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Free (and Low Cost) Sightseeing in Historic Natchez, Mississippi
Posted On 06/03/2019 16:50:52
Trip Date 04/11/2019
Destinations | Camping | Mississippi | Natchez | Historic Natchez | DIY Touring in Historic Natchez | Exploring Downtown Natchez | Historic Natchez on a Budget | Learning American History in Natchez
Although touring the beautiful antebellum homes is awesome, there's so much more to Historic
Natchez. During 2 1/2 days of RV camping in this Mississippi city full of southern charm,
we spent time exploring the downtown area and more. We packed our days full of sightseeing and I
surprisingly even enjoyed learning American history in Natchez!
I left the city with a better understanding of why the city of Natchez is a must see for anyone who has
an interest in American history. But, even for those with limited interest in history, touring a
combination of antebellum homes as well as seeing more of what gave Natchez its identity makes for
very enjoyable days.
If you'd like to get an introduction to Historic Natchez on a budget, this post will help you make a plan.
For those interested in DIY touring in Natchez, read on for ideas on what to see both in downtown
Natchez as well as further away from the city center. If you plan it right, you can balance the cost of
touring antebellum homes with seeing some of the city's free sites and avoid breaking the bank!
Natchez Visitor Reception Center
The Natchez Visitor Reception Center located at 640 South Canal Street is a great place to start any visit to
Natchez. We found the staff to be very helpful in answering questions and making recommendations
based on both our time limitations and interests.
In addition to standard welcome center offerings including free brochures and maps, you'll find some
displays presenting a historical overview of the area. A 20 minute movie, The Natchez Story,
is also available for viewing. While the $2.00 fee charged for viewing the movie is minor, it was the
first time that I can remember being charged a fee for a similar showing.
If your visit coincides with the twice yearly Natchez Pilgrimage, the city will likely be more
crowded than during the remaining months of the year. If you plan to tour any of the antebellum
homes for which the city is famous, consider purchasing tickets while at the Visitor Reception
Center in order to save time at each of the homes. Our post titled Relive Days Gone By during the
Natchez Spring or Fall Pilgrimage is filled with all that you need for touring these historic homes.
Getting Around Natchez, Mississippi
The city of Natchez is easy to get around and many important sites can even easily by reached on
foot. City Sightseeing offers a hop-on hop-off open top bus tour which starts right at the Natchez Visitor
Reception Center. Many of the stops, however, are actually within walking distance of each other. If
you don't have a car, it's a reasonable option - plus you'll get some narration along the way.
If you're looking to get an introduction to some of the downtown sights, you might want to consider a
ride in a horse-drawn carriage. While they don't really provide transportation from one place
to another, they're fun and you'll enjoy the personal attention. The departure point for carriage rides
is near the intersection of Canal and State Streets.
Southern Carriage Tours
Experience Downtown Natchez on Foot
Many of the sites in Natchez can actually be quite easily seen by finding a space to park your car and
just stepping out on foot. The six square blocks bordered by High Street on the north,
Orleans Street on the south, Broadway Street to the west and Union Street to
the east can easily be enjoyed on foot. It's actually a lot easier than getting in and out of your car
multiple times and spending more of your precious time than necessary hunting for parking.
1. Take in the Architecture
Spend some of your time walking along the downtown streets to take in the variety of architecture.
You'll find structures ranging from commercial buildings to residential mansions. You'll also find a
variety of architectural styles including brick, Greek Revival, Victorian, Federal and Gothic Revival as
well as blended styles.
The Biglane Building
Natchez City Hall
First Presbyterian Church of Natchez
2. St. Mary Basilica
Currently designated as a minor basilica, construction of the antebellum St. Mary Basilica began in 1842. Originally a Gothic
Revival style cathedral, St. Mary (105 South Union Street) became a church upon the move of
the diocese from Natchez to Jackson in 1977. In 1998 St. Mary was recognized as a minor basilica, a
status shared with only 70 other US dioceses.
St. Mary Basilica
With beautiful statues all around the building and a colorful ceiling above, don't miss the beautiful
international design of the basilica's interior. The majority of the stained glass windows were designed
in Austria and the Carrara marble altars and more in Italy.
Interior of St. Mary Basilica
3. Natchez in Historic Photographs
A visit to the Stratton Chapel Gallery housed behind the First Presbyterian Church is
definitely one that you won't regret. With photographs printed from the original negatives of three
photographers, the exhibit on display is titled Natchez in Historic Photographs. In the more
than 500 photos, you'll see what life was like in Natchez for the century beginning in about 1850.
Photos include both the young and old engaged in everyday life activities and will definitely draw you
in and keep you entertained. Although touring the exhibit located at 405 State Street was
suggested by the Visitor Reception Center, we didn't make a concerted effort to get there. Our walk
about the downtown area brought us there, so we decided to spend a few minutes checking it out.
Needless to say, we spent more time than we planned and enjoyed every minute of it!
4. William Johnson House Museum & Visitor Center
The William Johnson House is located in downtown Natchez at 210 State Street. The first floor of the building
where the museum, bookstore and visitor center stand today was originally rented to merchants. The
restored and furnished second floor where William Johnson and his family lived is open for self-guided
Living Area in William Johnson House
Bedroom in William Johnson House
William Johnson's short life story was an interesting one, and the museum does a great job of telling
the story in his own words. Johnson, a black man, started his life in 1809. He grew up as a slave until
the age of 11 when he was freed. Upon his death in 1851 at the age of 42 he was actually a slave
After learning from his brother-in-law, he bought his barber shop for $300 and eventually became one
of the most successful free men of color in the city. Shortly after his purchase and for the next 16
year until his death, William Johnson kept a diary where he described his life in vivid detail. Entries
included topics such as the building of his home, business dealings, politics, what he did for
entertainment and even what his life was like as a slave owner.
5. Get some Exercise on the Historic Natchez Trails
If you are up for some more walking, head to the Gazebo on the Bluff sometimes also referred
to as the Natchez Trails Pavilion. Located on the promenade between the streets of downtown
and the bluff along the Mississippi River, the gazebo is the perfect start to either the Nature
Trail or the Bluff Trail.
Natchez Trails Pavilion
Both trails have awesome views - you just have to decide if your preference is to walk on the upper or
lower level. From the upper level, you'll enjoy some of the best views of the Mississippi River
that is often navigated by river boats.
Eyeing the Mississippi River from the Natchez Bluff Trail
Getting to the Nature Trail requires you to descend the wooden steps all the way down to the river
Hiking the Natchez Nature Trail
Both trails are shared by hikers and bikers (and, of course, some joggers and those with strollers as
well). As you follow either of the trails, you'll find benches for when you want to take a break as well
as some display panels to help you better learn about the area.
Take a Driving Tour to See More of Natchez
While many sites can be seen by walking about, there are some sites that are not as easily reached on
foot. Depending on where you've parked and how much you want to walk, you can reach the first few
sites below by car or on foot. They are each just a short distance away from the six block area. Be
warned that some do require climbing hills!
1. Fort Rosalie
At first glance, you might not think there is much to Fort Rosalie located at 528 South
Canal Street. Open daily, the site today is home to a large expanse of green space dotted with
some picnic tables. What you can't see is that the place where you are standing or enjoying a meal or
snack was first occupied over 300 years ago. The French who settled at Fort Rosalie in 1716 made
Natchez the oldest permanent settlement on the lower Mississippi River.
2. Natchez Under-the-Hill
Once the port at Natchez Under-the-Hill became one of the busiest in the south, nearby
Silver Street became popular for activities not necessarily on the up and up. Today's restored
buildings home to souvenir shops, restaurants and other retail were once filled with bars, betting and
brothels. The water traffic carrying trade goods was eventually replaced with quicker railroad transit.
This change caused a dramatic shift in the numbers and types of people who arrived Under-the-Hill
and made their way to Silver Street.
Today's version of Natchez Under-the-Hill is quite different from that of years gone by. What hasn't
changed is the popularity of Under-the-Hill. Once filled with carousers and criminals is now trendy
with tourists. From travelers cruising the Mississippi by steamboat to those on cross-country road
trips, visitors keep checking out what's Under-the-Hill!
3. Rhythm Night Club Memorial Museum
Open since 2010, the Rhythm Night Club Memorial Museum honors both victims and survivors of the 1940 tragedy. That year on April 23, the popular
Rhythm Night Club caught fire. Over 200 people died and more were severely burned
including most members of the featured band.
Betty and Monroe Sago, current owners of the property where the night club stood, put their
time and energy into the museum dedicated to those impacted by the fire. We missed out on seeing
the museum which reportedly includes photos, articles, verbal & written accounts and even music
performed the night of the catastrophe. The requested $10.00 donation for adults ($7.00 for those
under 15) covers operating costs, scholarships and donations to the Natchez Children's home.
Rhythm Night Club Memorial Museum
4. Forks of the Road
African slaves were forcefully moved to Natchez for their cotton farming skills. The city eventually
became the second largest marketplace for buying and selling slaves. The intersection of Liberty
Road and St. Catherine Street was also known as the Forks of the Road. It was
here that, from the 1830s to 1863, buyers could examine the available slaves and select the men and
women best suited for their needs.
All that stands at the site today are a series of boards describing the slave trade. Reading some of the
chilling accounts gives visitors a better understanding of what went on during this time period in
America's past. Don't miss the "slave chains" memorial during your visit.
Forks of the Road Historical Site
5. Old South Winery
The Old South Winery also came highly recommended
by the Visitor Reception Center. We decided to stop in when we drove by - and were glad that we did.
In addition to a five flight tasting of their wines, we were treated to a tour of the family owned winery
at 65 South Concord Avenue. As it was hard to resist, we purchased two bottles which we
look forward to enjoying upon our return home!
Home of Old South Winery's Wine Tasting
Old South Winery was founded in 1979 just across the street from where Scott O. Galbreath Jr.,
DVM helped his grandmother make wine from muscadine grapes when he was a child.
Today, second and third generation Galbreath family members continue to own and operate the
business which currently offers a selection of 10 wines.
6. Turning Angel Monument
Located at 2 Cemetery Road, you'll find the nearly 200 year old Natchez City Cemetery. People from all
walks of life are buried in this final resting site covering about 100 acres. With a brochure obtained at
the Visitor Reception Center, take a moving self-guided walking or driving tour to see some exquisite
iron and marble handiwork from years gone by.
One of the most visited monuments is that of the famous Turning Angel. A look at the five
headstones surrounding the statue reveals identical dates of death. An explosion at Natchez Drug
Company in 1908 destroyed the building and killed those inside. The heartbroken owner bought this
lot and erected the angel statue where his employees were buried. Apparently the statue looks as if it
is turning when cars drive by with their headlights on at nighttime, hence the name of the monument.
Turning Angel Monument
7. The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians
Begin your visit to The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians located at 400 Jefferson Davis Blvd. by
watching the short introductory video. Before heading outdoors to see the mounds, plan to spend
some time viewing the artifacts and exhibits in the museum. We found the staff to be super helpful
and nice, so if you have any questions, ask away!
In addition to the three mounds, a hike among the grounds will take you to the reconstructed
Natchez House and Corn Granary and two Ceremonial Plazas. It is estimated that the
mounds were built beginning in 1350 and were occupied as the political, religious and ceremonial
center of the Natchez until 1730.
Much information about the area came from French explorers who lived among the Natchez for a
number of years. The Great Sun's Mound located at Mound B (the site's center) and
the Temple Mound (Mound C) were both described in French accounts. As there were
no mentions of Mound A by the French, it is believed that it had been abandoned by the time
of their arrival. Make sure to spend some time reading the signage to learn more about what was
learned from both French accounts and the more recent archeological excavations.
8. Natchez Trace Parkway and the Trace Terminus
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile
road running from Natchez, Mississippi through Alabama and ending in Nashville,
Tennessee. Today's parkway is a national park which pays tribute to the wilderness road called
the Old Natchez Trace. The Old Trace became a postal route for mail delivery after its use as
a buffalo, wagon and early settlers' trail.
Obligatory National Park Photo at National Trace Parkway
The beginning (or southern terminus) of the Old Trace can be found in Natchez off of Liberty
Road. Along with campgrounds and picnic areas, today's car and bicycle route is filled with
historical points of interest. If you plan to drive a distance on the parkway, however, it's good to know
that you'll find no roadside services including lodging, dining, gas stations, etc.
Looking for Lunch? Try Mammy's Cupboard!
Only open Tuesdays - Saturdays from 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM, lunch at Mammy's Cupboard will not disappoint! The
menu consists primarily of a rotating daily hot entree or sandwiches (served with potato salad and a
cup of vegetable beef soup). Make sure to save room for dessert - it's definitely a must at Mammy's.
Also a must is cash or checks as no credit cards are accepted.
Located at 555 Highway 61 South, the building was constructed in 1940. Prior to today's
restaurant, businesses in the unique venue included a craft center, gas station, gift shop and
restaurant. Doris Kemp opened Mammy's Cupboard in 1994 and ran the restaurant until her
death ten years later. The mother/daughter duo of Lorna Martin and Tori Johnson
own the restaurant today. Still following the same recipes, their motto is "Tourists treated same as
Traveling to Natchez in an RV?
If you are considering a visit to Natchez while living in the comfort of your RV, be sure to check out our
review of a nearby RV park. Our post titled Review: Plantation RV Park will give you a feel for
what to expect at this park conveniently located for Natchez tourism. You'll also find an an overview
of amenities available as well as photos from our stay.
Favorite Sites for Tourists in Natchez
With so much to see in Natchez, if you were recommending your favorite sites, what 3 places would
rank at the top of your list and why?
Created On 06/03/2019 11:17:26
Updated On 06/03/2019 19:16:25
Scheduled On 06/03/2019 16:50:52
Posted On 06/03/2019 16:50:52
Last Editor Stacy
Location Natchez, Natchez, MS, United States