Leave Memphis after breakfast.
Head up I-55N to Dyess, AR. Tour the newly restored Johnny Cash Boyhood Home located in the Dyess Colony. The Dyess Colony was a federal agricultural resettlement community created in 1934 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. It provided a fresh start for nearly 500 impoverished Arkansas farm families, including the family of music legend Johnny Cash. The Cash home is one of the few houses remaining and is in the process of being restored. Johnny Cash lived in Dyess until he graduated from high school in 1950. His music was greatly influenced by his experiences in Dyess, including such songs as “Pickin’ Time” and “Five Feet High and Rising.”
Drive east on Highway 14 to Wilson, AR to visit Hampson Archeological Museum State Park which houses an outstanding collection of artifacts from the Nodena Native Americans, which were in the area from 1400 to 1650 A.D.
Enjoy dinner at Wilson Café, which features updated twists on Southern classics and often live entertainment.
Spend the night in Osecola, AR.
Leave Osecola after breakfast.
Drive south to Marianna, AR for an early lunch at Jones Bar-B-Q, a James Beard award winning restaurant. Some incarnation of Jones Bar-B-Q Diner has been open since at least the 1910s. Today Jones Bar-B-Q is owned by James and Betty Jones and is one of the oldest African-American owned restaurants in America.
Head South on Highway 1 to Helena, AR. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the area’s rich history. We suggest starting at Helena River Park, where a boardwalk overlooks the Mississippi River, which has been an integral part of Helena’s history since its founding.
Next visit a few of Helena’s key Civil War sites including Freedom Park (the first site in Arkansas to be designated as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site), New Fort Curtis (3/4 scale replica Union earth works fort complete with two 24pounder guns ), and Battery C (one of four batteries erected by the Union army to defend the city from Confederate attack).
Stop at the Pillow-Thompson House for a tour one of the finest examples of Queen Anne architecture in the South. The home’s second floor has the family’s heirloom furniture and hat collection on display.
End the day’s tour at the Helena Museum. One of the oldest museums in Arkansas, their collection includes one of the largest displays of Edison artifacts and the bullet that killed General Thomas Hindman.
For dinner we suggest the Bistro Bar and Grill or El Rio Lindo. Both offer a laidback atmosphere where visitors can grab a beer or margarita and relax. The Bistro’s burger is arguably the best in town and El Rio Lindo boasts fresh homemade salsa.
Spend the night at one of Helena’s hotels or Bed & Breakfasts.
For breakfast either enjoy your hotel’s complimentary spread, or grab breakfast at Kelly’s, we recommend anything that comes with their homemade biscuits.
Head to Cherry Street to fit in some shopping at the gift shops located in the most intact historic downtown in Arkansas. Handworks, Cotton & Kudzu, and Delta Gypsy carry a wide variety of locally and regionally sourced gifts. If you’re lucky Gist Music will be open, the music store where Levon Helm got his first guitar. For souvenirs, make sure to stop by the King Biscuit Blues Festival office, for a year around taste of festival fun.
Head to the Delta Cultural Center at 11:30pm to view their latest exhibit: Songs from the Field. At 12:15pm head across the museum to the King Biscuit Time radio booth, where “Sunshine” Sonny Payne broadcasts the show live every weekday. King Biscuit Time is the longest running blues radio show in the county. If you’re lucky, Sonny will have you on the show as his guest.
Eat lunch at Granny Dee’s, for food that will really stir your soul. The menu rotates daily with highlights including fried chicken, turnip greens, sweet potatoes, peach cobbler and fried liver for the adventurous.
After lunch, drive across the Mississippi River Bridge to Clarksdale, MS. Visit the Delta Blues Museum and see The Crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil.
Drive back to Memphis.