Put a traditional Southern twist on your Thanksgiving by staying at a Mississippi vacation rental. Whether your perfect holiday involves the youthful vibe of Oxford or the thriving cultural scene in Jackson, this beautiful state has an ideal getaway. As you plan your Mississippi vacation, check out these friendly towns; each one is bursting with activities for a fun family Thanksgiving.

1. Jackson, Mississippi

Mississippi’s capital city rings in the holidays with a bang. The fun starts the weekend before Thanksgiving with the annual Handworks Holiday Market, the 12K’s for the Holidays charity run, and the Downtown Jackson Christmas Parade. On Thanksgiving morning, burn off some calories at the family-friendly Annual Turkey Day 8K race. Thanksgiving weekend brings Santa Saturday at the Mississippi Children’s Museum; bring your little ones to play in the North Pole holiday exhibit, ride the Santa Express, take photos with Santa, and fly down a 45-foot slide.

2. Tupelo, Mississippi

Enjoy Thanksgiving with a small-town vibe in friendly Tupelo. The holidays start off with the Downtown Holiday Open House, which happens the weekend before Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving dinner, head to the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo, which offers special holiday hours. The weekend brings Pioneer Day to the Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center; bring the whole family to learn how to weave baskets, make corn-husk dolls, and work leather with the Tombigbee Pioneer Group. If you’re interested in shopping, head downtown for Shop Small Saturday, when local businesses offer special promotions, giveaways, and holiday performances.

3. Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez is one of Mississippi’s most festive vacation destinations, ensuring that your Thanksgiving is packed with nonstop family fun. If you’re in town early, check out the Natchez Ballet Academy’s annual performance of The Nutcracker. Enjoy your turkey dinner surrounded by history at the antebellum Monmouth Plantation’s annual Thanksgiving buffet. Friday marks the opening of the highly anticipated Christmas in Natchez. Start with the annual tree lighting and gumbo cook-off, and let your little ones loose on the rides at the North Pole Playground. On Saturday, watch Santa as he arrives at the Natchez Mall, tour The Jeweled Christmas at The Towers, and marvel at the Christmas decorations in the antebellum Sunnyside home.

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4. Gulfport, Mississippi

Spend Thanksgiving on the ocean in Gulfport, a lovely city on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The day after Thanksgiving brings the opening of Gulfport Harbor Lights, an annual winter festival that takes place at the Bert Jones Yacht Harbor. Walk through the festival, stopping for a hot chocolate, and photos in Santa’s Village. The festival also features a variety of carnival rides, including Santa’s Big Wheel and the Skyracer. If you’re too full to walk, take a free heated trolley ride around the festival to see the Christmas light displays.

5. Columbus, Mississippi

Book your vacation rentals in Columbus early to take advantage of pre-Thanksgiving activities such as the popular Holiday Farmers Market and the Annual Country Store Bake Sale at the historic Stephen D. Lee Home. A few days after Thanksgiving, downtown Columbus hosts the City Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, which is followed by festive music and holiday sales at local businesses as part of Small Business Monday.

6. Vicksburg, Mississippi

Enjoy a Thanksgiving getaway next to the mighty Mississippi River in historic Vicksburg. On Black Friday, locals head for the Outlets at Vicksburg for great shopping and fun raffles; the shops open on Thanksgiving evening. If you’re still in the mood for shopping, head to downtown Vicksburg, where local retailers offer sales and giveaways for Small Business Saturday. At the same time, Main Street hosts the Old Fashioned Christmas Open House, which features festive decorations, holiday music, and Christmas treats.

7. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Thanksgiving in Bay St. Louis traditionally begins with the Fit First Turkey Trot, which takes you on a tour of beautiful Old Town and past the beach. If you’re looking for a more relaxed run, try the Brew Ho Ho Beer Mile on Thanksgiving weekend; at each quarter-mile mark, you drink a beer or a root beer. The weekend also features the opening of the Snowflakes in the Bay event in downtown Bay St. Louis and Depot Row; grab a hot cider and wander through town to see ancient live oaks lit up beautifully with Christmas lights.

8. Oxford, Mississippi

In Oxford, the home of the University of Mississippi, Thanksgiving means one thing: football. The city frequently hosts the Egg Bowl, a rivalry game with Mississippi State University. Get your tickets well in advance, or simply enjoy a day of tailgating. The day after Thanksgiving, the Oxford Square Alliance puts on a Holiday Open House in the downtown Oxford Square. Bring your little ones for photos with Santa on the courthouse lawn, caroling and a Christmas tree lighting at City Hall, and an outdoor movie.

9. Starkville, Mississippi

Join in the Thanksgiving spirit in Starkville, a community-focused town in central Mississippi. The city starts its holiday celebrations the day after Thanksgiving with the Black Friday Bonanza, which features live entertainment and fantastic sales from local businesses. On Sunday, get into the Mississippi State University vibe at Bulldog Brunch and Browse. If you’re in town the Monday after Thanksgiving, don’t miss the Christmas Parade, which features MSU’s famous Maroon Band.

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