Shhhhh. Come closer. I’m going to tell you a secret; 10 of them, actually. Mississippi is filled with many well-known sights and attractions, such as the Natchez Trace Parkway and the Vicksburg National Military Park. And while these places are great, there are so many lesser-known places that are definitely worthy of a visit. From a local artist’s favorite secluded island to an old country store with the best steaks around, here are 10 of Mississippi’s best kept secrets.
1. Horn Island, near Biloxi
When it comes to the state’s barrier islands, Ship Island may be the most well-known but that doesn’t mean this tropical gem should be discounted. Horn Island was a favorite destination and somewhat of a muse to local artist Walter Anderson. The talented painter visited the island countless times, and created numerous works based on its beautiful sights. As of today, there is still no bridge or ferry running to the island, which means crowds aren’t the norm and peace and quiet is. Whether looking to spend the day on the water or hoping to find a secluded camping spot, Horn Island can deliver.
2. The Petrified Forest, Flora
The fact that Flora’s Petrified Forest is the only one of its kind in this area of the country definitely makes it deserving of a spot on this list. Estimated to be about a thousand years old, these petrified trees formed as a result of severe floods, which tore down everything in their paths – including large trees. Over the years, subsequent floods deposited sand and silt over these sunken giants and, in turn, the petrification process began. Today, we are left with amazing fossils that exhibit perfectly preserved details.
3. Red Bluff, near Morgantown
Known as “Mississippi’s Little Grand Canyon,” this geologic formation has been created by the natural erosion of the nearby Pearl River. Standing at approximately 400 feet above sea level, Red Bluff consists of exposed red clay, soil, sand, and other sediments. The amazing sight is forever changing as it continues to naturally erode.
4. Landrum’s Homestead and Village, Laurel
A replica of a standard 1800’s settlement, Landrum’s Homestead and Village can offer visitors an experience like no other. History comes to life at this Laurel attraction thanks to over 60 buildings and displays. The historically accurate village includes a general store, smokehouse, shooting gallery, trading post, Indian village, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, a chapel, and more.
5. Dockery Farms, near Cleveland
The entire state of Mississippi may be referred to as the birthplace of the blues, but real music enthusiasts know that it all began on this very farm. Established in 1895, Dockery Farms was a major producer of cotton…and apparently future legends. Several of the men who worked on the farm, including blues pioneer Charley Patton, would play music in their downtime, creating what came to be known as the blues. Now a stop along the Blues Trail, Dockery Farms is open for touring year round. Be sure to start your tour at the back of the property. There you’ll find a pedestal with an audio button, push it and hear the music that started it all while touring the property.
6. Gibbes Old Country Store, Learned
An old country store may not be the first place you’d think of when looking for a great steak, but that’s just because you haven’t been to this Learned treasure. Gibbes first opened its doors in 1892, serving as the local general store. Eventually, long family-style tables were added, creating a makeshift restaurant. Before long, Gibbes gained a reputation for its amazing food, including out-of-this-world steaks. After finishing off your steak, be sure browse around the quaint general store, which is stocked with everyday items as well as some that are sure to give you a feeling of nostalgia.
7. The William Johnson House, Natchez
Other than the notorious antebellum mansions that fill the city, Natchez is the site of this lesser-known, but historically significant, home. William Johnson started out his life as a slave, but was eventually freed and went on to become a prominent business man. Taking on several slaves of his own, Johnson began keeping diaries in which he would write about his slaves and the trials and tribulations he faced as a slave owner. At the time of his death, Johnson had been documenting his life for 16 years. Using the plethora of information left behind in the diaries, the National Parks Service turned his home into this museum, meant to honor his life, journey, and accomplishments.
8. D’Lo Waterpark, D’Lo
D’Lo may be a small town but it delivers in a big way with this amazing water park. Located on the scenic Strong River, D’Lo is the perfect place for canoeing, fishing, swimming, or simply relaxing. Want to turn your day of fun into an overnight stay? D’Lo offers primitive camping spots, RV/camper hook-ups, and rental cabins.
9. Sardis Lake (Lafayette, Panola, and Marshall Counties)
Formed by impounding the Little Tallahatchie River, Sardis Lake was originally intended to function solely as a flood control facility; however, that notion didn’t last very long. Immediately following the dam’s construction, visitation to the 98,000-acre lake skyrocketed, which definitely hasn’t changed as the lake now attracts millions every year. And between the pristine beaches, on-site boat and ski rentals, hundreds of campsites, and access to some of the state’s best fishing, it’s easy to see why.
10. The Winterville Site, near Greenville
This prehistoric Native American ceremonial site is believed to have been constructed by a tribe that thrived in the area from about 1000 A.D. to 1450 A.D. Originally consisting of 23 mounds, the site has diminished in size over the years due to several mounds being leveled by construction and farming. Today, the 42-acre site includes 12 mounds, two large plazas, and a museum – all of which can be toured free of charge.
Keep this list going! Add your favorite lesser-known Mississippi attraction to the comments section below. And if you’ve been to any of the places listed above, share that in the comments section too.