Mississippi’s capital city is a destination offering a warm welcome and a heavy dose of culture. With food, music and unique shopping, what else would you expect from “The City with Soul”? Here’s why you need to see it for yourself.
While the metro area’s music scene brings in national acts like Jason Isbell, Odesza, Chris Stapleton and The Flaming Lips, Jackson’s local music scene is where the sound thrives. Local acts like The Valley Boys, Spacewolf and Empty Atlas are just a few of the bands that light up the stages of favorite venues like Spacecamp, CS’s, Fenian’s and Duling Hall. Hop into any venue or bar in the city, or attend the annual Jackson Indie Music Week and get to know some of the best music coming out of “The Birthplace of America’s Music.”
Over 100 years after Mississippi ended Prohibition, Cathead Vodka opened as the state’s first distillery. Inspired by the sound and culture of Mississippi’s juke joints, the name is a play on the phrase “That cat can play” and the blues musician Son Thomas’ clay sculptures of cat heads that represented his favorite musicians. The distillery’s love of music is evident in its philanthropic work with the arts and its music-centric events like crawfish boils and the Annual Cathead Jam. With distillery tours offered three days a week, it’s a stop not to be missed.
Jackson is home to some of the finest foods in the South. “The City with Soul” offers delicious soul food with hot tamales and pig ear sandwiches at The Big Apple Inn, a beloved establishment that’s been serving Jackson at its Farish Street location since the 1950s. The city also has items to please every palate, so make sure to check out local favorites like a classic, vegetarian or vegan burger at Cool Al’s, sushi at Edo Japanese or tacos and tableside guacamole at Babalu.
Opened in 2017, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum highlights and educates visitors on the state’s sordid past and involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. Interactive exhibits transport visitors back and allow them to view the oppression and experience of African American Mississippians through the lens of education and growth. One of the best museums in the state, make sure to block out an entire afternoon for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
With markers throughout the state, the Mississippi Blues Trail shares stories of Mississippi’s musical past. Markers identify spots of significance to blues music, and Jackson has 12, which is more than any other city in the state. Stop by the former site of the infamous Subway Lounge, the previous home of Malaco Records or the Alamo Theatre to be submerged in the culture and history of the blues.
Mynelle Gardens is a blossoming botanical garden tucked away in West Jackson. Azealas, magnolias and other native flowers bloom among unique sculptures and flowing fountains, ponds filled with wildlife and the beautiful and historic Westbrook house on the grounds. After exploring the rest of the city, Mynelle Gardens is the perfect place to escape for an afternoon.
Visiting Jackson to check out a comic book store might seem strange, but Offbeat is much more than that. Peruse vinyl records, comic books, collectible designer toys, clothing, local art and more at the Midtown store. The brainchild of owner Phillip “DJ Young Venom” Rollins, Offbeat caters to and cultivates Jackson’s creative class. It also serves as a venue for local bands, DJs and touring and local comedians, and while it’s not a place that visitors to the capital city might expect, it won’t disappoint.
Jackson is overflowing with creatives, many of whom are excited and willing to share the inner-workings of their art. Sign up for an art Workshop by Ginger Williams at the Mississippi Museum of Art or take a music class at Fondren Guitars. Sign up for something more unique, like “Brew School” events at Cups Espresso Café, where manager Cody Cox teaches how to properly use a Chemex and basic brewing techniques. Sweet and Sauer Fermentations owner Lauren Rhoades holds workshops on homebrewing kombucha and partners with Sunflower Oven owner Robert Raymond to offer courses on making homemade sourdough.
Jackson’s nightlife has something for everyone. Have a drink at the Apothecary, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar behind Brent’s Drugs; Caet Wine Bar; The Library Bar, located in the historic Fairview Inn; or grab a beer at local favorite Fenian’s Pub. Check out karaoke night with DJ Stache (or DJ No-Stache depending on his current facial hair situation), Ladies’ Night at Ole Tavern on George Street, or a drag show at Wonderlust for a night of dancing before hopping into F. Jones Corner for late-night libations and live music.
A top attraction for families across the state, The Mississippi Children’s Museum is the largest children’s museum in Mississippi. With a focus on improving the health, literacy and well-being of children in the state, the museum offers opportunities for learning through fun and engaging experiences. Exhibits include unique spaces like the Literacy Garden outdoor learning and play space, or the Healthy Fun Gallery, where children can immerse themselves in a playground modeled after the body’s skeletal and gastrointestinal systems.
Mississippi is full of art, and the capital city is no exception to that. The Mississippi Museum of Art hosts prestigious exhibits of traveling works of visual art, and distinctly Mississippi events, like a film series highlighting works created and inspired by the state. Fischer Galleries and the Municipal Art Gallery, both located in downtown, display works of art across various mediums that will appeal to art lovers of all kinds. Don’t miss AND Gallery in Midtown, which is arguably one of the most progressive art galleries in the South, with a focus on providing accessibility to emerging art and opening the discussion and experimentation that art allows.
The Jackson Greek Culture and Heritage Festival, known as “Greekfest,” celebrates Greek culture through food, music, dance and wine. Devour authentic spanakopita, baklava or other treats while watching traditional Greek dancers preserve their culture in the Deep South. The three-day annual festival provides the opportunity to learn about the unexpected culture of Mississippi Greeks.
Jackson State University’s nationally recognized marching band alone is worth a trip to the capital city. Priding themselves on showcasing “musical excellence,” The Sonic Boom offers a sound that is bold and spirited. This sound has won them spots on the field of NFL teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints, song-mentions from rappers like Drake and Lil’ Wayne and a place in the NCAA Hall of Champions. Attend a showcase, battle of the bands’ competition or JSU football game to take in the Sonic Boom experience.