A 16-Hour Overnight in Natchez, Mississippi

The Mississippi River town of Natchez has been a waypoint for centuries. Like so many voyagers before me, I didn’t have much time to spend there. There were 16 hours to spare, enough for a whirlwind tour of a slow-moving town on a rainy Saturday night in late July. I started at the Natchez Visitor Center, overlooking the river and a kudzu-covered hillside. Things got much more interesting from there.

Shortly before 5 p.m., the center was still open, with brochures and, most critically, a model of the town, about seven feet square a side, complete with points of interest that lit up when buttons on the diorama were pressed. Interactive orientation!

At the center, I booked a last-minute hotel with my smart phone and the Hotels.com app. I got a discounted rate on the Natchez Grand Hotel. While I waited 10 minutes for the reservation to ping from my phone to Hotels.com and back to the hotel, I admired the river from an observation deck. I tweeted a photo!

Hotel check-in was easy, and the wifi was speedy enough to start uploading photos and videos. Tony Perrottet’s clever insights aside, travel writing is often about the quality of your wifi!

Media uploading, I walked to the river bluff, taking photos of the killer sunset. Red at night; sailor’s delight!

Next, Biscuits & Blues on the recommendation of Barkeep Bryan, the most affable hotel bartender in Mississippi. For dinner: crawfish and mushroom beignet, fried oyster and spinach salad, biscuits with marmalade and butter, Abita beer out of New Orleans. Excellent!

Walk down the hill to Isle of Capri, downtown’s riverboat casino. It was smoky and the security guard who checked my ID at the door said, “Good luck tonight.” I did not wager a cent, even though there were penny slots!

Stopped in the Under the Hill Saloon, a biker bar where a fight was narrowly averted as soon as I walked in. (Lucky I wasn’t involved.) The bar, which surprisingly has a website, reminds visitors that “Once thieves, cutthroats, ladies-of-the-night and riverboat gamblers lurked in the shadows and trod the dusty streets.” There is a three-room guest house upstairs!

A rock and roll band stepped up to jam, as some younger non-bikers sat down next to me. They were slugging back beers, warming up for a night at Bowie’s, which one described as having “much better scenery than this place.” He was talking about single women!

I walked past Bowie’s, which was charging a $5 cover for no reason in particular but for it being a Saturday night. I decided to go home, where guests were still slamming back Barkeep Bryan’s shots!

Breakfast at the hotel: grits, sausage, eggs, biscuits, juice, coffee. The grits!

Hit the Natchez Trace Parkway for a 263-mile drive to Tupelo. ETA, including rest stops: 8 long hours!