The only reason I went to Clinton was for the visitor center but I ended up spending hours exploring the shops along their quaint main street. The small town on the edge of Jackson, Mississippi is an often overlooked destination along the Natchez Trace Parkway. But after a few hours of shopping, chatting with locals, and enjoying a fantastic lunch it will never again be a destination I overlook.
The Clinton Visitor Center was located in a gorgeous modern brick building built to resemble an 1800s style farmhouse, complete with covered front porch and rocking chairs! Inside I found a friendly, if not slightly over-eager, staff ready to assist me with my adventure. They were happy to give me tips and suggestions about the upcoming section on The Trace from Jackson to Tupelo but then they asked a question that changed all my plans for the day, “Have you been into Clinton yet?”
After confessing I didn’t even know Clinton was an independent town, let alone that they had a “downtown”, the ladies wasted no time in pointing out all the places I just had to visit. Thirty minutes later I walked out of the visitor center with a Natchez Trace Parkway map in one hand and dozens of brochures, maps, and pamphlets about Clinton in the other. Now I had a new destination.
I immediately fell in love with downtown Clinton. Sitting at the edge of Mississippi College, the downtown area only covers about five square blocks in the National Historic District called Olde Towne. The “main street” is actually Jefferson Street, a wide street with parallel parking between one-story buildings. The tall concrete facades and deep fabric awnings make no attempt to appear like an old downtown. But the brick street, planter boxes filled with shrubbery, and large shop windows filled with products made downtown charming. The icing on the cake was the dozens of lights strung between poles along the sidewalk and across the street; I can only imagine how gorgeous this must look at night.
I parked in front of Good Citizen and quickly hopped inside to begin my exploration. The small store with exposed brick walls and a painted tin panel ceiling was filled with consignment items, arts and crafts, clothing, and unique gifts. Some photography mounted on the wall with an upscale wooden coat hanger was enticing, but I settled on a small survival kit in a tin can as a Christmas gift for my brother.
I continued wondering down the street hopping inside shops and just browsing the windows of others. At Paxton Peak Olde Town Outfitters I met Beth Shores, the owner and manager of the little one-room outdoor recreation shop. I wanted one of everything she was selling but with weeks to go on my road trip I knew I didn’t have the room to haul much with me. Instead I settled on her recommendation for lunch: The Bank by Pizza Shack.
In case you were as curious as I the locally owned restaurant is indeed located inside an old bank, but you would hardly know it after walking inside. Cracked stucco revealed an old brick wall behind, the wooden floor creaked just a little bit with each step, and the vaulted ceiling carried away the noise of conversations from the packed restaurant. The surface of the bar was appropriately decorated with all types of currencies, a clever nod to the history of the building, along with rustic swing-out bar stools.
I snagged a table in the corner to myself, much the chagrin of locals. It was the lunch hour and every seat in the house was taken. I grimaced apologetically but as soon as I pulled out my bulky DSLR and a notepad they realized I was there as much for work as for pleasure. Although I have to admit it felt like all pleasure once my food arrived. The menu includes items such as salads and sandwiches but really it’s the pizza that brings the people here.
I couldn’t help but order the Meat Eater Pizza: made with traditional marinara and topped with mozzarella, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, bacon, pork sausage, and beef, it was a meal that would have sent my doctor into nuclear overload. Thankfully he was a few hundred miles away and would never know just how much I enjoyed every single mouthwatering bite of that delicious pizza.
A few hours after I parked on Jefferson Street I was finally leaving Clinton behind. The street was full of parked cars, but the sidewalks weren’t crowded. It’s a small college town with a downtown only the locals seem to know about. But I know I knew about it, and so do you. Want to meet me there this weekend?