Food and Drink in Natchez
Downtown Natchez has several restaurants open for lunch and dinner, if your boat is staying late. The Natchez Coffee Company (509 Franklin Street) has Southern staples such as sweet tea, lemonade and sky-high cakes, made on the premises; there's also coffee and wifi. Biscuits & Blues (315 Main Street) has live music, as well as Southern meals such as po-boy sandwiches and BBQ. Under-the-Hill Saloon (25 Silver Street) is a little off-the-beaten track in what was once the city's red light district, but the longer walk or cab ride is worth it for the funky atmosphere and river views; Mark Twain is said to have drank here back in his riverboating days. And finally, if your riverboat has overnight stays (as the French America Line plans), look online to see if Smoot's Grocery (319 N. Broadway) has music. The bar specializes in the Delta blues that make Mississippi famous.
Don't Miss in Natchez
Museum of African-American History & Culture: The Museum of African-American History & Culture is a welcome contrast to the antebellum homes. Exhibits here focus on prominent writers, artists and activists in the African-American community, as well as their African heritage. Check out the doll made from a mop, and the calymba, which is "a thumb piano." (301 Main Street)
Natchez City Tour: During the Civil War, Natchez's wealthy families surrendered to Union forces without a fight, allowing the town's buildings to survive intact. The streets within the downtown area have hundreds of antebellum homes, which you can either view on your own through a self-guided walking tour or through your cruise line's city tour (usually complimentary). The Visitors Center at the foot of Canal Street has maps.
Historic Home Tours: Several of Natchez's historic homes are open for tours. The best known are Dunleith (located outside town on 84 Homochitto Street, tours daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Stanton Hall (401 High Street in downtown Natchez, tours daily every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The latter mansion has a well-regarded restaurant known as the Carriage House Inn; specialties include fried chicken and tiny biscuits.
Other historic buildings that the cruise lines recommend for guided tours include Rosalie Mansion, a headquarters for the Union army during the Civil War (Biglane and Canal Streets, tours daily on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.); the William Johnson House, a home that belonged to a former slave who became a famed town barber after gaining his freedom at age 11 (210 State Street, open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.); and Magnolia Hall, where a collection of antique clothes are housed in the Historic Clothing Museum upstairs (215 S. Pearl Street, tours every hour Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
Frogmore Cotton Plantation: Usually sold as an optional tour, a visit to Frogmore on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River immerses visitors in cotton plantation history. It's one of the few places we know that has tourists actually pick cotton, so you can experience for yourself how difficult the work was. It's one of the few plantations that really explores in-depth the African American slave and sharecropping experience. Golf carts are available for those with mobility issues. (11054 U.S. Highway 84)
JN Stone House Musicale B & B: Another optional tour offered by river cruise lines, a visit to this historic inn in downtown Natchez is notable for the piano concerts held on the premises. If you're sick of touring plantations, this is a nice change. (804 Washington Street).