Mississippi Gulf Coast, courtesy MDA
Down on the Farm
Cotton was once king in Mississippi; today, agritourism has taken its place. Mississippi’s AgriTourism Trail features the state’s agrarian attractions. Groups can visit more than 35 sites, among them farms, historic plantations, old country stores and museums.
“On the farms, groups can experience small-town rural America and agricultural life,” said Jennifer Spann, public relations manager for the Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Division. “Many farms feature hands-on activities such as you-pick produce, milking cows and hayrides.”
Mitchell Farms in Collins has been growing peanuts for more than 30 years and offers year-round activities. In season, peanuts are harvested daily. Green peanuts are for sale late July through mid-November, and dry peanuts from September to early December. Their annual Mississippi Peanut Festival, held in October, offers crafts and antiques, a maze and more.
Biloxi’s Shrimping Tour gives a hands-on experience in the day in the life of a shrimper. The shrimping net is set out with full details of how it operates. When it’s pulled in, the variety of creatures, besides shrimp, can include blue crabs, flounder, stingrays, squid and even puffer fish. Afterward, an optional dockside Biloxi shrimp boil features shrimp, red potatoes and corn on the cob.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts have played a large role in the culture of Appalachia for generations. In West Virginia, local traditions have become a key tourism engine.
Tamarack, West Virginia’s premier artisan center, is the nation’s first statewide collection of handmade crafts, arts and cuisine. It makes a terrific place to spend a morning or an afternoon. From the air, the building resembles a starburst quilt pattern, appropriate in a state known for the time-honored tradition of quilting.
Groups start at the information desk and leisurely loop through the circular building to view the artists’ work: jewelry, wood crafts, statuary, artisan clothing and more. Handmade food products range from salsas to West Virginia wine; other products include goat’s milk soaps and lotions. Tamarack’s schedule packs in gallery openings, lectures and studio demonstrations.
“Every artist is juried in, so visitors see the best of the best,” said Jacqueline Proctor, deputy commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Tourism. “We’re truly a one-of-a-kind attraction for West Virginia heritage, culture, history, handcrafts, fine art and regional cuisine and music.”
Make and Take workshops are specifically designed for groups and last about an hour. Participants can hand-paint a Civil War soldier figurine, create a stained-glass ornament or learn the art of making psaltery music with a bow and hand-carved instruments.
The center’s Taste of West Virginia food court, managed by the Greenbrier, features breakfast, grille and deli items. West Virginia-made jams and jellies, salad dressings and mustards, and locally grown trout and catfish are incorporated into daily menus.