If you love the blues, Cleveland and the surrounding Mississippi Delta region are places that have certainly made their way to your must-see list. Arts and music only scratch the surface of the many things to do in this charming southern town. Some might call it an experience rather than just a visit. What’s certain is that you’re in for an exciting time in the place that reporter, Rheta Grimsley Johnson, called, “South of fiction and fantasy.”
Things to Do in Cleveland
Cleveland, Mississippi has many unique attractions that will fill your days with plenty to do. The city lies within the Mississippi Delta. This area is the floodplain between the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers, known as the “The Most Southern Place on Earth.” That refers more to a mindset than anything else which is evident with the plethora of places to see. You’ll find a wealth of things from music to outdoor recreation to delicious local fare.
Experiencing the Blues
Music is high on the list of things to do in Cleveland. You’ll find plenty of places to see live music and an authentic Juke Joint experience. If there’s one thing you can say about the state, it’s that it takes its music seriously. That’s why the Mississippi Blues Commission created the Mississippi Blues Trail in 2006. Cleveland is home to 2 of the over 200 markers that commemorate the men and women who made the blues what it is today.
Chrisman Street Market
Chrisman Street was a hopping place during the early 1900s. That was the era of early pioneers in music including Charley Patton, Willie Brown, and W. C. Handy. They paved the way for later greats including the Pearl Street Jumpers and Norman Burke, Jr. Chrisman Street had many excellent venues for music such as the Harlem Inn and Hurricane Cafe. The marker honors the tradition that still thrives today.
W. C. Handy Marker
- C. Handy, known as the “Father of the Blues,” put the blues on the musical map by bringing it to the national scene. He made his own mark on blues with classics like “Yellow Dog Blues” and “Saint Louis Blues.”
Of course, these two only scratch the surface of the rich musical history of the area. Think of them as a starting point to explore other nearby markers on the trail. Bolivar County has 19 sites you can explore. If you like country music, there’s also the Country Music Trail to add to your itinerary.
No trip to Cleveland, Mississippi would be complete without a stop at the legendary, Dockery Farms. It is commonly referred to as the “Birthplace of the Delta Blues.” It began as a cotton plantation before becoming a venue for local talent. All the early greats played here including Howlin’ Wolf and Charley Patton.
Arts and Culture
Bologna Performing Arts Cleveland Mississippi at Delta State University is a premier state-of-the-art facility that brings a rich variety of Broadway shows to concerts by nationally recognized names to education programs. Mississippi Magazine voted it as the Best Performing Arts Venue in the state. Before the show, you’ll want to tour the Sculpture Garden to view past winner of the university’s biennial competition.
You’ll find some lovely pieces to add to your collection at Peter’s Pottery in Mound Bayou. Each one is unique with incredible attention to detail. McCarty Pottery and Gardens features items that embrace a simple but elegant design. Once you’ve finished shopping, tour the serene gardens to find a bit of peace in your day.
Shopping is more than just browsing through the shops. The Cleveland Mississippi antiques experience features beautiful walkways with Victorian lighting that make you feel as if you stepped back in time. You’ll find an eclectic collection of boutiques and specialty stores to find the perfect treasure to remember your trip. There is also a historical walking tour that you can take to get in some extra steps.
Be sure to drop in at some of the local favorites like Cotton Row Bookstore, Delta Casual, and the Delta Meat Market for the ultimate stop for the foodie. Looking for something unique? Check out the Moonstruck Flea Market, Neysa’s Fireside Shop, and Sawdust Shack for something that is sure to catch your eye. As the city likes to say, “Shop Small, Y’all!”
GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi showcases the history of American music. It features a number of outstanding exhibits including ones highlighting the clothing of artists worn on the famous red carpet, the legacy of the electric guitar, actual instruments used by musicians on-stage, the evolution of recorded sound, and much more.
Martin & Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum
The Martin & Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum celebrates the railroading history of the area that helped make it what it is today. You’ll find exhibits featuring artifacts and tools used by the crews known as “Gandy Dancers.” Its attractions include the largest O-gauge model train layout in Mississippi and a 1941 caboose.
As you may expect, a town that thrives on music has its share of festivals that celebrate its history and legacy. Its Octoberfest is one of the highlights. It features live music, art, and a barbecue cook-off that attracts entries from all over the United States. The two-day event attracts thousands of visitors each year. There is also the annual Christmas parade and Holiday Tour of Homes. And for a taste of the local cuisines, there is the Cleveland Bites festival.
The Mississippi Delta region features some stunning landscape and plenty of recreational opportunities. The Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge is a classic example and one of few remaining tracts of bottomland hardwood forest in this area. The 9691-acre site was established in 1990. It is located about 15 miles southwest of Cleveland.
The refuge provides habitat for overwintering waterfowl and migratory birds. It also offers deer, upland game, and turkey hunting during the seasons. You can fish the refuge year-round. The site includes 35 miles of trails and roads for wildlife viewing. You’ll have plenty of chances to tick off some of those birds you’ve been wanting to add to your life list. Another possibility is the nearby Lake Charlie Capps for fishing and hunting.
Restaurants in Cleveland
You’re in for a treat when it comes to deciding where to eat in Cleveland, Mississippi. One thing you must do is to try the local fare. Where else will you find the likes of crawfish, catfish, and the best soul food? Some great places to check out include Crawdad’s, Fat Baby’s Catfish House, Hey Joe’s, and J&W Smokehouse. And who can resist a place called the Starving Musician?
Options for steak and seafood include Backdraft, Bellazar’s Inc., and Crustaceans Crawfish. Please note that the last one is open seven days a week in the season. There are also plenty of casual dining restaurants with that bit of local flair we enjoy. Be sure and check out Hey Joe’s Cafe & Record Shop, the Catfish Cabin, and the Country Platter for some soul food.
The great thing about dining in Cleveland is that you get a chance to really experience the place. You won’t find a glut of national chain restaurants here. Rather, these are local businesses that bring their unique spin on southern cooking to the table.
You’ll find plenty of places that stay open late with live music including the Pickled Okra, Poor Monkey’s Lounge (or Po’ Monkey’s as the locals call it), and On The Rocks. Many of these stops have their own special vibe that adds to the fun.
Accommodations in Cleveland
You’ll find a limit on the number of places to choose from when it comes to deciding where to stay in Cleveland, Mississippi. Several national chain hotels serve the Cleveland area including Comfort Inn, Hampton Inn, and Holiday Inn Express. While there are not any bed and breakfast inns in town, there are some in the nearby area if you prefer this type of accommodations.
There is the Bed on the Bayou in Indianola, MS which is around 10 miles away. It is one-bedroom tenant house that puts you close to the landscape and wildlife for a truly relaxing getaway.
Planning Your Stay in Cleveland
Cleveland has the warm climate you’d expect from a city in the South. Summer days will top 90 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidities to match. On the plus side, average daily high temperatures are in the 50-degree range during the winter. Spring and late fall are rainy seasons in the area with amounts above the national average.
Like many states in this region, there is a higher risk of tornadoes and flooding in the city. Use caution when traveling during the peak times.
Cleveland, Mississippi is a destination spot if you love the blues or just enjoy some great southern fare. Music is its number one attraction, both past and present. If you’re traveling the Mississippi Blues Travel, it’s certainly a must-see. It’s an excellent spot to soak in the atmosphere that makes the Mississippi Delta area such a unique place.