Poised on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, Vicksburg, Mississippi, is the gateway to the Deep South. You know you’re about to cross into a different world when you drive across the I-20 bridge from Louisiana.
But this town isn’t just a passageway to the American South. It’s played a significant history.
If you’re thinking of exploring this fascinating area, then we’ve got you covered. The town they call The Key to the South has some incredible and unique things to do.
Let’s hit the road!
About Vicksburg, Mississippi
The Natchez people were the first to settle this area along the Mississippi River. When the French arrived in the area, they built Fort Saint Pierre in 1719 to trade with the local population. But they weren’t welcome by the indigenous people and their allies, the Yazoo. In 1729, the French lost the fort in the Natchez War.
Spanish settlers arrived in the area in 1790 and built Fort Nogales, which passed to the fledgling American nation in 1798. Renamed Walnut Hills, officials incorporated Vicksburg in 1825, named after a Methodist minister.
The city served as a significant Confederate outpost during the American Civil War. But Vicksburg surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863, a significant turning point in the war. After a 47-day siege, the city remained in Union hands for the rest of the war.
Today, the city is a bustling city of just over 26,000 that welcomes visitors with history dripping from the trees. Its position along the vital I-20 travel corridor increased the population recently.
With such a long history, it’s no surprise that Vicksburg, Mississippi, is one of the more exciting stops along I-20 heading east-west. Casinos, historic home tours, the Miss Mississippi Pageant, and much more await.
Pro Tip: Looking for something fun to do in Mississippi? Find out What Is the Mississippi Grand Canyon?
7 Unique Experiences in Vicksburg, Mississippi
Vicksburg is just 43 miles from Jackson, the capital of Mississippi. It makes for an easy day trip from the city. Coming across the bridge from Louisiana, you’ll have the sense of moving back in time. Let’s look at what makes Vicksburg, Mississippi, a great stop.
#1 Visit the U.S.S. Cairo Museum
A relic of the Civil War, the ironclad U.S.S. Cairo served the Union from January 1862 until December 1862. She also has the unfortunate distinction of being the first vessel sunk by an electronically detonated mine on the Yazoo River. Recovered in 1965, hauling ropes cut the ship in half during the process.
Now you can visit the U.S.S. Cairo Museum and see one of only four ironclads left in existence. Housed in the Vicksburg Military park, the vessel’s history is on display. Visitors can walk around the ship in its tented enclosure and see weapons and personal items recovered.
Part of the National Park System, visitors can see the Cairo seven days a week. The cost is $20 per vehicle. Open from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm; the NPS suggests 3 hours for the tour.
#2 Learn About Coke’s History at the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum
Before Joseph Biedenharn’s invention, Coca-Cola could only be available at a soda fountain. When he took over the family confectionary, Biedenharn decided to make a change. He bottled the bubbly beverage and sent two cases to the president of Coca-Cola. Despite a less-than-enthusiastic response from Asa Candler, the public loved it.
A few years later, bottling rights to Coke went out around the country. Mississippi territory went to Biedenharn, and he made the most of it. From local deliveries around Vicksburg to a tri-state area, including Louisiana and Texas, the young entrepreneur saw the power of an idea.
The Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum showcases the history of Coke in Mississippi. Memorabilia, historical advertising, and the original bottling equipment are on display. It’s open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday, and 1:30 to 4:30 pm on Sunday. Adults admission is $3.50, and kids 6 – 12 are $2.50. Kids under six get in for free.
#3 Tour the Haunted McRaven House
Known as the “most haunted house in Mississippi,” the McRaven House pre-dates Vicksburg by almost 30 years. The first section, built by highwayman Andrew Glass in 1797, served as a hideout from authorities. Glass robbed travelers on the Natchez Trace and slept in a loft with a removable ladder. The haunting didn’t start until Glass’ death.
In 1836 a local sheriff built the second portion of the house and lost his young wife, Mary Elizabeth, in childbirth. In 1849 the final touches were made by local mason John Bobb.
Even now, the ghosts of Glass, Mary, and Bobb haunt the property. Documented paranormal activity means tours come in two types: historical and haunting. The historical tour ends at 4:30 pm before the ghosts come out for the 7:00 pm haunted tours.
Open to visitors Monday through Thursday, 12 to 5 pm, Friday and Saturday, 10 to 5 pm, and Sunday, 1 to 5 pm; haunted tours begin at 7 pm on weekends. However, it’s worth noting that the spooky sessions cost more.
#4 Check Out the Murals Along Vicksburg’s Mississippi Riverfront
Floodwalls along the river banks provide the perfect canvas for muralists. In 2002, the city commissioned Robert Dafford to document the town’s history. He painted thirty-two panels along the Mississippi to showcase the highlights of the town’s history.
Starting in 2002, the mural project took several years to complete. The Vicksburg Riverfront Murals website has a location map of all the panels. While driving through, you can even tune your radio to 90.5 FM for a guided tour.
#5 Take a Self-Guided Driving Tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park
Home to 1400 monuments, the Vicksburg National Military Park has a bloody history. As the site of a 47-day battle during the Civil War, the 1800 acres of the park are hallowed ground. You can drive, walk, or cycle through the park on the 16-mile loop, passing the monuments.
The U.S.S. Cairo Museum isn’t the only site to see along the way. Since 1899, artists and architects have sought to remember the tens of thousands of soldiers who died in the battle. Monuments, tablets, the Vicksburg National Cemetary, and living history re-enactments are part of the experience.
Self-guided tour maps available at the park entrance and the NPS app provide an enriching experience. Open from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm. The NPS suggests 3 hours for the tour. The cost is $20 per vehicle.
#6 Visit the Old Court House Museum
Vicksburg was home to the heart of the Confederacy. The Old Court House Museum collects memorabilia from the Davis estate, among others, in one place. The building originally handled legal proceedings for the area from 1879 until 1939, when a new courthouse was built.
Eva Davis made sure that the old building didn’t fade away. She formed a historical society and began collecting artifacts from Vicksburg and Mississippi’s past. Items in the museum include pre-Columbian artifacts, fine china, portraits, and flags from the Confederate era.
You can visit Monday to Saturday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, and Sunday, 1 to 5 pm. Adults are $7, seniors $6, and students $4.
#7 Visit Markers Along the Mississippi Blues Trail
Stretching from the Gulf Coast to Chicago, the Mississippi Blues Trail celebrates one of America’s most treasured art forms. Founded in 2006, the Mississippi Blues Commission placed markers along the trail. Each monument commemorates a critical moment in the development of the blues.
Markers celebrating Red Tops and Willie Dixon are easy to find. It’s easy to find several nearby if you want to get out of town and explore more. You can also find 200 markers celebrating the often unsung blues heroes up and down the Mississippi River.
Download the Mississippi Blues Trail app to find all the markers in the area!
Pro Tip: Pour yourself a glass of wine at one of these Mississippi Wineries That Are Actually Good!
Don’t Skip a Trip to Vicksburg, Mississippi
As you can see, Vicksburg, Mississippi, is full of exciting and unusual things you can’t find anywhere else. From the Coca-Cola museum to the Military Park, it’s all worth a look.
Whether you’ve driven through hundreds of times or are looking for a destination, the little town is a gem. Just make sure you plan your days around the weather. The summers are long and hot, so if you’re visiting in the thick of it, you should be prepared. Luckily, there’s so much to do indoors and outdoors that you’ll have plenty of ways to make memories.
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