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Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson | © Tate Nations / Flickr
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Best Things To See and Do in Jackson

Picture of Holly Perkins
Updated: 4 May 2018
Head to “The City with Soul” to experience unique shopping, dining, and culture. Unexpected finds like a shop filled with designer toys, a museum dedicated to Muslim culture, and award-winning theater productions stand out among Southern classics like delicious food, lively festivals and scenic state parks. All of this and more make Jackson a perfect destination to visit in the Magnolia State.

Shop

Jackson’s shopping is somewhat of a best-kept-secret. Whether your style is uptown chic, downtown hip, or somewhere in between, the capital city is a perfect shopping destination. Pop into Highland Village Shopping Center for high fashion retailers like Maison Weiss or High Cotton, or head to Swell-O-Phonic, Wilai for stylish clothing and edgy skatewear. Jackson’s shopping isn’t just limited to clothing; check out Beacon for goods and art supplies sourced from ethical, American-made or fair trade brands. Offbeat is a great spot for graphic novels, designer toys, and records. If you love a good bookstore, hit up Lemuria Books for the best selection of literature in the state.

See a play

Jackson has a vibrant theater arts scene that thrives in several venues around the city. Stop by Thalia Mara Hall to watch a touring Broadway production or New Stage Theatre to see a locally-produced show. Jackson State University and Belhaven University in Jackson also have strong theater programs with productions taking place every season. Don’t miss a chance to catch a glimpse of future drama stars.

Dine

It’s impossible to write about things to do in Jackson without emphasizing the capital’s food. Indulge in soul food at Big Apple Inn or the James Beard Award-winning Bully’s Restaurant or have a taste of Mississippi barbecue at Hickory Pit, Pig and Pint, or E & L Barbeque. Check out some new spots that locals love like Estelle Wine and Bistro, which is known for its modern menu, or Saltine, where oysters and seafood are the highlights. There isn’t anything wrong with sticking to the classics either like the Mayflower Cafe, Jackson’s oldest operating restaurant, or Walker’s Drive-In, or BRAVO! Italian Restaurant.

Get outside

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park
LeFleur’s Bluff State Park | © Geoff Alexander / Flickr

Mississippi offers breathtaking scenery and outdoor fun, and despite being a bustling city, Jackson has plenty to do outside. Walk along the tree-covered trails and venture down paths to Mayes Lake at LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. Explore the abandoned 200-acre (81-hectare) Mississippi River Basin Model in Buddy Butts Park, or hike up the Natchez Trace for a day of outdoor beauty in Jackson.

Grab a coffee

Cups Espresso Cafe in Fondren
Cups Espresso Cafe in Fondren | © Cups an Espresso Cafe

You might’ve heard the rumor that everything is slower in the south, but in Mississippi’s capital city, the pace is a bit faster. That’s because excellent coffee fuels Jackson. Sneaky Beans is a local favorite that, in addition to offering coffee made from delicious locally-roasted beans, is also home to one of the best biscuits in the south. Another great coffee shop is Cups Espresso Cafe, which is a Jackson institution that has been serving coffee and signature drinks since 1994. Deep South Pops is a newer shop in town, but it’s already earned a reputation for employing the best baristas in Jackson and serving creative drinks like white chocolate lavender lattes and nitro brew coffee.

Listen to music

Mississippi is where American music was born, and it’s still thriving in Jackson. Venues like Spacecamp in Midtown and Duling Hall in Fondren host some of the city’s best musicians, as well as popular touring acts. The Flamingo and Offbeat host music nights like The Flamingo’s recent 90s hip-hop, pop, and r&b themed dance party. Martin’s Restaurant and Hal and Mal’s are also popular, not-to-be-missed music venues.

Enjoy the nightlife

Jackson’s nightlife is buzzing with energy. For a perfect night out, start by sipping craft cocktails at The Library Lounge or on the rooftop bar at the Old Capitol Inn in downtown. Then explore the speakeasy-style cocktail bar Apothecary at Brent’s Drugs, or have a cold beer at the favorite local dive Sam’s Lounge. Next, head out to Karaoke at Ole Tavern on George Street or catch a drag show at Wonderlust. Then, blow off some steam and go dancing at 540 Lounge above historic Johnny T’s Bistro. Top off your night with a visit to F. Jones Corner for the full, bluesy, Jackson nightlife experience.

Learn about the past

Jackson has many historical sites that teach visitors about the Magnolia State’s heritage. Nine Mississippi Freedom Trail Markers are located throughout Jackson, highlighting points significant to the Civil Rights Movement, such as the former home of activist Medgar Evers. Markers for the Mississippi Blues Trail that highlight areas that were pivotal to the development of the music, such as Subway Lounge, are also in Jackson. Stop by the Eudora Welty House to learn about one of the south’s most beloved authors before visiting other museums to get a more in-depth look at Mississippi’s past.

Visit a museum

The capital city is home to several impeccably curated museums. Learn about science at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, take the kids to the Mississippi Children’s Museum, explore the state’s agricultural history at the Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum, or hop into the Old Capitol Museum. A highlight among Jackson’s museums is the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which serves to expose the oppression of black Mississippians throughout history and their struggle for equality that shaped the nation. Additionally, The Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center and the International Museum of Muslim Cultures are smaller venues, but are beautifully curated and worth a trip.

Go to a festival

Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade and Festival (Formerly known as Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade and Festival)
Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade and Festival (Formerly known as Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade and Festival) | © Visit Mississippi / Flickr

Festivals in Jackson are true must-have experiences because the “City with Soul” certainly knows how to throw a good party. The Jackson Rhythm and Blues Festival, Jackson Indie Music Week, Cathead Jam and Farish Street Heritage Festival highlight the city’s music scene, while the Mississippi Book Festival, Stray at Home art festival and Crossroads Film Festival showcase the arts in Jackson. Plan your visit around a seasonal festival like the Holi Mela Festival of Colors at the Hindu Temple Society of Mississippi or Jacktoberfest, a local favorite for beer and brats fans. The reigning festival in Jackson is Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade and Festival, which any Jacksonian would argue rivals other celebrations in the state. It is one of the best times to be had in the city.