Actively Vacationing in Tupelo

Elvis and the outdoors for family fun

I was researching ideas for an outdoor getaway with my family and happened upon Tupelo, Mississippi. When I suggested it to my husband, John, he responded with, “Home of the King! Ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog!”

Our 10-year-old son, Zane, asked, “Which king?” Lila, our six-year-old, had a confused look as well. Shocked to discover the kids didn’t know who Elvis Presley was, the trip suddenly became a necessity. We were off to Tupelo.

Besides its historical significance as the birthplace of Elvis, Tupelo is also an outdoors mecca. We knew we wanted to get in some hiking and fishing, but there were a couple attractions that John and I kept as a surprise for Zane and Lila. The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau has a great website where I built out our itinerary and even had the option to reach out and Ask a Local for other suggestions.

Splashing into Tupelo

On the road to Tupelo, John and I provided a rockin’ soundtrack of Elvis’ greatest hits. The kids protested at first, but as we pulled into town, Zane and Lila were singing along to “Blue Suede Shoes.” The city was absolutely charming. Century-old brick establishments peppered downtown Tupelo’s Main Street. Mossy oaks lined historic pathways, and when I rolled down the window, I could smell smoked brisket on the wind.

We checked into the hotel, changed the kids into swimsuits, and took them to the Veteran’s Park SplashPad. It was the perfect place for Zane and Lila to run around, and for John and me to unwind. The pad was dotted with all kinds of colorful sprinklers. Zane lost no time running through an archway shaped like a giant frog. The kids acted out a water war using big red-and-blue water cannons to spray each other. Lila’s favorite feature was an enormous sunflower that showered her when she stood underneath.

Meanwhile, John and I sat together at one of the picnic tables under a nearby pavilion. We kept an eye on our squealing kids and soaked in the gorgeous view of the setting sun reflected on the water of the duck ponds. It was a picture-perfect end to the day and a great way to start our adventure.

No troubles water

Lake at Trace State Park in Tupelo, Mississippi

Having prepped our gear the night before, we left early for Trace State Park to catch the “early bird” fish. We hopped in our little boat on the hunt for bass and crappie. We started off using crappie spinners, and between the four of us, pulled in five fish before switching to bass baits. Zane was the star of the bass show—he caught three within half an hour. Since we were fishing catch-and-release style, it’s possible one of those was the same fish twice, but there was no need to point that out to Zane.

Although slow and steady fishing has its relaxing advantages, I appreciated the activity of this spot because it kept the kids so engaged and occasionally jumping up and down. I imagined young Elvis sitting on a dock here and getting excited, just like my kids at his catch.

After packing up the tackle box and enjoying a picnic in the park, we set out to see sights marked by Tupelo’s Heritage Trails Enrichment Program. John, the kids, and I read the trail markers on the Civil Rights Heritage Trail. We learned that the 1964 March of Discontent transpired near the RC Cola Plant/Dixie Belle Theater marker on Spring Street. We also made a point to visit some of the Civil-War-era sites such as The Iron Furnace, which is a former Union military prison that earned its name from its intensely hot conditions.

Before calling it a day, we had to swing by the birthplace of the American legend, aptly named the Elvis Presley Birthplace. I’d seen pictures of the house, but Zane and Lila were astonished at the size of it. A two-room home, Elvis’s dad built it for just $180. By this point, Lila especially was enthralled by the King of Rock & Roll, readily embracing him as the celebrity I knew.

Zane and his dad were laughing up a storm at their own impressions of him. Ok, Lila and I couldn’t help giggling at their antics too.

An enriching experience

On our final day in Tupelo, John and I happily treated the kids to a visit to HealthWorks! Kids Museum. HealthWorks! is a health-centric play place where kids interactively learn about nutrition, the human body, and fitness. Zane and Lila loved running around on the vibrant “Funtastic Floor.” There, they found a larger-than-life mouth they could play inside. Zane chased Lila through giant veins and arteries, and I took photos of them climbing the skin-crawl wall.

I always like sneaking in education for my kids, but this museum wasn’t sneaky at all. The kids were learning, they knew it, and they liked it!

When I stopped to think about it, almost every element of the trip had educational aspects: figuring out how to outsmart the fish, Civil Rights history, anatomy lessons, and music history from the instigator of the trip, Elvis.

We rolled out of town as we came in—to the tunes of the King—but by this time, he meant something important to all of us.

Find out how Elvis and Tupelo, Mississippi saved a ladies’ getaway tradition.