While the Mississippi Delta won’t necessarily wow visitors with lavish amusement parks and high-end shopping centers, there is still lots to enthrall solo travelers and families. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ five must-see attractions in the area:
1. The biggest attraction to the Mississippi Delta is its connection to the blues. The Mississippi Blues Trail is a meticulously researched preservation project launched in 2005 by The Mississippi Blues Commission. While there are historic markers all over Mississippi commemorating the people and places that cultivated this influential genre of music, the largest concentration is undeniably in the Mississippi Delta. Users can download the Mississippi Blues Trail app directly onto their phone and begin their adventure. Notable stops include the crossroads where early pioneer Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil, the hometown of famous blues musician B.B. King, and the site where the “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy once lived.
2. The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Miss., is another must-see stop on the Blues Trail. The museum is the world’s first museum dedicated solely to the blues and boasts a world-renowned collection of musical instruments, recordings, sheet music, posters, photographs, costumes, folk art and paintings. Notable sections include the Muddy Waters exhibit. The collection includes the remains of the cabin where Muddy Waters lived during his days as a sharecropper and made his first recording with Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1941. Also featured is the “Muddywood” guitar made from the cypress beams salvaged from the cabin and donated by ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum brings in traveling exhibits throughout the year.
3. A little-known fact about the Delta is that, in addition to being the birthplace of the blues, it’s also the home of Kermit the Frog. Jim Henson, the mastermind behind Sesame Street and The Muppets Show, was born and spent his early childhood in Leland, Miss. The Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Exhibit features an assortment of original Muppet characters, official certificates from the Mississippi Legislature honoring Henson and his characters, and a commemorative statue of Henson’s beloved Kermit the Frog.
4. Despite the fact that Mississippi is thousands of miles from the glamour and glitz of Las Vegas or Atlantic City, visitors can still partake in the excitement that only comes from the gaming industry. At the westernmost edge of the Delta, on the banks of the Mississippi River is Greenville, home to three casinos. Approximately 40 miles south of Memphis is Tunica. With nine casino resorts, Tunica is one of the top 10 gaming destinations in the U.S.
5. Take a stroll around the picturesque campus of Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. Stop in the campus bookstore for a “Fighting Okra” T-shirt. It’s highly unlikely that anyone back home will have one. Baseball enthusiasts will enjoy a tour of the Dave “Boo” Ferriss Museum, which commemorates the life of the former Boston Red Sox pitcher and long-time head baseball coach for the university. Be sure to also pay a visit to The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which is housed on the campus, and sign up for the Delta Heritage Tour. The day-long trek weaves its way through the Delta, with stops that provide an in-depth look at the people and events that make up the area’s rich heritage. The tour is by appointment only, call ahead and plan accordingly.