Traveling around the United States you find Welcome Centers near most state crossings. These welcome centers usually have restroom facilities and racks and racks of information to help orient the traveler to their particular state and explain all it has to offer. Thankfully available on my travels, I’ve experienced many of these utilitarian centers and am grateful for their information and the area available to stretch my legs and walk a bit before returning to another few hours of driving.
Recently on a trip to Mississippi to visit family and do a little antiquing we stopped at the Mississippi visitor’s center just south of Memphis on I-55. What a change from the standard rest areas!
Starting from the moment we pulled into the parking area which was large enough for many, many cars, campers and semi trucks. The front of the building reminded me of many southern building with the a deep porch overhang, large white columns, beautiful red brickwork, large green shutters at each window, a steep pitched tin roof and a beautiful arched front door surround welcoming you in. This building just screams, “come on in and sit a spell.”
Walk inside and the staff welcomes you with a smile and offer to help you explore their beautiful state. You will not immediately see the huge racks of literature, they keep those in an alcove near the main desk. On either side of the main door, what welcomes you first is a living room area with dark wood furniture, oriental style rugs, artwork and large framed mirrors on the walls and a sense that you just entered someone’s home. Yes, there are signs for attractions and small literature racks sprinkled throughout this area but it has the feel of a home…..one where you could sit a spell and just let the worries of life slough off as you sip an ice tea and discuss the day with friends.
The helpful staff gave us information about the entire state as well as specific information about the Hill Area that we planned to visit, their visitor’s guide as well as a pamphlet on their antique businesses and how to find and/or contact these businesses. Of course we were planning to check out their antique shops….we never go anywhere without checking out the antique markets, flea markets, estate sales, auctions, etc. The ladies behind the desk asked about our plans and asked us to sign their register. We talked with them for a while then went outside to get some much needed walking.
The grounds were just beginning to blossom with spring’s beauty. Surrounding the main building are massive magnolia trees with dark glossy leaves. The planters were filled with flowering pansies and daffodil bulbs just about to bloom. The tulip magnolia buds looked almost ready to burst into flowers. Beautifully laid brick paths lead the wanderer through the lovely grounds and make the walk quite enjoyable.
As far as welcome centers go, this one is not to be missed. From the moment you pull into the parking area, the entire place helps you understand Southern hospitality in a real and personal way. Thank you Mississippi for the genuine welcome. We will be back.