By Chris Arpe Gang
Memphians have often made the 30-mile trip to Holly Springs, Miss., to wander through the historic homes and churches that have been so carefully preserved in the charming city of about 8,000 residents.
Since 1998, visitors have been able to combine encounters with nature and antebellum architecture at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center a few miles north of the town square.
Sisters Margaret Finley Shackelford and Ruth Finley bequeathed their 2,500-acre farm and 1850s home to the Audubon Society to create a wildlife sanctuary with 200 species of birds, gardens filled with native plants, walking trails, forests and wetlands.
The center’s biggest event, the Hummingbird Migration Celebration, takes place Friday-Sunday. It typically draws about 7,000 people eager for a close encounter with the tiny birds that hover in the colorful flowers and syrup-filled feeders in the gardens at the center.
Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. each day. Admission is $10 for adults; $7 for seniors; $5 for children under 5 and $3 for children under 3. Parking is free.
Hummingbird experts Bob and Martha Sargent will return to capture migrating birds so they can place featherweight aluminum bands on their tiny legs for research purposes.
A few lucky lookers will get to hold the ruby-throated hummingbirds in the palms of their hands before releasing them so they can continue their long journey to their winter nests in southern Mexico.
Young and not-so-young visitors will also be delighted with programs and exhibits on bats, Mississippi snakes, owls, frogs, woodpeckers, native plants, fish, salamanders, spiders and more. Nature walks led by naturalists are also available all three days. Guided wagon rides will operate on the hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Guided nature walks are scheduled all three days as well.
Kristin Lamberson, “weed woman” and horticulturist at the center, will give programs on the benefits of gardening with native plants along with Jesse Grantham, coordinator of the California condor recovery program for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency. Grantham was formerly director of the Mississippi Audubon office.
More information about the hummingbird celebration, including a detailed schedule of events, is available at msaudubon.org.
While in Holly Springs
The Walter Place Estate Cottages and Garden is open for touring 2 p.m. daily. Admission is $20 for the complete package of tours that includes the historic home (circa 1858), cottages and gardens. Tickets for touring the gardens or cottages only are $7; $10 for house only. (888) 687-4765
Graceland Too , 200 East Gholson, is a one-of-kind shrine to Elvis. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Admission: $5 (888) 687-4765
Where to Eat
Phillips Grocery , 541 East Van Dorn, (662) 252-4671. USA Today proclaimed their hamburgers “one of the world’s greatest.” Don’t miss fried green tomatoes and fried pies. Open Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturday.
Crossroads Fish Shack , 4078 Miss. 178 in Red Banks, is open from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Catfish and hushpuppies are specialties. Red Banks is on old U.S. 78 just north of Holly Springs.
Court Square Inn Bed & Breakfast , 132 East College. (800) 926- 3686 Room Rates: $99-$145 HollySpringsInn.com
Le’Brooks Inn , 100 Brooks Road, (662) 252-5444. Rooms from $79 to $99 per night.
Kirkwood National Golf Club & Cottages , 277 Palmer Lane, Miss. 4 W. (800) 461-4653, offers lodging packages for golfers or for those just wanting a quiet getaway in modern cabins. Room rates: $72- $112. kirkwoodgolf.com
Fitch Farms Galena Plantation Cabins , 955 Thomas Road, Waterford, about 10 miles from Holly Springs, (662) 252-8855, offers quail, deer and wild turkey hunting packages, with or without lodging and meals. Call for rates. fitchfarms.com
For information about things to do in Holly Springs go to visithollysprings.org or call (888) 687-4765
Originally published by Chris Arpe Gang Special to The Commercial Appeal .
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