12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Natchez
The little town of Natchez in southwestern Mississippi, founded in 1716, was once the most important port on the Mississippi River in the heyday of the cotton trade. As a result, the town has many beautiful and historically significant antebellum-era mansions and estates, which bear witness to the wealth of the upper classes in those days. Several of these buildings are open to the public as tourist attractions.
The pedestrian-friendly historic downtown core of Natchez is fun to explore on foot and is where you'll find the town's best shopping, places to stay, and places to eat, too, from casual home-cooking restaurants to cafes and fine dining. At night you can attend a live music event, often hosted in conjunction with a restaurant, or take in a show at Natchez Little Theatre, the state's oldest community theater.
For those on a fixed travel budget, you'll be pleased to learn that there are numerous free things to do in Natchez, from visiting its attractive old churches, to wandering its historic graveyards. Learn more about the best places to visit with our list of the top tourist attractions in Natchez.
See also: Where to Stay in Natchez
1. Stanton Hall
Stanton Hall - also known locally as Belfast House - is one of the largest and most lavish antebellum mansions in the US. It was built in 1857 in the style of his Irish ancestral home by cotton grower Frederick Stanton and, along with its beautiful grounds, covers an entire two-acre city block. After a spell as a girls' school in the early 20th century, the building fell into a state of disrepair but was brought back by the Pilgrimage Garden Club who restored the property.
Visitors can tour the finely restored interior of the house, which is filled with original and antique furnishings, and afterwards enjoy a meal in its Carriage House Restaurant (Sunday brunch here is a popular treat). And after visiting, you might in fact feel as if this beautiful building seemed a little familiar - certainly for anyone who has visited Disneyland, whose famous Haunted Mansion was based on Stanton Hall.
Other fine antebellum homes in Natchez to consider visiting include Magnolia Hall (1858), the Towers of Natchez (1798), and Lansdowne Plantation (1853).
Address: 401 High Street, Natchez, Mississippi
Official Site: www.stantonhall.com
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Natchez
Another majestic mansion to visit while in Natchez is Longwood, also often referred to as "Nutt's Folly." Constructed in 1858, this stunning red-brick house with its large Byzantine-styled dome was built by Dr Haller Nutt, and is thought to be one of the largest octagonal houses in the US. Due to the advent of the Civil War in 1861, the interior was never completely finished, although the family area - consisting of nine of a planned-for 32 rooms - on the first floor is furnished with heirlooms. The unfinished upper floors - said to be haunted by the ghost of Dr. Nutt himself - can also be toured and reveal the unique architectural styling and work behind the construction of the home.
Address: 140 Lower Woodville Road, Natchez, Mississippi
Official Site: www.stantonhall.com/longwood.php
3. Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez Trace Parkway - also known as "the Trace" - is a tourist road that follows the line of the Natchez Trace, an old historic route that stretches 444 miles from Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee. First mentioned in 1733, the route was at its busiest between 1800 and 1820, when the crews of flatboats (simple craft made of logs bound together and designed for a single downstream journey) that had sailed down the Mississippi to Natchez returned home on foot or horseback.
The Parkway, now designated as an "All-American Road" for its historical and scenic significance, runs past Emerald Mound, 12 miles north of Natchez, the second largest pre-Columbian site in the United States. It was occupied between 1250 and 1600 by the Mississippi people, ancestors of the Natchez and Choctaws.
Other tourist attractions along the route, which is especially popular with cyclists and those who enjoy camping, include Mount Locust, built in the 1780s, and the Chickasaw Village Site. If you can, try to plan your journey to coincide with the spectacular fall colors, which draw many visitors.
Official Site: www.scenictrace.com
4. Rosalie Mansion
The lovely red brick Rosalie Mansion - also known as "Our Lady on the Bluff" for its stunning views over the Mississippi River - sits on the site of the former French Fort Rosalie in Natchez, after which it's named. The home was built in the early 1820s and is notable for having served as the regional headquarters for Union troops in 1863, during which much of the artifacts and furniture on display today were stored.
Lovingly restored throughout, it's now run as a museum and is furnished throughout with antiques from this period (most from the home itself) and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The four-acre grounds also include the Rosalie Historic Gardens. Guided tours are available, and a gift shop is located on-site, as is a genealogical library, of special interest for those wanting to investigate their southern roots.
Address: 100 Orleans Street, Natchez, Mississippi
Official Site: https://rosaliemansion.com
5. Natchez City Cemetery
The Natchez City Cemetery, established in 1822, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and contains a number of remains of residents buried in an earlier nearby graveyard that can be traced all the way back to the 1700s. The cemetery is nicely maintained with uniquely designed iron fences; benches offering superb views over the Mississippi (especially nice at sunset); numerous large live oaks lining its pathways; and some elaborate monuments and tombstones, including a unique tomb that houses a wealthy individual who chose to be buried in his favorite rocking chair.
Guided tours are available, including a special once-a-year option (Angels on the Bluff), which includes informative commentaries of descendants of those buried here. A self-guided tour is also available. A short walk away is Natchez National Cemetery, established in 1866 as a burial site for Union soldiers.
Address: 2 Cemetery Road, Natchez, Mississippi
6. Auburn Museum and Historic Home
Set amid a 222-acre public park, Auburn is an 1812 red brick mansion designed in Greek Revival style, which was later often emulated in many other antebellum-era homes. It is considered one of the finest homes in the area of its time. Of particular interest to architects was the grand entrance, which features tall Corinthian columns and a large upper-level balcony. The interior has been completely restored and furnished in period fashion, with a highlight being a delightful freestanding, unsupported spiral staircase.
If you are in the area in December, be sure to visit during their fun Christmas Open House, which includes free guided tours and period baked goods. An on-site gift shop sells a large selection of related souvenirs. Also worth a visit, the Stratton Chapel Gallery - located in the First Presbyterian Church - presents a fascinating historical perspective through its large collection of old photos dating all the way back to the 1840s.
Address: 400 Duncan Avenue, Natchez, Mississippi
Official Site: http://auburnmuseum.org
7. Natchez National Historical Park
Natchez National Historic Park deals with the cultural history of the town of Natchez and contains three important sites: Fort Rosalie, William Johnson House, and Melrose Plantation. Your first stop, though, should be the Natchez Visitor Center, which contains maps and attraction details, as well as a number of interesting exhibits, audio-visual displays, and a bookstore.
Next stop should be the Melrose Estate, another finely preserved antebellum mansion with sundry outbuildings, which have remained little changed since the 1840s. Highlights include guided interior tours, as well as self-guided tours of the outbuildings (including a sobering look at a slave cabin) and gardens.
For another perspective of life during this period, visit William Johnson House, notable as the former home of a "free man of color," whose story is told through fascinating interactive exhibits and the furnished rooms on display.
Address: 640 S. Canal Street, Natchez, Mississippi
Official Site: www.nps.gov/natc/index.htm
8. Emerald Mound
Emerald Mound, located close to the Natchez Trace Parkway, is the second largest Pre-Columbian ceremonial mound in the United States. Believed to have been constructed by predecessors of the region's Natchez people, it's a big site, which covers eight acres and was created by depositing earth along the sides of a natural hill to create an enormous artificial plateau. Emerald Mound would once have been adorned with temples and other religious sites and was used from AD 1250 to 1600 as a ceremonial center and is today a designated National Historic Landmark.
Official Site: www.nps.gov/nr/travel/mounds/eme.htm
9. Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture
A great way to learn more about the history of African Americans in the South is to pay a visit to the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture. Opened in the town's former post office in 1991, the museum provides a fascinating insight into the culture and history of African Americans in the region, from the times of the town's foundation in 1716 right up to the Civil War.
In addition to its displays of artworks, photos, documents, and artifacts, there are important exhibits dealing with issues such as slavery, including details of the notorious Forks of the Road, once one of the country's largest slave markets (a memorial at the actual location of the market can be visited nearby).
Other notable displays deal with the Civil Rights movement; the tragic Rhythm Nightclub fire, which claimed the lives of more than 200 African American residents of Natchez; as well as details of the life of author Richard Wright. Educational and musical events are also held frequently.
Address: 301 Main Street, Natchez, Mississippi
10. Historic Jefferson College
Take an easy 15-minute drive west, and you'll find yourself in the neighborhood of Washington, home to Historic Jefferson College. Established in 1811 and in operation until 1964, the site is now run as a museum and public park. And it's certainly fascinating to explore, providing a chance to learn of life at the former military academy attended by well-known alumni, including Jefferson Davis, the former President of the Confederate States of America.
Buildings open to visitors include the kitchen and the various outbuildings that supported this important part of the college, as well as the West Wing and Prospere Hall. Afterwards, be sure to wander the mile-long T.J. Foster Nature Trail network on the property (a number of easier trails are also available), popular for its wildlife and natural beauty.
Fun events worth attending are the annual Ladies Civil War Academy, held in March for female reenactors; Reveille, a fun family event held each September with costumed reenactors and free site tours; and the Black and Blue Civil War Living History Program, held in October and featuring reenactments of the actions and roles of prominent African Americans during the Civil War.
Address: 16 Old North Street, Natchez, Mississippi
Official Site: www.mdah.ms.gov/new/visit/historic-jefferson-college/
11. Port Gibson
The small town of Port Gibson is a nice side trip, either from Natchez or Jackson, and offers a number of interesting attractions, along with good restaurants, hotels, and shopping. It was thought by General Grant to be almost as beautiful as Natchez, which explains why it has remained relatively unspoiled and still has some lovely pre-war antebellum-era houses (legend has it the general proclaimed the town "too beautiful to burn"). The famous Windsor Mansion, south of the town, was not so lucky, and all that remains of that former mansion today are some impressive ruins.
The First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson features a unique gold-leaf hand on the steeple, which points skyward. The interior of the church houses chandeliers from the Robert E. Lee steamboat. Notable as a stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail, Port Gibson is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
12. Grand Village of the Natchez
A great attraction for those interested in the area's rich native history is the Grand Village of the Natchez. Set amid some 128 acres, this important historic site was once home to an indigenous village that existed here in prehistoric times and which was occupied and in use right up to the early 1700s as an important political and religious center. Evidence of three original ceremonial mounds were found, parts of which have since been restored.
A highlight of a visit is checking out the on-site museum, which contains a number of important artifacts found during archeological digs, including fascinating "grave goods" buried with the dead, often European made. The museum also contains an interesting collection of traditional baskets from local native tribes, exhibits and displays portraying the site's significance, a replica of a period tribal home, plus plenty of hiking trails (it's also a great place for a picnic). Also, be sure to check out their website for details of the two-day-long Natchez Powwow, featuring American Indian dancers, arts, and crafts.
Address: 400 Jeff Davis Blvd, Natchez, Mississippi
Official Site: www.nps.gov/nr/travel/mounds/gra.htm
Where to Stay in Natchez for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels in Natchez, near top attractions like the city's historic homes:
- Luxury Hotels: After visiting the beautiful antebellum homes in Natchez, why not opt for a luxury stay in one, such as Monmouth Historic Inn & Gardens? This gorgeous 19th-century mansion offers authentic southern-style luxury, period furnishings, elegant canopy beds, and beautiful gardens to explore. Another good choice is Dunleith Historic Inn, a beautiful mansion built in 1856 and set amid a 40-acre park-like property and boasting four-poster beds, marble bathrooms, and free breakfasts. A high-end stay can also be enjoyed at Devereaux Shields House, an intimate B&B-style inn offering comfortable rooms in a beautiful garden setting.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The Hampton Inn & Suites Natchez is a great choice in the mid-range price category. Centrally located overlooking the Mississippi River, it's close to the downtown core and has an outdoor swimming pool (complimentary breakfast provided). Also offering exceptional value is Clermont Bluffs Bed and Breakfast, a delightful, intimate B&B offering authentic Southern hospitality, as well as Natchez Grand Hotel, popular for its river views and spacious rooms.
- Budget Hotels: A favorite in the budget hotel category, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Natchez South offers affordable rates, comfortable beds, complimentary breakfast with fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, and an inviting pool. Also within an easy drive of area attractions and worth checking out, Starling's Rest is a quaint budget-friendly boutique inn with great accommodation in a historic neighborhood, wonderful staff, and lovely traditional décor. Comfort Suites Natchez is also dependable and offers large suites with pullouts and river views.
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Mississippi Moments: If you haven't had enough of that Deep South friendliness after a stay in Natchez, then head straight to Jackson, the state capital of Mississippi. Fun things for families to do here include touring the Capitol building and museum, visiting the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, and, of course, the Mississippi Children's Museum. And there's plenty of other things to do in the state of Mississippi, too, from exploring one of the most spectacular coastlines in the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Islands National Seashore, to getting up close to the diverse marine life found here at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.
Deep South: The exciting city of New Orleans, Louisiana, offers visitors plenty of great attractions (the National WWII Museum is a must), as well as diverse neighborhoods such as the lively French Quarter, famous for its music, shops, and restaurants. Other Southern US destinations to consider visiting include Memphis, famous the world over for its Graceland estate, the former home of the "King," Elvis Presley; and that other important center of musical innovation, Nashville (also in Tennessee), where you can wander Music Row, an area with multiple attractions dedicated to music, including the Country Music Hall of Fame and RCA Studio B, where many a famous recording was made.