Springtime is coming, and that means it’s time to think about coming out of hibernation and hitting the road with your significant other. An amazing couple’s destination — especially in the spring — is Tupelo, MS. Arrive by car (jump on the Natchez Trace Parkway and follow it to Tupelo) or plane (Contour Airlines has flights to Tupelo from Nashville for around $100 round-trip!), and you’ll be ready to enjoy a Southern getaway like no other! Grab your mate … here’s where to stay, what to do and where to eat in Tupelo.
Where to Stay in Tupelo
A hub of business in the Mid-South, Tupelo offers outposts of many major hotel chains as accommodations for travelers. The downtown Hilton Garden Inn has just about every amenity you could want and is conveniently located in the middle of town with easy access to all the most popular locales that tourists want to visit.
Things to Do in Tupelo
Tupelo is best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley, and The King’s legacy can be seen all around town. In fact, there is a 13-stop driving tour of the town that hits sites that were important in Elvis’s past. The most popular stop on the tour is his birthplace, a two-room house where Elvis was born on January 8, 1935. Tours showcase the highlights of the property including several statues of the star and even his childhood church, which has been moved to the grounds of the birthplace. You can still shop at Tupelo Hardware, too, where Gladys Presley purchased a guitar for her then-11-year-old son, and the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history.
After Elvis hit it big, he returned to his hometown for special homecoming concerts in 1956 and 1957. The concerts are commemorated by the famous Homecoming Statue, a depiction of The King reaching out his hand to a fan during a particularly emotional moment. Situated in Fairpark, known as “Tupelo’s Front Porch,” the Homecoming Statue offers a perfect photo opportunity for fans with the stately City Hall in the background and Tupelo Hardware peeking over Elvis’s other shoulder. Fairpark is also a frequent site of festivals and special events including a gathering of food trucks on Fridays.
The annual Tupelo Elvis Festival celebrates its 21st anniversary this year on June 5-9, 2019. Visitors can enjoy Elvis Tribute Artist competitions, concerts, panel presentations and even a road race. Can’t make it to the Elvis Fest? Mark your calendar for the Gumtree Festival, Mississippi’s premier visual and performing arts event, which takes place May 11. And classic car fans flock to Tupelo for the annual Blue Suede Cruise, scheduled for May 3-5 this year. Around a thousand custom hot rods and classic autos will be on display along with swap meets and live music performances.
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Even if you’re not a fan of rock music or fast cars, Tupelo has plenty to offer as a vacation destination. Wine lovers soak up Wine Downtown, an April event that revolves around a progressive wine tasting party at venues and businesses all over downtown and concludes with an after-party. Downtown is also dotted with numerous shops and art galleries that can make for a pleasant afternoon of shopping or just peeking in windows at the creative works.
There’s also the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo on the outskirts of town, the largest animal park in the state, which features hundreds of exotic animals and a special bus tour that take visitors out to the pasture where a herd of bison roam free along with other wild animals. VIP tours are available if you want to explore the park on an ATV with a personal guide.
For a more relaxing afternoon in Tupelo, visit Creative Touch Day Spa & Salon for massage treatments, facial and waxing services, manicures, pedicures and hair salon services. If he isn’t into pampering like she is, he can pass the afternoon at Spring Street Cigars, the largest humidor and smoking lounge in the area. Spring Street has more than 4,000 square feet of lounge space for chillaxing with a stogie while you watch some sports on TV, play darts or enjoy a craft beer.
Where to Eat & Drink in Tupelo
Interesting drinking and dining options abound in Tupelo including the state’s first meadery at Queen’s Reward, where you can enjoy a unique ancient beverage made from fermented honey sourced from local bees. Queen’s Reward features an attractive tasting room where visitors can sample several varieties of their meads ranging from sweet to dry.
For a delightful farm-to-table dining experience, try Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen where they serve what’s referred to as “campfire cuisine,” cooked over a live fire in a cozy 140-year-old brick building in the historic section of downtown. Kermit’s has two sister restaurants to offer a little variety of atmosphere and cuisine. Neon Pig is a working butcher shop that provides meat to Kermit’s, creates house-cured charcuterie and has a burger that was named the best in America in 2015. The third eatery in the family is King Chicken Fillin’ Station, located in West Tupelo in what was once the oldest gas station in Lee County. Serving yardbird fried, grilled or smoked, King Chicken is a poultry paradise. Order your chicken in a sandwich, a salad, as a bowl or by the box along with some soulful side dishes for a fantastic and filling meal.
Johnnie’s Drive-In has been serving up craveable burgers for longer than any other joint in the area, and it was a favorite stop for Elvis when he had one of his frequent hankerings for a good cheeseburger. His regular booth is still decorated as a shrine to The King, and you can sit in his throne under his photo if you’re willing to wait for the popular spot to open up. Whether you’re an Elvis fan or not, the “Johnnie” burger is worth a pilgrimage to this drive-in.
Harvey’s is another local mainstay that has recently undergone a renovation to refresh the decor at the beloved restaurant. Many of the best dishes at Harvey’s come off of their wood-fired grill, which gives a lovely kiss of smoke to their steaks and baby back ribs.
Tupelo also has an active nightlife with nine live music venues plus a 10,000-seat arena that attracts nationally touring acts of all genres throughout the year. For a more intimate setting, check out Blue Canoe, a funky bar featuring live music six nights a week. In addition to some fun elevated bar snacks, Blue Canoe offers a full bar with cocktails and more than 100 beers including almost three dozen draft options. Steele’s Dive is another laid-back venue showcasing live bands most nights. A favorite gathering spot for locals, Steele’s is open for lunch and dinner, offering down-home Southern food from po’ boys to pulled pork barbecue. A popular covered patio is a great place to people-watch while digging on the music grooves. The Stables Downtown Grill is actually located in a former livery, but don’t worry, they’ve cleaned it up since horses lived there. During nice weather, tables in the alley between buildings are the places to be for simple bar food like fried pickles and burgers along with a full menu of beer, wine and drinks plus live acoustic music acts.
Whether you’re on an Elvis tour or just looking for a fun weekend away, Tupelo has plenty to offer, including affordable prices and friendly residents. You’ll quickly discover why more and more people are making the trip to this attractive Southern destination.
To learn more about Tupelo and to start planning your trip, visit Tupelo.net.
This article is sponsored by the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. All photography provided by Tupelo.net.