Columbus, Mississippi: Culture, Cuisine and Southern Charm
There are surprisingly few hills in the Hills Region of Mississippi, at least in the part where Columbus is located. This was my stepping off point for my tour of the state. I was looking for a truly authentic experience, full of the southern hospitality I’d heard so much about.
First thing on my itinerary, I headed off to Friendship Cemetery, where Memorial Day in the U.S. is said to have begun. Early morning mist still hung in the spring air, and apart from the song of a bird, I was alone, surrounded by peacefulness.
In 1865, just after the end of the American Civil War, the ladies of Columbus visited the graves of their fallen soldiers. The story goes that one of the mothers who lay flowers on her son’s grave, felt that if her son had fallen to the north, in Union territory, she hoped that someone would honour his memory by laying flowers at his graveside. With this thought in mind, she began to lay flowers on all the surrounding graves, regardless of which side the soldiers had fought on. Today, the citizens of the United States continue to honour those who have died in military service for their country.
My next stop was The Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center, located in the heart of downtown. As well as providing information on all the things to do and see in the area, it’s also the first home of famous American playwright, Tennessee Williams. He was born in Columbus in 1911, and went on to write plays, like “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “The Glass Menagerie”.
Annual Spring Pilgrimage Celebration
After a fabulous grilled chicken salad for lunch at Harveys, I set off to visit a couple of the beautiful antebellum mansions located throughout the city, and which are opened up to the public during the Annual Spring Pilgrimage Celebration. Many of the homes sit on tree-lined streets surrounded by wisteria and dogwood in bloom.
The beautifully restored Temple Heights and gardens embodies Southern charm. Miss Dixie (otherwise known as Mrs. Dixie H. Butler), a quintessential Southern lady, greeted and welcomed me into her grand home. After a tour of the property, she played the piano and told me stories of the past. Miss Dixie has opened her home up to visitors for over 40 years. Soon, she will be placing the well-loved home into the hands of new owners, who will no doubt continue the annual Pilgrimage tradition.
Exploring Downtown Columbus
Afterwards, I headed downtown to 4th Street, also known as Catfish Alley, where in the 1800s local fisherman would sell catfish caught in the nearby Tombigbee River. Soon, the alley became a hub for thriving businesses, blues music and delicious food. Each year, during the Spring Pilgrimage, 4th Street hosts “Catfish in the Alley,” a fun-filled day for the entire family, including a catfish cook-off and some of the best Blues in the South.
At the end the day, just before heading downtown to Huck’s Place for a hearty Southern seafood dinner, I took a stroll along across the Old Tombigbee River Bridge at the Columbus Riverwalk. From the bridge, I also had a great vantage point for watching two local fishermen throw out their lines for “crappie”, a small freshwater fish. My dinner choice had been made for me!
So what are you waiting for? Step off the well- travelled path and visit Columbus, Mississippi where you’ll find comfort, charm and a whole lot of Southern hospitality.
When You Go
For More Information
Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau