How hot are Natchez tourist attractions?
I nearly made road kill out of a tourist standing in the middle of the road last week. Like pesky armadillos and opossums, you have to be on guard for those camera-wielding, flip-flop wearing folks who dart out into the street intent on getting a snapshot of a Natchez landmark.
I have grown used to expecting them around Stanton Hall, Magnolia Hall and other antebellum houses. I forget that many tourists are also interested in the more recent, quirky side of Natchez.
The intersection of Broadway and Madison streets is one of those places. I know, because I barely missed a guy standing in the middle of Broadway Street aiming his camera at Lucy Preston’s house festooned with every decoration imaginable.
Preston’s house is an incredible mish-mash of flowers, flags, lawn ornaments and whirly gigs, It is a folk art statement and a tourist attraction. Even brides climbed out of their cars dressed in their wedding gowns to be photographed in front of this house.
How popular is Preston’s house compared with Stanton Hall? It is hard to say. Anecdotal evidence says that the folk art statement is gaining attention.
Until recently anecdotal evidence is all we have had. It is hard to know exactly what catches the eye of our visitors. With the advent of cellphones and cameras that are GPS enabled, websites like Flickr and Panoramio have been able to pinpoint exactly where their users have been taking their snapshots.
What may be a cool feature for Flickr and Panoramio users, may offer insight into what tourists find interesting in our town.
In fact, the website sightmaps.com takes Panoramio’s photo sharing site one step further, by creating a sightseeing heat map that uses color to show where its users photograph the most. Yellow and red pinpoint sightseeing hotspots. Cooler colors like purple mark areas that are not as popular. Gray represents places that have not been photographed.
Because Panoramio was created in Europe, you might imagine that Europe is covered in yellow and red spots. But so too are areas in the United States — areas possibly visited by European tourists and other users.
Behind Vicksburg and Biloxi, Natchez ranks as the third most-photographed area in Mississippi. It ranks 12,723 in cities and towns photographed in the world, according to Panoramio.
Not surprisingly, sunsets over the Mississippi River bridges and antebellum houses are yellow hot. But a zoom into the Natchez area shows other interesting, less historical landmarks.
Preston’s house while not yellow hot is well represented with numerous images of her folk art house. So too is the pig at Pig Out Inn and the bathtub at Fat Mama’s Tamales, both on Canal Street. Run down grocery stores and shotgun houses are represented.
Interestingly. Several blistering red spots can be found just outside the city limits.
It is not surprising that Mammy’s Cupboard, to the south, has been the focus of so many cameras. Emerald Mound, to the north off the Natchez Trace, evidently attracts the eye of many tourists as well.
As much as we like to think that Natchez is all about antebellum history, the photos represented in these picture-sharing sites remind us that tourists are attracted to landmarks both new and old.
Just watch out for them wherever you drive.
Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.