Published Nov/Dec 2005

By Theresa Russell

While hugging the banks of the mighty Mississippi, Vicksburg rolls out a hearty welcome to visitors. This picturesque city contains excellent examples of antebellum architecture, museums and holiday events that blend Vicksburg’s rich history with traditional celebrations of the season.

Experiencing Vicksburg’s history

Begin your time in Vicksburg exploring the city’s role in the Civil War. Tour the Vicksburg National Military Park, which commemorates one of the most decisive battles of the war–the campaign, siege and defense of Vicksburg, which raged from March 29 to July 4, 1863. From the hilltops, the Mississippi River–still important in the transfer of goods–comes into view. Monuments pay tribute to the armies of the many states that participated in the war. The Vicksburg National Cemetery honors the fallen during the campaign.

At the north end of the park, the U.S.S. Cairo Museum gives an in-depth look at the ironclad gunboat and the impact these vessels had on naval battles.

The events of those times are re-enacted every year during the holidays at the Confederate Christmas Ball, which commemorates the historic Balfour Ball of 1862.

On Christmas Eve of 1862, the Balfour family hosted a dance for Confederate soldiers and their spouses. Shortly after midnight, a courier delivered a message informing all that the enemy was coming down the river. Today, the ball is held at the Old Courthouse Museum (1008 Cherry St.). The courtroom is cleared of its accoutrements to provide space for dancing. Many guests dress in period costumes and spend the night dancing the Virginia reel or various waltzes. Take time to appreciate the beauty of the old courthouse, which appears on the American Institute of Architects’ list of the top 20 courthouses in America.

Visitors are never far from a piece of Vicksburg’s past, and a newer project on the waterfront strives to capture some of the city’s history. A total of 35 murals are planned and some of the 14 completed murals include Jefferson Davis, Steamboats, Early Exploration, Trains and Ferries and The National Park among others.

Another attraction looks back at a product familiar to all of us. The Biedenharn Museum of Coca-Cola® Memorabilia (1107 Washington St.) includes a candy shop and a soda fountain. Biedenharn Candy Company first bottled the popular soft drink in Vicksburg in 1894. Treat yourself to a fountain Coke®, homemade ice cream and ice cream floats.

Holiday events to enjoy

Complementing the architecture of the Old Courthouse Museum is a variety of antebellum homes throughout Vicksburg. During the holidays, owners decorate in style and welcome guests for tours of these splendid mansions. Christmas at the Mansion is put on by Cedar Grove Mansion Inn (2200 Oak St.). Guests, guided by costumed hosts, may tour the splendid antebellum estate. Refreshments and music add to the festivities of this house.

Families shopping at Vicksburg Factory Outlets (East Clay Street at Interstate 20) can experience Christmas from the Past on Nov. 12. Here, visitors can watch Santa arrive by vintage fire truck, take a carriage ride, hear carols and see the tree lighting ceremony to get the holiday spirit started.

Downtown Vicksburg is the place for an Old-fashioned Christmas on Nov. 27. Carolers stroll the streets, and shoppers have a chance to complete their lists at 30 stores.

On Dec. 3, return downtown to see the Christmas Parade of Lights. Stores remain open for this event and carolers rise up in songs of the holidays. The lighting of the tree adds to the holiday atmosphere.
Lighted Christmas trees available for purchase highlight the Festival of Trees at the convention center Nov. 18–20, a benefit for local charities. The event includes entertainment, breakfast with Santa, a family brunch, crafts and the Mrs. Claus Marketplace.

Where to stay

With the multitude of holiday events and the many other attractions throughout the city–in-cluding four casinos– Vicksburg is the place to squeeze every drop of essence of the season. To experience the ambience of the antebellum era, stay at one of several bed-and-breakfast inns, including the Duff Green Mansion (1114 First East St.) or Anchua (1010 First East St.).

Vicksburg truly has rolled out the welcome red carpet. Enjoy its Southern hospitality and holiday extravaganzas.

Theresa Russell is a contributor from Round Lake, N.Y.

Above: The Balfour Ball takes place at the Old Courthouse Museum, as guests honor the Christmas Eve of 1862.

Below: Vicksburg’s mansions are decorated for holiday visitors. MS Tourism photos

Before You Go
For more information, contact the Vicksburg CVB at 1-800-221-3536 or www.vicksburgcvb.org.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

^ to top | previous page

Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.