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I Traveled to Mississippi's Best-kept Secret for a Taste of Southern Charm

Don't miss out on biking this underrated getaway.

Tupelo is the sweet little slice of Southern charm you've been missing out on—and Mississippi's best-kept secret. I checked out this city's hot spots and magnolia tree-lined streets via bike, sipped some mead ("honey wine"), and enjoyed a "doughburger"—a delicacy in North Mississippi—at Tupelo's oldest restaurant. It was the escape my mind and body never knew it needed, and now I'm convinced your next getaway should be here, too.

Why Tupelo, Mississippi? Hear me out. It's not every day when you travel to a city like this that's not overplayed and overpopulated with tourist traffic. Sometimes, it pays to take the road less traveled, and in this case, I was able to cross off a very unique gem that's been on my bucket list. In Tupelo, you can enjoy unplugging, getting in exercise while exploring the city's rich history, and having a comforting taste of southern hospitality. And that's exactly what a vacay should be about.

Plus, it's no secret that traveling benefits your emotional health and wellness in many ways—and we love it for that. Research has actually proven that a planned trip can make you happier. Spending time away from work, commitments, and the same ol' routine can be just the break you need to feed yourself with brand new experiences, alleviate any stress you may have, lift your mood, and fill your mind with creativity. So pack your bags, and let's get going!

Is Tupelo the next Nashville or Charleston? You'll just have to read on to learn more about Mississippi's best-kept secret and head there IRL to find out.

Basically, everything is walkable and bike-able for the fitness enthusiasts out there

side-by-side coffee and bikes
Alexa Mellardo

One of Tupelo's hands-down coolest highlights? If you're into rock and roll, Elvis Presley—the "King of Rock and Roll"—was born here. You can walk through Elvis Presley's birthplace, explore the on-site museum that takes you through the rock and roll legend's life, and check out the star's childhood church.

Of course, when in Mississippi's best-kept secret, I wanted to cross that off my must-do list, but what I really loved was the Elvis self-guided bike tour. I checked out a bike and helmet from my hotel, Hotel Tupelo, and cruised to 14 different places on an extremely hot summer afternoon, but it was totally worth the sweat and exercise! The tour took me to Milam Junior High, where Elvis attended 7th and a portion of 8th grade; Lyric Theatre, where Elvis was rumored to have stolen his very first smooch; Johnnie's Drive-In, where Elvis dined with his friends (You can still sit in his go-to booth today!); the Elvis Homecoming Statue; and so much more.

Related: The Best Hikes To Take With Your Dog in the Great Outdoors

The southern comfort food is out-of-this-world good

food side-by-side
Alexa Mellardo

Let's be honest: What's better than indulging in some comfort food? It's pretty hard to top, and Tupelo is serving up some of the best.

While there, I ate at Forklift, a hip spot mixing up handcrafted cocktails, elevated southern eats, and a side of "southern sass." Ten out of 10 would recommend the lamb tenderloin with chickpea puree, maitake mushrooms, and truffle jus. You can't miss out on "The King" for dessert, which is peanut butter pie with candied bacon, banana, and caramel.

If you're in the mood for some live music while you're eating and sipping a sweet tea cocktail, Ethel Mae's is the place to be. Here, I enjoyed Chef Reginald Scott's Neo-Soul food: 48-hour brined half chicken, fried to crispy goodness, along with collard greens and traditional griddled hoecakes with honey butter.

For something your tastebuds have likely never experienced before, head on over to Clay's House of Pig for the half tater. It's a BBQ tater topped with slow-smoked pulled pork and all the fix-ins, including queso, sour cream, slaw, jalapeños, bacon, and the joint's homemade BBQ sauce. You will never want to eat potatoes any other way again.

Mississippi's best-kept secret introduced me to my new favorite type of alcohol: mead

meadery mead side-by-side
Alexa Mellardo

If you haven't heard of mead before, you're in for a real treat. Anyone who knows me can tell you I'm a major fan of wine. Mead—aka "honey wine"—has taken that love to an entirely new level.

To give you a bit of background, this alcoholic bev is concocted with fermented honey. It's sometimes referred to as "the drink of the gods" and has been around for thousands of years. People consider mead to be a "health-tonic" that's great for gut health because of the potential probiotics it has. Another fun fact? The word "honeymoon" got its name from the Scandinavian tradition of sipping mead throughout the first month after getting hitched in hopes of enhancing a couple's chances of conceiving.

That being said, you can't go to Tupelo and not stop for a tasting and some outdoor fun at Queen's Reward Meadery. This spot is Mississippi's very first meadery that's pouring, serving, and selling award-winning mead made with 100% pure Mississippi honey. The best part? From the Rubee cranberry orange honey wine to the honey-grape mead Scarlet Noir, all of the meads taste incredible and so different. I even had a little tasting of the mead slushies (Queen's Reward sells fun to-go pouches!) for the most refreshing kind of summertime treat.

It's a shopper's delight

Elvis artwork
Alexa Mellardo

Everyone needs a little bit of retail therapy every now and then. It can be therapeutic, boost your mood, and make you feel in control when done in moderation.

In Downtown Tupelo, you'll find charming boutiques like L.A. Green, where you'll fall in love with a flowy sundress (or a few) and a sleek set of wine glasses for your home bar. You'll also want to snag an oversized tee as I did from Tupelo Hardware Co, where Elvis' mom Gladys bought him his very first guitar.

And let me tell you—if you stay at Hotel Tupelo, you'll be obsessed with the scent in the lobby (and the overall vibe). Take a stroll over to Raw Furniture Co. to take a sweet piece of your stay back home with you. You'll find the same magnolia and cashmere scent in candle and oil form that's flowing throughout the hotel lobby. (The candle is currently lit on my desk, reminding me of this amazing trip.)

Related: This Portable Infrared Sauna Turned Me Into a Great Sleeper

The Instagram opportunities are never-ending

street art murals in Mississippi's best-kept secret
Alexa Mellardo

The art scene in Tupelo is beyond rad. You'll pose for a picture in front of the "Greetings from Tupelo, Mississippi" mural and swoon over the plethora of street art, like the Coca-Cola and Mississippi flag murals. A photo in front of Lyric Theatre and one beside the 25+ Elvis-themed guitars along the guitar trail is necessary, too.

The beautiful magnolia trees lining the sidewalks will make you feel like you're in a Hallmark movie as you make your way over to Tupelo River Coffee—which looks like a Williamsburg, Brooklyn kind of hangout—for an afternoon pick-me-up and some more snaps. If you're hungry for a snack, Strange Brew Coffeehouse is another great option for sips, pics, and treats. This local coffee shop is in a converted service station and offers Mississippi-roasted coffee, homemade baked goods, and really awesome mugs.

The road less traveled was a major win—it led me to Tupelo!

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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