Darby and Dennis Short have a front-row seat to all the action going on in downtown Natchez. From their apartment balcony overlooking Main Street, they can take in all the sights and sounds of the busy and fun-filled holiday season.
Looking out over the city, the first sight of the bell tower of St. Mary’s Basilica, bathed in late fall sunlight, stands as a beacon for miles around, beckoning visitors and friends to gather where all the fun is happening. Starting at noon Nov. 13, with a holiday open house at downtown shops and ending on King’s Day, Jan. 6, 2023, with a celebratory dinner, Natchez offers near nonstop holiday entertainment to feed one’s desire for festive Christmas fare and folly.
Make post-Turkey Day plans to attend the official lighting of the Natchez Christmas tree, prominently located at the intersection of Main and Commerce streets in the heart of downtown. The event, happening at 6 p.m., Nov. 26, features lights, music and fireworks and launches the community into the holidays with much fanfare. It’s an old-fashioned tradition and Natchez pulls it off with style.
A must-see treat for all is the home tour sponsored by the Natchez Garden Club. Six special historic homes are open for touring and some even feature dinners and candlelight tours. Sunnyside offers exquisite dinner events on special dates, and the Victorian décor of Magnolia Hall is not to be missed. The Towers boasts a tree in every room, festooned with vintage jewelry shining brightly from every bough. A progressive candlelight tour of Choctaw and Myrtle Terrace on Dec. 9 will set the perfect mood for holiday enjoyment. Tours include houses that are not usually open to the public, such as the Thomas Staniforth House, whose understated exterior, festively decorated, belies the opulent yet tasteful rooms inside.
A capstone event on Jan. 6 ends the season with a 7 p.m. dinner at Myrtle Terrace. Find tour dates and times on the Facebook page for the Natchez Garden Club Christmas Tour or at www.visitnatchez.org.
The annual Christmas parade on the evening of Dec. 3 takes place in downtown Natchez, along Franklin, Rankin, and Main streets. “A Storybook Christmas” is this year’s theme. Santa Claus makes an exciting debut, ending the parade with a representative from the rowdy fun-loving “Santa Club.” If you know, you know — so it’s a must to go see this for yourself. Definitely do not leave early!
Darby’s has become a destination for visitors and locals alike, looking for unique apparel, Mississippi-inspired gifts and foods — cheese straws are a delicacy. They’ve expanded their retail empire, ensconced among several buildings on Main Street, to include high-end home décor, such as antique rugs, specialty lighting, designer pillows and original works of art. Don’t leave Darby’s without getting some of her namesake fudge, made fresh daily in lots of unique flavors.
Adding to the downtown retail landscape is the gorgeous and whimsical Olivina, featuring gifts, apparel and décor items to delight children and adults alike.
Natchez Olive Market is full of savory goodies like artisan bread, hard-to-find cheeses and an astonishing array of olives and olive oils.
Next stop is Nest, the Franklin Street shop where you’ll find the most beautiful botanicals, potted orchids and fresh and faux florals. Hal Garner at Nest, an antique emporium, continues to offer the finest tableware available, curated by John Grady Burns. A talented gift to the Natchez community, Burns is carrying on the tradition begun by Hal Garner decades ago to outfit brides and hostesses of the region with selections from Mottahedeh, Haviland and Juliska, to name a few.
Start off your visit to the Bluff City with brunch at the Little Easy, close to the river, where you can sit outside and enjoy the feel of the town. For lunch, head “under the hill” along the banks of the river to the Camp, offering stunning views of the Mississippi River and a huge menu offering gourmet sandwiches, tacos and salads.
Stop by Fat Mamas on South Canal Street for margaritas and tamales, a Mississippi culinary tradition. Make reservations in advance for fine dining at The Castle restaurant, located at Dunleith, or get dinner and drinks around the piano bar at The Kitchen on Main Street.
A newcomer to the food scene is Frankie’s on Main, described as New York meets New Orleans in the “Little Easy.”
It’s not too late this year to get accommodations in town since there are so many hospitable inns and plenty of short-term lodging available. As always, the Grand Hotel is reliable and well-located within walking distance of everything you’d want to do while visiting.
Dunleith and Monmouth mansions, to name just a couple, offer the bed-and-breakfast experience, but rooms do sell out quickly. VRBO and Airbnb are great sources for short-term stays such as the Dixon at 514 Main, perfect for a large gathering.
Like a Hallmark movie Christmas
Natchez is a favorite and easy-to-reach destination for folks across Louisiana. Its Christmas season is like a Hallmark movie. Actually, it was the setting for one of the namesake network’s holiday films in 2021. Producers discovered the beautiful historic town and fell in love with its people while filming there.
Finding a better place in the South to revel in the holiday spirit is a tough call.