It’s Elvis Presley’s hometown, and it would be hard to top that mighty claim to fame. But what else should we know about Tupelo, Mississippi? Let’s find out!
About Tupelo, Mississippi
Located in the northeast part of the state, Tupelo is Mississippi’s seventh-largest city, with an estimated population of 38,432. It’s the county seat of Lee County.
Because other communities in the area are much smaller, Tupelo is a regional hub for business and industry. In particular, furniture plants have provided many jobs here in recent decades, taking advantage of the abundant pines. Tupelo, Mississippi, gets its memorable name from a particular kind of gum tree that grows in the area.
What Is Tupelo, Mississippi, Known For?
Elvis left Tupelo for Memphis, Tennessee, back in 1948, when he was just 13. He would go on to become the king of rock ‘n’ roll but always carried fond memories of his hometown. You can bet the folks back home town haven’t forgotten him, either.
The house he grew up in is the city’s most visited attraction, and his presence can be felt throughout the community. It’s probably not surprising that there’s a big statue of him right outside City Hall.
Is There Anything to Do in Tupelo?
Tupelo isn’t just about Elvis. You can visit two historic Civil War battlegrounds here and take a drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Outdoor recreation is big here, and the downtown area has vibrant shops and restaurants and colorful street murals. It’s a friendly little city, so as you explore it, you’re likely to encounter some of that renowned Southern hospitality.
9 Unique Experiences in Tupelo, Mississippi
Let’s start at the top. In the hearts and minds of Tupelo residents, Elvis will always be number one. But there’s lots more to discover beyond that.
1. Elvis Presley’s Birthplace
This modest wood-frame house is certainly no Graceland. Elvis’ father scratched out a living as a sharecropper and had little to show for it. That’s actually why he headed off to Memphis – to seek better opportunities to provide for his family.
The lovingly preserved home features period furnishings from the 1930s, and there’s a chapel and gift shop. Hopefully, you can spend a few minutes relaxing on the front porch swing.
2. Visit the Tupelo Veterans Museum
This incredible museum wouldn’t exist without the efforts of Tony Lute. An Army veteran himself, Lute has long been fascinated with artifacts from World War II. He started collecting them as a teenager.
The items he has amassed in more than 60 years include guns, swords, and uniforms, as well as Jeeps and other military vehicles. His collection represents all wars America has participated in, but World War II makes up the bulk of it.
3. Brice’s Cross Roads National Battlefield
Civil War buffs will know that a significant battle occurred just outside of town in June of 1864. The Union army was relying on railroads to get food and ammunition to its troops.
Brice’s Cross Roads is where Confederate Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest cut off their supply lines. A granite memorial and two cannons mark the battle site, and a 4,000-square-foot visitor center offers interpretive displays. A cemetery contains the graves of nearly 100 Confederate dead.
4. Take a Scenic Drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway
This historic roadway doesn’t start or end here, but its headquarters is located in Tupelo. The Natchez Trace is considered one of the most scenic highways in the Southeast.
It follows the same general route as an ancient trail that indigenous people used. Maintained by the National Park Service, it stretches 444 miles from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi.
5. Explore the Murals of Tupelo
Public art is a thing here in Tupelo, Mississippi. Metal guitar sculptures honor the city’s musical heritage, and murals tell a larger story. The “Greetings from Tupelo” mural on Main Street offers a postcard welcome. Another mural memorializes Chickasaw chiefs Piominko and Tishomingo.
The thought-provoking Stack of Books graces the exterior wall of a landmark department store and celebrates renowned authors. Keep your eyes peeled for more colorful displays downtown.
6. Learn Civil War History at the Tupelo National Battlefield
The Union Army regained control over the railroads after a decisive battle that started here on July 14, 1864. While the Brice’s Cross Roads memorial is about 10 miles from Tupelo, this commemorative battle marker is right in town.
It’s a one-acre site that contains two monuments and interpretive signage. You’ll learn how events here contributed to the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy.
7. Learn Tupelo History at the Oren Dunn City Museum
You’ll find more displays on the historic battle at this city museum, but that’s not all. It also showcases Tupelo’s railroad history and its progress related to agriculture and industry. You can’t talk about the city’s history without remembering a devastating 1936 tornado that killed 216 people and leveled 48 city blocks.
As a bonus, the Oren Dunn City Museum sits in beautiful Ballard Park. There are scenic views of a lake as well as running and walking trails, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
8. Head Outdoors at Tombigbee State Park
Just six miles outside the city lies Tombigbee State Park. With its proximity to shopping and dining, it offers a quick getaway while keeping you close to the action.
You can grill in the picnic area, let the kids run around at the playground, or enjoy disc golf, a nature trail, and fishing on Lake Lee.
9. Explore Tupelo’s Downtown
Back in town, spend some downtime downtown. While many small towns around the country have boarded-up business districts, Tupelo’s is thriving. An active downtown association called Tupelo Main Street has worked for 30 years to revive old storefronts with shops, restaurants, and galleries. Their work has paid off – it’s a lively place day and night, with lots of vibrant public art.
You can’t talk about Tupelo, Mississippi, without mentioning Elvis Presley. As you can see, though, his small and friendly hometown is anything but a one-hit-wonder. Come to see the two-room shack he grew up in, but enjoy the friendly hospitality and other sights. How would you spend a day in Tupelo?