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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Vicksburg’s New South

Vicksburg at a Glance

Location: Southeastern Mississippi

Access: Interstate 20 and U.S. Hwy. 61, 30 minutes from Interstate 55; Vicksburg Municipal Airport, Jackson International Airport

Major Meeting Spaces: Vicksburg Convention Center, Southern Cultural Heritage Center, Vicksburg Auditorium, Holiday Inn Vicksburg, Hampton Inn Vicksburg

Hotel Rooms: 2,200

Off-Site Venues: Tara Wildlife, Herbert Bryant Conference Center, Duff Green Mansion and Inn, Anchuca Historic Mansion and Inn, Cedar Grove Mansion

Contact Info:

Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau

High atop 300-foot-high Mississippi River bluffs, Vicksburg brings to mind a romantic concept of the South: beautiful belles in hoop skirts on lawns of antebellum mansions, Civil War reenactors in linsey-woolsey retracing their ancestors’ battlefield action at Vicksburg National Military Park, springtime azaleas and blossoming fruit trees, paddle-wheelers steaming down the Mississippi River and hospitality that can make a visitor stick around longer than planned.

All true. But this sleepy Southern town is now wide awake, welcoming guests to its newly smart and surprisingly savvy side. For example, the world’s largest hydraulic research lab is in Vicksburg.

“The downtown landscape has changed so much in the last 10 years,” said Laura Beth Strickland, executive director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You can walk around with a daiquiri or a Coke float, grab a local beer in a craft brewery, eat, antique shop and visit an art gallery or museum. You might catch a concert in the park.”

A cradle of the blues, Vicksburg saw many of its early blues players pack up the songs of the fields and juke joints and journey north on Highway 61 — America’s Blues Highway — to Memphis, Tennessee; St. Louis; and Chicago. The Mississippi Blues Trail has six stops in Vicksburg. One honors Vicksburg’s greatest native blues-making son, Grammy winner Willie Dixon, “poet laurate of the blues.”

Blues reverberates at venues such as LD’s Kitchen, the 10 South Rooftop Bar and Grill, and the Bottleneck Blues Bar at Ameristar Casino, one of four casinos in this river town.

Vicksburg’s history appears in 32 arty riverfront murals and continues at the Lower Mississippi River Museum, the Coca-Cola Museum and the 1858 Old Court House Museum. Haunted Vicksburg and Historic Walking Tours fill in fascinating stories.

Downtown meetings properties abound. In addition to the Vicksburg Convention Center (VCC), the Vicksburg City Auditorium offers 35,520 square feet of space for up 2,400 people, and the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation accommodates 250. The gracious 33-room Cedar Grove Mansion adds five acres of garden ambiance to its seating for 350.

In 2019, a $22 million sports complex that features zip lines and mini-golf opened, and a new 83-room Home2Suites property is scheduled for late this year.

“Our culture and history give Vicksburg a rich feel, but we also pride ourselves in modern amenities,” Strickland said. “That combination keeps people coming back.”

Convention Center

In the heart of historic downtown, the VCC has over 50,000 square feet of meeting space, with a 17,000-square-foot exhibit hall and nine meeting rooms. Home to the annual Miss Mississippi pageant, the facility is beside the 117-room Margaritaville Hotel Resort and within easy walking distance to numerous eateries, such as the 10 South Rooftop Bar and Grille, with its breathtaking city and Mighty Mississippi views.

The VCC’s food and beverage partner, Palmerwood Catering, is a popular group option, with “from scratch” specialties.

“We personally hand make everything, all the way down to the salad dressings,” said executive chef Barry Palmertree.

Off-Site Venues

A relaxed, rustic corporate retreat site known for deer and wild turkey hunting, Tara Wildlife covers 20,000-plus acres of oxbow lakes and bottomland hardwood forests along eight miles of Mississippi River frontage 30 minutes from Vicksburg. Complete with shaded decks and outdoor seating, its 5,700-square-foot conference center can host 65 attendees. Lodges and cabins provide overnight accommodations.

This nature lovers’ nirvana offers superb birdwatching, hunting, fishing, skeet shooting, canoeing, boat tours, mountain biking and a field course.

In town, the 33-guest-room Cedar Grove Mansion, one of the city’s 13 grand historic homes, is elegant antebellum surrounded by Vicksburg’s Garden District. Up to 125 can dine here.

Hallowed Ground

The second-largest national military cemetery in the country, the 1,800-acre Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the decisive battle of the Civil War through 1,300 poignant monuments and reams of headstones scattered throughout. President Lincoln’s remark that due to its strategic location, this Mississippi River town was “the key to victory” proved correct. Civilians paid a price during its 47-day siege, many living in caves to escape fierce artillery in town.

“The best way to tour its impressive grounds is with a National Parks Service guide,” said Strickland. “They tell stories of the conflict and really make it come to life.”

Creative Cuisine

Southern cooking is an art, and several hospitable kitchens in Vicksburg morph into bustling, cooking-class galleries for teambuilding or spouse tours.

Jefferson Davis and Ulysses S. Grant both danced in the ballroom of the 1856 Duff Green Mansion and Inn, which served as a Civil War hospital for both sides. Suitable for a corporate retreat, a buyout includes its four guest rooms and 1829 cottage. Also rife with history, the Anchuca Historic Mansion and Inn is known for its exceptional dining and boasts a charming courtyard, fountain and outdoor pool.

Cooking experiences at both properties can be tailored for a group’s needs.