Road Trip: Gather up the Gals and Visit the Small Town with a Big Vibe

by Selena Swartzfager on August 18, 2021 in Travels,

You’ve heard of “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep San Antonio Lame” but have you heard of “Keep Cleveland Boring?”  Cleveland, Mississippi that is, which is a 5-hour drive from the Texas-Louisiana state line on I-20.

Don’t let this funny tag line fool you. Cleveland, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, is anything but boring and is a delightful first stop on a girl’s trip that can take you on a journey to learn about the Birthplace of the Blues. Mother/daughter, sisters or best girl friends will all be amazingly surprised at the great time you will have in this town that is billed as the “Hip Little Town in the Mississippi Delta.”

The Cleveland, MS downtown square with its paved walking trail is the perfect place to enjoy this and many other pieces of public art. Photo Rory Doyle

Bringing on the Blues

The must-stay place is the Cotton House Cleveland located in the middle of the downtown square. Your room greets you with a real record player and records to listen to during your stay from Mississippi blues greats BB King and Robert Johnson. Listening to these tunes really sets the mood for the next couple of days.

Dinner Plans

After checking in, grab a drink in the rooftop bar, Bar Fontaine. Bring along a card game to play while having a delightful cocktail and enjoying the simple skyline of town. When it’s time for dinner, 8 West Grill in the up-and-coming West End District is a hip choice. Chef Stevens Flagg brings elevated local cuisine to the table for a truly authentic Mississippi experience.

Bar Fontaine at the Cotton House is a rooftop lounge serving food and delicious cocktails. Photo courtesy VRX Studios

If you plan your stay to incorporate a Wednesday night do not miss a game of trivia at Hey Joe’s where the locals show up and treat you like a friend. There’s no cost to play, and you can enjoy local beer on tap while testing your mind on useless information. Afterwards, you simply walk a couple of blocks back to the hotel.

Choice Breakfast Choices

For breakfast in the morning, you have a couple of fabulous options. Mississippi Grounds is in what was once a service station. We guessed it offered full-service only, where your gas was pumped for you. You will certainly meet locals here that show visitors why Mississippi is called the Hospitality State.

Another magical choice is Zoe Coffee Company, right across the street from the Cotton House Cleveland hotel. Centrally located in the heart of downtown Cleveland, this space provides so much more than coffee. It holds a free-standing prayer chapel where visitors are encouraged to pray for whatever is on their heart. Profits made by Zoe Coffee Company go directly to the mission field in rural Kenya.  You can purchase a bag of coffee beans to take home as a gift for the girlfriend that was unable to come along on the trip while supporting a good cause.

04. Breakfast goodies at Zoe Coffee Company, where all the profits support a mission in Kenya. Photo Selena Swartzfager

Iconic Attractions

After breakfast, visit one or more of the iconic attractions such as The GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, Dockery Farms or the Sculpture Garden in front of the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University. Cleveland was selected as the home to the second GRAMMY Museum in the world, second only to Los Angeles, because the Mississippi Delta has one of the richest musical histories and lasting legacies of any place on Earth. An interesting bit of trivia, Mississippi has more GRAMMY winners per capita than any other state in the U.S.

A cotton gin called Dockery Farms, just four miles east of Cleveland, is where blues pioneers worked while writing songs that would inspire rock, R&B, soul, blues and country music for the rest of time.

The GRAMMY Museum Mississippi located here because the Mississippi Delta has one of the richest musical histories and lasting legacies of any place on Earth. Courtesy photo

A visit to McCarty’s Pottery, right down the road in Merigold, is a must. Housed in the original mule barn where it opened in 1954, the pottery line started with clay from a ravine located at Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner in Oxford, MS. Signature glazes of nutmeg brown, cobalt blue, and jade are used and McCarty’s pottery can be identified by the trademarked “river,” a small black wavy line representing the Mississippi River.  This pottery is also found in the Smithsonian.  Don’t be surprised if you must wait in line to enter.

Nourishing Body and Soul

While you might be tempted to skip lunch to have more time to visit all the sights, remember that you need fuel to keep going. A perfect choice for lunch is The Warehouse where they offer fine Southern dining rooted in Mississippi culture.  Enjoy the Warehouse Special which is homemade chicken salad and award-winning broccoli salad.

Delta Meat Market morsels are served on iconic McCarty Pottery. Photo Rory Doyle

No girls trip would be complete without a little shopping and there is a delightful choice of shops in the downtown square. From an upscale boutique that is likely to have a wonderful sale rack to the consignment shop; from the young ladies’ high-end fashion to a child’s clothing store; the Cleveland downtown square has it all.

If you have more than a couple days to spend, you might expand your road trip to include Clarksdale and Vicksburg.  Stand by for another article on these delightful Mississippi Delta towns.

Boutiques and restaurants in downtown Cleveland will not disappoint and are located within walking distance of The Cotton House. Photo Rory Doyle

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Cover photo courtesy Rory Doyle

Selena Swartzfager is a nonprofit president, an amateur athlete, lover of adventures and life. Her favorite type of travel allows her to learn about history while enjoying things for the first time. Instagram: @sswartzfager; Twitter: @sswartzfager