Tupelo, Mississippi, is best known as the birthplace of one Elvis Aaron Presley and where Elvis spent his formative years. Before moving to Memphis with his family at 13, this small town in northeast Mississippi was home to the icon we know today as “The King of Rock and Roll.” While the Tupelo of today is still very much Elvis' hometown, there are plenty of things to do that don't involve Elvis' boyhood history. These 13 things to do in Tupelo will inspire you to plan your visit, whether you're an Elvis fan or not.
But everyone is at least a little bit of an Elvis fan, right? If you're not, you might want to keep that tidbit of information to yourself as you enjoy exploring this charming southern city. Although the city is so much more than Elvis's history, the residents know and appreciate that Elvis is why Tupelo is on the map.
Things To Do in Tupelo: Spoiler Alert, It's More Than Elvis' Birthplace
This list of 12 things to do in Tupelo does include some Elvis lore, but there's much more to discover.
1. A Maker's Town
When scoping out things to do in Tupelo, you'll notice a significant trend toward handmade items and experiences fueled by creativity. From pottery-making classes to sipping bourbon while you craft your own charcuterie board to browsing local boutiques for “Made in Tupelo” goodies, you'll quickly discover Tupelo is a little slice of heaven for anyone who loves and appreciates locally made handiwork.
2. A Suite Fit for a King
Recently opened Hotel Tupelo is the area's only boutique hotel. Its convenient, easy downtown location is the perfect jumping-off point to explore the heart of downtown on foot. Hotel Tupelo has complimentary bikes for guest use if you want to explore a little further afield or explore on two wheels versus two feet.
Hotel Tupelo has two suites, the King Suite and the Premier Suite. Both suites are identical regarding space and amenities, but the King Suite is Elvis themed, and the Premier Suite is Tupelo city themed.
Both suites sleep four people. There's a bedroom with a king-sized bed and en suite bath and a larger living area with a sectional that converts into a queen bed, a full-sized dining table, a wet bar, and a hallway half bath, so whoever is sleeping on the pull out bed doesn't have to go through the bedroom to use the bathroom at night.
Other Amenities at Hotel Tupelo
The King Suite has locally made amenities such as soaps, pottery, and locally roasted coffee pods. There's also exactly enough Elvis theming. There's one large Jailhouse Rock-era print of Elvis, two smaller framed black and white photos, and other art displays, such as a print featuring The King's thumbprint on a 45 record and a framed copy of his birth certificate. A guitar and Elvis coffee table books round out the fun decor. Hotel Tupelo also has standard king and double queen rooms available.
Hotel Tupelo also has loaner bikes for guests to explore the city.
3. Visit The Birth Place of Elvis
Visit the humble two-room home Elvis was born in and the adjacent museum that details facts about Elvis' early life and what Tupelo was like in the late 1930s to mid-1940s. The museum is true to Elvis' boyhood and the time he lived in Tupelo and only minimally covers Elvis the megastar, although there are some unique costumes and artifacts.
The church the Presley family attended when Elvis was a child has been relocated and is on the grounds for visitors to explore. There's a presentation at the church that's a definite don't miss, so check the hours when you arrive at the birthplace and plan the rest of your visit around that.
The grounds of Elvis' birthplace are worth exploring, too. The property has a small, tranquil lake, statues, and various memorials. Discover the small chapel fans donated money to build after Elvis died in 1977 that continuously plays Elvis' gospel songs. Fun fact: Elvis only won three Grammy Awards, all for inspirational performances, AKA gospel music.
4. Sip at Mississippi's First Meadery
You'll hear plenty about the King in Tupelo; now it's time for the queen to shine. Mead is wine made from fermented honey. If you've never tried mead, buzz into the Queen's Reward Meadery for a tasting. This family-owned and operated meadery is not only the OG Mississippi meadery but all of the mead is made with local Tupelo honey.
If you think you won't enjoy mead because you're not into sweeter wine, take a chance and go anyway. Go ahead, and tell the person serving you that this probably won't be quite your thing because you're more of a dry-wine person. They'll nod politely as if they've heard this a thousand times, which they have, and pour you a sample.
Even though the mead is made from honey, it's not all sweet. Even the sweeter varieties of mead at the Queen's Reward are on the tart and sweet side – think of things that make you pucker, and you're in the neighborhood – versus syrupy sweet. If you visit on a hot day, mead slushies are an absolute must-try.
5. Splurge on a Pair of One-Size-Fits-One Jeans
If the perfect pair of blue jeans has eluded you, consider getting fitted for a pair of bespoke raw denim jeans from Blue Delta Jeans. Each pair of jeans is not only custom fitted but a custom pattern is made for each and every pair of jeans. If you've always wanted to wave your hand nonchalantly and say “Oh, my personal pattern is on file,” this is your place.
Customers can choose what type of fit they want and the color, thread color, and pocket placement. Be prepared to get really up close and personal with the Blue Delta representative who measures you! These custom jeans take four to six weeks to ship. Virtual fittings are available.
Custom clothing doesn't come cheap. Blue Delta Jeans will run you about $450 per pair.
The Ultimate Rock Star Experience
Contact Hotel Tupelo about their unique partnership with Blue Delta Jeans. Roll into town for your fitting and stay at the Hotel Tupelo. Not only will someone from Blue Delta come to you, but they'll give a discount on the jeans. Hotel Tupelo will also provide a discount on the hotel room. Win-Win.
6. Adventure Awaits on The Natchez Trace Parkway
Whether you're looking for the ultimate scenic drive, bike ride, or a great place to hike and explore, the Natchez Trace Parkway is waiting for you to discover it. The Natchez Trace Parkway runs through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, so if you're road-tripping through the southeast and are set on the scenic route, this one's for you.
The Natchez Trace Visitor's Center is located in Tupelo. Browse the gift shop, watch a movie about how an 8,000-year-old Native American Trail became a national scenic byway, and take some time to dig into the exhibits in the interpretive center. The National Parks Service manages the Natchez Trace Parkway, and you'll find a ranger or a friendly volunteer to advise you on what to see and do along the parkway.
If you want to day hike, five sections of scenic trails run parallel to the parkway. Sixty miles of foot trails allow visitors to explore wetlands, swamps, and forest lands.
7. Make an Epic Charcuterie Board
Just about everyone enjoys noshing on a charcuterie board, but if you want the inside scoop on making your own, CharCutie is where you need to be. CharCutie offers a little bit of everything for foodies, from themed special events to private parties, to classes.
If you're interested in doing a class or private event at CharCutie, contact the owner, Stephanie Hall, before your visit and discuss your needs and budget. Whether you want to learn how to build a dreamy breakfast board or learn how to make those beautiful rosettes out of salami that will impress your friends and family – hint, it's really easy, but you don't have to tell anyone that – Stephanie can help you craft the charcuterie experience of your dreams.
And, if you don't have time for a class or want someone else to do the arranging, CharCutie offers grab-and-go selections and ready-made boards. CharCutie subscription boxes are coming soon, so keep them in mind if you want that perfect consumable gift.
8. Visit The Animals at Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo
Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo is a fun, one-of-a-kind animal adventure. This drive-through zoo offers unique opportunities to see buffalo, zebras, ostriches and more. There's also a reptile exhibit and a petting zoo.
9. Explore Fair Park
Although Elvis left Tupelo at age 13, he did return for a performance in 1956. He returned to play two shows at the Alabama-Mississippi Dairy Show, the ultimate story of a local boy makes good.
The former fairgrounds are now a park in the middle of downtown Tupelo. There's a splash pad and playground, and of course, the most prominent feature is a larger-than-life statue of Elvis circa 1956 singing to the hometown crowd at the fair. Fun fact: the statue is facing Elvis' birthplace.
There are many other parks and public green spaces in Tupelo. Whether you're looking for a place to run or let your kids burn off some energy, peruse this list of parks to find the perfect spot.
10. Take The Elvis Driving Tour
If exploring Elvis' birthplace isn't enough Elvis for you, take a driving tour of spots that tell more of his boyhood story. The descriptions and addresses of the spots along the Elvis' Tupelo Driving Tour can be found online. You can also get hard copy information at the Tupelo Visitor's Center, which is also a stop on the tour.
Even if you don't do the full tour, stop at Tupelo Hardware Company in downtown Tupelo. This is where Elvis bought his first guitar. You can stand before the display case the guitar came out of. An “X” on the floor marks the spot where young Elvis stood when he held his first guitar. Tupelo Hardware Company is still a functioning hardware store, and yes, they still sell guitars.
11. Cheers! Tupelo Has a Cocktail Trail
There are eight participating locations on the Tupelo Cocktail Trail. Pick up your cocktail card at the Tupelo Visitor's Center or any participating cocktail trail locations. Then, get to cocktailing.
Try each location's signature drink and get your card stamped. Once you complete all eight stops on the trail, return your card to the visitor's center for a free #MyTupelo cocktail shaker.
These are all walkable if you start from the downtown area and perfect if you stay at the Hotel Tupelo or Hilton Garden Inn. There's no requirement to complete all stops in a specific timeframe, so take your time and enjoy safely and responsibly.
While exploring Tupelo on foot, you'll likely notice the many colorful guitars that line the street. There are 25 of these brightly painted, Elvis-themed guitars throughout Tupelo. Discover all 25 and take some fun selfies.
12. Shop and Explore Downtown Tupelo
If you need something to do to break up all those cocktail stops, the shops and artwork of downtown Tupelo are fun to explore. In addition to popping into Tupelo Hardware Company, you can explore Reed's Department Store, where Gladys Presley, Elvis' mother, worked when she was pregnant with Elvis. Check out the men's department mural of a company picnic in 1934 shows Gladys when she was pregnant with Elvis.
LA Green is a fun boutique to pop into. Most of their stock is women's clothes and accessories, but there are some fun and whimsical gift items to be found here, too. Check out the work of Mississippi artists at the Caron Gallery. The Caron Gallery has a second location in Laurel, and if you're a fan of HGTV's Home Town, that name is familiar to you.
Downtown Tupelo also has a vibrant mural scene and some fascinating alleyways. The recent alley refresh project has brought fresh murals and lighting to transform long-neglected alley spaces into third-gathering spaces that sustain and enhance the downtown experience. There are few cities where visitors find themselves wanting to wander through the alleys, and that's one of the things that makes Tupelo unique.
13. Peanut Butter and Banana Sammies Out, Epic Epic Deep-Fried Donuts In
Although the Tupelo food scene warrants its own dedicated tribute, a trip to local favorite Connie's Fried Chicken undoubtedly belongs on this list of things to do in Tupelo. Connie's makes blueberry cake donuts fresh every morning. That's the only donut they sell, and they do it right.
Local restaurant and music venue, the Blue Canoe, buys up all the unsold blueberry donuts daily and uses them to make a bread pudding that will bring tears to your eyes.
Come for The Elvis History, Stay for The Charm and Hospitality
Whether your trip to Tupelo was inspired by retracing the boyhood footsteps of Elvis or small, southern cities are your thing, you'll enjoy your time in Tupelo and find something unexpectedly fabulous.
Jill is a Wealth of Geeks travel editor and an expert writer focusing on family and adventure travel as well as practical tips to help travelers get the most value out of their vacation experiences. In addition to Wealth of Geeks, Jill has written for Business Insider, MSN, Tripsavvy, Matador Network, Canadian Traveller, and Travel Awaits. She lives in San Antonio with her husband and sons but she's usually somewhere else.