Memphis to Mobile - what places to see in between?
November 18, 2015 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm driving from Memphis to Mobile next week and have 2-3 days to spare in between. What places should I see?

I don't like tours or museums that much and prefer seeing places that are eccentric, weird or just really specific to local culture. Also places that are photogenic, not meaning beautiful, just... full of character. I like music and art a lot.

Looks like this trip is about 90% Mississippi, so towns and sites in MS is what I'm looking for. Small / quaint / friendly / yet not boring. Any good suggestions?
posted by deern the headlice to Travel & Transportation around Mississippi (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always enjoyed stopping at the Famous Artesian Well of Shubuta, MS. There are signs on the roads nearby that'll allow you to find it easily. Oh, and the Dentzel Carousel in Meridian is delightful and worth a visit (and a ride if they're open.) Those are both stops you could make if you only had one day to do the drive, on the most direct route from Memphis to Mobile.

Since you've got more time to spare, you might like to spend a day in Oxford. Hang out around the Square, visit the University of Mississippi campus. There's plenty of museum-y stuff there (the University Museums, Rowan Oak) but there's plenty to see otherwise. You could stop by the Blues Library and listen to BB King's old records.

You'll probably have the most enjoyable trip avoiding the interstates. The drives are more scenic and you'll see plenty of small, quaint, and friendly.
posted by asperity at 9:57 AM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks - that brings up a good point about which route to take, as I'm not familiar at all with the highways vs rural roads, which are scenic, etc.
posted by deern the headlice at 10:07 AM on November 18, 2015

Are you just starting from Memphis or are you also from there? There are definitely fun things that fit your parameters in Memphis, but they're hardly worth mentioning for this trip if you you live there.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:34 AM on November 18, 2015

I don't have particular spots to recommend. Of all my road trips on the Southeast, I was most taken with Mississippi. The land and people are lovely. Stick to local roads, enjoy the small towns. Talk to people. If you're shy, be ready with questions to ask about the area. Or sit at a table and draw in a sketchbook -- people will come over to talk to you.

You might check the college football schedules for SEC teams Ole Miss and Miss State, or any univ whose team is doing well. To watch a game would be a great experience.

The Gulf beaches are so beautiful. Be sure to visit a natural beach.

Have a great time!
posted by valannc at 10:40 AM on November 18, 2015

Response by poster: @DirtyOldTown (I'm from the Northeast, never been to either Memphis or MS)
posted by deern the headlice at 10:49 AM on November 18, 2015

Ocean Springs is close to the MS/AL border and the downtown area is cute, cute, cute and artsy.
posted by thebrokedown at 11:39 AM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

When we were on our way from Birmingham to Memphis, we stopped at the Coon Dog Cemetery, which was definitely full of character. It wasn't a planned stop, we just saw the sign as we were driving and knew we had to turn off right there. That site won't be on the way if you're going down through Mississippi, so my real advice is, stay on state highways instead of interstates, keep your eyes open, and don't drive so fast that you can't stop when you see a roadside sign that looks interesting.
posted by aimedwander at 11:54 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, then definitely spend some time in Memphis, too. Visit the ducks or have some barbecue.

As for the route south, Google Maps sets you up with a decent route if you select the "avoid highways" option (though I'd probably take Hwy 9 and Hwy 15 and Hwy 19 instead of Hwy 45 until I got to Meridian). You could also spend some time on the Natchez Trace Parkway (it'd take you southwest rather than southeast, but it's pretty and interesting enough to be worth the detour for a while.)

You might also like to click around a bit on the state tourism website, because I know I've missed a lot of things. Unfortunately, Graceland Too is no longer an option.
posted by asperity at 12:19 PM on November 18, 2015

If you've never been to Memphis and you like less obvious museums, go to the National Ornamental Metal Museum. It's fantastic on its own, but it's also on the river with the very best views of the Mississippi. While you're in that area, you will inevitably end up on Beale Street. Beale Street has a certain prepackaged drunk people stink to it, but if you stop at Dyer's and have a burger fried in 100+ year-old grease or a fried bologna sandwich, it will be worth it. There's a touristy voodoo place on there, but skip that. Wait until you get dragged in Schwab's Dry Goods and while the rest of your party browses shotglasses and shovels and whatever else Schwab's is selling today, look for the thing that looks like a filing cabinet near the lower West entrance. It is full of voodoo. Not the legit, Caribbean kind, but not the goofy tourist stuff either. This is where poor people go to get their totally unironic John the Conqueror candles and charm pouches as made by small regional companies.

Also see the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. And maybe Sun Studios, if you're a fan. (There's precious little to see at the latter, but the tour is awesome storytelling if you're of a mind.)

Seeing Graceland is a cliche and I will understand if you avoid it, but you will be cheating yourself. I lived in Memphis for 10+ years and every single person I took, no matter what level of skepticism that had going in, comes out moved. It's a weirdly personal look into the surprisingly small home of a famous, troubled, and talented person and the pathos and humanity of it bleeds right through.

The Civil Rights Museum is maybe more relevant than ever, too.

Oh, and people will try and convince you to have barbecue at the Rendezvous. It's nice. Nice people own it and make nice food. But people only want you to go there because it's in an alley near the Peabody and that seems cool. It's not Memphis-style barbecue. It's made in ovens with a citrus sauce by a nice Greek family. You should eat at Interstate or somewhere else instead.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:12 PM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

There are some really good lunch/dinner spots in Jackson, although I've not been there enough to recommend. My SO raves about a few of the places, though. Might be worth stopping by on the way. The older parts of Jackson are actually pretty quaint, unlike the northern/eastern suburbs.
posted by wierdo at 4:13 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are actually a nearly infinite amount of fun places to eat in Memphis if a) you eat meat and b) you like comfort/junk food. The abundance of progressive hipster people in Midtown means there are always a few good vegetarian options, too. I can get you recs on those if you need. I have vegetarian friends there, though in my time in Memphis, I always tilted more toward the fatty meaty goodness end of the spectrum, so I'm more helpful for that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:19 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Memphis to Mobile via New Orleans doesn't add a horrible number of miles to the trip. Opens up many options. Also puts you in the general vicinity of a number of plantations.
posted by Carbolic at 6:00 PM on November 18, 2015

+1 to everything DirtyOldTown said. Full disclosure, I am a Memphian, but I honestly believe we have the best food in the world, and you could easily spend 3 days just trying to hit all the great restaurants. Central BBQ is my favorite,but Tops and Corky's are other local favorites for bbq. Hog and Hominy is worth it for the sweetbreads alone. It's a meat-centric town but there are def veg options too, memail me for recs on specific cuisines, I could go on all night.

Memphis is also home to more great dive bars than you can shake a stick at. On of my favorite places to take out-of-town guests is Earnestine & Hazels. It's an old brothel-turned-bar with the best jukebox in town, supposedly haunted, and they serve Soul Burgers which, after a few beers, will change your life. Go upstairs for the spooky stuff. We have some awesome music history and great museums and such but I think if I had one night to show somebody Memphis I would probably just get them drunk at E&H.

I would try to convince you to just stay here all three days and then book it to Mobile, but Mississippi has some cool things too! Check out any Mississippi Delta town. Clarksdale is pretty great and it's on the Mississippi Blues Trail, which might be a fun route to take.

Sorry for the lack of links, I'm on my cell. MeMail me if you want more specific questions or requests!
posted by a.steele at 6:13 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

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