Best Things to See and Do in Jackson, Mississippi

Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson | © Tate Nations / Flickr
Head to the City with Soul, Jackson, Mississippi, to take in a designer toy shop, a museum dedicated to Muslim culture, and award-winning theater productions. On top of that you can expect some Southern classics including terrific food, lively festivals and picturesque state parks. All of this and more make Jackson a perfect destination to visit in the Magnolia State.

Shop at Swell-o-Phonic and Lemuria Books

Whether your style is uptown chic, downtown hip or somewhere in between, the state capital is a perfect shopping destination. Pop into Highland Village Shopping Center for high-fashion retailers such as Maison Weiss or Cook & Love, or head to Swell-o-Phonic, Wilai, for stylish clothing and edgy skatewear. Jackson shopping isn’t limited to clothing; check out Beacon for goods and art supplies sourced from ethical, American-made or fair-trade brands, and OffBeat 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 Broadway play

Thalia Mara Hall theater, in the Arts and Cultural District, hosts Broadway productions | © Richard Cummins / Alamy Stock Photo

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 on Southern classics

Indulge in soul food at Big Apple Inn or the James Beard Award-winning Bully’s Restaurant, or sample a Mississippi barbecue at Hickory Pit, Pig and Pint or E & L Barbeque. Check out spots the locals love such as Estelle Wine and Bistro, with a modern menu, or Saltine, where oysters and seafood are the highlights. Stick to the classics at the Mayflower Cafe, Jackson’s oldest operating restaurant, or try Walker’s Drive-In or Bravo! Italian Restaurant and Bar.

Get outside to LeFleur’s Bluff Park

Mississippi offers incredible scenery and outdoor fun, and despite being a lively 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 (81ha) Mississippi River Basin Model in Buddy Butts Park, or hike up the Natchez Trace for a day of outdoor beauty.

Grab a Sneaky Beans coffee

Locals refuel at Cups Espresso Cafe in Fondren | © Cups Espresso Cafe

You might’ve heard the rumor that everything is slower in the South, but here in the capital, the pace is a bit faster, fuelled by great coffee. Sneaky Beans is a local favorite that, in addition to offering coffee made from delicious locally roasted beans, is also home to some of the best biscuits in the South. Cups Espresso Cafe is a Jackson institution that’s been serving coffee and signature drinks since 1994. Deep South Pops is a newer kid in town, but it’s already earned a reputation for employing the best baristas in Jackson and serving creative drinks including lavender lattes and nitro brew coffee.

Listen to music at Spacecamp

Jackson is where American music thrives. Venues such as Spacecamp, in Midtown, and Duling Hall, in Fondren, host the city’s best musicians as well as popular touring acts. The Flamingo and Offbeat host music nights such as the Flamingo’s 90s hip-hop, pop, and R&B-themed dance parties. Martin’s Restaurant and Hal and Mal’s are also popular.

Grab a cocktail at the Old Capitol Inn

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 Apothecary at Brent’s Drugs, or have a cold beer at favorite local dive Sam’s Lounge. Next, head out to karaoke at Ole Tavern on George Street, or catch a drag show at Wonderlust. Hit the dancefloor at 540 Lounge, above historic Johnny T’s Bistro, then top off your night with a visit to F Jones Corner for the full, bluesy, Jackson nightlife experience.

Learn about the Civil Rights past

The Eudora Welty House is a National Historic Landmark, in the Belhaven | © Chad Robertson / Alamy Stock Photo

Jackson has many historic sites that teach visitors about the Magnolia State’s heritage. Nine Mississippi Freedom Trail Markers are located throughout the city, marking points significant to the Civil Rights Movement, including the former home of activist Medgar Evers. There are also markers for the Mississippi Blues Trail, which highlights areas pivotal in the development of the music scene, such as Subway Lounge. 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.

Go to an R&B festival

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. Plan your visit around a seasonal festival such as 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.

Visit the agricultural museum

Small Town Mississippi is a feature of the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum | © David R. Frazier Photolibrary, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

The Mississippi capital is home to several brilliant 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 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 beautifully curated and worth a visit.