Friday Afternoon – Arrive at the Hilton Garden Inn
This is a heartbreak hotel… not really. Heck, not at all, but Elvis never sang a song about a brand-name hotel in a superb location. Hilton upholds a high level of brand standards for their price point, and the Tupelo Hilton Garden Inn was very clean and tidy.
What we were really excited about was being right in downtown. We were a stone’s through away from the newly remodeled BancorpSouth Arena (the largest multipurpose indoor arena in Mississippi) and next door to the Tupelo Visitor’s Center.
If you’ve never been to downtown Tupelo, you don’t know what you’re missing. Tupelo is the only city in the Southern United States to be named an All-America City five times. Not just because of the Elvis Guitar Trail and self-guided Elvis Tour, but because it’s filled with vibrant and unique local stores that make shopping an adventure, which is a pretty good segue to our next segment…
Late afternoon Friday – Explore Downtown Tupelo
If you love boutique shopping, street art, local restaurants, and even have a passing interest in The King of Rock and Roll, you Can’t Help Falling in Love with downtown Tupelo. We recommend you check out shops like the Caron Gallery specializing in local Mississippi art, and RAW furniture Company that pays homage to Tupelo’s history as a furniture manufacturing hub by creating handmade furniture from reclaimed Mississippi wood. Another must-stop shop is Tupelo Hardware, where Elvis bought his first guitar. However, plan wisely because many of these shops close at 5:30 weeknights, are only open for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, and all are closed Sunday.
After the stores close, make a few stops on the Elvis Tour like Lee County Courthouse, where Elvis first sang on the radio in 1946, and the Elvis Homecoming Statue, where Elvis performed in 1956 to a packed crowd at the fairgrounds and was given the key to the city.
You can even make your own Elvis comfort food tour. We’d start with the Crave Coffee Peanut Butter Smash, which is a cold and creamy peanut butter pie with an Oreo crust, topped with a peanut butter crust. Suppose you’re looking for something (just a little) lighter. In that case, PoPsy offers an Elvis PoPsy, which is a gourmet popsicle made with peanut butter, banana, and honey before being dipped in organic milk chocolate. Of course, there’s always the HOLLYPOPS Bakery Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake. It’s a banana-flavored guitar-shaped cupcake with peanut butter icing, chocolate drizzle. Basically, mix in some variation of peanut butter, chocolate, and bananas, and you get Elvis comfort food, which totally works for us.
Friday Night Dinner – Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen
To be fair, Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen has nothing to do with Muppets and green frogs. It keeps showing up on must-eat in Mississippi lists because of an unrelenting commitment to downhome food done right. As they say, it’s where Mississippi farms meet Mississippi tables.
However, I’m looking for an Elvis tie-in here, Don’t Ask Me Why. I was looking for that Puppet On A String / rainbow connection where Kentucky Rain created a Pocket Full of Rainbows, but I couldn’t make anything work. I do Love Me Tender wood-grilled meat and delicious craft cocktails, so I guess I’ll have to let it go at that.
Saturday Morning – Breakfast at Butterbean
We’re fueling you up for an active Saturday at Butterbean, a coffee and breakfast shop famous for its biscuits. When they asked us what we wanted for breakfast, that was Such an Easy Question. We ordered a flight of biscuits and gravy and gourmet coffee.
We haven’t seen a biscuit and gravy flight before, so we figured It’s Now or Never. The biscuits were terrific, and the sweet gravies were spot on. The savory gravy was only ok, but sometimes you just have to go for it.
Saturday Day Trip / Tanglefoot Trail or Natchez Trace
If you got in too late Friday to explore downtown, it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do here instead. You could swap out the ride on the 45-mile Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame Tanglefoot Trail for a self-guided Elvis bike tour. It’s all good. You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog, cycling all the time.
If you’re not into riding or somehow kept from indulging in all that great Tupelo food, you can always go for a drive on the Natchez Trace. It’s one of America’s great scenic roads, and the headquarters is just outside of Tupelo.
Saturday Dinner at Romie’s Grocery
They say, put a little South in ya’ mouth at this former neighborhood grocery store turned local hangout joint. I think they’re selling themselves short. A trip to Romie’s puts a little South in all of the following places: your mouth, your feet, your ears, and most importantly, your soul. “Rhythm is something you either have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.”
Saturday night has a Crawfish boil and live music on the patio. “I don’t know anything about music. In my line, you don’t have to.” I didn’t realize how much I missed listening to live music until we were sitting on the patio at Romie’s eating our meat and three meal.
Sunday Breakfast at Strange BrewStrange is an adjective that means unusual or surprising in a way that is hard to understand. That’s kind of how we felt at Strange Brew, which is an old service station turned coffee shop. The important thing to remember about strangeness is that being unusual or surprising can be a very good thing. Their coffee was top-notch, and in the words of the king, “I’d like to be treated like a regular customer.” They made us feel at home and welcome and like we were regulars coming in for our daily cup of joe.
Pilgrimage to Strange Brew
It’s too easy to picture Elvis as either a Las Vegas attraction or a scandalous boy gyrating on Ed Sullivan. However, before the opulence of Graceland, Elvis was a poor boy in Tupelo. “Ambition is a dream with a V-8 Engine“, but it’s easy to see how young Elvis just wanted to entertain.
The birthplace has a museum, the hand-built shotgun house where he was born, and his childhood church that was relocated to the grounds. “The image is one thing, and the human being is another.” Walking through these exhibits, you get to meet Elvis, the human being, and not Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll.
The Search for Sunday Brunch in Tupelo
On our weekend getaway to Tupelo, we went to The Grillehouse for Sunday Brunch. It was amazing with prime Grade dry-aged Ribeye that was aged 45 days. However, they discontinued their brunch service, so you should definitely try them on another day.
Johnnie’s Drive-In is another Tupelo classic that’s decked out with Elvis memorabilia, including the Elvis table where he would eat as a boy. There’s also The Forklift, which offers locally sourced, handcrafted southern cuisine. They call it Southern Elevated, and we’d agree. Unfortunately, both these places are closed Sunday (Forklift is closed Monday as well), so they aren’t a good choice for Sunday Brunch.
We were big fans of Brick and Spoon, which is open every day until 2:00. They’re a small southern chain that Travel + Leisure says is one of the top 10 breakfasts in the entire US. A perfect place to fuel up for the ride home. It might not be Elvis Sunday Meatloaf, but it gets the job done.
Wrapping up Our Things to Do in Tupelo MSAs you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Tupelo to keep you rocking around the clock, whether you’re an Elvis fan or not. It’s just the right-sized small town where you can feel at home while eating some delicious food and discovering the rich history. Don’t expect everything to be posh and polished, but do expect southern hospitality and warmth. And, just maybe, try something sweet with banana and peanut butter, and pause for a moment to remember the King of Rock and Roll was born here.
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