Eating fried chicken in an antebellum home after a history tour with Jefferson Davis’s great-great grandson is about as steeped in southern culture as you can get.
Eating a tomato sandwich on white bread followed by a tour of Vicksburg National Military Art is a close second. The park, called the largest outdoor art gallery in the world, pays tribute to those who fought in the Siege of Vicksburg.
I spent a weekend in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and was charmed by its walkable downtown with cute shops and art galleries, varied dining scene and historic bed and breakfast where we stayed.
Here are my favorite things to do in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Our Favorite Things to Do in Vicksburg, Mississippi
Dine in Fabulous Restaurants in Vicksburg
One of my favorite things to do in Vicksburg, well everywhere, is explore the local dining scene.
If you love good ol’ southern cooking like I do – calories be damned – head to Walnut Hills Restaurant. While I’m notoriously indecisive when it comes to ordering at a restaurant, here there was a clear choice. It had to be fried chicken. Other options include seafood, steaks and pasta.
If you still have room after your meal, check out the glorious-looking desserts, which include southern favorites like caramel cake and pecan praline pie.
The restaurant, opened in 1980, is housed in an antebellum home built in 1880. That translates to a lot of skillets of fried chicken.
For another side dish of history with your meal head to Anchuca Historic Mansion and Inn, a lovely bed and breakfast with beautiful garden, swimming pool and restaurant. We enjoyed Sunday brunch here, with menu items that include quiche, pork ribeye, lasagna and seafood chowder. If you don’t dine there you can still tour the home, which was built around 1830.
The setting of the Beechwood Restaurant and Lounge may be a bit less elegant than Anchuca, but this is the place to get your steak, potato and other dishes made with recipes handed down through this family-owned restaurant since it opened in 1956.
Bigger than an urban Walmart, Beechwood was packed when we visited. It’s the kind of place where the shrimp is fried, the potatoes are loaded and the salads come in wedges.
The menu is in the name when you visit The Tomato Place, a former tomato stand turned restaurant right off the side of Highway 61. You can get a Po Boy, salad, hamburger or other type of sandwich, but a signature tomato sandwich is the way to go.
Grab your grub and take a seat in one of the small rooms, some that are open air with corrugated steel walls.
For great rooftop views of the Mississippi River in the warmer months, head to 10 South Rooftop & Grill. We were there in December so the rooftop was enclosed but we could peek through and see night-time views of the river. It’s the only rooftop bar in Mississippi that overlooks the river.
We could tell by the crowds there on a cold December night that this is one of the most popular things to do in Vicksburg, for locals and visitors alike.
After drinks at 10 South, we headed to Relish for dinner where I had delicious shrimp scampi. It’s owned by two brothers. James Penley has a background in the liquor industry while Jason studied at Le Cordon Blue in Atlanta and previously worked at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and Blackberry Farms in Tennessee.
Things to Do in Vicksburg: Shop and Explore Downtown
The downtown area is just a few blocks long but packed with cute shops and restaurants. I started the afternoon in the 50-year-old Attic Gallery, where every inch of space is covered with colorful jewelry, art, pottery and whimsical gift items.
I wandered into H.C. Porter Gallery and met H.C., painter, printmaker, photographer and owner of the gallery. I also found a perfect gift for my husband, her book Blues@Home: Mississippi’s Living Blues Legends.
H.C. traveled around the state, painted their portraits and conducted interviews with 31 of Mississippi’s living blues legends. This beautiful book is fascinating and perfect for my blues-loving husband.
Other fun shops include Cinnamon Tree, Sassafras, Strut Boutique and Dragonfly. Add touring these cute shops on your list of things to do in Vicksburg.
Being a native of Atlanta, the home of Coca-Cola, I was surprised to see the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum in Vicksburg. Turns out, Coke was first bottled here in 1894. The museum is small but worth a visit to see the Coke memorabilia and the grab a Coke float at the restored candy store that includes furnishings from the 1890s.
Be sure to take a peek down by the river where you may see one of the many riverboats that stop in Vicksburg. Drive down by the river to see the row of Vicksburg Riverfront Murals, depicting periods of Vicksburg’s history.
Learn about the History of Vicksburg and the Civil War
Refreshing your memory about the importance of the Vicksburg in the outcome of the Civil War is one of the most educational things to do in Vicksburg. The Siege of Vicksburg begin in May 1863 and lasted 47 days. It ended with a Union victory that split the South in two as the Union took control of the Mississippi River.
The Vicksburg National Military Park is a big draw for visitors to Vicksburg. The park was established in 1899 to commemorate the sacrifices of those who died in the war. Artisans from all over came to build the monuments, including Italian stonecutters who worked on the monument for the state of Illinois. There are more than 1,300 monuments, tablets and markers, which is why it’s referred to as the largest outdoor art gallery in the world.
“This place is about peace and reconciliation,” our guide Rick Martin told us. One way to tour the park is with a licensed guide who will lead you on a two-hour tour as we did.
You can also do a free self-driving tour with information available from a brochure in the visitor’s center.
Or you can download the Vicksburg Battle app, which will give you key facts about the battle, audio accounts from soldiers, and guide you to historic spots.
Another place you’ll find an attempt for peace and reconciliation after the Civil War is Church of the Holy Trinity, which was completed in 1880 and has six Tiffany windows. While visiting churches may not be on the top of your list of things to do in Vicksburg, I urge you to make a stop at this one.
One of the other stained-glass windows has flags of both the Confederacy and the Union.
Our guide said, “It was the first visual artwork asking for the country to come together. Our church took that as our calling.”
Our second history tour was with Vicksburg Old Town Tours. We met with owners Bertram Hayes-Davis and his wife, Carol, founders of the company, at their 1870 home in downtown Vicksburg.
Bertram is the great-great grandson of Confderate President Jefferson Davis and says he feels “a responsibility to remove the stigma about him.” A southern planter and slave owner, he was the only president of the Confederacy.
Bertram pointed out Jefferson’s rocking chair, his wife’s jewelry and other items he had on display in the home.
Other stops on the tour included Christ Episcopal Church, built in 1842, which held daily services during the 47 days of the Siege of Vicksburg despite the damage it suffered from gunboats fired by the Union Army from the Mississippi River. There are two Tiffany windows in the church, installed a few decades later.
Another fascinating stop is the Duff Green Mansion & Inn, which was completed in 1856. It was the first home in Vicksburg to have an indoor kitchen, which was turned into an operating room during the Civil War.
The spacious home served as a hospital during the Civil War for union and confederate soldiers. Mr. Green put the union soldiers on the top floor, ensuring the home wouldn’t be fired upon, and is credited with saving the neighborhood.
Both Jefferson Davis and Ulysses S. Grant were known to have visited the home, which now operates as an inn with nine rooms.
For more on Vicksburg, visit Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
– Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief