Mississippi Delta – Blues Highway 61 Journey: Tunica, MS

October marks the 8th anniversary of The Blues Blogger site – and what better setting than a visit to the Mississippi Delta. On this trip I would also meet my brother David, who flew in from New York City an hour after my arrival at Memphis International to share in his first visit and my second to the Mississippi Delta region. My brother is a major influence to this blog’s creation, and our get together also represents the first time we’ve taken a trip together in our lives. There was certainly lots to see, experience and talk about. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my site’s anniversary, have some family time and take in some of the Bridging the Blues events at The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival in Greenville, MS.

Last April I was in the Delta with a group of travel writers taking part in a FAM Tour. We traveled by bus and were accompanied by several CVB representatives from Desoto County, Tunica, Clarksdale, Indianola, and Greenwood. The trip was amazing, (and you can follow each of the links above to the stories I posted last spring) but because our schedule was extremely tight, we only caught a taste of each area. While I was happy I took part in the tour last spring – I craved for more.

So when I was asked by the Mississippi Delta Tourism Association to return to the land where the blues was born, it was impossible for me to resist. Especially since this time it would be my own agenda and rental vehicle; letting my own journey of the Delta unfold.  In the next five days I would cover Tunica, Vicksburg, Bentonia, Indianola, Cleveland, Merigold, and would travel back and forth from Clarksdale to Greenville while staying at The Shack Up Inn.

After the lengthy walk to the Avis Car Rental, we finally got settled in our vehicle and would be making our first stop to see Lisa and Webster at The Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau and The Gateway to the Blues Museum… Navigating to Tunica from Memphis International is really straightforward and takes about 30 to 40 minutes at the most. It was our first stopover before the 3-hour drive to Vicksburg the following morning.

On my previous visit to Tunica I did an extensive piece regarding some great places to dine, see and do in the area. Fortunately, I was able to revisit a few of those classic establishments this time around.

Gateway to The Blues Museum

Gatwway to the Blues Museum Tunica

The first time I experienced this wonderful museum our tour was running behind schedule, and we went through really fast. So it was great to leisurely walk around without any tight time restraints. Set in a restored 1895 train depot relocated from Dundee Mississippi, the museum is a must stop on any Mississippi Delta blues pilgrimage. The interactive exhibits play blues music and videos – educating you about the roots of slave music and the influence of church hymns and juke joints as breeding grounds. The displays also guide you along many of the other blues trail markers you’ll see along your blues pilgrimage. Here you will find WC Handy’s coronet and Robert Johnson’s guitar in addition to over 700 items that are currently on display. The museum celebrated its grand opening in February 2015 and proudly serves as a true Gateway to the Blues as you continue to make your way along the Mississippi Blues Trail

The Hollywood Cafe

Hollywood Cafe TunicaAt this point it was mid-afternoon and I was traveling for more than 12 hours, so I was looking forward to some lunch. I was cautioned that The Hollywood Cafe might be rather quiet at this time of day, but that didn’t stop us from checking out this classic stop that claims to be the creator of the fried pickle. While my food order was certainly lighter fare this time around, we enjoyed our lunch and the conversations we had with the staff – Especially the part about Muriel, a gospel singer who played piano every Friday night as depicted in the song “Walking in Memphis” made famous by Marc Cohn. Muriel is gone now, but her spirit lives on and apparently likes to move some of the pictures on the wall around in the early morning hours… You can read my previous review of the Hollywood Café by clicking here.

Mississippi Blues Trail Markers in Tunica
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james cotton blues marker
james cotton blues marker
james cotton blues marker
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Son House Blues Marker
Son House Blues Marker
Son House Blues Marker

Here are the blues markers that you can check out when you’re in the Tunica area.  Each marker will give you some insight about each person, place or event and it’s significance in blues history. Stop by and say hello at the Gateway to the Blues Visitors Center, view the U.S. Highway 61 marker, and then chart your course to the following landmarks. You can also download the Mississippi Blues Trail App for your iPhone or Android wireless device.

  • Abbay & Leatherman Plantation
  • Eddie James “Son” House
  • Harold “Hardface” Clanton
  • James Cotton
  • Hollywood Cafe
Gold Strike Casino Hotel

Gold Strike Exterior

I requested to stay the Gold Strike Casino Hotel once again as my first experience there was fantastic. The Hotel did not disappoint. The rooms are very comfortable and immaculate  with a spectacular view of the Mighty Mississippi. As our day started to wind down, we went for drinks at Jack Binions lounge and then decided to casually stroll through the large assortment of delicious selections at the Buffet Americana. The Gold Strike is an extremely affordable place to stay with comfort, décor and warm hospitality that goes over and beyond.

The Blue and White Restaurant

Our first night in Mississippi would not be a late one. The following morning my brother and I would get up early and stop for a quick breakfast at The Blue and White Restaurant before making our way to the key to the South – Vicksburg, Mississippi. There was a HUGE day ahead of us with lots planned… Please join me next time as we drive down blues highway 61 and explore the sights and sounds of Vicksburg, MS.

How familiar are you with Tunica and the Blues Highway 61? Are there any spots that come to mind during your travels to the south? Please share your thoughts and comments in the area below…

The Blues Blogger

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