Steve Mullen: A to-do list for the Not From Here

 

Steve Mullen

 

 

People who are new to this corner of the earth quickly realize there are two types of people: Those who are From Here and those who aren''t. 

 

Those who aren''t from here bring different backgrounds, knowledge and experiences. They may be from larger cities or milder climates. Yet they quickly realize those who are From Here have the upper hand. 

 

We have servicemen and women from all over the nation and world living here while training or serving at Columbus Air Force Base. Same with the workers at Severstal, Stark Aerospace or one of our other industries. We have professors and scientists of myriad backgrounds at Mississippi State and Mississippi University for Women. And, we have people who have ended up here for the countless other reasons. 

 

This column is for the people not From Here, who may be experiencing Deep South-induced confusion or culture shock. To these people, I bring this message: It''ll be OK, I promise. And, you can even have fun here, if you make the most of it. 

 

First, let''s get some sushi in you -- I know you were worried there would be no decent sushi. Go to Umi in Starkville or Little Tokyo in Columbus. Feel better now? OK, let''s get down to it. 

 

Here are a few things to do. Later this summer, we''ll publish a special magazine called FYI, which will have a lot more, in a feature cleverly and tentatively called 101 Things To Do. We''re asking those who are From Here, and those who aren''t who have discovered the hidden gems within driving distance, to send in their own. 

 

Here are a few ideas: 

 

 

 

Barbecue 

 

This is big here, bigger than in other parts of the state. Folks gravitate to their favorite places. I''m a fan of the Little Dooey (the original''s in Starkville; Columbus has two more) but there''s no such thing as bad barbecue, especially in this area. 

 

 

 

SEC football 

 

Mississippi State and the University of Alabama are the two SEC schools closest to each other. And, Ole Miss is two hours away. Don''t leave the Triangle without catching a home game at all three stadiums. The Grove at Ole Miss is legendary for its tailgating. Alabama is legendary for its winning. (While in Tuscaloosa, stop at Dreamland for some more barbecue; its ribs are considered some of the best in the South.) 

 

 

 

Elvis 

 

A little more driving here, but here''s how to get your lifetime fill of Elvis Presley in a couple days. Drive up to Tupelo and see Elvis Presley''s birthplace, and drive around the town he grew up in (Tupelo Hardware, the store where Elvis'' momma bought his first guitar, is still open). Then, head up Highway 78 toward Memphis.  

 

Stop off in Holly Springs to see Graceland Too, a shrine to the King created by Elvis'' greatest fan, Paul McLeod. For lunch, eat one of the best burgers you ever ate at Phillips Grocery in Holly Springs. Then, keep going to Memphis to tour the actual Graceland.  

 

After all this Elvis you''ll want to spend the night; stay at the Peabody -- in my book the South''s best hotel. Down the alley across the street is the Rendezvous, a legendary rib place (you knew by now there would be more barbecue). 

 

 

 

Oxford 

 

I mentioned going to an Ole Miss game, but Oxford itself is worth another day trip. Go on a weekend that isn''t a football weekend. Go to the Square; among the shops and restaurants, one of the nation''s great independent bookstores, Square Books, is there. Browse the Faulkner section; buy a Coke in a glass bottle and sip it on the balcony. If you have kids, also visit the kids'' bookstore over by Neilson''s.  

 

Skip the barbecue. Eat pizza at Proud Larry''s for lunch and for dinner, go to City Grocery, a James Beard Award-winning restaurant with a great bar upstairs. 

 

 

 

Jackson 

 

Our capital city gets a bad rap. But the truth is, it''s roughly two hours away and there''s lots to do there. The Mississippi Museum of Art, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum are all worth a visit. I know, a museum on agriculture and forestry sounds dull, but it includes an actual turn-of-the-century town, complete with general store, on its grounds. The Old Capitol Museum is newly restored and is also world class. 

 

In Ridgeland, just north of Jackson, there''s a new outdoor shopping center called Renaissance at Colony Park. In this shopping center is an Apple Store, an Anthropologie, a Williams-Sonoma, a Fresh Market and some other things that people who are From Here aren''t used to. When you''re done shopping, eat the best steak of your life at Tico''s. 

 

There''s so much more I could include, both near and far, but I''ll leave that to you to discover, and share with us. What are some of your 101 Things to Do locally, and within driving distance? Share them by e-mailing them to [email protected] 

 

Maybe you''ll discover a few things you didn''t know were there, even if you''re From Here.

 

Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.

 

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