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Mississippi means “King of Waters” in Native American Choctaw. Indeed the state’s beauty, allure and industry derive from its coastal boundary to the south and the Mississippi River to the west. Spanish, French, British, African American and Native American influences have bred a culture rich with artistic, literary and musical treasures.

The Mississippi Delta is the birthplace of the blues, where musicians such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson began. Elvis Presley fans can tour Tupelo, the town where “The King of Rock and Roll” was born. Literature buffs will relish seeing the homes of renowned Mississippi writers. Visitors can tour William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak in Oxford and the Eudora Welty House in Jackson. Additionally, the state capital, Jackson, hosts the International Ballet Competition every four years.

Historic sites depict a storied past. See Civil War battlefields, including one at the Vicksburg National Military Park. Stroll through Rosalie Mansion and Gardens in Natchez, which was the Union headquarters in the South during the Civil War. The African-American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg is located inside America’s only remaining original African-American USO club.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast holds unique appeal, comprising 26 miles of the world’s longest man-made beach. Activities there include charter fishing, casinos, boutiques, art museums and golf. Seasonal excursions ferry visitors to Ship Island. Home to Fort Massachusetts, this barrier island is nationally renowned for its beaches.

Popular annual events occur from spring through fall. Enjoy the Natchez Spring Pilgrimage in April, in Natchez; the Canton Flea Market in May, in Canton; and the Neshoba County Fair in June, in the town of Philadelphia. September’s Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival in Greenville is a huge draw, as is Cruisin’ the Coast, in October, on Gulf Coast Highway 90.

Fresh seafood is always among favorite local foods. Statewide cravings include po’boy sandwiches, red beans and rice, fried chicken and catfish, boiled crawfish, comeback sauce, hush puppies, sweet potato pie and fried dill pickles. Mississippians add a dash of friendly Southern charm to every dish in the aptly named “Hospitality State."