By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal
If you haven’t made plans to get away for spring break next week, don’t worry. There is plenty to keep you busy right here.
Northeast Mississippi heralds tourism as one of its fastest growing industries for good reason.
Shopping, dining, historical sites and state parks all within easy reach offer great family friendly options for spring break, all at little or no cost. So if skiing in Vail or golf in Cabo isn’t in the budget this year, Northeast Mississippi offers ample cultural and recreational opportunities.
Several parks located in the region received national awards by Reserve America.
• Trace State Park, between Tupelo and Pontotoc off Highway 6, was rated one of the top 100 campgrounds in America. It has individual and group campsites, cabins and lodges, and miles of secluded nature trails for hiking, horseback riding or mountain biking.
Valerie Smith, office clerk at Trace State Park, said most camp sites are completely booked and all eight cabins are booked. However, overflow space may be available. Call the office for details at (662) 489-2958.
Visitors can still come in on day passes that can be purchased for $3 at the gate. ATV passes and boat launches are available for $7 each.
Another point of interest: Davy Crockett once called the area home.
• J.P. Coleman State Park near Iuka was also ranked in the top 100 campsites and was rated in the top 25 in the categories of amazing sites, kid-friendly and water recreation. According to the park’s office on Wednesday, campsites are still available. Standard sites are $20 per night and waterfront sites are $24.
Coleman is located on a high bluff overlooking Pickwick Lake and offers miles of exploration on the banks of the Tennessee River.
• Another park recognized for its recreational and cultural opportunities is Tishomingo State Park. In addition to bird-watching, fishing and camping, Tishomingo holds a disc golf tournament each March.
ELVIS AND MORE
As the region’s largest city, Tupelo offers plenty of options.
Historic landmarks like the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum and the Tupelo National Battlefield are popular stops.
Tupelo has a number of daytime activities for the younger crowd. Rebelanes offers 22 lanes of bowling and is open daily at 1 p.m. and on Wednesday and Thursday, the lanes open early at 9 a.m.
Skatezone is offering extended hours and specials all week including Day Skate from noon to 4 p.m. March 11 to 15 for $5.
The Tupelo Buffalo Park & Zoo offers an opportunity for kids and adults to learn about some of the city’s more unusual residents, including zebra, giraffes, monkeys and, of course, buffalo. Admission starts at $11.
“We will have our horses out for the trail rides,” park manager Lindsay Bullock said. The ride is $12.50 per person and lasts about 30 to 40 minutes.
The Tupelo Automobile Museum has more than 100 cars on display for an admission fee of $5 for children under 12 and $10 for adults.
Julie Hill, an educator at Healthworks!, said the fun center for children has different activities each day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., like a scavenger hunt, obstacle course and crafts, among other things. Admission is $5, and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Call (662) 377-5437 for details.
If you feel like taking a drive, keep in mind that both Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi will be on spring break next week. It’s an opportunity to visit two historic university towns when they’re not completely overrun with students.
In Oxford, getting a table might be easier at one of James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence’s four restaurants: City Grocery, Boure, Snackbar and Big Bad Breakfast.
Spring also a great time to venture out to the home of one of Oxford’s most famous locals – Rowan Oak, home to author William Faulkner.
“It’s a good time to come,” said Martha Huckins, a volunteer at Rowan Oak.
She said they will likely be a little slower because students are gone. Admission to the home is $5.
In Starkville, you can enjoy the work of another famous Mississippi author. The John Grisham room in the Mitchell Memorial Library features original manuscripts and movie paraphernalia from his collection.
Another interesting landmark to visit is the Starkville City Jail. Johnny Cash was held overnight there in 1965 when he was arrested after a concert. Cash immortalized the location with a song by the same name which he first performed at a San Quentin prison concert in 1969.
Both university towns offer varying lodging options like bed and breakfasts.
Service-minded families can contact local offices of nonprofits like the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity to learn about child-friendly service projects.