October 20, 2020

All you need to know about Spring Pilgrimage in Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez, Mississippi’s annual Spring Pilgrimage — a month-long series of historic antebellum house tours and events — is the city’s top tourism draw and one that seems to get bigger and better every year.

People around the world flock to Natchez each spring (this year’s Spring Pilgrimage runs from March 17-April 17, 2018) to take part in the annual festivities showcasing many of the town’s historic antebellum homes, some of which are only open to the public this time of year.

Lynn Beach Smith, director of sales for Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, says Spring Pilgrimage 2018 is shaping up to be record-breaking.

“I’ve exceeded my numbers this year,” Smith says. “This has been the best Spring Pilgrimage in the three years I’ve been here.”

“…People come for the flowers, they come for the history … the river … the music, the food — people come to rest and relax and get away from the rat race.”

natchez spring pilgrimage

Ruth Ellen Calhoun waits in the front of her home for a Spring Pilgrimage tour group. (Nicole Hester, The Natchez Democrat)

Historic Antebellum House Tours

The main event of Natchez’s Spring Pilgrimage is offering public tours of several antebellum homes in the area.

“People, the community and everyone locally needs to come see and be a part of these events and be the best advocates for visitors,” says Southern chef and Pilgrimage Garden Club president Regina Charboneau. “People need to know their own hometown — even come tour the homes — and see why people come to Natchez.”

While many of Natchez’s antebellum homes are open year-round, Pilgrimage features access to homes that are normally closed to the public.

“What makes Spring Pilgrimage special is because it’s the one time of year that we open up the private homes (for tours),” Charboneau says.

A full list of Spring Pilgrimage antebellum home tours with dates and times is provided by Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.

natchez spring pilgrimage

Two Natchez residents dance the polka at Natchez City auditorium in preparation for the city’s annual Spring Pilgrimage (Nicole Hester, The Natchez Democrat)

Historic Natchez Tableaux

Since 1932, Natchez residents have played a role in the city’s annual tableaux production during the Spring Pilgrimage, which offers a unique perspective of the city’s history through music, storytelling and period costumes.

“The tableaux utilizes local talent from both adults and children to re-enact instances in Natchez history that date as far back as the Natchez Indians until the Civil War,” according to The Natchez Democrat. “Children are included in their performance of the little and big maypole, The Polka, Soiree and Can-Can dances.”

The Historic Natchez Tableaux usually takes place at the Natchez City Auditorium. The full schedule, along with ticket prices, can be found at natchezpilgrimage.com.

natchez spring pilgrimage

A group of dancers circle the may pole during a Spring Pilgrimage dress rehearsal at Longwood in Natchez, Mississippi. (Nicole Hester, The Natchez Democrat)

Other Spring Pilgrimage Events and Entertainment

For decades, the Natchez Garden Club and the Pilgrimage Garden Club teamed up to host historical events tied to the annual festivities, including the aforementioned Natchez Tableaux. In 2018, the two clubs parted ways with the Pilgrimage Garden Club taking on a different approach to evening entertainment by creating something that “resonated with the current generation of tourists.”

“A Royal Evening at Longwood” will take place on a handful of nights during Pilgrimage, including dance, music and a toast beneath the unfinished dome of the antebellum home.

The event will delve into Natchez history through the story of Longwood’s former owner Julia Nutt, along with several vignettes.

Times, dates and ticket prices can be found at natchezpilgrimage.com.