy Street has long been where the bustle is, venture downtown for some revelry and Hub City fun.
There’s no shortage of food and drink downtown. Southern Prohibition Brewery recently celebrated its third anniversary and opened the Tap Room featuring six-ounce beer samples and tours. The Tap Room hosts weekly events including yoga, movie nights, ballroom dancing and tapas. Head to the newly opened Porter Public House, the historic district’s own authentic public house with the finest regional craft beer and true American pub fare. GrateFull Soul Southern restaurant has recently opened a general store downtown featuring take-and-bake foods, glass bottle sodas, fresh produce, craft beer and bulk candy.
Live @ Five is a free outdoor music event held at Town Square Park each Friday evening in April and October from 5 to 9 p.m. Different acts liven up downtown, bringing locals and visitors alike.
FestivalSouth® will take place May 30 through June 18. This is the state’s only multi-week, multi-genre arts festival, offering both free and ticketed events. FestivalSouth® is presented by the Hattiesburg Concert Association and features classical, jazz, country and gospel music. Craftsmen, artisans and tourists collide to experience unique art and sculpture exhibits from local talent. This year’s event will offer a Film Expo and Festival5k. This project is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Shake it off at Hattiesburg Ballroom and Beyond, where you can partake in weekly dance events including zumba, salsa, West coast swing, East coast swing, foxtrot, wine barre, adult ballet, hip hop and more.
For a more low-key time downtown, visit the weekly Downtown Farmer’s Market at Town Square Park each Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m., March through October. Expect to find a seasonal variety of locally grown, farm fresh produce and a wide variety of dairy and prepared foods.
Check out hattiesburg.org for more info.
JACKSON >>> LONG LIVE WONDER!
In the heart of the capital city sits four significant museums – together creating the Lefleur Museum District. The district represents the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the Mississippi Children’s Museum, the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Spend a day or more discovering the limitless wondrous possibilities!
Relive memorable and significant moments in sports history and enjoy family moments chock-full of memories. Experience the magic of days gone by in small, Mississippi towns and walk on the wild side with alligators, dinosaurs and catfish.
At the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, you can dive right into Mississippi’s rich sports history. Learn about Mississippians winning Olympic Gold, Super Bowl MVPs, World Series games and much more.
At the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, you can discover our state’s proud agricultural legacy in Small Town, Mississippi.Visit the farmstead and say hi to mules Joe and Sally.
Little ones will thrive at the Mississippi Children’s Museum, where they can discover all Mississippi has to offer. They can dig for fossils, cast a line for catfish and find their creative side. Adventure awaits.
Mississippi’s natural landscape and its inhabitants come alive at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Check out live alligators, snakes, snapping turtles, native fish and more.
The Lefleur Museum District is participating in a regional promotional campaign in conjunction with Visit Jackson in the month of May to encourage summer visitation to the city and its fabulous museums. Check out visitjackson.com for information on hotel and restaurant discounts as part of this promotion. At lefleurmuseumdistrict.com, purchase passes to all four museums at a discount of 25%, when purchased together.
VICKSBURG >>> VICKSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK: CELEBRATE 100 YEARS
There’s no second guessing it, Vicksburg is known for its battle and its place in history is cemented in time. The military park is where many come to celebrate those who came before us, making America what it is today.
On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) will celebrate its 100th anniversary and you can take part! The nation will commemorate the work of the National Park Service with special events and ceremonies throughout the country, including in Vicksburg’s military park. Visit the military park to not only learn, but to kick off a second century of stewardship of America’s national parks and engaging communities in recreation, conservation and historic preservation programs.
To celebrate 100 years, NPS is encouraging all Americans to #FindYourPark. The Every Kid In A Park program is a national initiative to get every fourth grader in a park. When fourth graders visit www.everykidinapark.gov, they can print out vouchers to present at a National Park. The park then gives them a pass that is good for themselves and their family for free admission to every National Park in the nation for the year. In Vicksburg, the Friends of VNMP are hosting every fourth grader in Warren County for a special Life of a Solider Interactive Tour. At the end of the field trip, they will receive their pass to use nationwide.
Friends of VNMP is also sponsoring many Memorial Day Weekend activities. Symphony at Sunset on Saturday, May 28 at 7 pm. The public is invited to bring their lawn chairs and blankets and enjoy music from the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra on the front lawn of VNMP. This free concert is a moving experience to hear patriotic music on such an important holiday on hallowed grounds. The program blends music inspired by National Parks along with the patriot pieces for Memorial Day. Memorial Day weekend will also include a special Military Through the Ages Exhibit and the annual Wreath Laying Ceremony at the National Cemetery. Volunteers will work the week before to place flags on the 20,000 graves at the National Cemetery in honor of Memorial Day.
Go to visitvicksburg.com for more info.
GREENWOOD >>> HOME IS WHERE THE GOODS ARE
In Greenwood, history is celebrated and proper Southern traditions are indulged. Located at the union of three rivers, Greenwood is planted on the edge of the Mississippi Delta. It was once known as the Cotton Capital of the World, and developed quite the charm in its heyday. The charm has stood the test of time in this progressive community with a small town feel.
With amenities like a world-class boutique hotel, critically acclaimed restaurants, tree-lined boulevards, and locally owned retail stores, Greenwood is a destination that hearkens back to days gone by, while looking ahead to a bright future.
That celebration of tradition includes doing so through the finest of antiques and furniture that are sure to become new family heirlooms. Take a stroll through downtown Greenwood and get a hearty helping of those to take home a little bit of Greenwood’s glory.
At Port Eliot, designs with a story are celebrated to the fullest. Each piece of Port Eliot stands alone as a work of art with its unique story. The original and eclectic collection pays respect to a wide range of cultural movements, periods and styles. These breathtaking designs will make any home even better.
For a little more down-home feel, funky like the Delta, visit David’s Interiors, where one-of-a-kind antiques, quirky home furnishings, patio furniture and early kitchen accessories are standing at the ready.
Russell Thomas antiques brings to the quaint Delta the finest quality of furniture – the kind that lasts for centuries. Top-notch antiques will take your breath away with their fine detailing and pristine condition.
Check out greenwoodms.com for more info.
RIDGELAND>>> SHOP TILL YOU DROP
In recent years, the city of Ridgeland has become one of the state’s premiere shopping destinations. Take a jaunt down the Ridgeland Retail Trail for a spree you can’t find elsewhere.
The Ridgeland Retail Trail is a virtual collection of locally owned shops and boutiques. It’s along this trail that you can find unique items for your home, your loved ones and yourself! The Ridgeland Retail Trail is paved with one-of-a-kind finds. From Renaissance to the Township to Jackson Street, there is an array of areas with a high concentration of special shops. Collect, create, and celebrate all there is to see and do in Ridgeland.
Visit the Mississippi Craft Center, home of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi and works of art by over 350 professional artisans from all over the state of Mississippi and beyond its borders.
Hit the Township at Colony Park for the most stylish collection of women’s footwear and apparel at Arco Avenue and Hemline; finds for the home at Carter Louise, Summerhouse and Chandelier; and the perfect, hip piece for baby at Row 10.
Renaissance at Colony Park is home to many great shopping stops, including Libby Story, where you can find a unique selection of apparel and accessories. BellaChes is our go-to for the best gifts and treats for yourself. Grab a piece of Mississippi’s own McCarty Pottery at Inside Out.
These are only the tip of the iceberg. Check out visitridgeland.com for more on the Ridgeland Retail Trail.