Natchez is the oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River, celebrating its tricentennial in 2016 with events all year. Lonely Planet named it #2 on its list of 10 best destinations in America, describing the 444-mile Natchez Trace as “the state’s cycling and recreational jewel.” The charming town is also famous for its breathtaking historic homes, several of which have been converted into bed & breakfast accommodations or are open for tours. Natchez has been named one of “100 Must-See Destinations” by Life Magazine and is included in the New York Times bestselling book, “1000 Places to See Before You Die.”
King’s Tavern specializes in wood-fired flatbreads (try the bestselling brisket flatbread!) and craft cocktails. Operated by well-known chef Regina Charboneau and her husband, Doug, King’s Tavern is housed in the oldest building in the Mississippi Territory and is said to be haunted. Next door at Charboneau Distillery , the first official rum distillery in the state, take a tour and pick up some craft spirits.
If the words “Knock-You-Naked margaritas” intrigue you, stop by Fat Mama’s Tamales. This Natchez institution serves tamales and other Mexican fare, along with housemade fire and ice pickles (cold and crunchy, with a kick). When the weather is nice, enjoy your tamales and margaritas on the shaded deck.
The ambience of Cotton Alley Cafe, which serves lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, is cozy and relaxed. Try the daily specials, the Cotton Alley Pasta (chicken, artichokes, capers, and lemon cream sauce) and the strawberry cake. If you’re a vegetarian or are watching what you eat, let the staff know and they’ll accommodate you.
Historic inns abound in Natchez, and two of the best known are four-star Dunleith Historic Inn and Monmouth Historic Inn, both listed as National Historic Landmarks. Dunleith, an 1856 Greek Revival mansion with stately white columns, sits on 40 landscaped acres. Its Castle Restaurant & Pub is located in the original carriage house and stables. Monmouth is surrounded by 26 acres of manicured gardens, with rooms in antebellum decor. At its upscale Restaurant 1818, named for the year Monmouth was built, you will dine in the original men’s and ladies’ parlors under authentic period crystal gasoliers.
Those who enjoy a lively atmosphere can take in music, trivia night, or karaoke at Bowie’s Tavern and head upstairs to a room with a jacuzzi tub and views of the Mississippi River.
The Mark Twain Guest House is located above Under-The-Hill Saloon (see below), with three rooms available for music lovers and night owls. Weeknights are quiet, save for the occasional steamboat on the River, but on weekends the live music may last until 2 a.m.
Biscuits & Blues features live entertainment in an intimate setting by solo artists or small musical groups, typically playing blues or acoustic guitar. Performances take place during dinner hours, when the restaurant serves up Southern fare, but often run later. Call (601) 446-9922 for an upcoming schedule of events.
Smoot’s Grocery is the brainchild of Dub Rogers, owner of Steampunk Coffee Roasters. Originally a family grocery founded in 1939, it turned into a juke joint on weekends. Smoot’s closed in the 70’s and fell into disrepair, but Rogers restored and reopened it in 2015 as a juke joint. All building materials are reclaimed, and the stage for live music is front and center.
Built around the turn of the 19th century, Under-the-Hill Saloon is the place to make friends with local characters, peruse the memorabilia on the walls, and listen to live music. Sit in one of the rocking chairs on the front porch for a beautiful view of the Mississippi River.
Photo: Longwood National Historic Landmark in Natchez.
This post was written by the staff of Visit Mississippi and highlights some of our favorite destinations. To learn about other top Natchez visitor attractions and to plan your trip, see www.visitnatchez.org. For more Natchez itineraries, see our history road trip and the Americana Music Triangle driving trail from New Orleans to Natchez.