Where we’re at: I’m covering my road trip in the American South in April and May of 2022.
Looking for a homegrown getaway off the beaten track? I’ve got the sweet southern town for you! I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome to my 26th state, Mississippi.
If you’ve heard of Tupelo, it’s probably because of its bragging rights as the birthplace of Elvis. And while over the course of our two day stay it was inspiring to see his humble roots, Katie and I were downright delighted to discover how much more there is to see and do here than pay tribute to The King. Tupelo also made a great breaking point in the six hour, three state drive between Mobile and Memphis.
Thanks in part to the influx of international Elvis fans who flock to this tiny town — who knew?! — Tupelo has some of the incredible tourism infrastructure you’d expect of a big city, yet with all the charm and hospitality of the hometown of that girl in your dorm from college who’s Southern accent sounded like it was from Sweet Magnolias. You know her. We all know her! She was so nice! And pretty as a peach! Okay, I’ll stop now.
While Katie and I were running around and posting our trip all over the internet like the Insta-dorks we are, some of our friends in nearby states started texting us — wait a minute, do I actually need to go to Tupelo? As newly minted ambassadors of this delightful destination, we devised them the perfect hidden gem weekend plan.
And because some secrets are just too good to keep, I’m fixin’ to pass them on to you, right now!
TGIF With a Check-In To Hotel Tupelo
Y’all — I knew my trip to Tupelo was meant to be when it coincided with the opening of Hotel Tupelo, a boutique accommodation that hit the mark so hard I wish I could bestow a version of it upon every single place I travel.
I swooned over the chic and modern design from the moment we sauntered up to the check-in counter, and found something new to smile over pretty much every time we walked in the door.
Hotel Tupelo had nods to the city’s most famous hip-swaying resident, of course, as well as the area’s surprising number of other draws. From free bikes to a fabulous gym where Katie and I got in a mid-trip sweat to an incredible onsite restaurant, the amenities here were popping and we loved every unique and local touch.
Katie and I commented a few times that this hotel was a big part of making this stop special for us — a great boutique hotel is more than just a place to sleep; it’s part of the travel experience, I think. For a more comprehensive review, check out Katie’s blog post about this brand new boutique hotel.
Get Creative at Midnite Pottery
Ready to explore? Catch up with your travel buddy and make a truly original souvenir over a breezy ceramics class at Midnite Pottery, a cute local spot in the Barnes Crossing District where your instructor will give you tons of insider tips for the weekend.
For $55 per piece, your instructor will guide you to create whatever your heart desires using a wide variety of stamps, presses, molds and other tools. If you’ve never stuck your hands into a mound of clay before, this is a super accessible place to get started!
Midnite Pottery takes care of all the glazing and firing after you peel your apron off, and later you’ll find yourself with a tangible memory of the start of a great trip.
We took a peek at the event space for private parties, too, and took our sweet time perusing the gift shop — which I totally recommend stopping by, even if you don’t book a class. I love finding creative workshops like these on my travels!
Do Dinner and a Show at Blue Canoe
Next, stroll next door and grab dinner and see live music at Blue Canoe — you’d be amazed at who’s performed at this vibey spot, from Leon Bridges to Alabama Shakes! We giggled at the handwritten notes covering the bathroom walls, marveled at the list of past performers, and nodded in admiration at the hundred plus beers available, with a whopping forty-eight on tap at a time, more than anywhere in North Mississippi. (And yes, our sweet waitress helped me find the perfect cider instead!)
While the stage was dark the night of our visit, we had a fabulous dinner which I immediately forgot every bite of when we dipped into Connie’s Blueberry Doughnut Bread Pudding, made with the day’s leftover donuts from Connie’s, another local business. I simply insist — you cannot leave Tupelo without trying this dessert!
Start Saturday with a Fuel Stop at Strange Brew
We were so excited to start the day with a stop at Strange Brew Coffeehouse, housed in a converted gas station. While we sipped our lattes and nibbled on our savory baked goods in the morning sun, a man approached us asking if we could help him find his keys. Visions of kidnapping briefly danced in both our city-weary minds before we glanced over and saw a mini-van being turned upside down by the man’s wife, two passersby in their twenties, and eventually, a local police officer. With so many eyes on the problem, the keys were soon located, and the man tried to give the young guy who found it a reward. “That’s fine,” he said, “I was happy to help. If you want, you can donate it to the local church.”
Was this a performance art piece, put on for our benefit to extol the joys of small town living, Katie and I wondered? No, it was just a brief morning moment not out of the ordinary in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Inspired, when we grabbed a few more items to go, we left a #BrewItForward sleeve on the board inside, an idea that plucked at my heartstrings — purchase a drink or baked good, write it on a coffee sleeve, and when someone sees one that makes them smile, they grab it off the board and redeem it at the counter! Isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard?
There were lots of treats for healthcare workers, teachers, and anyone who needed a little boost. We left one for a traveler inspired by Tupelo.
Take an Elvis Bike Tour
And then we were off to spend the morning getting in some movement on the Elvis Bike Trail! Hotel Tupelo provides free — and cute! — bikes with baskets and locks.
While I’m not sure I’ve ever recommended stopping at one on Alex in Wanderland before, you actually don’t want to miss Tupelo’s Visitors Center. Part information central, part interactive museum, I learned a lot here about the town and the man that put it on the map. One of Katie’s and my favorite exhibits was dedicated to Elvis’s musical influence. You pop on headphones and listen to the gospel, country, and blues that inspired his own later works.
We used Tupelo’s own helpful self-guided bike tour to plan our route, which you can access online or grab a hard copy of at the Visitors Center.
The next stop I’d recommend is one that’s not listed on the bike tour, but is Tupelo’s main attraction — Elvis’s Birthplace. While most visitors make the journey by car, it’s actually only a ten minute bike ride in each direction from the visitor’s center, or fifteen minutes from downtown. Though, word of warning, you will be biking along highway and on some light hills, so make sure you’re comfortable with that! For us, it was the perfect little extra boost of movement in our day.
On arrival, you’ll find well-curated, sprawling grounds home to Elvis’s childhood home, a small museum, a church, and more. Admission is $20 for the whole deal.
I was most impressed by the museum, which outlined the Presley family history and Elvis’s rise to fame, as well as the influence Tupelo had on him and his music. It was also striking to walk through the incredibly humble two-room house where he was born in 1935, which had no electricity or plumbing and was built by Elvis’s father using a borrowed $180 worth of supplies. I knew little of Elvis before this trip and was mostly struck by the story of a man lifting his family out of poverty with his creative gifts.
If you’re ever heading to Memphis and Graceland, Elvis’s lavish final home, is on your itinerary, I can’t think of a better stop on the way to the Home of the Blues than Elvis’s birthplace in Tupelo. I wouldn’t have appreciated Graceland and Memphis the same if our trip hadn’t started in Tupelo.
Back in town, we headed to Elvis’s art deco high school and the local library where cute lil baby Elvis’s first library card is on display.
We of course had to stop at Tupelo Hardware, a nearly 90 year old family business that played an important role in the timeline of American music when it sold Elvis his first guitar in 1946. His mother, Gladys, planned to buy Elvis a bicycle, though he had his sights set on a rifle. The guitar was a compromise — and the rest is history.
We paused again at The Elvis Homecoming Statue, commemorating the 1956 Homecoming Concert held at Tupelo Fairgrounds, today a pretty park in front of Tupelo City Hall. By this point in history, that cute little kid from the library card and the wrong side of the tracks was a huge hometown hero, and Tupelo was honored to have him return. He donated the proceeds from the concert, which were used by the city to buy his childhood home and create a neighborhood park for the community.
All along our ride, we spotted guitars from the Elvis Guitar Trail. There are more than 25 Elvis-themed guitars scattered around downtown created by local artists and groups. There’s a similar initiative in my hometown of Albany, New York with our mascot Nipper from RCA Records, so these got me feeling all kinds of nostalgic.
Grab a Late Lunch at The Neon Pig
By now, you’ll have worked up an appetite, so return your bike, hop back in your car and head to The Neon Pig. It’s famous in the south, as revealed by a mention in Conde Nast Traveler’s recent Secret Small Town Food Destinations article as well as many a top ten burger list, and I see why.
Placed in an unassuming strip mall, it was one of our favorite meals of the trip. Yep, they are known for their burgers and Katie can vouch it was incredible but I was craving greens so had the stuffed pepper and it was 10 out of 10. Travel lovers, don’t miss the maps of visitors from all over the country and world — and leave a note from your hometown!
Toast to Tupelo at The Queen’s Meadery
Okay so by this point you had a pretty active morning, right? Treat yourself to an afternoon of craft beverage tasting — you earned it!
As a huge fan of the oldest alcohol on the planet (it’s basically the same as visiting a museum), I was pumped to visit Queens Reward Meadery, the first and only meadery in Mississippi. As such, it’s quite the tourist attraction — over 80% of visitors come from an hour away or more. And y’all. It’s worth the trip.
Katie had never tried mead before, which I was delighted by! She couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome to this honey-based beverage than from Jeri, the enigmatic Queen Bee of Royal Meadery herself. A few years ago, she and her husband starting making mead at home for fun. Impressed with the outcome, they entered two national competitions, which they were shocked to take home a medal for. It was their first hint that it could be more than a hobby.
Jeri works hard to ensure that all honey that goes into the Queen’s Reward Meadery production room we toured is from Mississippi. “It’s a taste of our backyard,” she smiled. And it’s a fabulous deal, at $12 for tastings that include five meads and a mead slushie, or $7 for a glass of your favorite after. Come hungry? Charcuterie boards start at $30, and sometimes there are food trucks around for special events. Keep an eye on their social media pages for ones like trivia nights, paint and sips, and even voter registration parties — how cool!
I started to write that Queen’s Reward Meadery was the highlight of my time in Tupelo, but caught myself thinking of our cute boutique hotel, and the many meals we couldn’t stop talking about. So, I’ll just say it was, well… the bee’s knees.
Hop on the Cocktail Trail
After cabbing back downtown, keep the party going and check out a few stops at the Tupelo Cocktail Trail.
After grabbing a stamp card at the Tupelo Visitors center, stop by any of the eight walkable destinations for creative local cocktails. Once you’ve toasted to each, bring the fully-loaded stamp card back to the Visitor Center for your prize — a #MyTupelo cocktail shaker. Isn’t that adorable?
We made three stops in all — first up, Kermit’s Soul Kitchen, boasting a famed Elvis Mural and cute jukebox light fixtures, for Integalactic Rosé featuring vodka, Queen’s Reward Mead, strawberry and lime juice. Next, a Tupelo Martini featuring local blueberry syrup at Nautical Whimsey, where we felt like we’d been transported to Europe by the fairy-light strewn alleyway, and finally, The Daisy, a shaken tequila sip from Jobos, our dinner destination.
The rest, we’ll have to come back to Tupelo for. And that’s an idea I can cheers to!
Grab Dinner at Jobos
After a busy day, we were thrilled to end the night with dinner at the hottest restaurant in town, Jobos — which just so happened to be in our hotel. We took these photos in the morning when we swung by to check it out. By nightfall, it was popping!
This hip eatery specialized in surf and turf from Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. If you don’t make dinner happen here, swap for their weekend brunch instead!
Start Sunday with A Smile
Grab a weekend-closing caffeine fix at Tupelo River Coffee!
I wanted to peek at Indigo Cowork, Tupelo’s super-chic co-working space. It’s $35 a day for a drop-in with 24/7 access, perfect if you want to extend your weekend getaway to work remotely for a day or two. Heads up, you do need to schedule ahead of time for access.
Feed Your Stomach and Soul at Talbot House
If you do extend your stay for a remote work Monday, stop for breakfast at Talbot House, a bakery and social organization that trains women recovering from drug addiction with job skills — and has the most delicious cinnamon and orange buns ever. All proceeds support a local 501c3 nonprofit organization, Talbot House Sober Living for Women.
It really is an incredible cause and a sweet start to the day — literally and figuratively — to pickup breakfast here. A sunny floral mural outside is a reminder that good things grow with a little bit of love. (Note that they are closed on Sundays, though!)
Mural + Gallery Hop On Your Way Outta Town
Art addicts and Instagramaholics fear not — that’s one of many murals in Tupelo. Unsurprisingly, the tourism board has compiled a mural map for you, so you don’t miss a beat!
Perhaps the most popular mural in town, which should make and wanderer wistful, is the Tupelo Postcard Mural. Painted by local artists Reid Caldwell and Kit Stafford in 2018, it was a part of the Off The Wall: Changing the ARTmosphere in Tupelo Brick by Brick project. And dang, is it cute.
We also marveled at the Chickasaw Heritage Mural by local artists Lujan Perez and MJ Torrecamp, honoring the area’s indigenous roots and culture.
Tupelo has more than just murals to offer art and design lovers, though. We particularly enjoyed the Caron Gallery, featuring modern Mississippi artists, and Raw Furniture full of local souvenirs and treasures.
Like me, you might find yourself a little sad to say goodbye to this sweet small town. If you’re looking to stick around a bit longer, check out Katie’s even more exhaustive list of twenty things to do in Tupelo!
For this inaugural trip, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to experience true Southern hospitality, modern Mississippi style, and a quirky piece of American history, all of which Tupelo serves up in spades.
Magnolia State, I’ll be back! Have you been to Mississippi?
This post is brought to you by Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Partners that allow me to tell my authentic stories help keep Alex in Wanderland alive, so thank you for reading!
Another top rate post with bloody nice photos
Thank you so much, Jo!
Thank you for this amazing article. Great pictures too.
You’re so welcome! It was a very photogenic town!
Tupelo born and raised BUT packed my backpack and a carry-on 2 years ago with my Bernese Mountain Dog and hopped a Contour Airlines jet to Nashville to catch our International flight to beautiful sunny Merida, Yucatan Mexico where we enjoy 365 days of sunny summertime weather. Y’all really should have flown with Contour on the way out. They offer daily flights to BNA in Nashville very affordably and the crew is ALWAYS AMAZING! Tupelo isn’t the small idyllic Southern town it was 40 years ago due to serious social issues BUT if you must live in Mississippi it’s probably one of the bettee places. Drugs, crime and homelessness and proximity to Memphis are dragging the town down the gutter. It’s really sad seeing soooo many homeless in the encampments around town. Schools and gealthcare are iffy as well. As are affordable housing. Too many Bible thumpers that don’t do what they preach. Sheriff Jim Johnson does his best BUT supervisors don’t give him the support he needs. So, the jail is a wreck and the criminal courts give the wrong people bail. Needless to say, we don’t miss Mississippi.
Mama always said, if ya aint got somethin nice to say, keep ya mouth shut. Im here to pass on some of that wisdom to the person who had alot to say about a town she seems to not care about. Please remember that there are people who DO live in and near Tupelo, MS that have a sense of pride of where it is and where it is going. Just because it doesnt suit you gives no reason to spew so much hatred. I hope you love mexico as it seems you are hard to please. I hope you have the day you deserve.
Justin, feel free to tell us what ya love about Tupelo!
Thanks for the hot tip on Contour! I’m sure everywhere I blog about as a tourist has many different sides as a resident that we don’t see. How could we, in just a few days! But, it was a lovely first visit to Mississippi for this New Yorker!
Thank you for compiling and sharing your experiences in such a beautiful article.
You are so welcome! Thanks to Tupelo for their amazing hospitality.