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Free (and Low Cost) Sightseeing in Historic Natchez, Mississippi

Free (and Low Cost) Sightseeing in Historic Natchez, Mississippi


By avatar  Stacy
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

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

The Biglane Building

Choctaw Hall

Choctaw Hall

Natchez City Hall

Natchez City Hall

Stanton Hall

Stanton Hall

First Presbyterian Church of Natchez

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

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

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 tours.


Living Area in William Johnson House

Living Area in William Johnson House

Bedroom 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 owner.

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

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

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 level.


Hiking the Natchez Nature Trail

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.


Fort Rosalie

Fort Rosalie

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

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

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

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

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.


Temple Mound

Temple Mound

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

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 home folk"!


Mammy's Cupboard

Mammy's Cupboard

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?




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Free (and Low Cost) Sightseeing in Historic Natchez, Mississippi






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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
LinkId  HistoricNatchezOnBudget
StoryId  1559575046164





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