My grandparents used to travel all over the world, but one rule they always enforced while raising their children was “get to know your own country first.” Sounds sensible enough to me, particularly in a country like the United States where every state is unique and with its own landscape and way of being. Actually, I’m constantly reminded by other travel bloggers how remarkable it is to live where we do – one of the main comments I consistently get is “You’re so lucky to live in a place where you can go around from state to state and explore all these new areas.” Of course my response (to European bloggers) always is, “You’re so lucky you have all these incredible countries to go around and explore”! Either way, it’s true, I live in an amazing country with so many different kinds of places and people. There’s the East Coast, the West Coast, the Mid-West, the South West, the North West, and of course, the South.
I’ve always been intrigued by the South, whether it be those southern accents I find so charming, or the music, the cuisine, the terrain full of magnolias and quirky gardens, or simply the slower pace they enjoy down there. Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA have my hearts completely – don’t be surprised if I’m some day writing permanently from Charleston! So when my in-laws decided to retire down in Tupelo, Mississippi and asked us to come visit (my girls and I – my husband just switched jobs and couldn’t go), I naturally said why not. It was another part of the country for my girls to discover, and a part pretty different from our home state of New York. It may not be Charleston or Savannah, but it’s new to us, and new is always good exposure (most of the time!). Tupelo is a city in Northwestern Mississippi and located between Memphis, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama. It has a small town feel and classic southern lay out with its main street and church squares. If you ever find yourself there with your family, below is a list of things to see and do.
Yes, Tupelo is the birth place of the King of Rock! You can see the tiny two-room house where he was born (with guided tour), as well as his childhood church. Situated on the 15-acre Elvis Presley Park, there is also a museum with lots of Elvis memorabilia, videos, photos and more. I found the whole thing fascinating. You learn about Elvis’ humble upbringing – his family was extremely poor – his childhood, and his rise to fame. I thought my girls would be bored, but actually they held up quite well and asked a lot of questions. They were into it too.
306 Elvis Presley Drive, Tupelo. 662.841.1245. Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Admission: Grand Tour: Adults, $17, Kids Ages 7-12, $8, Kids Under 7, Free. House Only Tour: Adults, $8, Kids 7-12, $5.
I don’t know what it was about this place, but my girls were obsessed. And we were there off-season. Set on a 200-acre park, the highlight for them was driving along the road that takes you through the buffalo, as well as other animals such as zebras and camels. What once started as a cattle ranch quickly grew into a large herd of buffalo (300+), and later a zoo was added which includes exotic animals, a reptile exhibit, a petting zoo and playgrounds. They sell food which you can feed the farm animals, and my girls did this forever; we had the place to ourselves so they could do everything at their leisure. All kids love animals, so the buffalo park was a huge hit.
2272 North Coley Road, Tupelo. 662.844.8709. Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Admission: $11, Kids Under 2 Free.
This was more for me than the girls, as I wanted to see this historical part of the South, and our country. The Natchez Trace Parkway used to be a footpath for Native Americans 8,000 years ago and was one of the first “roads” in the U.S. The 444-mile scenic byway runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee and is enjoyed by motorists, cyclists and hikers. I’ve been told it’s beautiful year round, and especially in the fall with its fall foliage. There are many historical spots to stop, as well as scenic places to picnic (which, actually, had the weather been a bit warmer, would have been perfect for the girls). The Parkway’s headquarters are in Tupelo.
2680 Natchez Trace Parkway, Tupelo. 1.800.305.7417
Tupelo’s main park, it has a large duck pond, playgrounds and playing fields. Buying day old bread and going to feed the ducks is a past time here. Don’t go too late, as the ducks will be full! Lots of people were out there feeding them too. Though we did like to go on the late side to catch the beautiful sunset behind the park.
2629 Main Street, Tupelo
Food in the South is not for the faint of heart. Comfort food abounds, so if you’re dieting, stay away! Our favorite restaurant was Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, a farm to table joint with a hipster, yet sophisticated vibe. My swordfish was flavored perfectly, and the accompaniment of side vegetables was amazing. Farm to table was exactly what we got. Another popular restaurant (which we did not go to, full disclosure), is The Neon Pig, which was voted “best burger” in the nation by Thrillest.com.
A big shout-out to the girls’ Meme and Grandpa who planned all of these outings for us, which made for a well-organized and non-stop vaca!