You’ve undoubtedly heard about Graceland, but Tupelo might be one town that’s skipped your mind. Just 90 minutes from the place Elvis is most famously connected to, is Tupelo, the music legend’s birthplace.
It’s here that you can catch a glimpse of some of the places Elvis frequented as a youth. Still, there’s much more to Tupelo than Elvis. If you want to experience a slice of quaint American life Tupelo is the place to do it.
From its pristine streets to its sparkling malls, and a growing list of eateries, this is small-town southern charm at its best. That, coupled with outlandishly pretty countryside on its borders and welcoming locals with an infectiously easy breezy attitude, you’ll feel right at home.
See where it all started
All that said, going to Tupelo and not visiting Elvis’s birthplace would be a bit of a sin. Think diminutive, white boarded house, and that’s what you’ll get when you pull up outside. You can almost bank on it being packed with visitors, regardless of the season, but none of that matters.
Take a moment to soak in the view, with the little swinging seat on the front porch, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to feel won over by the emotional power of the place.
A life-sized statue of a 13-year old Elvis is set within the grounds, along with plaques to commemorate different points in his youth. Oh, and then there’s the gospel chapel, painstakingly moved from its original site to the grounds of his childhood home.
Revel in Tupelo’s natural beauty
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There’s more than one way to spend a day in Tupelo. Temperatures can soar in the summer, so if you want to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors, spring or autumn are the times to do it. Just watch for those rain showers earlier in the year.
Walking trails include the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. The Natchez Trace Trail in its entirety spans three states and can be done by car or get on your walking boots and scale the Blackland Prairie part of the trail and you’ll be rewarded with gems like the Chickasaw Village Site, a place where the native American tribe by the same name called home.
For a more relaxing afternoon, there’s always fishing in and around Tupelo. Elvis Presley Lake, Pickwick Lake, and Trace State Park are just a few of the best places to pull up a little pew and settle in, fishing rod at the ready. It’s spots like this where you can find some of the best local catches, like the largemouth bass and catfish.
Take a mini road trip
If you want to experience some more Elvis-related sights, there’s a whole list to tick off during the Elvis Driving Tour. For this, you simply need a map and a car. As it’s a self-drive experience, you can go at your own pace and revel in the stop that resonates most with you.
Make sure you do a bit of research before you set out, just so you have an idea of the significance of the places you’ll visit along the way. To give you a flavour of what’s in store, you’ll get to see things like the school he attended, the drive-in he spent time at, and the Lee County Courthouse, where Elvis performed on live radio for the first time.
To really do the tour justice, you should take extra time to get out of your car and wander around the local areas where you can. These sights are best felt, breathed in, and savoured in full.
Shake those hips
For anyone looking to revel in the musical heritage of the town, plan a trip during festival season. The Elvis Festival is a top event for any rock and roll fans, with its summery vibes and die-hard Elvis fans, it has sights and sounds not to be missed, even if you’re not a fan yourself.
Aside from this, Tupelo has a whole calendar packed with different southern-style events throughout the year. Who could turn up the chance to be part of the crowd at the ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ BBQ Dual for starters? Think of a fun-filled festival atmosphere plus amazing food and you’re on the right lines. Or, the Gumtree Festival for music, arts, and culture.
And did we mention the music shop where Elvis bought his first guitar? Sure, it’s not a place to soak up live music at top volume, but it’s certainly worth ducking your head through the door.
Watch for the steel guitars
If you want a photo to remember Tupelo by, watch out for one of the many steel guitars that grace its streets. Of course, these mini monuments are in honour of Elvis, each crafted with love by students of the schools within the area.
If you’re one to tick things off a list, find the trail and follow it from start to finish to find each of the 25 guitars scattered throughout the city. Top points go to anyone who can take a snap of themselves at each one along the way!
Learn about Tupelo’s history
The Civil War is ingrained in the Deep South’s history, and Tupelo has its own part in the story. To find out how events unfolded for the town during this time, go and see Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield, complete with signs revealing the site’s history, battle movements and the final resting place of 95 Confederate soldiers.
If that interests you, make a short stop to Tupelo Veteran Museum and see memorabilia from historic events spanning from the Civil War to World War II. It’s the perfect way to transport yourself back through time and get under the skin of the people of Tupelo through the ages.
Explore Elvis’ birthplace on our ‘Memphis, New Orleans and Nashville’ tour. Book your holiday here.