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Tupelo
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The Tupelo Destination encompasses the corners of northeastern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama in the southern region of the United States. Situated in the western half of the destination is the namesake, Tupelo, Mississippi. The city of Tupelo covers 64.68 square miles, and its economy is generally supported by tourism and hospitality. Tupelo’s location at a railroad intersection facilitated transportation throughout its earlier history, though tourism became a more significant contributor to the economy when Elvis Presley became a prominent figure in the entertainment industry.[1] One of the main attractions in Tupelo is the Elvis Presley Birthplace, which presently contains a museum that details the singer’s childhood and the evolution of his career as an entertainer.[3] Beyond the city of Tupelo, however, the destination as a whole contains many natural areas, rivers, and lakes. To the northeast, part of the Tennessee River courses through the destination, flowing into Pickwick Lake and Wilson Lake. The Tupelo Destination also includes Holly Springs National Forest, Bankhead National Forest, and Trace State Park where visitors can undertake a variety of outdoor activities.[7][13][8] Of these three natural sites, Trace State Park is the closest to Tupelo and can provide the means for visitors to engage in lake recreation on the 565-acre lake as well as camping, disc golf, and picnicking.[13]

What Tupelo is known for

Comprising a fraction of two states in the Southern United States—Mississippi and Alabama—the Tupelo Destination is home to a combination of urban cities and rural landscapes. The namesake, Tupelo, is a city in the destination’s central-western portion that serves as the county seat of Lee County. With an estimated total population of 37,402 residents, Tupelo was ranked as the seventh-most populous city in Mississippi.[1][2] The most recent census in 2020 reported a population of 37,800 people, indicating an annual decline rate of -0.35%. From 2020 to 2023, Tupelo’s population has experienced a decrease of -1.05%.[2]

While Tupelo is economically “considered a commercial, industrial, and cultural hub of Northern Mississippi," the city is commonly known as the original home of American singer and actor Elvis Presley.[1] Elvis’ birthplace is situated in the eastern part of Tupelo, now operating as a museum that caters to tourists. This site initially began as a two-bedroom home that was built by Elvis’ father, uncle, and grandfather for roughly $180.[3][4] Today, the Elvis Presley birthplace is part of the Elvis Presley Park, which spans 15 acres and draws about 100,000 visitors annually.[3] Two statues that depict Elvis’ development as an entertainer characterize the Elvis Presley Birthplace as well—both known under the same name, Becoming. One statue resembles Elvis’ stage persona, while the other displays Elvis as a young boy.[4] Other places in Tupelo revolve around the influence Elvis had on the city and the entertainment industry, many of which can be explored on a bicycling tour through the downtown district.[5]

In addition to the Elvis Presley elements of the city, Tupelo contains a collection of attractions that can cater to both a younger and an older demographic of people. Visitors are often drawn to the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo, which exhibits a herd of American bison as well as exotic animals, such as zedonks, emus, and pythons. Another attraction is the Natchez Trace Parkway, a site that is particularly known for bearing historical significance, as it follows the path of the Natchez Trace Trail–a route that was originally utilized by indigenous peoples prior to European settlement. Those who take an interest in the history of Tupelo can visit Civil War sites within the city, including national battlefields from the Brices Cross Roads. Moreover, visitors should also be aware that events are periodically held at Tupelo’s 10,000-seat Cadence Bank Arena, an establishment that is acknowledged for being “the largest multipurpose indoor arena in Mississippi.”[1]

Geography

A fair amount of natural areas compose parts of the Tupelo Destination, with two of the larger sites being Holly Springs National Forest and Bankhead National Forest. While the destination does not contain the entirety of these national forests, a considerable portion of each can be found within its boundaries. Tupelo is the nearest city to Holly Springs National Forest. Much of the park consists of loblolly and shortleaf pines along the rolling hills, as well as upland hardwoods. Loblolly pines were planted throughout the park by the Civilian Conservation Corps on account of the depleted soils of the north-central hills. With the intent to prevent any further erosion, the Civilian Conservation Corps cast a fairly large load of needles. Holly Springs National Forest also encompasses multiple bodies of water, which are as follows: Puskus Lake, Chewalla Lake, and Lake Tillatoba. Additionally, the park offers a few recreation areas for visitors to take advantage of, including Baker’s Pond Hiking Trail and North Cypress Non-Motorized Trail. Within these recreation areas, a number of campgrounds, swimming beaches, hiking trails, and picnic areas can be found.[7] Akin to Holly Springs National Forest, Bankhead National Forest–also known as William B. Bankhead National Forest–offers a variety of outdoor activities throughout its 181,230-acre expanse, such as picnicking, camping, fishing, swimming, and hiking. A total of six recreation areas are found in Bankhead National Forest, each with several trails for outdoor enthusiasts to utilize.[8]

Travelers who are seeking a recreational site that is located within closer proximity to Tupelo–as opposed to the previously noted national forests–can visit Trace State Park, which is within an approximate 30-minute drive of the city. There, fishing and water sports tend to be popular pastimes among visitors to the park. A relatively wide range of activities is available at Trace State Park, more specifically, an 18-hole disc golf course, a 565-acre lake, and trails for non-motorized or motorized vehicles, to name a few. Furthermore, 76 developed campsites are scattered throughout the park as well.[13]

Tupelo experiences a humid subtropical climate, similar to the rest of Mississippi.[1] With temperatures varying between 34°F and 91°F over the course of the year in the city, warmer temperatures generally last from May to September, with average daily highs reaching above 83°F. Further increases in temperature take place during the month of July, which typically receives average highs around 91°F and average lows at roughly 72°F. Considering the warmer season’s conditions, visitors who plan on engaging in outdoor activities during their travels to the Tupelo Destination may have a higher probability of moderate weather for such recreation between the end of April to the beginning of June or the end of August to the middle of October. With regard to the cooler season, temperatures begin to drop upon the approach of November, as average daily highs decrease below 60°F. January tends to be the coldest month of the year in Tupelo, with average temperatures ranging from 35°F to 52°F.[6]

History

As mentioned previously, Tupelo has played a role in several wars, and many of the earlier battlefields are now memorials that can be found in the city today. Tupelo National Battlefield is where A.J. Smith’s Union troops contained Stephen D. Lee and the Confederates–who were under the direction of Nathan Bedford Forrest–during the American Civil War.[11] This took place in 1864 during the Battle of Tupelo or Battle of Oldtown Creek. Another memorial site that commemorates a Civil War battle is the aforementioned Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield, approximately ten miles north of the city.[1]

In the early 20th century, there was a need for housing for the workers of Tupelo. As such, the Mill Village Neighborhood was constructed for such purposes. Presently known as the Mill Village Historic District, this site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Recently, efforts have been made to its assets in an attempt to maintain its upkeep. Old waterlines were replaced, about 1,300 feet of sidewalk was rebuilt, a vacant lot was updated to serve as a park, and banners were placed along the streets to identify the neighborhood. These updates resulted in new businesses opening throughout Tupelo.[10]

One of the most notable events in Tupelo’s history is the Tupelo-Gainsville tornado outbreak, which occurred during the spring of 1936. Over 200 homes and 48 city blocks were leveled by this natural disaster, with 700 injured civilians and 216 deaths. Among the survivors was Elvis Presley, who was a baby at the time. On the Fujita scale, this storm was ranked F5 and is regarded as “one of the deadliest in U.S. history.” Since then, the city has experienced several relatively smaller tornadoes in comparison that have caused damage or prompted the issue of a tornado emergency by the National Weather Service.[1]

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The Shadowlawn Bed and Breakfast is a two-story historic building in downtown Columbus, Mississippi. The bed and breakfast has five rooms available for guests to reserve. Built in 1848, the property was converted into a bed and breakfast in the early 2000s and currently serves as one of the only "upper-end" lodging options in the city. Weddings, catering, and other venues are possible to have at Shadowlawn. The owner of The Shadowlawn Bed and Breakfast also owns another company that goes by the name of "A Bride Idea," which allows her to help guests host and properly plan for their special occasions. As a florist, she does a lot of the outdoor upkeep to maintain the outside of the property.

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