Gas prices may mean it’s time to explore Natchez

Published 4:58 pm Saturday, May 31, 2008

Just a few years ago the term “staycation” would never have entered the minds of many Americans but with rising gas prices nationwide people are looking for alternatives to long family vacations. In many cases a staycation, a vacation taken in or close to one’s hometown, is the choice alternative.

A recent USA Today Gallup poll indicated that 57 percent of people who had planned vacations will be changing those plans because of record high gas prices. And with gas prices approaching $4 a gallon in the Miss-Lou, area residents are probably facing the same decisions as the average American.

Fortunately though, vacation cancellations can be avoided by planning a staycation.

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Antebellum house tours are an easy way to get out of the house but the area offers many other options for those looking for a getaway. Museums, parks for camping, the Grand Village of Natchez Indians and even a visit to the visitors center are several attractions open year round that are easy for locals to forget.

Mimi Miller, director of programs for the Historic Natchez Foundation, said that visiting one of the area attractions is a good option.

“We have an opportunity to make a positive out of the gas prices,” Miller said. “We have the chance to understand a large part of our economy in tourism and see what other families come here to see.”

Miller also suggested visiting local churches to appreciate the architecture and décor each has to offer. Trinity Episcopal Church on Commerce Street has two stained glass windows designed by Louis C. Tiffany and St. Mary Basilica has one of the finest displays of art marble in the state.

Cheryl Munyer, curator for the Natchez National Historical Park, said all the different types of attractions in Natchez make it difficult to get around to all of them.

“I’ve lived here for 12 years and still haven’t been able to do all that I want to do,” Munyer said. “With such a huge variety here, sometimes it is easy for forget about everything to do. My family from out of town is always commenting on how much there is to do.

The Natchez National Historical Park is composed of antebellum mansion Melrose and the William Johnson. Melrose and the William Johnson House are both open to the public daily and offer a glimpse of the rich history that Natchez contains.

Melrose has park ranger guided tours of the mansion, a restored slave cabin and outbuildings and self-guided tours of the gardens and grounds.

“The tours offer a really good look at what mid 19th- century life was like,” Munyer said. “People will not only learn about the house but also about the family and the slaves that lived there.”

Another good look at Natchez history can be found downtown in the form of the Natchez in Historic Photographs on display inside First Presbyterian Church’s Stratton Chapel. The photographs were taken from 1850 through 1950 and many are prints from the original glass plates.

Miss-Lou residents looking to plan a staycation don’t have to do it alone. Miller encouraged people to take advantage of what is located close to home and enlist the help of Historic Natchez Foundation in planning the “trip.”

“Why not go ahead and visit local attractions. You might enjoy the trip and we will even help you map it out,” Miller said.