Mississippi is a state in the Southern United States with around 3 million inhabitants. Jackson is the state capital and largest city.
Mississippi covers about 125,000 square kilometres and is bordered to the north by Tennessee, to the east by Alabama, to the south by Louisiana and a narrow coast on the Gulf of Mexico and to the west, across the Mississippi River, by Louisiana and Arkansas. In addition to its namesake, major rivers in Mississippi include the Big Black River, the Pearl River, the Yazoo River, the Pascagoula River, and the Tombigbee River. Major lakes include Ross Barnett Reservoir, Arkabutla Lake, Sardis Lake and Grenada Lake. The largest lake in Mississippi is Grenada Lake. The state of Mississippi is entirely composed of lowlands, the highest point being Woodall Mountain, in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, 246 metres above sea level. The lowest point is sea level at the Gulf coast. The mean elevation in the state is 91 metres above sea level. Most of Mississippi is part of the East Gulf Coastal Plain. The Coastal Plain is generally composed of low hills, such as the Pine Hills in the south and the North Central Hills. The Pontotoc Ridge and the Fall Line Hills in the northeast have somewhat higher elevations. Yellow-brown loess soil is found in the western parts of the state. The northeast is a region of fertile black earth that extends into the Alabama Black Belt. The coastline includes large bays at Bay St. Louis, Biloxi and Pascagoula. It is separated from the Gulf of Mexico proper by the shallow Mississippi Sound, which is partially sheltered by Petit Bois Island, Horn Island, East and West Ship Islands, Deer Island, Round Island and Cat Island. The northwest remainder of the state consists of the Mississippi Delta, a section of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. The plain is narrow in the south and widens north of Vicksburg. The region has rich soil, partly made up of silt which had been regularly deposited by the floodwaters of the Mississippi River.
Mississippi has a humid subtropical climate with long summers and short, mild winters. Temperatures average about about 35 °C in July and about about 9 °C in January. The temperature varies little statewide in the summer; however, in winter, the region near Mississippi Sound is significantly warmer than the inland portion of the state. The absolute temperatures temperature in Mississippi has ranged from -28.3 °C to 46.1 °C.
The late summer and fall is the seasonal period of risk for hurricanes moving inland from the Gulf of Mexico, especially in the southern part of the state. Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which killed 238 people in the state, are the most devastating hurricanes to hit the state, both causing nearly total storm surge damage around Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula. As in the rest of the Deep South, thunderstorms are common in Mississippi, especially in the southern part of the state. On average, Mississippi has around 27 tornadoes annually.
Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport (GPT) has flights to/from Dallas, Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston and St Petersburg/Clearwater.
Two trains operated by Amtrak serve the state of Mississippi:
Interstate 20 (east-west route along the lower middle half of the state), I-10 (again, an east-west route along the Gulf Coast), I-55 (north-south route passing through the middle of the state), and I-59 (southeastern corner of the state). Highway 61 in known as the river highway. It goes through cities like Port Gibson, Vicksburg, and Natchez.
Check Greyhound buses for more information.
You can travel by Amtrak on along the following routes: the center of the state (north / south route), the southeastern corner of the state, and along the Gulf coast. If you have plenty of time and you are not in a hurry to get to your final destination, this might be an interesting way to visit the state. The main disadvantages of rail travel in Mississippi are that there are only a few stations that are still in use, sometimes travel times may be long, and the routes are limited so you cannot explore the state very well.
Here are the stations that are still in service:
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Mississippi has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.
Check Greyhound buses for more information.
The state is largely rural. Outside of large towns and away from major interstates and state highways, dining options are fairly limited, but even the smallest of towns will have a local diner. However, if you enjoy country cooking, there is no shortage of good to excellent places to eat. Fried chicken, country-fried steak, fresh vegetables, and cornbread are favorites, although barbecue is also fairly widely available. Mississippi barbecue tends to pork ribs and pulled pork or chopped beef sandwiches with tomato-based sauces, usually slightly sweet.
Fried catfish is one meal that Mississippians pride themselves on. If you want to visit the world catfish festival go to Belzoni (pronounced by the locals as: bell-zone-uh). There's not much to see there, but it's interesting if you're in that area. One treat often served with catfish is fried dill pickles, a strange sounding but delicious side dish.
Generally, one can't go wrong with Mississippi staples of biscuits, corn bread, fried chicken, catfish or steak, collards and other greens, and fresh vegetables.
In Indianola, you can visit the Indianola Pecan House where you won't find a shortage of ways to consume pecans, which are found in abundance in the local area.
Laws regarding alcohol are a frequent source of confusion to outsiders. Mississippi continues to practice "local option" with regard to sale of alcohol. Under this system, local jurisdictions may choose whether or not to allow the sale or consumption of alcohol. Beer, where sold, may be purchased from convenience stores or supermarkets, while wine and spirits may only be purchased from licensed liquor stores. Alcohol-by-the-drink is yet another area of local option; some permit purchase of alcoholic beverages at restaurants but do not permit liquor stores. Where they are allowed, liquor stores are limited to the hours of 10am-10pm; hours during which beer sales are permitted are at the discretion of the county or municipality. The only reliable way to determine the regulations is to ask a local. There are still numerous counties where alcohol is forbidden; enforcement is typically lax regarding alcohol purchased elsewhere for personal consumption, but may not be if an officer of the law decides to make it an issue.
Try Lazy Magnolia beer, brewed in Kiln, MS. Its most popular brew is Southern Pecan Ale. Lazy Magnolia beers can be found on tap in many bars and restaurants throughout the state.
There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:
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