By JB Clark
The holidays are a time of joy, thankfulness and family. But, with family and holiday travel often comes stress. Luckily, Mississippi is covered in a blanket of bed-and-breakfasts that offer a quiet, intimate opportunity to relax and recharge as the holidays come and go. These five destinations are off the beaten path, but not too far out of the way, allowing for a quick getaway without having to go too far.
Owners: Rick and Kay King
Distance: 92 Miles
Drive Time: 1:30
Kay King moved from Tennessee to Senatobia, Mississippi, with her husband to operate their office supplies business. While looking for a place to live, she fell in love with the nearby town of Como.
“Como is real special in that it is kind of like it has always been,” she said. “There are very few new homes built — no fast food. It just stays the same, but without ever getting old.”
After moving to the city, King and her husband purchased the Como Courtyard in 2000 and then the Como Steakhouse in 2001.
The Como Courtyard is a townhouse-style bed-and-breakfast situated on North Main Street, near the town’s few restaurants and store fronts. The one-room townhouse opens up into a lush, private courtyard, enclosed on two sides by brick walls and on the far end by a small guest cottage.
“It’s special to me because of how incredibly beautiful and comfortable it is,” King said. “And it’s totally private. A lot of people like that. There isn’t going to be anyone else around.”
The package deal is suitable for two people or a family. King has families who have standing Christmas and Thanksgiving reservations at the inn.
The city was once home to Hill Country blues legends Otha Turner, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Napolian Strickland and Jessie Mae Hemphill, as well as Johnny Cash’s iconic guitarist Luther Perkins. It was also home to many wealthy cotton and cattle farmers in its early days. It now plays host to music and food tourists stopping by to pay homage to the blues greats or eat at the renowned Como Steakhouse.
On the outskirts of town, beautiful pre-1900s cemeteries tell the region’s history and house some of the area’s musical legends. The nearby Fredonia Church was built in 1848 and is the oldest standing pioneer church in the country.
Must See: Fredonia Church, Main Street, Mississippi Blues Trail
Must Eat: Como Steakhouse, Windy City Grill
Front Beach Cottages
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Owners: Cathy and Jason Mackenzie
Distance: 310 Miles
Drive Time: 4:45
What began as a way for Cathy Mackenzie to send her children to Ocean Springs public schools while rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, ultimately became a way for her to share her gulf coast passion with the world.
Mackenzie purchased the property that houses several old fishing cottages in 2009 as a way to maintain an Ocean Springs address. They renovated the old cottages and opened the Front Beach Cottages in 2011.
Mackenzie is an attorney in the gaming industry and has always been intrigued by the Gulf Coast’s hospitality industry, saying the cottages allow her to experience it behind the scenes as an attorney and now as a rental property owner.
Each of the cottages is stand-alone with a full kitchen or kitchenette, offering some privacy, but Mackenzie said there are also plenty of opportunities for socializing on the property.
The property sits between Ocean Springs’ beautiful Front Beach and the city’s vibrant downtown, each walking distance on either side.
“The beach is really cool because the city has invested a ton in redeveloping it,” Mackenzie said of Front Beach. “There is a performance venue, bonfire pits, a kids park, fishing piers, a splash pad and a cool, wide sidewalk that goes all the way down the beach. It’s also one of the few places left you can take your dog — as long as you clean up after them and keep them on a leash. And you don’t have to pay — that’s unique.”
If the beach isn’t reason enough to warrant a visit, Mackenzie said the growing downtown has some of the best coastal and farm-to-table food around, festivals year round and home to the Walter Anderson Museum.
“I’m always surprised to see how people find Ocean Springs,” she said. “I grew up in Miami and had never even heard of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and then last week I had guests from Belgium and Switzerland.”
Mackenzie lives on site with her husband and two daughters.
Must See: Front Beach, Walter Anderson Museum, Shearwater Pottery
Must Eat: Phoenicia, Vestige
Owners: Corey and Patricia Rickrode
Distance: 210 Miles
Drive Time: 3:43
A desire to live and work in a bed-and-breakfast brought Corey and Patricia Rickrode to Mississippi from Northern California this past July, but it was their love for history, specifically Vicksburg’s rich Civil War history, that led the couple to purchase the Baer House.
Shortly after the Civil War, Leona Blume left her family in Louisiana, fleeing an arranged marriage, and used her dowry money to buy a Greek Revival home badly damaged in the war. She redesigned the home in the Eastlake architecture style before marrying Lazrus Baer, a local Jewish Vicksburg merchant.
The home, which sits blocks from the Mississippi River downtown, was one of the first to have an attached kitchen and outhouse.
“Leona was a strong-willed woman who got what she wanted, and that’s what makes her such a unique character,” said Patricia Rickrode. “An attached kitchen was unheard of at the time, and the rumor is she burned her old cook house to the ground so she could get a kitchen built onto her house. And she had to have her outhouse attached. We have a two-story, four-hole outhouse attached the main house. Of course, we don’t use it.”
Leona Baer’s story is a big part of a visit to the bed-and-breakfast. The Rickrodes host a social hour each evening between 5 and 6 p.m., where guests have wine and refreshments while the Rickrodes entertain with stories of how the house evolved under Baer’s eye and the following owners.
The house is within walking distance of many museums, including the Vicksburg National Military Park.
“More than one million people visit the park every year,” Rickrode said. “When our guests go there, it makes us feel like we’re keeping history alive. And on top of that, the courthouse and museums are just blocks away. There is a lot to see and do if you appreciate history.”
Must See: Vicksburg National Military Park, Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum
Must Eat: Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, Walnut Hills Restaurant
Owners: Don and Mamie Nobles
Distance: 144 miles
Drive Time: 2:17
The Century House Bed-and-Breakfast is one of the few vestiges of 1902 left in downtown Meridian. The Nobleses bought the house 13 years ago, in an effort to save the piece of architecture, and have been operating the bed-and-breakfast from the home’s third-floor apartment ever since.
“We’ve always really loved old houses, and this one stands out as one of the fewer old homes left in the downtown area,” said Mamie Nobles. “So we bought it as a way to save the house and run a bed-and-breakfast.”
The house was built in an era when Meridian was a booming railroad town and features Greek Revival columns, heart of pine siding, 12-foot ceilings, pocket doors and antique furniture.
Nobles said the house is beautiful, but the guests who occupy it are its best feature.
Located in the heart of downtown, the Century House is in walking distance of the Grand Opera House and the state’s oldest restaurant, Weidmann’s.
Must See: Riley Center (Grand Opera House), Jimmy Rodgers Museum
Must Eat: Weidmann’s
Owners: Doug Mauro and Donald McGlynn
Distance: 285 Miles
Drive Time: 4:47
The Oak Hill Inn has received Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence five years in a row and was named the best bed-and-breakfast in America on the same site in 2014.
The owners, New Jersey natives Doug Mauro and Donald McGlynn, spent two years restoring the home before opening in 2005. Jacob Beyer built the 5,700 square foot home in 1835 and it was added to the National Historic Register in 1979.
Each morning, guests are treated to one of 12 rotating breakfasts prepared by McGlynn, who worked at the world-renowned Brennan’s where he learned to cook elaborate breakfasts while attending school at Tulane.
“We do 12 different breakfasts, so if you stay a week, you won’t have to have the same thing twice,” said Mauro. “There is always a savory dish and a sweet dish with fresh local fruit, fresh squeezed orange juice and brioche, biscuits or croissants. And our neighbors raise chickens, so the eggs are fresh.”
Breakfast is served each morning on 1830s porcelain in the home’s original dining room, which features the same French Zuber wallpaper found in the White House, as well as a Waterford crystal gasolier.
The home’s beautiful gardens help hide the fact that it is located in the center of downtown Natchez, just four blocks from the Mississippi River.
If breakfast isn’t enough reason to visit Natchez, it is also home to more than 600 antebellum homes, 12 of which are museum mansions.
“They’re magnificent,” Mauro said. “Between 1835 and the Civil War, we had 180 millionaires living in Natchez and these houses reflect it. These aren’t plantation houses; they’re townhouses where the wealthy lived and entertained.”
Mauro said touring the graves of the same millionaires can be just as fun as their homes.
“I tell people these millionaires entertained each other in life and in death,” he said of the Italian sculptures and marble angels that adorn the city’s cemetery. “And next to the elaborate graves is a live oak tree that I’ve been told predates Columbus.”
Between the wonderful restaurants, historic homes, old churches and basilica, Mississippi River and antebellum history, Mauro said a visitor can stay for a week and still not see everything.
Must See: Natchez Bluff, Mississippi River and Mississippi River Bridge, Longwood mansion
Must Eat: Cotton Alley Cafe