2. Natchez, Mississippi
When we think of river cruises there is just no way that we can ignore “old man river”, the mighty Mississippi. Most of us can imagine ourselves on Huck Finn’s raft, floating along this iconic granddaddy of all American rivers. We would be remiss to omit at least one of its ports from our top five.
Mostly we think of the big cities on this river – New Orleans, Memphis, Baton Rouge. But there are some smaller, beautiful docking sites that are worthy of mention. We love Natchez, Mississippi!
From about the 8th century, Natchez was originally inhabited by Native American tribes. As a matter of fact, it was named after one. It was also part of the French colonies up until the end of the French and Indian War, and then it became part of the Spanish colonies. Yikes, what language are we speaking today?
After the Revolutionary War it became part of the US, finally! Because of its very diverse colonial period, Natchez today retains traces of all of its former nationalities. That’s part of its charm.
From the beginning, Natchez was a critical port for supplies on the Mississippi. Cotton was often loaded at Natchez and shipped to New England or New York for processing. Trade was disrupted during the American Civil War. The area has an enormous Civil War history with battles being fought locally and civilian life changed forever by the hostilities.
After the Civil War, trade resumed. Cotton was still the number one export. Gradually, the railroad and automobile replaced the need for shipping by water.
Today, Natchez, the oldest city on the Mississippi, retains its southern charm and hospitality. Be sure to get off your ship and explore Natchez, because there is plenty to see. The city has made an enormous effort to preserve its historic houses and other sites, so you may want to begin your tour at the Natchez Visitors Center.
At the Visitors Center you will be able to get an overlay of the city by studying the scaled model. A brief video about the area will help you get oriented and provide ideas for things to see while you are in town. You can pick up a map or two and check the seasonal exhibits. And yes, there is a gift shop!
Your next stop should be at the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture Museum. This museum presents a timeline of cultural development of the Afro-American people from this area. The exhibits tell it all, including the perils and oppression suffered by the Afro-American people over the course of history. It presents an important balance for visitors to Natchez.
Natchez is also home to some wonderfully preserved homes and buildings. Be sure to take in Rosalie Mansion with its wonderful gardens. If you ever wondered about 19th century fashion, you need to visit the Historic Clothing Museum at Magnolia Hall. Magnolia Hall is restored and set with period antiques. Oh, yes, and a gift shop.
Some other homes worthy of a tour are Melrose, the House on Ellicott Hill and Monmouth Plantation. Visiting these wonderful buildings will give you a glimpse of antebellum life in the deep south.
We love to visit Natchez during the spring, summer or fall!