Downtown Tupelo is a vibrant, small town located in the center of the Mississippi Hills. Our historic city is the birthplace of International Music Icon, Elvis Presley, as well as a representation of the diversity and originality our downtown has to offer.
The story of Elvis is a strong foundation for tourism and entertainment in Downtown Tupelo. Born in a shotgun shack east of Downtown, Elvis spent his formative years in Tupelo. Places like Shake Rag, a historic African-American neighborhood where Elvis first heard the blues; Tupelo Hardware, a 90-year-old family business where Gladys bought Elvis his first guitar; and the Mississippi/Alabama Fair and Dairy Show where Elvis would return in 1956 for his homecoming concert help define Downtown’s culture.
Downtown Tupelo has always been the center of business and commerce, housing government offices, financial institutions and specialty stores. In 1990, the addition of a regional mall development seven miles north of Downtown left public and private leaders turning to the Main Street program to help protect and preserve the historic business district. With the support of the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) and a downtown assessment by the National Main Street Center (NMSC), Downtown business owners and city officials coalesced to become a Certified Main Street Community in 1990, creating Tupelo Main Street.
With input from our citizens and guidance from the Main Street Approach™, a Master Development Plan to give Downtown Tupelo a desirable sense of place became reality, resulting in The Fairpark District, a Phoenix Award-winning, 50-acre brownfield redevelopment and the most successful infill project in the state. The district hosts multiple events throughout the year, and offers free Wi-Fi, room to picnic with benches and umbrellas, a playground and a splash pad. Two statues stand in Fairpark as reminders of Tupelo’s history: a bronze statue of Elvis, commemorating his 1956 homecoming concert, and a bronze statue of Chief Piomingo, a famous Chickasaw Indian chief. The Fairpark redevelopment fueled the renaissance of the historic center of Downtown, which includes specialty boutiques, art galleries, 22 restaurants and a thriving Farmers’ Market.
Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, one of TMS’s most important partners, provides a Visitors’ Center in the gateway of Downtown, and is located less than a mile from the city’s top tourist attraction, the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum, which welcomes 75,000 guests annually. Located across from the Convention and Visitors Bureau is the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area museum and headquarters, which doubles as a museum of Mississippi’s cultural heritage as well as another welcome center for visitors. Aside from these two welcome centers, visitors and residents are welcome to explore Downtown by following a path created by 25 guitar statues. The Gumtree Museum of Art and the Tupelo Public School System partnered together to create the hand-painted, individualized markers.
A major draw in Downtown Tupelo is the 10,000-seat BancorpSouth Arena. The City of Tupelo and the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered to convert the then-abandoned mall into a multi-purpose coliseum, which opened in 1993. Since then, the arena has sold out shows for entertainers such as Elton John, Aerosmith, and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. The arena also hosts the international Tupelo Elvis Tribute Artist Competition, Disney on Ice and public ice-skating. In 2016, more than 272,000 people attended events there. The adjacent BancorpSouth Conference Center is a sought-after venue for more than 300 events and conferences annually. Located next door to the arena and conference center, Hilton Garden Inn offers 158 rooms for overnight guests. Just steps away from the arena, one can view over 140 classic cars at the Tupelo Automobile Museum, the largest private automobile collection east of the Mississippi River, brought about by a $24.4 million public-private partnership.
Tupelo Main Street hosts many events throughout the year to generate activity Downtown. Residents and visitors can experience everything from a wine tasting to a chili cook-off; however, our signature event is the Tupelo Elvis Festival, made possible through partnerships with the TCVB and Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., that sanctions the Elvis Tribute Artist Competition. Through this partnership, more than 10,000 visitors are brought Downtown from throughout the U.S. and multiple foreign countries for Tupelo Elvis Festival. These events account for 80,000 visitors annually in Downtown, and attract visitors for cultural/heritage tourism, showcasing the Americana Music Triangle and the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area. With the support of the National Main Street Center, Mississippi Main Street Association, Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Tupelo, Downtown has grown into a destination where people are sure to find American rhythm and true southern spirit.