Named after the mighty Mississippi River, the Magnolia State is known by many for the famous writers, musicians, actors and artists that have called Mississippi home, so visitors will find many chances to explore the arts and cultural experiences. See the center of the Blues universe and make several stops on the Mississippi’s Blues Trail in Clarksdale, see the art of George E. Ohr, the “Mad Potter of Biloxi” along the Gulf, or visit the home of William Faulkner in Oxford.
The culture of the state is also closely tied to its history. Explore the history of the Civil War in Vicksburg. And don’t miss out on the various regional cuisines of Mississippi by following the Culinary Trail and tasting local specialties like catfish, fried pickles, barbecue and sweet tea. To experience the charm, history and heritage of Mississippi, check out our cultural guide below and get to know the Magnolia State or visit www.visitmississippi.org.
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Casino Boat on the Mississippi River. Photo by Carol Highsmith.
Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
Ship Island is the name of two barrier islands located 11 miles (17.7 km) off the coast of Gulfport. Take a ferry to Ship Island from March to October and enjoy the beautiful beaches and historical sites like Fort Massachusetts. Visit www.msshipisland.com for ferry schedules, tickets and other important information about Ship Island.
Fort Massachusetts was built after the War of 1812 on West Ship Island, but construction stopped in 1866 before the fort could be completed. Fort Massachusetts has survived several hurricanes, including Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Guided tours of the fort and island are available from the National Park Service. Call 228.875.9057 x4100 or visit the National Park Service website for more information.
Visit the Center for Marine Education and Research (CMER) at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies to view dolphin presentations and to “meet” or even swim with a dolphin at a dolphin encounter or interaction program.
Visit the INFINITY Science Center at the NASA Stennis Space Center, about an hour west of Gulfport, MS, to see exhibits, tours and artifacts like rockets and rocket engines. Ticket prices, hours and other visitor information can be found at www.visitinfinity.com.
Mississippi Tour Companies
Eco-tours of South Mississippi along the Pascagoula River for two-hour, four-hour and full-day tours, three-night cabin adventures or customized tours. Swamps and marshes.
The Biloxi Shrimping Trip tours offer a unique look into the shrimping industry and the marine life of the Gulf Coast.
Biloxi Historical Tours take passengers on a narrated bus journey through Old Biloxi and its many landmarks, including the Old Biloxi Cemetery, Biloxi Lighthouse and the Hurricane Katrina Memorial. Visit the tour website for more pricing and schedules.
Mississippi Tourism Websites
Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Of Art in Biloxi. Photo by Woodlot.
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to learn more about the U.S. and its culture.
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art (OOMA) is dedicated to the work of George Ohr, the “Mad Potter of Biloxi” and a forerunner of the modernist movement. The museum was designed by Frank Gehry and now showcases the work of Ohr, work from local Mississippi artists and other exhibitions and educational programs related to the arts.
Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) in Ocean Springs celebrates the work of painter Walter Inglis Anderson and that of his brothers, Peter Anderson and James McConnell “Mac” Anderson. The museum also exhibits work from local artists from around the Gulf Coast.
Music and Performing Arts
Mississippi Country Music Trail honors the many contributions Mississippian artists have made to country music, such as Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette and Elvis Presley, who was born in Tupelo, MS. There are trail markers in many sections of Mississippi so check out the Music Trail website for locations and more information.
The Saenger Theatre in Pensacola is a historic theater built in 1925 that is now a leading venue for the performing arts. Broadway shows, classic movies and performances from classical orchestras and dance companies are held at the Saenger Theatre throughout the year.
Visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast tourism website for lists of other cultural attractions along the coast.
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
The Mississippi Surge hockey team plays at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi. The Surge is part of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Mississippi Brilla is a minor league soccer team based in Jackson and playing at the Harper Davis Field at Millsaps College campus.
The Gulfport Sportsplex is a recreational park in Gulfport with facilities for soccer, softball and baseball. Visit the Sportsplex website for upcoming events and schedules.
College Sports Teams
College sports games in Mississippi can be thrilling events at colleges like the University of Mississippi, known as Ole Miss, in Oxford.
Other college athletic programs in Mississippi include:
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
The sub-tropical climate of the Mississippi Gulf Coast region means winters are mild but can be threatened by severe thunderstorms and hurricanes, so be sure to check weather forecasts and warnings before venturing into the great outdoors.
South Coast Paddling Company in Ocean Springs offers year-round tours and equipment rentals, including full moon kayak adventures, overnight excursions, day tours and instructional classes.
The Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, located near Gautier, MS, allows visitors to observe wildlife from designated nature trails. Tours and educational activities are also held throughout the year.
De Soto National Forest provides year-round recreation thanks to two wilderness areas, 170 miles of trails and the Black Creek river. Outdoor activities include hiking, camping, hunting, canoeing, fishing, biking and ATV rides. Visit the USDA Forest Service website for more information.
Charter boats are available for fishing trips along the coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. Choose from over 50 charters on the Gulf Coast tourism website.
Find outdoor activities in other areas of Mississippi at the Visit Mississippi tourism website.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
Food in Mississippi definitely falls under the “Southern cuisine” category but it has developed its own unique regional flavors thanks to the many cultural groups that have lived in the area, including Africans, Italians and Asians. Examples of Mississippi cooking include barbecue, biscuits and gravy, gumbo, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, po’ boys, fried catfish (Mississippi is one of the world’s biggest producers of catfish) and other hearty – maybe not healthy – home-cooked meals. For barbecue, try The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint in Ocean Springs or Gulfport, or get a taste for traditional Southern dining and old-fashioned milkshakes at Triplett-Day Drug Co., where a diner is tucked away in the back of a pharmacy.
For a complete look at the cuisine of Mississippi, the cultural groups that have influenced it, and the different types of regional food found throughout the state, check out the Culinary Trail on the official Mississippi tourism website.
Farmers' Markets & Food Festivals
Farmers’ markets can be found throughout the Gulf Coast. The Real Gulf Coast Food website shares a list of seasonal and local foods that can usually be purchased at farmers’ markets in southern Mississippi.
To find farmers' markets in other areas of Mississippi, visit the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce website for a list of certified farmers' markets.
Get a taste of real Mississippi cooking by attending local community food events, like the World Catfish Festival, to eat like a local and interact with residents. Mississippi food festivals are held throughout the state in almost every month of the year.
Keller Williams performing at Sun and Sand music festival in Gulfport. Photo by Dane Carney.
For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
You don’t have to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras celebrations. Many towns and cities host their own Mardi Gras parades. Carnival on the Coast is the name of the Mardi Gras season in communities along the Gulf Coast. Find out if a Mardi Gras celebration is happening nearby by visiting the Gulf Coast tourism website.
The Sun & Sand Music Festival is a film and music festival held on the Gulf Coast each November. The event features film screenings, music, Southern cuisine, expert panels and presentations.
Cruisin’ the Coast is an event that celebrates antique and classic cars. Visitors travel from around the U.S. and Canada for the week-long event which includes activities like car auctions, swap meets and a sock hop.
Mississippi Coast ColiseumCrawfish Festival, held each April in Biloxi, is a cooking competition and festival that features a crawfish cook-off, food vendors, live music and other events over two weekends in April.
Gautier Mullet and Music Festival in October is a unique event with live music, food, arts and crafts, and a mullet toss competition (a mullet is a type of fish!).
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodations, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the internet. Meet with any possible housemates, and ask questions about the accommodations, like costs, utilities, furniture and living expectations; for example, does everyone offer to cook once a week or do the dishes? Is there a washing machine? Can guests stay over?
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Mississippi participants include:
- Craigslist - Mississippi
- American Homestay Agency
- Hostelling International
General Housing Information
Tupelo Auto Museum. Photo via Flickr.
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options. Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in your local community.
Public buses are available from the Coast Transit Authority to travel between Gulfport, Biloxi and Ocean Springs.
Several Amtrak train routes serve the Mississippi region, including the Sunset Limited, Crescent, and City of New Orleans lines.
Participants in Mississippi can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- Mississippi FEMA updates on Twitter @femaregion4
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Habitat for Humanity Gulf Coast works to rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina. Volunteers of all skill levels are needed.
Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service provides a directory of volunteer opportunities and non-profit organizations throughout Mississippi.