NOTE: DeSoto County encourages you to travel safely, currently operating under a mask mandate to help you to #VisitMSResponsibly. The Governor’s mandate has been renewed periodically, so feel free to check the county’s COVID-19 information page for the most current information, and remember to wear your mask, stay 6 feet apart whenever possible, and practice good hand hygiene to help keep DeSoto County (and you) safe!
With three interstates crossing DeSoto County in northwest Mississippi, you very well may have passed through the area on the way to or from Memphis, Jackson or Tunica, but may we suggest you take a little detour to experience this delightful little corner of The Magnolia State? Just 15 minutes from Memphis and as a gateway to the historic Delta region of Mississippi, DeSoto County has a lot to offer.
DeSoto is the third most populous county in Mississippi, and as such, offers a wide variety of activities surrounding the four largest towns in the area: Southaven and Olive Branch, which are basically suburbs of Memphis, plus Horn Lake and Hernando, which offer a more “down-home” vibe of rural tranquility. Whether you’re looking to shop in cozy boutiques or outlet malls, dine at independent family-owned restaurants, get out into nature or explore the history of the area, DeSoto County offers a plethora of family-friendly fun for a day trip out of Nashville or Memphis or for a weekend excursion.
Where to Stay
With all that interstate access, DeSoto County is home to many lodging options from the national hotel brands where you can earn or use your membership points. But if you’re looking for something a little more intimate, they’ve got you covered there, too. Andover Plantation is a lovely bed & breakfast in a beautiful location outside of Olive Branch, less than a half-hour from downtown Memphis. In addition to serving as a venue for weddings and parties, Andover Plantation offers suites for overnight stays complete with all the amenities you’d expect from a chain hotel plus breakfast served to your door each morning.
Where to Shop
There are plenty of “shopportunities” across DeSoto County. The Tanger Outlets in Southaven, right off I-55, are just 10 minutes from the state line. With more than 60 retail outlets conveniently located near ample parking, Tanger Outlets has a wide variety of options ranging from anchor stores H&M, J. Crew, Under Armour, Nike Factory Store, Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse and American Eagle Outfitters, to specialty shops such as Chocolate Moonshine, Vera Bradley and Girlie Girl Originals, where you’ll discover discounted designer finds.
Southaven also boasts more intimate shopping experiences at several delightful boutiques spread around town. Ultimate Gifts isn’t bragging with their name; they really do feature something for just about everyone. From home decorations to small gifts to kitchen gadgets to scented candles and soaps, it’s a one-stop-shop for just about anything you may want or need.
Magnolia House welcomes shoppers in from the cold with a crackling hearth and the delightful scents of fragrant beauty products and aromatherapy oils. Pass time browsing through a small library’s worth of books, or shop for home decor items, health and beauty products, custom jewelry and cozy loungewear.
Drop into Aiden & Ollie, a locally owned children’s boutique in Southaven named after owner Kelly Parrish’s two oldest boys. Kelly has put together a thoughtful collection of kids’ clothes with sizes starting at preemie (because one of her own children was born early, and she remembers how hard it was to find extra small sizes) up to size 8, so you’ll find all sorts of cute clothing options to carry your kids through the years. In addition to wearables, Aiden & Ollie also features accessories for baths, swaddling, feeding and teething.
Over in Olive Branch, Pink Coconut Boutique is a family-owned business that hand-picks every item in their inventory to provide fun and fresh styles to women of all ages and sizes. They believe that every woman is beautiful and deserves to showcase her own personal style, so they strive to offer something for everyone in their collections of hip clothing and accessories.
Janie Rose Boutique takes aim at stylish women with dresses and separates, shoes, loungewear and accessories from designers across the country. Janie Rose is the exclusive area distributor of Free People and their line of breezy dresses, skirts and tunics. They also offer free shipping on orders over $100 plus curbside pickup if you prefer to shop online and drop by the store to collect your purchases.
Stella Ivy Boutique easily walks the fine line of maintaining a collection of on-trend women’s clothing without sacrificing the feeling that comes from wearing your favorite comfy sweater. The staff carefully curates stylish togs from notable suppliers, and they’ll be happy to help you put together the perfect head-to-toe outfit for any occasion. Whether your personal style skews toward vintage or you want a look pulled straight from the pages of the latest fashion magazines, Stella Ivy has you covered!
If you’re looking to dress your home as nicely as yourself, visit The Wooden Door Home Interiors in Olive Branch for home decor, candles, and rugs. The cavernous space is also filled with new furniture items and vintage doors and trim that have been recovered and refurbished to add a little history to your own home.
In Hernando, Side Alley Gifts & Cafe is a fantastic spot to stop and shop for specialty food items, kitchen gifts and other fun finds. The quaint cafe at Side Alley is a perfect place to enjoy a light meal or a coffee drink to refuel you for more shopping.
Where to Eat
Your dining options skew toward the familiar if you stick close to the major highways. However, if you’re willing to venture a little further from the major arteries, you’ll discover some great independent dining options across the county. Don’t be too surprised by the fact that the nationally acclaimed Memphis BBQ Company is not actually located in the Bluff City at all. It’s actually just across the Mississippi state line in Horn Lake, and it’s absolutely worth the short detour. Owner/pitmaster Melissa Cookston sprang onto the national barbecue scene thanks to multiple championships at the annual Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest, winning awards for her whole hog cookery, ribs and being named overall grand champion multiple times. Melissa and her crew share their award-winning pork, chicken and brisket dishes in her folksy barbecue restaurant that’s decorated with scores of trophies and medals. Visitors can also shop her proprietary rubs and sauces.
City Hall Cheesecake has two locations in the county in Hernando and Southaven, plus a third in Oxford, MS. The three bakeries rotate through more than 100 varieties of cheesecakes, but you can pretty much always count on finding their core flavors of Original, Turtle, Strawberry, Triple Chocolate, White Chocolate Strawberry and White Chocolate Raspberry. That is, of course, unless you arrive late and they’ve already sold out to previous customers. You’ve been warned. In addition to cheesecakes, City Hall also offers smaller bite-size desserts and specialty coffee drinks.
Maria’s Cantina in Southaven considers their food to be “Mexican with a twist,” offering traditional Latin specialties like nachos, quesadillas and fajitas, but also Southern classics such as smoked pepper gumbo, crispy fried catfish po’boys, boudin and a really respectable burger. Larger entrees are even more creative featuring mahi mahi under an olive, caper and tomato Veracruz sauce, “El Capitan Crunchee” breaded chicken tenders and BBQ tamales. Take a trip to the South (and then even further south) at Maria’s!
Coffee Central provides crucial caffeination services for both the Southaven and Hernando communities, offering quality coffee and espresso drinks using beans from a local roaster plus teas and kombucha. They also feature a full coffeehouse menu of biscuit sandwiches, muffins, coffee cake, yogurt parfaits, sausage balls and more at breakfast plus sandwiches and salads for lunch and desserts from City Hall Cheesecake. Most of all, they seek to be a gathering spot for the community including space for live music in the evenings. Part of the proceeds from the musical performances and from food and drink sales goes to assist victims of human trafficking, so you can do good while you eat well.
Olive Branch showcases a convenient gathering of three great dining and drinking spots lined up side-by-side to make it easy to satisfy any hunger. SideStreet Burgers is best known for its classic ⅓ lb. burger made from a specialty grind of chuck and short rib, and the power move is to order it topped with housemade bacon jam and pimento cheese. The menu extends well beyond just patties and buns, offering a beloved Korean-inspired sirloin sandwich served with sriracha mayo on a French bread roll. Order “The Fat Panda” to discover that delight, while other dishes to consider include loaded nachos, tacos and a spicy “pollo loco” quesadilla.
Douse some of that spicy fire with a craft beer from Mississippi Ale House, where they focus on brews made in the state of Mississippi plus a few other regional favorites. With dozens of beers on tap, you’re sure to find something to tickle your palate. They don’t serve food, but guests are welcome to bring some in, including from OB Pizza Co., which is located inside the alehouse and is the sister restaurant to SideStreet. OB offers two sizes of pizzas for sharing or hoarding, because you know what they say, “If you just believe in yourself enough, any size pizza can be a personal-size pizza!” Order a 10” or 12” topped with inventive accouterments like the crispy hashbrowns, Italian sausage, cheese and egg atop “The Hangover” or “The Hungry Man” with signature sauce, Italian sausage, bacon, pepperoni and Bacio mozzarella. If you’re feeling guilty about that much decadence, you can always request OB’s cauliflower crust to cut down on the carbs.
When you’re ready to plan your trip to DeSoto County, MS, find even more helpful information at visitdesotocounty.com. And please remember to #VisitMSResponsibly.
This article is sponsored and all photography provided by DeSoto County, Mississippi.