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Bolivar County, Mississippi, might not be high on your list of places to visit, but it should be. Home to the town of Cleveland, Mississippi, Bolivar County boasts a rich history and small-town charm, thanks to its cultural and musical heritage.

Cleveland MS sign inside Zoe Coffee Shop

The next time you’re in town, here are the things you must do when visiting Cleveland, Mississippi.

What to Do in Cleveland, Mississippi

Past and present collide in the charming small town of Cleveland. Founded in 1869 as a meeting point of the railroad system, Cleveland, MS is also the birthplace of famous musicians and the blues style of music.

Decorated pianos in prominent locations around Cleveland

The Mississippi Delta is full of history and pleasant surprises. Knowing what to do, where to stay, and where to eat will round out a visit to this lovely southern town.

1. Visit the Grammy Museum of Mississippi

Cleveland boasts a state-of-the-art Grammy exhibit and educational center. This museum, located on Highway 61, pays homage to Cleveland’s musical roots. Not only can visitors learn the history of the Grammys, but they can see clips of notable performances, view past red carpet fashions, and even take part in a recording session.

One of the most unique things to do in Cleveland MS is to visit the Grammy Museum

Additionally, from now until January 1, 2023, an interactive exhibit titled “MTV Turns Forty: I Still Want my MTV” gives visitors a look at the history and impact of MTV. It features interviews from original MTV VJs, artifacts, and memorabilia, and it spotlights pivotal moments in MTV’s programming.

2. Spend time walking around downtown

Just about everything in Cleveland is a walkable distance. The downtown area is very reminiscent of the main street of a bygone era. 

That’s not to say it is dated, but the shops and numerous restaurants feel even more quaint thanks to the architecture and layout of the place.

Farmer's Market in Downtown Cleveland, Mississippi

During the summer, the greenspace hosts a farmer’s market. Fresh vegetables, homemade jams and jellies, and other homemade wares can be bought from 8 am-12 pm on the third Saturday of each month.

3. Stay in the Cotton House Hotel

Billed as part of the Marriott Tribute Portfolio, the Cotton House Hotel has everything you could want in an upscale home away from home.

Cotton House Hotel exterior

The rooms are gorgeous, and the decor is cozier and more vibrant than in a standard hotel.

Inside view of a room at the Cotton House Hotel

The hotel’s location is right in the middle of downtown. The convenience of parking your car on site for the weekend and walking everywhere is a positive for hotel guests.

4. Enjoy all the local eats

Another significant aspect of Cleveland, MS is the food scene. So many local offerings with unique opportunities to taste the best of the Delta.

Inside the Cotton House Hotel, Delta Meat Market is not to be missed. Though the name implies nothing but meat, the dinner options are pretty varied and delicious.

Moon Pie Bread Pudding at Delta Meat Market

Don’t miss dessert if Moon Pie Bread Pudding is on the menu!

Chef Cole Ellis began Delta Meat Market as a grocery store before converting it to a restaurant in 2013. He also opened Bar Fontaine, a rooftop bar at the Hotel.

Bar Fontaine menu

Other fantastic choices include Mosquito Burrito for Mexican food, Delta Dairy for frozen treats, and Airport Grocery for homestyle Southern cooking.

5. Learn history at Dockery Farms

A working farm in its heyday, Dockery Farms is now a heritage site for blues music and its history in the Mississippi Delta.

While it was a farm, famous pioneers in blues music would gather and tell stories, sing, and play their instruments. Though it’s no longer a working farm, it holds rich historical significance to the area and the music industry.

6. Visit McCarty’s Pottery in Merigold

Though it’s not a walkable distance, McCarty’s Pottery is a short ride up the road from Cleveland in Merigold, Mississippi.

McCarty's Potter in Merigold, MS

McCarty’s Pottery began in 1954 with a concentration on functional and artistic pieces. The McCartys developed their glazes, including jade, cobalt blue, and signature nutmeg.

Visitors flock to McCarty's for a piece of their famous pottery

Purchase the sought-after pottery pieces from their original Merigold location Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am-4 pm. Those new to this exciting experience should be prepared to arrive early in case a favorite piece or glaze sells out.

7. Eat at the Galley Restaurant at McCarty’s

For an authentic southern dining experience, book a reservation at the Gallery. Founded by the McCarty’s in 1991, the Gallery serves lunch and hosts special events.

The restaurant is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30 am-1:30 pm.

Reservations are strongly recommended due to the popularity and intimate space of the establishment.

8. Watch a Performance at Bologna Performing Arts

Located on the campus of Delta State University, Bologna Performing Arts was founded in 1994 to elevate the local culture and expose the community to more of the arts. 

Concerts, plays, musicals, and dance companies can perform in the 1,154-seat Delta & Pine Land Theater. A separate recital hall for more intimate performances seats 145.

9. Travel the Mississippi Blues Trail

Mississippi’s Blues Trail extends from the Hills to the Coast, but visitors can see several markers in the Delta.

Musical artists decor

The historical markers share the stories, photos, and music of Blues music icons. In Cleveland, MS, markers can be found for Chrisman Street, Gospel and the Blues, the Grammy Museum Mississippi, and W.C. Handy.

10. Learn about the railroad at the Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum

The railroad was an essential part of Cleveland’s growth back to the 1830s. Though passenger trains stopped coming through in 1965 and the last freight train crossed the tracks in 1995, the museum continues to share the importance of the railroad to Cleveland.

Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum in Cleveland, MS

In fact, remains of the railroad tracks can be seen outside the museum near the town’s official Visitor’s Center.

Inside the Railroad Heritage Museum

Admission is free, and visitors will be delighted by the scavenger hunt around the working model train set.