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Natchez: step back into another era of the antebellum South.

VISITORS TO NATCHEZ can come expecting to spend some time in the Old South, perhaps touring an historic home, or listening to a guide dressed in a hoop skirt tell stories of the past in Natchez.

"So many people say they just can't believe they have never been here before," said Connie Taunton, executive director, Natchez Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It kind of has the flavor of a little New Orleans with rich antebellum charm. There are walking trails along the river and Under the Hill, and going down St. Catherine's Street takes in several different communities. Our trails along the bluff are absolutely beautiful. There is nothing like a sunset on the river in Natchez on the bluff of Under the Hill."

Many visitors to Natchez choose to stay in one of the historic bed and breakfast properties. The city has nearly 200 B&B rooms ranging from extremely elegant rooms that come with a five-course meal at the home to something more quaint and casual. There is also a good selection of modern hotel properties in Natchez.

Special events such as the Spring Pilgrimage and the Fall Pilgrimage, Blues Fest and the spectacular Mississippi River Balloon race the third week in October are particularly good times to visit. The Spring Pilgrimage features a profusion of spring flowers, and tours of homes and other historic buildings led by docents dressed in costumes.

"We have other events in the evening time such as Southern Exposure, a comedy\satire of the Natchez Pilgrimage" Taunton said. "Some actors portray homeowners and some tourists. It is really funny. Then we have a sterling tribute to the African American experience by the award-winning Holy Family Church Choir that is held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Holy Family Church. Of course, you don't want to forget about Historic Natchez Tableaux going on for years where young and old alike are dressed in costume for this event that tells the history of Natchez in song and dance."

This is also the 75th anniversary of the inaugural of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic National Park Service road that follows a Native American trail believed to have been in use for 2,000 years. There will be a march along the parkway from Natchez to Nashville, Tenn. by people re-enacting Expedition Natchez 1813 on April 12-21.

The Natchez National Historical Park includes the Greek Revival mansion Melrose, the antebellum estate of John McMurran, a lawyer and state senator who was a planter in Natchez from 1830 until the Civil War. It also includes the downtown home of a free African-American barber and diarist William Johnson. Also included in the park, although not open to the public, is Fort Rosalie, the site of a fortification from the 18th Century, built by the French, and later controlled by England, Spain, and then the U.S.

Walter Tipton, general manager of the Natchez Convention Center, said many of the regular annual events in Natchez this year will be enhanced as a result of this being the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. There are several great events themed around the anniversary this year. Most of the programs are free to the public or very low cost.

Tipton encourages visitors at any time of the year not to miss tours of the antebellum homes because the architecture and history of each house are fabulous. In addition to those antebellum homes, there is a photo gallery behind the Presbyterian Church called "Natchez in Historic Photographs".

"It is unique," Tipton said. "That is where I take VIPs who are in town."

Other highlights he recommends are having a meal on the riverfront at the Magnolia Grill restaurant, restaurants at the Isle of Capri Casino or the new Magnolia Plus Casino, or other options.

"Just being on the Bluffs with the new trails project that we have is something I like for people to experience," Tipton said. "Then, of course, there is nightlife around here at the Under the Hill Saloon and other local venues like the Corner Bar. There is nightlife to be found."

He also highly recommends a stop at the Natchez Welcome Center, which has displays from the National Park Service. That is a stop to see in and of itself. Then consider a visit to the Grand Village of Natchez Indians, the main ceremonial center of the Natchez Indians between 1682 and 1729.

Another historical attraction in the area is the historic Jefferson College, the second-oldest military school in the nation after the U.S Military Academy at West Point, which has its own Welcome Center. The school that began in 1802 was also the first institution of higher learning in Mississippi. Several buildings are open to the public.

For families with children, or people who want plenty of room for walking, jogging or bicycling, there is a 150-acre historic park called Duncan Park in the middle of town. The owner of an antebellum home called Auburn donated the land for the city park.

"It is a big park, so if you have a 4-yearold who needs to run around and burn up some energy, they have some great places to swing and climb," Tipton said.

For a visitor's guide or to get discount coupons for lodging, meals and entertainment, visit the CBV website at www.visit-natchez.org or by calling 800-647-6724.

Want more?

>> Natchez National Historical Park, Melrose/Montebello Parkway and 210 State Street, 601-442-7049, www.nps.gov/natc.

>> Natchez Trace, www.scenictrace.com.

>> Natchez Pilgrimage, 401 High St, 601-446-6631, www.natchezpilgrimage.com.
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Title Annotation:LET'S TRAVEL: FIVE DESTINATION AREAS
Comment:Natchez: step back into another era of the antebellum South.(LET'S TRAVEL: FIVE DESTINATION AREAS)
Author:Gillette, Becky
Publication:Mississippi Business Journal
Date:Jul 5, 2013
Words:929
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