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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to Best Things to Do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS. The best way to get outside of Jackson, Mississippi and really see the state is to fling yourself behind the wheel of a car and let the lonesome road take you where it wishes. Unfortunately for me, I don’t know how to “drive” and so cannot let the road take me further than my feet will allow before I collapse.

Fortunately, I have cousins in Vicksburg, Mississippi who do know how to “drive”. They chauffeured me around so that I can present you with a perfect 24 hours in Vicksburg and Natchez. Let’s find the best things to do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS.

24 Hours: Things to Do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS

Where to Stay?

I recommend doing this 24 hours with the best things to do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg as a day trip from Jackson. Jackson, Mississippi’s downtown has many excellent museums and historic buildings. However, it doesn’t have the greatest streets in the world for walking, and it’s not an incredibly safe city for walking around at night. (During the day time, I felt perfectly safe.) 

That’s why I recommend staying in the super convenient Hilton Garden Inn Jackson Downtown. It has an excellent location, and it’s in a beautiful old building. Plus the staff is incredibly friendly. You won’t regret spending your 24 hours with the best things to do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg here!

Click here for a great deal on this hotel! And if you want great deals on other hotels in Jackson, click here.

24 Hours: Things to Do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS

What to Pack?

You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.

Mississippi can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.

Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!

24 Hours: Things to Do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS

24 Hours: Things to Do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS

Morning: Vicksburg

There is only one city like Vicksburg in the entire United States, and that is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Both Vicksburg and Gettysburg are primarily known for being the sites of deadly and grueling Civil War conflicts.

But while countless Made for TV movies have been spilt over Gettysburg, the siege of Vicksburg is not as well known to most Americans. Fortunately for us, Vicksburg National Military Park is part of the National Parks Service, so anyone can go visit it any time of the day or night!

OK, that last part’s a lie. Visiting hours are from 8-5. But other than that, nothing is stopping us from finding more than…

three not-at-all fun facts about Vicksburg

Illinois Monument Vicksburg
1) Key to Victory

Abraham Lincoln believed that the Union could never win the war without capturing Vicksburg. Because of its strategic location on the Mississippi River, Vicksburg helped the Confederacy send supplies all over the South. Once Vicksburg was lost, the South was essentially crippled and the war was over in all but name. But, as you can see when you visit Vicksburg, the area’s many hills made attacking the area almost impossible.

General Ulysses S Grant realized that he would have to resort to besieging the garrison of Vicksburg. This tactic was most effective, as the soldiers guarding the garrison could not defend against hunger and sickness without supplies. The siege of Vicksburg lasted from May 26 until July 3. The surrender took place on Independence Day, July 4th. My cousin told me that for that reason, many people in Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July until long after the Civil War ended.

Shirley House Vicksburg
2) Don’t call me shirley house

The Shirley House is the only original structure on the Vicksburg Battlefield. It belonged to a couple named James and Adeline Shirley, who were Union sympathizers. (Although that did not prevent them from being slaveholders.) The Shirleys’ son fought on the side of the Union Army at Vicksburg. When the fighting was over, this house was used as a Union hospital for people suffering from smallpox.

Even hearing the word smallpox makes me jumpy, but I can’t imagine that smallpox would still be contagious after 150 years. It’s hard to look at this adorable white house and realize that it saw so much human misery. It looks like a porch where a little old lady would sit, sipping her sweet tea and waiting to be interviewed by a Lawyer with a Conscience in a John Grisham movie.

USS Cairo Vicksburg
3) USS Cairo

The USS Cairo is probably the most exciting artifact located in the Vicksburg Military Park. She is an authentic Union ironclad gunboat that was raised from the floor of the Yazoo River in the 1960s. Even though it has the same name as the capital of Egypt, I’m pretty sure this ship is pronounced KAY-roh and not KIGH-roh.

The Cairo also has the bizarre distinction of being the first ship to be sunk by an electrically detonated torpedo. I’m sure that the historical significance was of small comfort to the men on board while it was sinking!

Tomato place vicksburg
24 Hour Treasure: Tomato Place

This itinerary doesn’t leave a lot of room for seeing Vicksburg the city. It’s a small city of about 20,000 people, but there’s enough to do for a whole 24 hours in Vicksburg alone. However, we’re going to simply stop for lunch at The Tomato Place. This has got to be the cutest produce market in the entire state of Mississippi. The tomato theme is so strong here that they even sell tomato earrings!

tomato place blt

Their tomatoes are so fresh that I can honestly say this is the only BLT I’ve ever had where eating the tomatoes was just as exciting as eating the bacon. (That’s a compliment to the tomatoes, not an insult to the bacon.) Also this BLT is served on cheese bread, which is a genius idea whose time has most definitely come.

Tomato place smoothies

As amazing as the BLT is, you can’t sleep on the fruit smoothies either. You choose your smoothie by picking a container of frozen fresh fruit from the freezer. Then they blend the smoothie with the fruit you chose before your very eyes! It’s literally not possible for a smoothie to be fresher than that. I bet that imaginary little old lady waiting on the porch for her Lawyer With a Conscience would rather have this smoothie than sweet tea any day.

Now that we’re refreshed, it’s time to head in the car. We’re only about one and a half hours away from Natchez, our next stop.

Natchez Mississippi Angel

24 Hours: Things to Do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS

Afternoon: Natchez

It’s somewhat fitting to visit Vicksburg and Natchez on the same day. If Vicksburg was the Mississippi city that was most devastated by the Civil War, Natchez was the city the Civil War most left alone. Natchez was a wealthy city before the Civil War, and most of its residents were not interested in participating in an expensive conflict and losing all their money.

That’s why, whenever General Grant rode his army through Natchez, the citizens would wave the white flag out their windows. (I think they’d use their fancy lace handkerchiefs.) Then they’d show Grant and his men a fine old time. Grant, in return, instructed his men to leave Natchez alone. This makes Natchez Mississippi’s answer to Savannah, Georgia, which Sherman instructed his men to not burn. Now Natchez has an incredible collection of antebellum homes.

The best time of year to find the best Things to Do in Natchez MS is in the spring during an event called Natchez Pilgrimage. More homes will be open, and for longer hours. But some homes are open year-round, so you are welcome to visit any time of year for…

three facts about natchez

Melrose Natchez Mississippi
1) Melrose Estate

The Melrose Estate is the only home in Natchez that I visited which is actually run by the National Parks Service. That means, unlike some of the more privately owned homes, you can actually take pictures inside. You still have to pay a fee to take the home tour, though.

Melrose living room natchez

The Melrose Estate belonged to a lawyer from the north who married a Southern belle. The first floor was where the family did their entertaining, so it was also where they would have showed off their wealth. The gold for the decorations was imported from New York City and Philadelphia.

Punkah

The most horrifying feature of the house was this giant ceiling fan from India called a punkah. This fan would have been continuously operated during dinner by an enslaved twelve-year-old boy. There’s a reason that I don’t say I have three fun facts about Natchez.

Stanton Hall
2) Stanton Hall

Unlike Melrose, Stanton Hall is privately owned by the Pilgrimage Garden Club. This is just a fancy way of saying that they won’t let you take pictures inside the home. However, you can take as many pictures as you want of the outside and no garden club on earth can stop you, no matter how many pistols they pack!

Melrose was owned by a Yankee, but Stanton Hall was owned by something ever worse: an Irishman. He was a cotton merchant named Frederick Stanton. He kind of sounds like he could have been the inspiration for Scarlett O’Hara’s father in Gone With the Wind. I think I’ll try to start that rumor. Pointless rumors that can neither be confirmed or denied are my favorite kind.

The most striking feature in the house are these giant gasoliers imported from Philadelphia. A gasolier is just a chandelier lit by gas instead of candles. It never occurred to me until just now that the word “candle” could be associated with “chandelier”. Thanks, Natchez!

Longwood Natchez Mississippi
3) Longwood

Longwood is the never-finished abode of one miraculously named Haller Nutt and his wife Julia. Haller Nutt sounds like a character in an amateurish Faulkner parody, but I assure you that he was very, very real.

Unlike our previous two mansion owners, Haller Nutt was a native of Mississippi. (Like his name didn’t give that away instantly.) Longwood was the Oriental -style, octagonal mansion of his dreams. It remains the largest octagonal home in the United States. It was also apparently featured as the home of the Vampire King on True Blood. I’d say more, but I don’t watch that show.

Longwood natchez interior

It also remains unfinished. The Nutts had to cease construction on their house because of the Civil War, and Haller Nutt died during the war of pneumonia. Now that Longwood is a historic landmark, the Pilgrimage Garden Club is not allowed to make changes to the building. So Longwood will stay unfinished until the end of time. But the unfinished second floor is just one reason the house tours of Longwood remain so popular.

Even though Nutt sided with the Union during the Civil War, he still owned hundreds of enslaved people. (He had made his lavish fortune through cotton.) A portrait of Frederick, an enslaved man who served as Nutt’s manservant, hangs inside Longwood today. (It’s not permitted to take a photo of Frederick’s portrait.)

Monmouth

24 Hours: Things to Do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS

Evening: Dinner at Restaurant 1818

What’s better than touring the historic homes of Natchez, Mississippi? Getting to dine in one of the historic homes of Natchez! Not only is Restaurant 1818 arguably the best restaurant in Natchez, it’s also located in the historic landmark, the Monmouth Inn and Gardens. So after dessert, you can walk off the meal in the beautiful gardens, whether or not you are spending the night here. It’s definitely one of the best Things to Do in Natchez MS.

Monmouth natchez shrimp and grits
24 Hour Treat: Shrimp and Grits

The theme at Restaurant 1818 is very much “Upscale Southern Classics”. My favorite dish on the menu were the shrimp and grits. The grits were so creamy, and the andouille sausage added a luscious spiciness. Also, look at those gorgeous colors! I almost didn’t want to eat such a perfect dish, but then I absolutely did eat it all. Got to admit, I have no self-control when it comes to shellfish.

Monmouth pork collard greens

I chose the pork for a main dish because it came with a side of collard greens. I can only get collard greens done well when I go back down South to visit my family. Of course I can get collard greens in New York City, but they are not the same. I believe the problem is not enough lard.

24 Hours: Things to Do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS

For dessert, I enjoyed the soft bread pudding served with lashings of warm caramel. I always think of bread pudding as being a real New Orleans dessert, but in fact Natchez is less than an hour’s drive away from Louisiana. So it makes sense that there’d be some overlap in the food.

monmouth inn and gardens

After dinner is over, you need to head out into the garden and contemplate the mystery of human existence. This is an old Southern city, so you very likely might meet a ghost too. Then it’s either time to head into the Monmouth Inn for the night (if you are lucky) or back to wherever else you are staying, if you are not.

24 Hours: Things to Do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS

What do you think are the best things to do in Natchez MS and Vicksburg MS? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Jackson? Do you think Mr. Shirley is offended that I made fun of his name? And if I join the Pilgrimage Garden Club, will they let me take pictures of the inside of Stanton Hall? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the Best Things to Do in Natchez MS. If you have another 24 hours in Mississippi, try this itinerary for the capital, Jackson!

Stella Jane
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