East bound, feast bound.
Adventures in arts, shopping, dining and history on
the Parkway at Raymond, Clinton and Ridgeland.
First founded as LeFleur’s Bluff, named for a French trader working along the Natchez Trace, Mississippi’s capital city was rechristened in honor of Andrew Jackson after the General Jackson led the Tennessee Militia to victory at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. After the battle, the federal government ordered the militia to disband, but Jackson rebelled and, with no army rations to rely on, led his men all the way back to Tennessee on the Natchez Trace. The general’s toughness on that long and lean march is believed to be the source of his nickname, “Old Hickory.”
Unlike Old Hickory and company, today’s Parkway travelers headed northeast from Natchez (or south from Tupelo) will want for nothing, because the cities of Raymond, Clinton and Ridgeland await, offering a wealth of delightful venues that satisfy on every front. (And for those who want a side order of the city of Jackson, that’s nearby, too). Have a hankering for delicious dining, or a hunger for fine arts? Or maybe you’re thirsty for refreshing fun—or craving some premiere retail therapy. Then you’re in for a treat, because these three cities are ready to roll out a feast.
Raymond: History served up with a smile.
Andrew Jackson wasn’t the only general to travel this area. In 1863, General U.S. Grant headed this way to seize the Southern Railroad in his campaign to control Vicksburg and the Mississippi River. Meanwhile the Confederate Army dispatched Lt. General John C. Pemberton and his forces to prevent the rail from being taken. On the morning May 12, the two forces met across Fourteen Mile Creek. At first the Confederates had the advantage, but surprise Union reinforcements swayed the battle.
Although the Battle of Raymond was relatively small in numbers of soldiers, it had a big impact on the course of the War, and in the city of Raymond today you’ll find a small community ready to offer big-hearted hospitality. You may want to begin with a walking tour of the battlefield, so well preserved it’s earned a highlight on the History Channel. Afterward, a driving tour through historic downtown Raymond takes you past architectural gems like the Greek Revival Hinds County Courthouse. When folks say the hospitality in Raymond is historic, it’s no joke—two of the city’s charming B&Bs are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Cedarwood and the Dupree House with its adjacent Mamie’s Cottage. So you may want to spend a relaxing evening right here in Raymond. Or head to Clinton where they’re playing your song.
Clinton: Jam-packed with the best of the Old and New South
At the Clinton Welcome Center, you’ll enjoy the first taste of the delicious blend of old and new ahead. Designed to resemble the sort of “dogtrot” home that would have been located on the Old Natchez Trace in the early 1800s, the Center was constructed using hand-made bricks like those at Monticello and old cypress reclaimed from a sugar mill. Hear those strains of old-fashioned music? Requests are welcome at the monthly jam sessions of the Mississippi Olde Time Music Society held at the Center. Even if you don’t make the jam, there are plenty of other tasty Mississippi-made treats available here —everything from artwork to books to pottery to jam, as in the sweet sticky kind. There are also historical exhibits to devour.
Hungry minds have always gravitated to Clinton, a quintessentially charming Southern college town, home of Mississippi College. MC was the first institution of higher learning founded in the state (it’s the second oldest Baptist-affiliated college in the world), and the school was the first co-ed college in the nation to confer degrees to women—to two women, in 1831. On your stroll through campus, be sure to stop at the Samuel Gore Art Gallery and Statue Garden.
Gore, a Mississippi College professor for 50 years, mentored students who went on to become regionally and nationally respected artists, some of whose works you’ll find in and among the quaint shops and emporiums on the brick streets of Old Town. Those streets were the inspiration for the name of the town’s theatre group, the Brick Street Players.
Take in a show, or take home a treasure, or in the Clinton Community Nature Center, take a hike through the 33 acres of lush native trees, ferns and foliage, and even a lovely butterfly garden. There are benches for relaxing, or you can follow a piece of the Old Natchez Trace that winds through the center. When you’ve had your fill of Nature, it’s time to head for Ridgeland where you’ll find an arts scene of exceptional taste.
Ridgeland: Consuming passions.
The 20,000-square-foot Mississippi Crafts Center serves as an exhibition center, retail gallery and educational center for the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, the 400-member collective representing artisans from 19 different states. The one-of-a-kind artworks for viewing and for sale, from pottery to baskets to textiles, make for a beautiful browsing experience.
Gail Pittman began her pottery empire thirty years ago hand painting dinner plates at her kitchen table; today, celebrities from Oprah to Katie Couric to Faith Hill own Gail Pittman pottery, and visitors to the Everyday Gourmet will find a feast of colorful tableware and home décor items. You’ll also want to check out V.C. Originals and Studio Outlet of ceramic artist Vicki Carroll.
While works by the artisans of Ridgeland are sure to become heirlooms, you may also want to browse the heirlooms on display at the Antique Mall of the South, the second largest antiques mart in the state. And speaking of large, Mississippi’s largest indoor mall, Northpark, offers a hugely satisfying shopping, with it collection of 120 retailers, and a sister center, Ridgewood Court, just a few minutes away.
Enjoy power shopping indoors, or you may want to sit and soak up the views of the outdoor cafés and wrought iron benches of Renaissance at Colony Park, the Southeast’s premiere outdoor lifestyle center offering the finest brands in the atmosphere an old-world European village, featuring luxurious touches like tiled roofs, fountains and lush greenery. Another must-shop experience is The Township at Colony Park. This exuberant example of mixed-use New Urbanism provides the latest in shopping and dining in a charming environment of old-fashioned neighborhood appeal.
So dive into the shopping, or dive into the fun of the 33,000 acres of shimmering blue waters at the Ross Barnett Reservoir. If Ridgeland is a shopper’s heaven, it’s also a sportsman’s paradise on the Reservoir, a man-made wonder, with sailing, boating, swimming, fishing and bird-watching, and with miles of hiking trails on the Parkway.
Worked up an appetite? Take a class or attend special event at the nationally renowned Viking Cooking School, or enjoy any of the excellent establishments in Ridgeland’s generous menu of dining options. This is a city of conspicuously delicious consumption. Old Hickory and his men may have been a mite hungry when they marched on the Natchez Trace, but that won’t be a problem for you with well over a hundred restaurants to choose from. Bon appetit.
FOR VISITOR INFORMATION: 866-TRACE 56
Posted on April 20, 2018