Photos by Melanie Thortis
With many couples opting for smaller and more intimate ceremonies, it’s no surprise that many are downsizing their honeymoon, too. For some newlyweds, it’s an issue of time or budget; for others, a luxurious getaway just isn’t priority. No matter what your reason, if you are looking for a quick getaway to de-stress from the rush of wedding week, look no further than Natchez, Miss., less than 300 miles southwest of Tupelo.
Natchez, known for its picturesque antebellum homes and small-town charm, provides a romantic long weekend just within driving distance. It’s home to a variety of lodging options from the most upscale bed and breakfasts to economical hotels. The historic city provides just enough entertainment to keep your interest, while allowing ample time for relaxation.
The city has something for everyone. For the nature-lovers, the Natchez Bluff is the perfect place for a picnic or sunset-gazing. If you are more a fan of the great indoors, the river views can also be seen from numerous restaurants and bed and breakfast windows. The bluff is also the site of many annual festivals. If you’re planning a fall ceremony, you might catch the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, a colorful display of hot air balloons, complete with a beer garden and music festival (October 20-22, 2017).
Another view of the Mississippi can be seen at Natchez’s infamous Under-the-Hill district. Once home to the “Barbary Coast of the Mississippi,” it is now a nightlife hub with restaurants, a saloon and gambling.
History buffs will find that plantation home tours abound. The Dunleith, Monmouth, Longwood and Arlington are a few that should not be missed. Guided tours of the Melrose, a 15,000 square feet mansion, now part of the Natchez National Historic Park, are a popular attraction as well. The Natchez City Cemetery offers another glimpse into the city’s storied past. The ornate details and grandeur of the monuments mark the graves of many of Natchez’s most notable and wealthy citizens.
A more somber memorial from plantation times can be found at The Forks of the Road. Shackles encased in concrete, along with plaques, mark the site of the state’s second largest slave trade market.
For history that predates Natchez’s high society era, visit the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. Three platform mounds and a plaza stand in what was the central location of the Natchez Indians’ political and religious ceremonies. The area was home to Great Sun, the most famous Natchez Indian Chief. It is now a National Historic Landmark with a museum for artifacts found at the Grand Village.
Like any respectable southern city, Natchez has a reputation for culinary excellence. Fat Mama’s Tamales is known far and wide as an award-winning stop for tamales and “knock-you-naked” margaritas. Their margarita mix can be found in gift shops in Mississippi and beyond. Darby’s Famous Fudge, a generations-old tradition, sells beautifully-wrapped sweets in their Main Street store and to customers in every corner of the country through their website.
Staple restaurants like The Carriage House serve blue plate specials to locals and visitors alike. The city is not without whimsy, either. Mammy’s Cupboard is a must-see as much as a must-eat. The restaurant is shaped like Mammy herself—a woman in a full skirt, clutching a serving tray. The dining area is located inside Mammy’s pink skirt.
Fat Mama’s Tamales is known far and wide as an award-winning stop for tamales and “knock-you-naked” margaritas. Their margarita mix can be found in gift shops in Mississippi and all over the country.
Natchez isn’t all history, though. Just a few years ago, Natchez Brewing Co. opened in historic downtown Natchez, and created the first beer to be distributed from the oldest established city on the Mighty Mississippi. The brewery, along with Old South Winery and Charboneau Rum Distillery offer guided tours.
You might find all of these spirits at Smoot’s Grocery, a blues bar and beer garden with a smattering of eclectic antique finds lining the exterior walls. Smoot’s ambience evokes images of times passed with musical acts in genres that are timeless.
Steampunk Coffee Roasters combines the old and new. With it’s tavern-esque facade and industrial interior, it’s the perfect spot to stop for an espresso, enjoy the view and plan your day.
The city of Natchez is a southern dream—full of scenic views, interesting history, good eats and a little grit. Luckily for us, this storied port city is just down the Natchez Trace.