Antebellum homes are everywhere in Natchez, the oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River. The Natchez Spring Pilgrimage (tel. 800/647-6742; www.natchezpilgrimage.com), which occurs annually mid-March through mid-April, is an opportunity to visit all 32 of the city's antebellum homes, hosted by Southern belles in hoop skirts and other period dress.
You will need several days to see all the homes, or you can pick and choose a few. Representative of most is Rosalie, 100 Orleans St. (tel. 601/446-5676), which was built in the early 1820s and later purchased by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who operate it as a museum. The Federal-style mansion overlooks the Mississippi River, and its 4-acre gardens delight the senses with winding brick pathways and wrought-iron benches. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for students. Atypical of the area's plantation homes is Longwood, 140 Lower Woodville Rd. (tel. 601/442-5193), one of the most unusual mansions of Natchez. Designated as both a National Historic Landmark and a site on the Civil War Discovery Trail, it is a lavish octagonal home (the largest of its kind in the country) dating from 1859. The 32-room home has four floors and a solarium and observatory. It is crowned with a Byzantine dome. Construction on the interior of the home stopped during the Civil War and was never completed, but Longwood is nevertheless a sight to behold. Admission is $10 for adults (including teens) and $8 for youth ages 3 to 12.
Aside from mansions, there are other sites of historical importance in Natchez. Drive by Holy Family Catholic Church, 28 St. Catherine St. (tel. 601/445-5700), the state's first African-American Catholic church. Built in 1894, the sanctuary is a beautifully preserved landmark where Masses are still held. Tours are available by appointment only. Established in 1821, the Natchez City Cemetery, 2 Cemetery Rd. (tel. 601/445-4981), is a hauntingly beautiful green space dotted with tree-shaded graves dating back to the 1700s. Guests may drive through these hilly bluffs, which overlook the Mississippi River. If you'd like to know more about the cemetery, pick up a brochure at the Visitors Reception Area. It's open dawn to dusk.
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