Continue south about 27 miles to Clarksdale, called “Ground Zero for the Blues.” Here, at the “crossroads” of Highways 61 and 49, Robert Johnson is rumored to have sold his soul to the devil for his guitar prowess. Hooker, Muddy Waters and other music legends were born and/or raised in these parts.
Spend the rest of the afternoon in Clarksdale browsing another treasure trove of blues history, the Delta Blues Museum. See the remains of the cabin in which Waters lived while working as a sharecropper, more guitars that Hooker did his magic on, and artifacts from the juke joint where Johnson was rumored to have been poisoned after performing.
Tonight, dine at Abe’s Bar-B-Q, a favorite dishing out barbecue and Delta-style tamales, before heading to the New Roxy — a historic movie theater that was recently restored and hosts musicians on two stages. Then groove to the soulful music that put this city on the map at two not-to-miss venues: Ground Zero Blues Club Biloxi , co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman, and Red’s Lounge, where you might see Grammy-winning prodigy Christone “Kingfish” Ingram.
Where to stay: The 20-room, artist-run Travelers Hotel has a distinctive industrial vibe, with exposed brick walls, concrete floors and local art. The budget-friendly property doesn’t have an elevator, so book early and request a ground-floor room. One accessible room has a roll-in shower with grab bars. Or opt for the 52-room Shack Up Inn, where some units are converted sharecropper cabins like the ones that housed blues musicians who worked in the fields (adults only).
Day 3: Clarksdale to Cleveland (51 miles)
Continue south on 61 for about 30 miles to the town of Merigold for a shopping stop at McCartys Pottery. Spouses Lee and Pup McCarty, both now deceased, founded the company in 1954 and soon established themselves as two of the state’s most sought-after artisans. Their two godsons joined the business in 1998 and continue to sell stunning works of clay (with glazes inspired by the Mississippi River). Insider tip: Buy discounted pieces during the annual “seconds sale” in the spring.
In Cleveland, 7 miles down the highway, detour 7 miles east on Highway 8 to Dockery Farms, an 1895 cotton farm considered the birthplace of the blues. Here, after long days toiling in its fields, Charley Patton and Howlin’ Wolf performed at makeshift venues on the property, called juke joints. Preserved buildings and an interpretive video describe the site’s significance.
Backtrack to Cleveland and its Grammy Museum Mississippi, west of downtown, highlighting the state’s many contributions to American music, from B.B. King to Jimmie Rodgers. Touch screen panels trace the origins of popular artists, connecting them to the artists that influenced them.
Where to stay: The 95-room Cotton House hotel is where the cotton from nearby farms would have been loaded onto trains starting in the late 1800s. The moderately priced hotel takes design inspiration from the region, with photographs of noted blues artists and artwork inspired by the river. Accessible rooms have roll-in showers and devices that alert the hearing-impaired to door knocks and phone rings.
Dine at the hotel’s Delta Meat Market, helmed by James Beard Award semifinalist Chef Cole Ellis. Southern dishes such as tomato pie and collard greens are meant to be shared.
Day 4: Cleveland to Vicksburg (140 miles)
Before leaving Cleveland, stop in at Mississippi Grounds for a caffeine boost and pastries, perhaps a cheese croissant.