Jackson, Mississippi, is often an overlooked destination within the United States, even though it happens to be a quintessential southern town with all the heart and soul you could want out of a city. From the music to the food, to the art to the history, you can find something here that’ll move you, and keep you coming back for more.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Jackson:
1. See Some Science
If you have kids, or just like to learn something new, go to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, where you can explore 70,000 square feet of history, science, wildlife and aquariums, with more than 200 species for you to observe.
There’s an outdoor center with natural trails, too, so you can enjoy the local scenery, as well as all the interesting tidbits this museum has collected from around the state, whether it’s a friendly fish or a particularly interesting plant sample.
2. Government, Old and New
Check out two different government buildings while you’re in Jackson, and learn a little history behind the state.
The Old Capital Museum was built in 1839 and sports beautiful Greek Revival architecture, and it was the seat of the state government until the early part of the 20th century.
Then, it was converted into a museum that houses exhibits related to government.
The new State Capitol, however, was finished in 1903, and also boasts its own impressive architecture, with a 15-foot gold-covered eagle on top of its 180-foot dome.
For this one, you can choose to take either a guided or a self-guided tour.
3. See Where Your Food Flourishes
If you have a passion for food, farmers markets or anything rural, you ought to pay a visit to the Mississippi Agriculture Museum, to see where your food starts out.
The museum has several permanent exhibits, but also a living history farm, a crossroads town and a forest study area.
What’s a crossroads town and how can a museum house a whole town? Well, it’s a chance for you to step back in time and see what rural Mississippi was like in the Roaring 20s, and it’s definitely not an experience you’ll find anywhere else.
You’ll just have to trust us!
4. Check out the Fondren District
Each city has its own special neighborhoods that are hip and cool for both locals and visitors alike.
The Fondren District has entertainment spaces, art galleries, shopping at local stores, cute cafes, bakeries and awesome restaurants.
There’s also a great cocktail bar, called Apothecary, which has been noted as one of the best cocktail bars in the South.
This little area is certainly a great space to find new and upcoming small businesses within the city, if you’re trying to keep local as much as possible, and really see what’s going on.
5. See the Art
The Mississippi Museum of Art isn’t just a great place to see some paintings.
It’s a cultural center that’s vibrant and pulsing, and where locals go to have fun and hang out, not just stare glumly at some hanging art pieces.
You’ll find lots of local artists, as well as national artists, and you can take advantage of the food trucks that hang outside.
There’s also a killer cafe actually inside the museum, and this venue has started an urban farm on the museum grounds.
6. Find Your Inner Child
If you have children, and you want to discover your own inner child right alongside them, that’s exactly what’s going to happen once you visit the Mississippi Children’s Museum.
With a mission to improve health, literacy and overall well-being for state children, they welcome any adolescent with a passion for play.
There’s 40,000 square feet of galleries that revolve around education, literacy, health, culture, science, technology and history.
There’s also a Literacy Garden, the newest addition to the museum, that’s 13,000 square feet and shows experiential artworks and encourages language development.
7. Explore Impressive History
The Boyd House, also known as The Oaks House, is one of the oldest homes in the entire city, built in 1853 as a Greek Revival cottage.
It’s near the center of the city, and it actually is notable because it survived the burning of the city of Jackson during the Civil War.
It’s now a state and national landmark.
In addition, one of the residents was a four-time mayor, and the Boyd family lived there for three generations.
You can tour it and see quite a few original pieces that belonged to the family within (from tables and chairs to beds and hall stands), the Victorian garden and the buttery.
8. Stroll a Cemetery
If you have a thing for historic cemeteries, as many travelers do, head to the largest green space in downtown Jackson, Greenwood Cemetery.
It was established in 1823, and was at that time six acres, though it’s now 22. It’s filled with beautiful landscaping, boasting southern touches such as magnolias and wisterias.
Until the late 1800s, all residents were permitted burial in Greenwood Cemetery, and at that time, poor records were kept, so many of the deceased within the cemetery are now unknown.
Currently, a team of volunteers are looking to discover who is buried on the grounds.
9. Discover the Stories of the Manships
The Manship family played an important role in Jackson’s history, and now you can tour their home, if you schedule it in advance.
The patriarch of the family, Charles Henry Manship, was a mayor of Jackson during the Civil War.
It was Manship who surrendered the city to General William Sherman in 1863, and his home was the headquarters of a Confederate General, John S. Adams, during the war.
The Gothic Revival home stands out among many other historic homes in Jackson, which are more likely to be in the Greek Revival style.
10. Visit the LeFleur Museum District
You’ll probably find yourself in the LeFleur Museum District if you visit the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, the Mississippi CHildren’s Museum, Museum of Natural Science or Agriculture Museum.
However, the district itself will give you a great deal if you stick around and not just zip in and out of the museums you’re wanting to go to most.
A full district pass is just $20 for adults, a huge deal for anyone that’s a museum aficionado when they travel.
11. Peruse the Petrified
And we don’t mean THAT kind of petrified.
In fact, this totally kid-friendly attraction is fun for all ages.
The Mississippi Petrified Forest is six blocks of nature trail, and it’s lined with petrified logs that have turned to stone over the years.
One in particular is called “Caveman’s Bench,” and it lies right next to the trail, and is a great photo op! The prehistoric setting is entirely strange, but totally worth the visit.
After following the trail, stop at the earth science museum to learn more about the petrification process and fossils (including a prehistoric camel!). If you like the Petrified Forest, you can come back and stay, as they even have a campground on premises.
12. Take a Walk on the Wild Side
The Jackson Zoo gets more than 100,000 visitors each year, with 110 acres that are home to 380 animals, and 202 species.
They have 10 endangered species, including leopards, spider monkeys, chimps, hippos, lemurs and more.
They participate in active species survival programs, and have plans to expand and open new exhibits on a regular basis in the upcoming years.
Free with your admission is the kids’ splash pad, where they can play in the water every day until 3:30 p.m.
13. Go Galactic
The Russell C. Davis Planetarium offers both entertaining and educational programs throughout the year.
A huge dome projects stars, planets and even scenes from the sky at any point in time, as seen from any point on Earth.
Guests can travel all the way to the limits of the known universe! The planetarium is one of the largest facilities like its kind in the entire U.S., with a 60-foot projection dome.
Keep an eye on their event calendar, as they not only take you on a galactic journey, but also host festivals, film screenings, comedy shows, fashion shows and more!
14. Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
Sports enthusiasts will definitely want to check out this spot.
There is a great collection of impressive sports memorabilia, all with ties to the state.
You’ll see memorabilia celebrating Jerry Rice, Brett Favre and Archie Manning, just to name a few.
There are some Super Bowl MVP trophies, Olympic gold medals and more all on display, for you to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at!
15. See Jackson’s Weird History
This weird little piece of Jackson history sits in Buddy Butts Park, in an odd, overgrown area that’s a little out of the way and a lot odd.
However, this is not to be missed.
In 1943, the United States used Italian and German prisoners of war to create a Mississippi River Basin Model to be used by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The model is the largest small-scale model ever built, represents 41 percent of the United States in miniature and shows more than 15,000 miles of rivers in eight miles of model stream on 200 acres.
Those 200 acres are what you’re looking for, to see this model-making marvel.
16. Thank the French
Head to GM&O Depot to pay your dues to the history of the railway.
There sits the “Merci Train,” wooden train cars given to the state of Mississippi by France after World War II. In fact, France gave many of these train cars to the United States, one for each state; sadly, most have disappeared over time, but this boxcar still exists.
It’s a little beaten up from the elements, but has been somewhat restored, and you can see it for yourself.
17. LeFleur’s Bluff State Park
Right within urban Jackson, you can enjoy a lush 305 acres of park, including a nine-hold golf course and a driving range.
There’s camping, fishing, hiking and more.
Interesting tidbit: it’s named after Jackson’s original French name, LeFleur’s Bluff.
LeFleur was a French-Canadian explorer who created a trading post in the 1700s on the Pearl River.
Now, you can enjoy the endless shade, watch the water go by, take in some golf or just enjoy the scenery as you escape for a few moments from the hubbub of the downtown.
18. Follow Frank
There are some travelers who are quick to jump at any opportunity to visit a home designed by the great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Visitors to Jackson will be pleased to know that Fountainhead, also known as the J. Willis Hughes House, was designed in the Usonian style by Frank himself in 1948. This home is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is one of only four Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the state.
It’s name, of course, hearkens back to the Ayn Rand novel.
19. Learn Your Literature
The Eudora Welty House is considered one of the most intact literary houses in the country, in terms of authenticity.
The exterior, interior and the furniture are all left exactly how they were in 1986, when the author herself gave the home over to the State.
There are tons to explore — art still hanging on the walls, linens on the beds, rugs on the floor and thousands upon thousands of books on the shelves.
Author Eudora Welty lived in the home most of her life, from 1915 until 2001. You can take a virtual tour of it online, but why not check it out for yourself in person, and read some of Welty’s fiction and essays while you’re at it?
20. Go Volcano Climbing
Did you know that there’s an extinct volcano underneath the city of Jackson? Located 30 stories below the terrain, it pushes the ground up and is a dome containing pure carbon dioxide, now used in oil production.
The volcano has been extinct for 66 million years, and is only one of four volcanoes inside of U.S. cities.
You’ll have to settle for climbing the dome that gives the Jackson Dome its name, from within the stadium.
That’s right — the Jackson Dome sits right on top of the underground volcano and the uplifted terrain that it’s produced.
21. Discover History and Heritage
America’s very first international museum of Muslim cultures resides in Jackson.
Guided tours are available, and you can view many educational exhibits, including those on the Legacy of Timbuktu, Moorish Spain, Ramadan and others.
The museum also hosts specialized workshops related to the exhibitions.
Make a note — if you’re traveling on a weekend, you’ll have to make an appointment for your visit.
Otherwise, they have normal business hours.
22. Understand the African Experience
The Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center is devoted to educating visitors on the historical experience and cultural expressions of people of African descent.
The artifacts and exhibits focus on black Mississippians from the point of slavery onward.
The museum has its own Hall of Fame, and permanent exhibitions include “Field to Factory: The Afro-AMerican Migration, 1915-1940”; “Mississippi African-American Folk Art”; “Historic Farish Street District (1910-1970)”; and more.
23. See a Show
The New Stage Theatre is the perfect spot to catch a locally produced show each season, with five plays every year, as well as a holiday show and kids-only show.
The work that comes out of this theatre is particularly created for the Mississippians who are fans of the state’s own literally works, and similar types of art that can move audiences.
Stay tuned to their website, as the 2017-2018 season is sure to be announced soon!
24. Catch Some Fine Art
You can find great orchestra and opera acts while you’re in the deep south, believe it or not.
The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra puts on various classical and pops concerts.
The Mississippi Opera Association has shows throughout the season.
There are also ballet companies, choruses and other orchestras throughout the city that perform on a regular basis.
Pick one that fits your travel schedule and your mood!
25. Go on a Walking Tour Like You’ve Never Experienced
Walking tours are great to discover a new spot, but Crazy Dash Digital Adventures aren’t like your normal tour.
A remote guide takes you to 10 spots around the city, and at each checkpoint, you’ll have to answer a short quiz question.
But on the way, you have to stop and perform crazy tasks, photograph yourself doing said task and then send in the photo! Your remote guide stays with you through the entire time and interacts with you and gives you special challenges based on your experience.
Each tour is different, so you may be going to a monument, a historic marker, a sculpture or somewhere else that’s significant in the city.
You can feel free to pause at any time, though, to get a drink, grab a bite to eat or shop.