By W. Derek Russell
Whether you’re planning a day trip or an entire weekend in Yalobusha County, Water Valley has much to offer travelers to the fair hamlet.
Fewer than 20 miles from Oxford, Mississippi, the historic railroad town has come into its own as a destination, attracting the eclectic for dining, shopping and fun over the past decade.
If you’re wanting to take on the small town’s artistic aesthetic, here are a few must-visit locations.
Trying to find a souvenir from your journey, or just hoping to stumble upon something from the past? Shopping has never been as fun as it is in Water Valley.
• Turnage Drugstore
Traveling to the past may not be possible, but with Turnage Drugstore, walking inside is like taking a step back in time. The locally owned store is a fourth-generation family business that has been serving Water Valley residents since 1905. Whether you’re looking to fill your prescription, find that perfect wedding or baby shower gift or just want to enjoy a classic milkshake or ice cream float at the bar, Turnage is your place to turn.
Owner Binnie Turnage says he owes the 112-year legacy of the shop to the grace of God and his loyal customers.
“My dad used to say that all we really have is service,” Turnage said. “Every drugstore has the same medicines. We just want to serve the Lord and serve the people. We’re accessible and available. If somebody has a sick child at midnight, we make ourselves available to them. We try to treat everyone like they’re our own family.”
Be sure to pick up a cone of butter pecan or black walnut ice cream before you head out the door to do more sightseeing.
• Rip It Up
Whether you’re looking for a hip chair from 1976 or a classic piece of vinyl music, Rip it Up, located on Main Street in Water Valley, has just about anything you would want from a retro, vintage store – and more.
“I’ve always loved vintage stuff and I think people enjoy looking for deals and finding cool things,” said Braden Sheldon, one of the store’s partnership owners.
From classic clothing to books and toys, Rip it Up has a little of everything.
“If I didn’t work here with all this stuff, I’d be a hoarder because I’d be compelled to get all these great items,” Sheldon said. “It feels better selling it and being amongst it.”
Visit Rip it Up on Facebook for photos and updates about what the store has for sale.
You’ll have no problem finding amazing food while visiting Water Valley. The real trouble will be deciding where to dine, as each local restaurant has its own special style.
• Crawdad Hole
Live music and the best seafood in town is more than enough reason to visit the Crawdad Hole, but the establishment has way more to offer. Don’t call it a “hole in the wall” until you’ve tried a pound of their crab legs or their signature grilled oysters. And, of course, be sure to sample their crawdads. The atmosphere is as fulfilling as the menu.
• Hometown Pizza Cafe
Pizza? Check. Pasta? Check. Wings? Check. Mississippi-brewed beer? Double check. Hometown Pizza Cafe, located in the heart of Main Street, offers all that and more. Enjoy lunch with the bay windows rolled up or stop by for live music on the weekends that is sure to add ambiance to a flavorful menu.
• B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery
“Relentlessly good food” is how B.T.C. Grocery co-owner Alexe Van Beuren describes the menu and offerings of the local eatery and store, and it couldn’t be more true.
“I have such an interesting menu,” said co-owner and chef Dixie Grimes. “It’s a little bit fine-dining, a little bit of various countries thrown in and a little bit country.”
“I don’t think there’s many places that have a fried plantain sandwich and a plate lunch,” said Van Beuren. “On the grocery side, we do a very good job of carrying local farmer items like carrots and beets straight out of the garden, glass-bottled milk and local eggs and ice cream. The stuff you want to have in your fridge on a regular basis. We have exceptional food here all around.”
Van Beuren said summer brings an amazing variety of produce from local farmers.
“I have the freedom here to cook pretty much anything I want to cook,” Grimes said. “And our locals here and the community are very open to that. We’re super adventurous. Ninety-five percent of everything that comes out of my kitchen is from scratch, because that’s the way I was trained.”
Whether you’re getting the fried bologna sandwich or the Lola burger, make sure you add the signature dipping sauces to your order for your fries or onion rings.
• B.B.’s Diner
Whether you’re looking for a good old-fashioned hamburger, a hardy plate lunch or homemade desserts, B.B.’s Diner at 411 Martin St., offers homestyle cooking with a smile. Give them a call at (662) 561-2925 for their daily menu and enjoy their signature fried chicken.
They say if it’s happening in Water Valley, it’s happening on Main Street. Here are a few things to be on the lookout for while you’re inside the city limits.
• Watermelon Festival
The annual Watermelon Festival in August offers a getaway for melon-heads everywhere. From a classic car show to live music, fireworks to dancing, each year is a hallmark for the event since 1980. Be sure to visit all the arts and crafts vendors and stay on hand for the award of biggest watermelon. There’s something for everyone.
• Yalobusha Brewing Company
One of the true must-visits of Water Valley is the Yalobusha Brewing Company, a true jewel of the town. It’s the first brewery between Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee, since the prohibition age. Stop by on weekends for a tour of some of the locally brewed favorites that come out of Yalobusha, and stay for the music and mingling. Find Yalobusha Brewing Company on Facebook to find out what’s coming up next at the establishment.
• Bozarts Gallery
Offering local and regional artists a chance to showcase their work on a rotating basis, Bozarts Gallery is currently featuring the work of Water Valley-resident and professional photographer Jack Gurner through June. His “On the Street: Memphis 1978 – 1983” exhibit gives a look at a golden age of time in Memphis, Tennessee. Visit bozartgallery.com for gallery hours and details.
• Yalo Studio and Gallery
A working artists’ studio and gallery, Yalo is located on Main Street and offers work-on- commission projects from the owning artists as well as an assortment of work from various artists around the country. Find Yalo Studio and Gallery on Facebook for a look at what’s coming soon to the mixed-media establishment.
• Foster Music and Arts
Head away from the downtown area to find the Melonvine Marketplace and the Old School Theater, a concert venue dedicated to cultivating some of the best music in town and the surrounding area. Dates are still being added for the summer, so visit Foster Music and Arts on Facebook or call (662) 473-7143 for more information.
SEE THE SIGHTS
• City Park and Oak Hill Cemetery
Take a stroll through the grandeur of City Park with a walking path and a beautiful gazebo, or visit one of the highest points of Water Valley, Oak Hil Cemetery.
The graveyard holds a lot of history as well as beauty with some of the oldest headstones in the state. A majestic afternoon walk through the cemetery adds to the appreciation of the town and its former residents.
• Casey Jones Railroad Museum
Nestled 323 miles from New Orleans and 589 miles from Chicago, Water Valley once thrived as a railroad town. The former Illinois Central Railroad Depot that got people where they needed to go is now a thriving museum honoring the station’s namesake, engineer Casey Jones. It’s said the IICR’s southbound passenger train No. 1 was scheduled to leave Memphis, Tennessee, on the night of April 29, 1900. Jones was onboard and crashed into train No. 84 near Vaughan, Mississippi, where Jones was fatally wounded.
Inside the museum, you’ll find artifacts from the wreck at Vaughan, as well as memorabilia from one of Water Valley’s most famous sons, Casey Jones.
These are just a few of the many offerings Water Valley holds. For even more, contact the Chamber of Commerce at (662) 473-1122.