As the capital of Mississippi, Jackson is home to several attractions, historic sites, and exciting localities. The city has a long history and an interesting one at that. In 2022, the city is celebrating its bicentennial with year-round events!
The Mississippi Freedom Trail passes through Jackson, which contains several historic sites that played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement. As a result, Jackson features several fantastic museums that cover a wide range of topics, including history, civil rights, African-American culture, and natural sciences. A city with a turbulent past and a bright future, it’s a fascinating place to be.
With such a deep historical background, unique location, and a growing economy, Jackson provides a ton of awesome things to do. There are plenty of fun options to fill a short weekend getaway or a longer vacation itinerary. These 15 suggestions are some of our favorites.
(featured image via Visit Jackson, MS)
15. Natchez Trace Parkway & “The Rez”
The original Natchez Trace was a historic forest trail footpath that was used by Native Americans. With the arrival of Europeans, the Trace trail was further blazed and widened enough for wagons to pass along it. The current modern iteration of the Natchez Trace Parkway is a National Scenic Byway that is maintained by the National Parks Service. The Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s created a paved parkway that stretches from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. While it doesn’t follow the historic trail exactly, it was “inspired” by the original route.
Take a leisure drive down portions of the Natchez Trace that pass through Jackson (technically Ridgeland, a suburb). Roll your windows down, enjoy the fresh air and beautiful trees, and, soon, you’ll happen upon the expansive Ross Barnett Reservoir. “The Rez” offers ample boating, fishing, watersports, and camping options for visitors. It’s also one of the best places in the area to view sunsets.
14. Cathead Distillery Tour
(image via Drink Cathead)
Cathead Distillery was founded in 2010 by two friends, Austin Evans and Richard Patrick. They were the first permitted distillery in Mississippi since prohibition. Although Cathead Distillery is well known for its vodka, it also makes bourbon. In 2020, Cathead Distillery was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Spirits Producer. A tasting and a shot glass will be included in each tour.
While the distillery has recently paused tours and tastings while they upgrade some production equipment, they do plan to open up to the public again in early 2022. Keep an eye on their website for updates.
13. Medgar Evers House
Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home and National Monument, commonly known as the Medgar Evers Home, is a historic house museum in Jackson, Mississippi, located at 2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Drive. This house is located in a lively residential area. It was constructed in 1956 and was Medgar Evers’s residence at the time of his assassination. He was the first NAACP field secretary and a notable civil rights fighter. His wife, Myrlie Evers-Williams, continues as a civil rights activist today and gave the invocation at the second presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.
This private residence, which is now a National Historic Landmark, has been converted into a museum and restored to its original appearance during the Evers family’s time there.
12. Live Music in the “City With Soul”
(image via Frank Jones Corner)
While Jackson isn’t traditionally included as part of the Mississippi Delta region, the city has nevertheless played an important role in the development of the blues music genre. Since Jackson is the capital and largest metro area, many musicians traveled to the “big city” to perform in front of crowds. Today, many juke joints and live music venues dot the city and the surrounding area.
Three of our favorite hangouts are Frank Jones Corner, Martin’s Downtown, and Hal & Mal’s. F. Jones (as it is lovingly referred to by locals), is located on historic Farish Street, a hub of flourishing and economically independent black-owned businesses under Jim Crow laws. F. Jones is also one of the few bars open until the wee hours of the morning (4 a.m.). Martin’s has been around for 70 years and at its current location since 1984. Martins has a full dinner menu but also hosts eclectic live music from all genres: rock, country, blues, soul, funk, and jazz. Just spitting distance from Martin’s is Hal & Mal’s. Opened by brothers in 1985, this large venue also has a full menu. It has various sectioned rooms with multiple bars and a stage. It’s a popular location as a venue for local events and wedding receptions, too.
11. Two Mississippi Museums
(image via Mississippi Civil Rights Museum)
The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum form the Two Mississippi Museums. These two separate museums work in tandem, and are located in interlocking buildings, to tell the story of the state of Mississippi’s history. Single tickets for $15 offer entry to both museums. Sundays are free. The Museum of Mississippi History explores 15,000 years of Mississippi History from the first Pre-European peoples to settle in the region to the present day. Eight galleries feature unique artifacts and offer historical context.
The newer Mississippi Civil Rights Museum opened in 2017. It takes a deeper dive into the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement to provide a larger understanding of the hard work, sacrifice, and impact that local activists had in the fight for equality. Seven galleries encircle a central space with a dramatic sculpture that lights up and plays music as people walk below it. The museum uses firsthand accounts to share powerful stories that will move your heart and leave you better educated and hopeful.
10. Mississippi Museum of Art
(image via Mississippi Museum of Art)
The Mississippi Museum of Art is one of the largest museums in the state. In terms of artwork, the museum hosts rotating exhibits on a regular basis. Past traveling exhibitions have included major works from such important artists as Van Gogh, Monet, and Degas, among others. The museum’s permanent collection is unsurprisingly heavily focused on Southern and Mississippi artists. Mary Cassatt and Georgia O’Keeffe are represented, as well as Mississippians Eudora Welty and George E. Ohr.
Besides the artwork, the museum itself has an expansive public green space and garden out front. During the warm spring and summer months, many public events are hosted on the green. These include movie nights and street festivals.
9. LeFleur’s Bluff State Park
(image via Christopher Luckett)
Right in the middle of Jackson is LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. This area is popular for fishing, camping, hiking trails, and picnicking. Spanning 305 acres, the park also has a nine-hole golf course and driving range. The park is named after Louis LeFleur, an explorer who established a trading post in the area in the 1700s.
The surrounding area was also initially known as “LeFleur’s Bluff.” That is, until 1821 when the site was selected as the location of the official capital of the new state of Mississippi (admitted at the end of 1817). Now officially incorporated, the city was christened “Jackson” in honor of (then) General Andrew Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.
8. The Fondren District
(image via Brent's Drugs)
Visitors looking for an area with a quirky vibe loaded with bakeries, restaurants, and boutique shops will want to head to the Fondren District. There is live music to enjoy, along with food tastings, book signings, and galleries. You can spend an entire day in this area alone, so be sure to reserve some time to explore on foot.
The main portion of the area forms somewhat of a triangle, being bound by N. State Street, Old Canton Rd., and Duling Ave. The architecture is brightly painted and maintains a retro 50s/60s vibe. Portions of The Help were filmed along the storefronts. Some notable establishments include Brent’s Drugs (a 75-year-old soda fountain), Walker’s Drive In (fine dining), Campbell’s Bakery, and Cups (a coffee house).
7. Mississippi Children’s Museum
(image via Mississippi Science Fest)
The Mississippi Children’s Museum has six different areas, and each one is devoted to allowing children to explore various topics which inspire curiosity and wonder. These range from STEM concepts to climbing, exploring different geography, and more. This amazing museum also features a literacy garden, a healthy fun area, and many other engaging areas for kids. Their vision is to “inspire Mississippi’s children from all backgrounds to discover and achieve their potential.”
6. The Old Capitol Museum
(image via MS Dept. of Archives & History)
The Old Capitol Museum is regarded as one of the state’s most historic buildings. Hurricane Katrina ripped off parts of the former capitol’s copper roof in August 2005. Rain from Hurricane Rita invaded the structure four weeks later, causing damage to the ceilings, walls, and embellishments, as well as historical treasures. Between 2007 and 2009, storm repairs and restorations were completed, and the museum was reopened to the public.
This is one of two previous capitol buildings which now houses a local museum and is open to the public. The museum highlights historical events that happened on site by offering guided tours. Tours also feature information regarding the architecture and restoration of this greek revival building.
5. Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
(images via Mississippi Museum of Natural Science)
The Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences is located within LeFleur’s Bluff State Park and aims to teach visitors about the area’s natural history. Featuring educational exhibits, interactive habitats, and specimen collections, the museum also has a 100,000-gallon aquarium that is home to over 200 native species of aquatic life.
In addition, the museum holds a beautiful greenhouse. It is home to wetland fauna and flora. There is even a fossil collection and a discovery room. There are giant tree houses throughout the museum grounds, which are also a big hit with kids.
4. International Museum of Muslim Cultures
(image via International Museum of Muslim Cultures)
Downtown on Pascagoula Street is the International Museum of Muslim Cultures, the first American museum designed to display the history and story of Islam. According to former governor William Winter, it first opened in 2001 and “definitely breaks a stereotype” about what people may think about Jackson, Mississippi.
In addition to presenting diverse Islamic cultural histories, the IMMC aims to serve as a resource to teach global audiences. Guided tours are available as well as individual tours.
3. The Eudora Welty House
(image via Eudora Welty House & Garden)
Eudora Welty was one of the most esteemed writers of the 20th century. She wrote short stories and novels but was also lauded as a photographer. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, and she also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of the Arts. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her home at 1119 Pinehurst Street is now a national historic landmark open to the public, inspiring curiosity for generations. Take a guided tour of the Eudora Welty House to gain insight into what inspired one of America’s most significant authors.
2. Fine Southern Cuisine
(image via Walker's Drive In)
Jackson is home to soul music, but it’s also home to soul food. This is the heart of the South, and there is no shortage of great restaurants offering classic southern cuisine. We’ve already mentioned Walker’s Drive In earlier which features upscale classics in a casual bistro atmosphere. Johnny T’s Bistro and Blues features southern staples downstairs like shrimp & grits and fried catfish. Upstairs is the Renaissance Room entertainment venue that houses live music performances. The Manship serves southern fare like country-fried pork chops and seared duck breast but brings a Meditteranean twist to their menu. For something a little different, Sal & Mookie’s is a New York-style pizzeria that also has a large array of desserts, including ice cream, shakes, sundaes, and more!
1. Jackson Zoo
(image via Jackson Zoo)
The Jackson Zoo was first established back in the 1920s. The story begins in the 1900s when firefighters would pass the time by be-friending deer, alligators, and squirrels and bringing them to the station. The city purchased land to establish a zoo in the 1920s, and the first animals on display were the firemen’s pets.
Today, the zoo has undergone a major overhaul. It is home to hundreds of animals, including several endangered species. Special programs and events are held throughout the year, so be sure to check in while you’re in the area. Tickets for adults are $8 and $5 for kids. On Tuesdays, admission is $2 for everyone.
As you can see, Jackson has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Jackson, Mississippi.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.