Jackson, Mississippi: The City With Soul
The capital and most populous city in Mississippi, the city of Jackson lies in the west-central region, along the Pearl River.
180 miles north of New Orleans, Louisiana, Jackson bursts at the seams with its own eclectic flair and personality.
Read below to learn more about its eye-opening museums, award-winning restaurants, and tumultuous yet resilient past that made it into what it is today: the City With Soul.
Home to the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (JAN), Jackson is easily and directly accessible from most major U.S. airports. My flight route began in Evansville, Indiana (EVV), with a two-hour layover in Dallas, Texas (DFW). Total flight time was six hours and 55 minutes.
Where to Stay
In this case, there are a number of beautiful hotel properties throughout the city. However, we chose to stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott at The District at Eastover.
Perfect for an extended stay, the property is located next to some of the city’s best shopping and dining. Most importantly, it’s only 8.5 miles from the airport and a 10 minute drive to downtown Jackson.
In 2021, the Marriott Bonvoy property was awarded a Trip Advisor’s Travelers Choice Hotel award, and it’s easy to see why.
Spacious suite-style rooms include plush beds, sizable bathrooms, fully stocked kitchens, and separate living rooms.
The hotel also boasts an outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, free coffee and tea, and a complimentary hot breakfast.
Additionally, the Residence Inn by Marriott Jackson has plenty of dining options both onsite and nearby.
Grab a snack or beverage at the lobby store, or walk a couple of minutes to The District at Eastover for lunch. Sal & Mookie’s New York Style Pizza & Ice Cream Joint is a great fmaily-friendly option. The pizza is incredible!
For dinner, taste an array of foods from around the world at Cultivation Food Hall (located across from Sal & Mookie’s).
To satisfy a sweet tooth, take some macarons from LaBrioche Patisserie back to your room for dessert and a movie.
Learn more about the property’s amenities and nearby attractions here.
The Two Museums: Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History
As ground zero for the U.S. Civil Rights Movement from the years 1945 – 1976, the state’s Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is a must-see attraction when visiting Jackson.
The museum includes eight immersive and comprehensive galleries. These galleries feature emotional imagery, original documentation, and personal accounts froms one of the darkest yet most revolutionary eras in U.S. history.
In the center of it all is a moving central space called “This Little Light of Mine.”
A glowing sculpture suspends from the ceiling to grow brighter with the music. People gather together to take it all in before exploring the seven other exhibits situated around the rotunda.
Museum of Mississippi History
Sharing a common connection with the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is the Museum of Mississippi History.
The history museum walks visitors through 15,000 years of personal accounts, interactive exhibitions, engaging artifacts, and more.
Guests can learn about the first settlers, the state’s controversial past with racial injustices, its path to joining the United States, and how it’s continuing the fight for equality even today.
Visiting the Two Museums
It’s recommended to explore the History Museum first in order to better understand the Civil Rights Museum. Both go hand-in-hand and can easily be completed in one day or in one afternoon.
Both museums are open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sunday, hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the two museums is always free every Sunday.
Learn more about exhibitions, hours of operation and special events at the Two Mississippi Museums here.
Tour the Mississippi State Capitol Building
State Capitol Buildings are some of the most iconic buildings established across the U.S. The Mississippi State Capitol Building is no exception.
One of the most stunning in the nation, it is the third state capitol building to be built in the state.
The first official capital was the city of Natchez. It remained this way until 1817 when Mississippi became a state.
The very first capitol building in Jackson, completed in 1822, was destroyed during the Civil War.
The second structure, the “Old Capitol”, stands today as the Old Capitol Museum from 1833.
The New Capitol
The current structure, known as the “New Capitol”, was built in 1903. It was fully restored in 1983.
Three years later, it was designated as a Mississippi Landmark, and a National Historic Landmark in 2016.
A Beaux Art style building, it features revival architecture, a beautiful Rotunda, and stained glass windows. Even more impressive, it includes more than 10 types of marble from other states and countries.
Hundreds of original light fixtures from the early 1900s can be found around the interior.
Guided tours are offered Monday-Friday at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 2:30 p.m
Walk-in self-guided tours can be completed daily between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Learn more about the Mississippi State Capitol Building here.
Spa Day at The Westin Hotel’s “Soul Spa”
Ranked as one of the top 100 spas in America, Soul Spa offers a range of spa treatments and amenities. These include massages, facials, an indoor heated saltwater pool, an outdoor jacuzzi, and a relaxation lounge.
Soul Spa is also home to an on-site shop. Here, they sell high-end skin care products from a range of luxury partners. These products include Eminence, Farmhouse Fresh, EmerginC, and Conscious Coconut.
Facials & Treatments
I am treated to a hydrafacial — one of the most powerful, non-invasive skin resurfacing treatments available. It combines cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, hydration and antioxidant protection to remove impurities.
At the end of the treatment, months of buildup from my pores can be seen through a translucent container! This hour long treatment is highly recommended especially since its effects can be seen for days after.
Following a session at the spa, walk across the lobby for a cocktail at the hotel’s Estelle Wine Bar & Bistro.
Book a session and learn more about the other treatments and services offered at Soul Spa here.
Enjoy Public Art in Fondren and Downtown
Public art has become both popular and widely celebrated throughout Jackson.
Many buildings and facades from downtown to Midtown, to the colorful neighborhood of Fondren have a story to tell. Many of these match the vibrant soul of the city itself.
Paul from Visit Jackson takes us around to many of his favorite public art displays. Some are hard to miss, while others are hidden gems only the locals know.
We began our tour in Fondren, known as the city’s “crown jewel.”
It’s the hub of artistic expression from music, bars, boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, and more.
The small area packs a big punch. Since the 1920’s it’s maintained a specific character and charm that is described by most as “hip and eclectic”.
Murals in Fondren
Here, you can find numerous works of public art that reflect the personality of this highly admired neighborhood.
One of the most popular is the Frances Fortner mural.
It celebrates the life of a Jackson Academy senior who died in a car accident in 2018. The emotional illustration featuring a life-size painting and one of her favorite quotes.
Another must-see mural (and a great photo opportunity) is “Together We Are Fondren.” A community favorite, the mural is a work of Scott Allen and can be found on Morgan Place (behind Performance Therapy).
Murals in Downtown Jackson
Our next stop was the historic downtown neighborhood.
Another must-see is the “JXN Icons,” by Reshonda Perryman.
Across the street from the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, the mural highlights a number of Civil Rights leaders. These include Medgar Evers, writer and photographer Eudora Welty, American dancer, educator, and author Thalia Mara, and rapper and philanthropist David Banner.
The Birdhouse Garden
While the numerous works of art throughout the city are worthy of being admired, visiting the “Birdhouse Garden” at 1016 Avondale Street in Fondren is a must.
Displaying hundreds of unique and handmade wooden birdhouses, homeowner Suzie Cranston has created a peaceful front yard oasis just behind her white picket fence.
Made in honor of her late son, Peck, the garden also displays dozens of turtle decor from the stepping stones to the bird bath. It’s truly a peaceful and moving experience and a rendition of the city’s unique beauty.
View the interactive map of all of the city’s works of public art, courtesy of Visit Jackson, here.
An Afternoon at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
The largest museum in the state of Mississippi, you can’t visit Jackson and not spend an afternoon at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.
Since 1932, the museum has been a source of education for all ages. Promoting an understanding and appreciation for the state’s biological landscape, it features collections of fossils, living animals and plants, interactive exhibits, and moving photography.
Exhibits & Special Events
Current special exhibits include “Space: A Journey to Our Future”. The interactive experience takes visitors deep into outer space to experience what it’s like to be an astronaut and explorations from past space flights.
Live animal exhibits feature turtles, various reptile species, birds, and a giant fish tank — all species that can be found throughout the state. Live feedings take place in the fish tank every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Many educational programs are offered weekly which teach visitors about various wildlife, outer space, weather patterns, and flora and fauna. A full calendar of events can be found here.
Outdoor Adventures: Wildlife Viewing & Hiking Trails
The museum grounds are also home to 4 different trails through the most beautiful section of the property. Guests can explore oxbow lakes, creeks, swamps, forests, and watch numerous birds and fish.
It’s important to note that some parts of the trails are handicap accessible. Be sure to stay on the designated trails to respect the ecosystem and keep it beautiful for others to enjoy.
Admission to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science costs $8 for adults, $6 for youth, and $7 for visitors 60 years and older. Children 3 years and younger are free to enter.
Learn more about the hours of operation and upcoming exhibitions and events here.
Dinner at Saltine Restaurant & Oyster Bar
In addition to murals, eclectic bars, and colorful facades, the Fondren neighborhood is also home to a number of reputable restaurants.
One of the most popular is Saltine Restaurant, a modern restaurant featuring southern cuisine and fresh local seafood.
Inside of a former 1928 elementary school, Saltine represents a community of businesses in the school complex. Here, patrons can enjoy live music, movie nights, and other special events.
We enjoyed a nice dinner before heading to an event, and it didn’t disappoint.
From fresh shucked oysters to gumbo and locally caught fish, the menus at Saltine have, without a doubt, something for everyone.
First, we ordered the fried oysters with comeback sauce and saltine crackers. They were giant, perfectly fried, and a great precursor to the main courses.
Second, we ordered one lobster roll on a New England style bun, and one fried Gulf Shrimp Po’ Boy Sandwich. The Po’ Boy shrimp can also come blackened if preferred.
Other must-have menu items include:
- Oysters Lafitte with crawfish tails, bacon, and Parmesan;
- Smoked Tuna Dip;
- Skillet cornbread; and the
- Wood Fired Biloxi Snapper with crispy potatoes and garlic Chile sauce.
Learn more about Saltine’s hours of operation and menus lunch and brunch here.
Brunch and Milkshakes at Brent’s Drugs
Can you think of a more American meal than a Diet Coke float and crispy shoestring fries? In short, I certainly can’t.
At the present time, it may be harder to find authentic 20th century American diners that serve these.
Even so, they exist. Ultimately, they still play a significant role in our nation’s culture.
In this case, take Brent’s Drugs in Fondren, for example. It was an original soda fountain and diner built as a pharmacy-soda fountain in 1946.
Located in the Fondren neighborhood, it’s undoubtedly played an important role in Jackson, Mississippi’s culinary history. For this reason, it was even featured in the 2011 award-winning movie, The Help.
Its iconic turquoise and cream colored interior brings visitors from near and far. However, the main draw is the food: ice cream sundaes, floats, and diner comfort food.
On the other hand, much less visible is The Apothecary, the speakeasy located in the back of the diner.
Every Wednesday to Saturday, the speakeasy serves pre-Prohibition prescription cocktails, temperance drinks (non-alcoholic). It also offers an impressive selection of wine and brews.
It’s so good that it’s even been named one of the Top 20 Bars in America according to Esquire Magazine in 2020.
Indeed, it’s a must after enjoying a nice dinner (read: Saltine Restaurant across the street).
Dining at Brent’s Drugs
Brent’s Drugs is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. It’s open for brunch and lunch on Sundays.
View Brent’s full menu, press, and upcoming events here.
Above all, don’t pass up the fried chicken biscuit sandwich with local honey. The PB&J milkshake and the Diet Coke float are also solid choices.
Why Visit Jackson?
From mom and pop owned restaurants to its rich history, unexpected finds are around every corner in Jackson, Mississippi.
Firstly, you can take a step back in time to learn about one of the nation’s darkest yet most influential eras.
Secondly, you can take in the vibrant walls, streets, and spaces that were once blank canvases.
Lastly, you can breathe in the sights and aromas of decades-old recipes and cuisines made with love only Southerners can give.
Certainly, whatever brings you to the City With Soul, its welcoming people and zest for life will make you question ever leaving.
To summarize, Jackson Mississippi is a soulful destination that is perfect for a long weekend getaway with friends or family alike.
Check out Other Resources on eccontessa.com
Want to connect with other avid travelers from across the world? Apply to join my Pinterest Group Boards here.