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exploring tupelo.

An established stop on a musical tour through America, Tupelo is also making a name for itself as a culinary destination.

As many visitors are discovering, visiting Tupelo might begin with a desire to learn more about the birthplace of Elvis, but the city offers even more. Whatever journey you plan during a visit to Tupelo, you'll instantly feel a connection to the Tupelo Spirit. More than a slogan, it's truly a way of life for this ever-evolving city. Founded in 1870, Tupelo traces its modern history back to the convergence of several railroads in 1887. As a rail distribution and manufacturing center, Tupelo achieved several firsts, including being the first city in the nation to provide its citizens with electric power through the Tennessee Valley Authority. The city's history is an important part of its modern-day vibrance, and you'll see tangible markers embracing all that helped moved Tupelo forward.

Historical buildings are right at home in a vibrant downtown that is busy with an array of businesses, banking, restaurants, boutique shopping, salons, and more. Tupelo Hardware Store, the place made famous for putting a guitar in the hands of a young Elvis Presley, is a great place to step inside Tupelo's history. Family-owned retailer Reed's Department Store is directly across the street and can fill your shopping bags with the latest clothing trends, home decor, and gifts. The outside wall also features a larger-than-life mural of Elvis himself.

Walking around downtown is sure to work up an appetite, and you will find plenty of food options. If you are lucky enough to stumble upon one of the local food trucks, walk right up! Local Mobile is the food truck that started it all and offers up sliders, po-boys, and daily specials featuring local ingredients. Grab your plate and enjoy your lunch--picnic style--in Fairpark, a beautiful public area where numerous festivals and community events are featured each year. The park offers a terrific view of City Hall and will serve as home to the city's New Year's Eve Celebration (December 31).

If dining indoors is more your style, Kermit's Outlaw Kitchen is an ideal spot. The 140-year-old-building features a chef-counter downstairs and a large dining room and cocktail bar upstairs. The lunch menu is handwritten each day, while the dinner menu features locally sourced and creatively prepared fare. Chef and owner Mitch McCarney leads a team preparing a farm-to-table cuisine that changes more frequently than the seasons. McCarney is also playing a leading role in the local culinary development of Tupelo, including the Neon Pig's famous Smash burger and local butcher shop, as well as King Chicken Fillin' Station, which serves up powerfully flavored gas station fare.

A testament to the Tupelo Spirit of renewal and rebuilding, Vanelli's Bistro is a staple in the city's dining scene. When a tornado struck Tupelo in 2014, Vanelli's restaurant was destroyed. Rather than packing up, the Demetrios family took the opportunity to inject new life into the business and moved to historic downtown Tupelo, where today they offer the pizzas, pasta, and salads that helped put Vanelli's on the dining map.

Situated inside a renovated 100-year-old home, FarmHouse features gift shopping and creative workshops. After learning the latest in Annie Sloan paint techniques or creating a stylish door hanger, you can enjoy a Southern-style lunch at Sweet Tea and Biscuits, a family-owned restaurant located in the same building.

Whether you have spent a day in Tupelo, visited for a convention, or never been at all, you really must start any trip by connecting with Elvis. As the birthplace of the King of Rock-N-Roll, Tupelo celebrates its most famous native son with aspects of his life woven into the fabric of the city. The site of Elvis' birth has been carefully protected, and the area around it has been thoughtfully developed to include a museum, statues, and the childhood church where Elvis first heard the gospel hymns that inspired his love of music. The park holds a quiet reverence and features a statue of Elvis as both a young boy and as the legendary performer. The location of the statue is one of the best places in town to enjoy a sunset, and the pavilion and Reflections water feature are perfect picnic spots.

As Tupelo prepares to celebrate Elvis' 85th birthday in 2020, events are in the works, including an Elvis Christmas featuring Terry Mike Jeffrey and the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra (December 14), a birthday celebration (January 8), followed by an Elvis Tupelo Driving Tour and marker unveiling (January 9), an Elvis-themed food day in local restaurants (January 10), and a Blue Suede Shoes Ballet at Tupelo High School (January 11).

As you move through downtown and just beyond, you'll notice brightly painted guitars, a sign of the city's celebration of the music and the legend behind it. Have a little fun and snap a photo or two showing your inner guitar fantasy. Tupelo offers an entire "trail" that leads you around the city, one guitar at a time! In fact, Tupelo has introduced numerous trails that allow you to follow your path at your own pace. A bevy of murals around town feature moments from the town's history and celebrate its famous Tupelo Spirit. Self-guided bike tours offer the best combination of exercise and sightseeing, featuring historical and entertaining spots across town.

Getting out of downtown, you'll continue to discover unique and entertaining venues. Driving along a busy street, I remember being taken aback by my first sighting of buffalo roaming a field. As it turns out, Tupelo features a 200-acre Buffalo Park and Zoo, where you can get as up close as you like to the creatures known for roaming free and happily sharing the land with zebra, giraffes, monkeys, and more.

It was during my most recent visit that I learned Tupelo is home to the headquarters of the Natchez Trace Parkway, recognized as one of America's Top 10 National Parks. The 8,000-year-old Native American Trail turned scenic byway connects Tupelo northward to Nashville, Tennessee, and south to Natchez, offering a travel adventure of its own kind.

For history buffs and those interested in sites honoring military service, Tupelo has several impressive options. Tupelo embraces its culture and history, as seen in seven Civil Rights markers throughout the city. The city has also taken the extraordinary measure of building a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Housed at Veterans Park in Tupelo, the 300-foot black granite memorial is 60 percent the size of the original memorial and lists 58,318 veterans who are known missing or killed in Vietnam.

If you're unsure about where to begin your trip, or you just want to map out a great itinerary for a trip with your friends or family, visit the innovative online planning tool located at tupelo.net. Of the numerous cities I have had the pleasure of visiting across Mississippi, Tupelo's Convention and Visitors Bureau has the most advanced, accessible tools to help you put together itineraries for a girls' weekend, a family getaway, a lesson in history, or a romantic retreat. You can put together any number of options to combine food, fun, shopping, and relaxing. If you don't have time to put together a complete itinerary before hitting the road, visit the modern, interactive Visitors Center on Main Street when you get to town. Tupelo is an all-American city with a hometown grace that will welcome you with warmth and send you home with a host of good memories.

eat

Acapulco Mexican Restaurant Bar & Grill

Amsterdam Deli

Aunt B's Soul Food

Bar-B-Que by Jim

Big Bad Wolf Food Truck

Bishop's BBQ Grill

Blue Canoe

Brew-Ha's Restaurant

Butterbean

Cafe 212 & Coffee 212

CarmelCorn Shop

Chatterbox Cafe

Clay's House of Pig

Connie's Fried Chicken

CRAVE

Creative Cakes

D'Casa

Dairy Kream

Divine Latin American Fusion

Don Julio Tex Mex Restaurant

Double Barrel Restaurant

Edible Bliss Mobile Eatery

Endville Bakery & Catering

Fairpark Grill

Finney's Sandwiches

Fire & Smoke BBQ

Forklift

Holland's Country Buffet

Hollypops Bakery

Homer's Steaks & More

Hong Kong Restaurant

Ichiban Japanese Grill

In & Out Wings & Lounge

Jimmy's Seaside Burgers & Wings

Jo's Cafe Food Truck

Johnnie's Drive In

Kermit's Outlaw Kitchen

Killer Cereal

King Chicken Fillin' Station

Kyoto Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

Local Mobile

Los Toros

Lost+Found Coffee Company

Margarete's Fine Chocolates

Mi Michoacana

Mike's BBQ House

Mist Asian Restaurant

Mt Fuji Japanese Steakhouse

Nautical Whimsey Italian Bistro & Wine Bar

Neon Pig Cafe

New China

New China Buffet

Noodle House at U & Me Asian Grocery

Old West Fish & Steakhouse

Park Heights

Pizza Doctor

PoPsy

Rita's Bar & Grill

Romie's Grocery

Sao Thai

Scarlet's Donuts

Simply Sweet by Margarete

Sims Soul Cookin' Restaurant

Stables Downtown Grill

Steele's Dive

Sugar Daddy Bake Shop

Sweet Tea & Biscuits

Sweet Treats Bakery

Taqueria Ferris Food Truck

Thai Garden

The Dining Room

The Gypsy Roadside Mobile

The Little Popper

The Madden Crab-Boil Seafood

The Thirsty Devil

Vanelli's Bistro

Weezie's Deli & Gift Shop

Woody's

Zapata Mexican Restaurant

see & do

Civil Rights and Heritage Trail

Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum

Gumtree Museum of Art

HealthWorks! Kids Museum

Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area

Natchez Trace Parkway Headquarters and Visitors Center

Oren Dunn City Museum

Paradox Games and Escape Rooms

Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery

Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo

Tupelo National Battlefield Site

Tupelo Veterans Museum

Tupelo Visitors Center

Vietnam Veterans Replica Wall Memorial

shop

Anna Elizabeth Boutique

Artifacts by Relics

Bailey Diane

Black Sheep Boutique

BlairHaus

Bliss Boutique

Caron Gallery

Core Cycle & Outdoor

Elizabeth Clair's

FarmHouse

Fitting Concepts

Flourish Paper

J. Britt Lighting and Interiors

Jasper & Co.

Jody's

Joyful Creations

Kay's Kreations

Keep It Casual

Kirksey Brothers Furniture

Lexi Lou's Boutique

The Main Attraction

Magnolia Lighting

MLM Clothiers

Midnite Pottery

Mid-South Nursery

Pixie Dust Boutique

RAW Furniture Co.

ReDesigns

Reed's

Relics Marketplace

Silly Simpson's

The Snooty Owl

Southern Roots

Sparrows on Main

Swirlz

Sydney's Children's Boutique

Trails & Treads

Tupelo Hardware Co.

Willow Bride

Woodworking Kings

Yellow Lovebirds

Caption: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Handcrafted 3 Sip sodas are a new favorite among Mississippi-made products. HealthWorks! Kids museum makes learning about health fun for kids of all ages. This Elvis statue commemorates the performer's 1956 homecoming concert and is a centerpiece of the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum. Historic Lyric is home to Tupelo's local theater company. A tour of murals around downtown feature significant moments from the city's history and helps celebrate its most famous native son. The rooftop of Park Heights Restaurant is a perfect spot for relaxing and watching a golden sunset. Tupelo Hardware is best known for putting the first guitar in the hands of a young Elvis. After touring Elvis' birthplace, take time to eat like the King at the museum cafe. CENTER: Fairpark hosts numerous community events and concerts throughout the year.

Caption: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Buffalo and other exotic animals rule the roost at the unique Buffalo Park and Zoo. Tupelo's oldest department store, Reed's, carries the latest styles for women, men, and children. Kermit's Outlaw Kitchen offers locally-inspired food and libations in a historic setting downtown. Visitors can learn about Elvis, the boy who became the legend and defined a new era of American music. Known as Tupelo's "back porch," Steele's Dive features live music and a Southern-style menu for lunch and dinner.

Caption: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Mitch McCarney is a trailblazer in the Tupelo culinary scene, offering variations of cuisine that celebrates locally-farmed produce and meats. The birthplace of the King of Rock-n-Roll is an attraction seen by thousands of visitors each year. With a storied history in Tupelo, Vanelli's is a favorite spot downtown for lunch or dinner. Farmhouse is a retail shop that also offers an array of creative art classes. Kay's Kreations is a destination for bride's looking to say "yes" to a dress. Grab a burger at the Neon Pig.

Caption: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Downtown Tupelo offers a wide range of local art and retail, including Caron Gallery, which features more than 50 artists whose creativity is showcased in various media, and RAW, featuring locally crafted home decor and gourmet food products. Laid back and funky, Blue Canoe offers guests scrumptious food in an eclectic atmosphere. Whether you're interested in a family outing, a girl's getaway, or something in-between, the interactive visitor's center will set the right path for fun and adventure. Located in Veterans Park, the replica Vietnam Memorial Wall is a stunning, somber reminder of our history and those who served to protect our freedom. Big Bad Wolf food truck offers unique creations like its Brisket Mac and Cheese Burrito.
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Title Annotation:TRAVEL & ADVENTURE: Town Spotlight
Author:Morris, Sharon
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2019
Words:2091
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