Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Cleveland, MS

  • Published 2022/10/11

Since its inception, many fascinating things have grown out of the Mississippi Delta.

Some of them are the distinct southern culture and hospitality, blues music, unique cuisine, heritage, and small-town charms like Cleveland.

Cleveland in Bolivar County of Mississippi is the birthplace of renowned musicians and blues music.

This small town is brimming with rich musical history and wonderful places to discover.

It has a unique Southern culture that you can experience from its mouthwatering food, traditional pottery, and blues music.

Seated in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, Cleveland was founded back in 1869 as the railroad systems from Texas, Louisville, and New Orleans converged there.

It drew many people from various regions and states in the country until it became the town people know today.

Notably, Cleveland is known across Mississippi or perhaps the entire United States as the ‘birthplace’ of blues music.

Moreover, Cleveland also became the staging ground for civil rights movements that fought for equality during the 50s and 60s.

Despite its quaint and laidback appeal, Cleveland’s community is somewhat upbeat mainly because of its musical heritage and the festive culture of Mississippi and the young people who go to Delta State University.

Cleveland also has a vibrant shopping and dining scene, making it more inviting for visitors like you.

So, here are the 20 best things to do in Cleveland, MS:

Stroll through the Historic Downtown Cleveland

The road of Historic Downtown Cleveland

Hamhari Brown, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as Cotton Row, the Historic Downtown Cleveland is where you’ll find the Delta Grammy Museum and the Delta Blues.

The entire stretch is filled with many options for shopping and dining.

Not to mention the locals who warmly greet everyone they come across the street.

Although it’s not as busy as the usual streets you’re used to, you’re guaranteed to find something that grabs your attention while strolling through its brick-paved sidewalks filled with victorian lightings lining up the street.

Buildings at Downtown Cleveland

Hamhari Brown, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for Cleveland’s best restaurants, shops, and services, you can head to this iconic place in town.

Or perhaps, you can join guided tours to get the most of the wonderful experience waiting for you there.

More than 30 shops line up the streets of Cotton Row, including Wishing Well, Moonstruck Antique Flea Market, and Kat.

You can choose from a dozen restaurants that serve Southern-style cuisine, Mexican, classic American, and fusion cuisine for dining options, like The Warehouse, Senator’s Palace, Mosquito Burrito, Delta Meat Market, and Catfish Cabin.

Learn Great Stuff at the Historic Dockery Farms

The Dockery Farms was originally a working farm in Cleveland that became famous for being the meetup place for the pioneers in blues music.

These men were commonly referred to as ‘bluesmen’ in the early 19th century.

They spend their free time at the Dockery Farms playing blues music to wrap up their tiring week working.

Their gatherings were usually filled with singing, songwriting, and playing musical instruments, which influenced not just blues, but rock ‘n’ roll and jazz.

Today, the Dockery Farms serves as a heritage site for blues music and has been maintained by various groups to preserve the important history in music embedded in its corners.

Stay at the Cotton House Hotel

This boutique hotel in downtown Cleveland was named after Cottonrow St.

The area is also the namesake of Cleveland’s downtown area, where this hotel is nestled.

The Cotton House Hotel is an icon in Cleveland and an important part of the Mississippi Blues Trail.

The hotel, which is still operating today, also welcomed famous blues music artists back in the day.

Above all, the hotel highlights its guests’ genuine Southern hospitality and showcases the diverse culture, arts, food, and music in the Mississippi Delta through its service.

The hotel boasts 95 charming guest rooms, all equipped with great amenities.

Eat Delicious Food at the Delta Meat Market

The Delta Meat Market opened up initially as a grocery in Cleveland, but its owner, Cole Ellis, who is a chef, had bigger things in mind.

The grocery was converted into a restaurant/grocery in 2013 and eventually grew big.

Today, the Delta Meat Market is famous for serving artisanal food from cheese, cured meat, wines, and other specialties in its meat-centric menu cooked in Southern culinary tradition.

Aside from Delta Meat Market, Ellis also opened another restaurant, Bar Fontaine, at the Cotton House Hotel.

In contrast, this European-style restaurant serves small plates while boasting homemade ingredients, cocktails, and an extensive collection of bourbon and wines.

If you feel your stomach starts to growl, you know what restaurant to head to in Cleveland.

Appreciate Great Music at the Grammy Museum Mississippi

Grammy Museum Mississippi

BobCummings, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Grammy Museum Mississippi is part of the Mississippi Blues Trail, but it would be more awesome if you visited this attraction in Cleveland separately.

It boasts a state-of-the-art museum with interactive exhibits and galleries nestled in the Delta State University.

The entire museum covers more than 26,000 square feet, where you can find some of the best memorabilia of famous musicians and songwriters and other relevant items, photographs, and musical instruments.

Score Great Finds at the Moonstruck Antique Flea Market

The Moonstruck Antique Flea Market features more than 30 vendors who have their own unique and beautiful collection of antique wares.

The flea market, which opened in 2016, has been one of the top destinations in Bolivar County for antique collectors.

The vendors feature a wide array of vintage and antique collections, family heirlooms, jewelry, furniture, houseware, and so much more.

Check out Moonstruck Antique Flea Market to find the best and unique souvenir to bring home from your Cleveland travel adventure.

Moreover, the flea market strongly supports local craftsmen and artists by letting them display their artworks and products at the venue.

Shop at the Wishing Well

Wishing Well has been running since 1994, making it one of Cleveland’s premier shops for apparel.

This shop also has a branch in the nearby town of Shelby that’s been operating since 1975.

The shop is widely known to feature various clothing brands that will surely give you many choices.

You can buy tops, bottoms, shoes, dresses, sleepwear, and accessories in Wishing Well.

You’ll be having dozens of choices from brands like Bella Dahl, Elliot Lauren, Hudson, Jude Connally, Black Tape, etc., at Wishing Well.

Dine at the Hey Joe’s Restaurant

Hey Joe’s is one of the local favorites in Cleveland.

This restaurant has been popularly known by locals to serve great food, top-notch craft beer, and live musical performances.

The restaurant has welcoming vibes and a cozy interior that instantly makes you feel comfortable after sitting down.

Aside from the usual restaurant/bar setting, Hey Joe’s is known to serve delicious Southern-style burgers, wraps, sandwiches, wings, and salads.

Furthermore, for each food item you order at Hey Joe’s, a dollar of it is donated to their chosen local charity.

You won’t just treat your tastebuds; you’ll also help out someone in need through this restaurant’s charitable deed.

Celebrate Local Arts at the Studio 230 Art Gallery

Aside from music, Mississippi is also known to have a vibrant arts community.

The best place to experience Cleveland’s local art is at the Studio 230 Art Gallery.

This 3,000 square feet art gallery is a wonderful place that represents modern and traditional artworks from various local artists in Mississippi.

Its interior has a charming modern-rustic design filled with unique artworks from featured artists.

It regularly hosts art exhibits, galleries, and other events.

Aside from being a gallery, it also serves as an events venue for businesses, conventions, and weddings.

If you’re in Cleveland, you can check out this art gallery to see beautiful artworks from local artists.

Watch Live Performances at the Bologna Performing Arts

Bologna Performing Arts

Kilobytezero, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bologna Performing Arts is situated inside Delta State University.

It boasts a modern theater filled with a rich tapestry of culture and arts.

It can accommodate around a thousand people while also having a separate recital hall.

Today, Bologna Performing Arts regularly hosts concerts, broadway shows, film shows, and many more.

It was founded in 1994 after being funded by the Mississippi legislature to provide Mississippi Delta’s culture and arts community a perfect venue to display their passion.

You can visit Bologna Performing Arts’ official website to check out its upcoming shows that you can catch in your Cleveland travel adventure.

Discover History at the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum

The Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum is a unique place to discover history about Cleveland’s past and its Chinese immigrants that thrived in the town.

It houses a vast collection of memorabilia, oral histories, photographs, housewares, and textile materials relevant to the Chinese immigrants who live in the Mississippi Delta.

It’s an interesting place to learn the history of the immigration of more than a hundred Chinese families into the town and how they thrived there over the years.

Its exhibits and galleries are filled with great stuff that allows you to appreciate and respect this thriving community in the Mississippi Delta and Cleveland.

You can visit the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum through guided tours or discover the place all by yourself.

Indulge in Good Food at The Warehouse Restaurant

The restaunrant’s namesake comes from the actual warehouse constructed in 1901, where it’s currently nestled.

It’s one of the restaurants you should dine in during your visit to Cleveland.

The restaurant boasts a cozy wood and rustic interior using old materials from the former warehouse.

Aside from its unique but beautiful interior, its food is a must-try.

You don’t need to head to New Orleans to eat Southern-style food since they cook the same delicious classic dishes.

You can stop by the restaurant to grab lunch or book a reservation for dinner and try their meat, cheeses, soups, sandwiches, and salads in Southern-style cooking.

Join the Festive Mardi Gras Parade

Cleveland also celebrates the grand Mardi Gras Parade every February, a month before New Orleans celebrates its own.

It is as festive and fun-filled as the one you’ll experience in New Orleans, where you’ll be treated to Southern hospitality and non-stop partying.

Cleveland’s Mardi Gras Parade gathers not just locals but people around Bolivar County who are looking for fun.

The parade usually starts at South Bayou and traverses Sharpe Avenue to Cotton Row.

The Mardi Gras Parade is filled with floats, bands, dancers, and revelers who celebrate this festival.

Follow the Mississippi Blues Trail

Mississippi Blues Trail Marker

Chillin662, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It would be proper to start your Cleveland travel adventure by learning about its rich musical heritage by following the Mississippi Blues Trail.

It’s one of the most awesome things to do in town as you journey through the history and roots of blues music.

Whether you’re an avid fan of this music genre or a casual tourist seeking an exciting and interesting trip, you should join the Mississippi Blues Trail.

You will find great facts that make you appreciate this music genre more. You will come across incredible stories, photos, music, and musicians of blues along the trail that covers 20 museums, including some in Cleveland, during the tour.

Check the Mississippi Blues Commission’s official website to learn how to join the Mississippi Blues Trail.

Uncover Cleveland’s History at the Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum

The Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum is another awesome place to browse through interesting history.

After visiting the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum, you should proceed to this historical attraction in town.

The museum tells you historical information about the railroad industry that led to the town’s founding in 1869.

Whether you’re a history nerd or just a casual tourist, you’ll surely find interest in this museum because of its beautiful galleries and exhibits that feature miniature towns, trains, and railroads.

Furthermore, you can check out old trains and rail tracks used back in the day outside the museum.

Learn Civil Rights History at Amzie Moore House Museum and Interpretive Center

Cleveland and the Mississippi Delta are rich in history, with many essential places related to the Civil Rights struggle and other African American cultural, entrepreneurial, and civic achievements.

The life and grassroots Civil Rights efforts of Amzie Moore are on display at the Amzie Moore House Museum and Interpretive Center.

In the fight for civil rights in Mississippi, Amzie Moore played a pivotal role.

He laid the groundwork for instructing African-Americans in citizenship, property rights, taxation, public office, and economic change.

His house, which he constructed in 1941, became a hub for the neighborhood’s youngsters, adults, and authorities.

Moore convened with prominent Civil Rights figures, including Bob Moses, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Stokely Carmichael, to plot their next steps.

Visit this museum honoring Moore’s life and achievements in the Civil Rights movement.

See the Amazing Sculptures at Mathews-Sanders Sculpture Garden

Visitors and locals alike love the Mathews-Sanders Sculpture Garden.

The sculpture garden at Delta State University hosts a competition every two years to showcase the talents of local, national, and international artists.

Pam Mathews, the wife of David Potter, Delta State University’s president, started this competition in 2000.

This competition also highlights the university’s dedication to and appreciation of the arts, revitalizes the campus, and provides students with valuable hands-on learning opportunities.

The sculpture garden has expanded from its original formal arrangement in front of the Bologna Performing Arts Center to incorporate the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and the downtown Cleveland green strip.

Explore the Outer Space from Wiley Planetarium

Visiting a planetarium is a great family activity in Cleveland.

Roy Lee Wiley, a physics professor at Delta State University, moved for its establishment.

In 1976, following its construction, the planetarium first welcomed visitors.

The school’s administration and staff renamed this building in honor of Mr. Wiley four years later.

When Clara, his wife, passed away, the school renamed the planetarium their glory.

Roy L. and Clara Belle Wiley Planetarium feature a Digistar 7 digital projector system that allows you to explore the universe virtually.

In October 2016, the planetarium reopened to the public.

It has continued its longstanding practice of offering astronomy lessons, welcoming school groups, and staging public events.

Catch Performances at Ellis Theater

Marquee of Ellis Theater

Joe Mazzola, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ellis Theater, located in Cleveland’s downtown, houses Delta Arts Alliance.

It opened with the production of “Vogues of 1938” in 1938.

Cleveland and its neighboring communities enjoyed evenings at the Ellis for the next 40 years.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Ellis was sold to Rhodes Printing after its former owner had constructed Twin Cinema across the street on Highway 8 West.

In December 2003, the City of Cleveland officially donated the Ellis property to the Delta Arts Alliance.

Modern sound, lighting, and projection equipment, as well as a fully-stocked catering kitchen, are all part of the recently remodeled auditorium’s arsenal of amenities.

The room can seat 305 people in an auditorium or 200 people in a banquet setup.

Delta Arts Alliance also offers gallery space on both the first and second floors for rent and a smaller annex that doubles as a dance studio.

Join the Festivities at Crosstie Arts and Jazz Festival

For the past half-century, Cleveland has welcomed spring with the Crosstie Arts Festival.

Named after the notorious railroads traversing the state of Mississippi for more than a century, the rails are also a metaphor for the blues musicians who traveled throughout the state.

It’s a mecca for musicians and artists in the southern United States.

Catch fine art from various mediums, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, furniture, and jewelry, displayed and for sale by a group of juried artists.

There’s also live music, a play area for kids, and delicious local cuisine.

Final Thoughts

Music lover or not, something is interesting and wonderful waiting for you to discover in Cleveland.

Cleveland may not be as trendy as other travel destinations; its rich musical history, genuine Southern hospitality, and small-town charm will surely grab your attention to plan a trip there soon.

Cleveland is also a perfect jumping point to discover the rest of the Mississippi Delta and Bolivar County.

In the end, there’s something for you in Cleveland that guarantees you a memorable travel experience with your family.

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