“I’m going to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around” sang Johnny Cash. The state capital of Mississippi, Jackson, was originally built as the Capital of The South, and today is an awesome place to spend some time. With grand American buildings, Civil Rights heritage, the Delta Blues, and a whole lot more, there is almost too much for a visitor to do!
There are a ton of things to do in Jackson, Mississippi. These range from visiting the State buildings, the Civil rights museum and let’s see if we can make some time to hear some blues too shall we?!
To help you get to grips with some of the best off the beaten track things to do in Jackson, Mississippi, we have come up with this guide to make sure you see an awesome mix of some of the best sights the city has to offer. Furthermore, we’ve also added some curveballs and leftfield spots, hidden gems, and weird and wonderful places that’ll make your trip a memorable one.
Table of Contents
- Top Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi
- Unusual Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi
- Safety in Jackson, Mississippi
- Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi at Night
- Where to Stay in Jackson, Mississippi
- Romantic Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi
- Best Free Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi
- Jackson Packing List
- Best Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi with Kids
- Day Trips from Jackson, Mississippi
- 3 Day Jackson, Mississippi Itinerary
Top Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi
Let’s begin our Jackson love-in by running through the top things to do in Jackson.
1. Visit the Mississippi State Capitol
The Mississippi State Capitol is one of the top things to do in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s a cool building that dates back to 1903 and will be a must-visit for any architecture buff. The interiors are colourful with plenty of artwork, mezzanine floors and domes, all wrapped in a bow of Beau-Arts classicism architecture.
Inside the Mississippi State Capitol you even see up to 10 types of marble from different states in the US and other countries around the world. Though you can visit and wander around by yourself, you can take a free guided tour of the Capitol Building from Monday to Friday (at 9:30am, 11am, 1pm and 2:30pm). Fun fact: This is one of the locations featured in award-winning movie The Help.
2. Make your way to Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
Mississippi is a state that was key to the Civil Rights Movement in the USA between 1945 and 1970, and its capital (Jackson, obviously) is full of sites that point to that history. One of the best places to go in Jackson, Mississippi to learn all about it is the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
Newly opened in 2017, this museum is full of galleries and exhibitions linked by dark tunnels representing dark periods of history, complete with a contemplative space to reflect. Move through the Mississippi Freedom Struggle, Mississippi in Black and White, and finishing up at a gallery entitled, “Where do we go from here?” Visiting is an important, unmissable thing to do in Jackson, Mississippi.
- Head on over to Mississippi State Fairgrounds and have some fun on the rides with the rest of the locals in town
- Go and find the Merci Train to learn about the former passenger depot for the New Orleans Great Southern Railroad Co.
- Make sure you look online and book tickets to see an event (anything that sounds good) at the massive Mississippi Coliseum
3. Learn about the life of Medgar Evers at his house
Akin to figures like Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers was a Civil Rights activist from and active in Mississippi who was murdered outside his own home by the Ku Klux Klan. Today his house still stands as a testament to his life and the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement and visiting to learn more is the quintessential thing to do in Jackson, Mississippi.
The house, painted turquoise, has been restored to how it looked when Medgar Evers lived there up until his assassination in 1963. It’s an interesting and important place to visit to find out more about yet another person who laid down their life for the rights of millions of Black Americans.
4. Head out into nature at the LeFleur’s Bluff State Park
LeFleur’s Bluff State Park is a surprising sprawl of green space in the middle of the city and makes for a nice outdoorsy thing to do in Jackson, Mississippi. Set across 305 acres, the park offers up plenty of trails and leafy paths to wander around. It’s a great place to bring your children, bring a picnic, or even camp overnight.
With a 50 acre lake, children’s playgrounds, and plenty to explore in this urban park, there’s no doubt that this will be a great breath of fresh air for nature lovers looking to get out of the urban environment of the Mississippi capital. Fun fact: LeFleur’s Bluff was the original name of the city of Jackson!
5. Sample some Jackon’s alcohol
You may be completely surprised to know this, but Mississippi was actually the last state to repeal the Prohibition Act in 1966. Mind blown. And 104 years after Prohibition was originally enacted, two enterprising gentlemen decided to start up the Mississippi’s first and only distillery: Cat Head Distillery.
Here you can take a tour to find out more of the history of Prohibition in Mississippi, as well as the process of how they make their fine, fine alcohols; you’ll also get to try out a few different spirits, from vodka and gin to bourbon. A creative space that also puts on a fair few events, and serves up great cocktails, coming here has to be one of the best off the beaten track things to do in Mississippi.
6. Get to grips with history at the Old Capitol Museum
Did you know, Jackson was named after the famous civil war General and was actually intended to be the Capital city of Confederate America. Of course, history had other ideas…
Anyway, there’s the new Capitol Building we talked about earlier… and then there’s the Old Capitol, purportedly the oldest building in the city (opening in 1839), which functions as a museum to learn about the history of the state. Just seeing the building itself from the outside, being a grand, Greek Revival style affair, is worth the visit alone.
One of the most interesting things to do in Jackson, Mississippi, wandering around the museum will allow you to find out more about the city and the state of Mississippi. Much significant legislation was passed in this very building – the Married Women’s Property Act, for example, and Mississippi’s secession from the Union – making for an interesting place to explore.
Unusual Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi
From Planetariums to model rivers, let’s look at stepping away from the beaten track with some of the more unusual things to do in Mississippi.
7. Visit the Mississippi River Basin Model
Apparently the largest scale model of anything in the entire world, going to witness the awesome Mississippi River Basin Model is one of the most unusual things to do in Jackson, Mississippi. If you like big models of stuff, you really are going to freak out when you clap eyes on this weird and wonderful monument in miniature. But what exactly is it?
Built by German and Italian prisoners of war in the 1940s, the Mississippi River Basin Model is precisely what it says it is: a scale, working model of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. In its first year of existence, it successfully predicted floods for that year. Though it’s fallen into disrepair, it’s become increasingly popular for urban explorers looking for cool things to do in Jackson, Mississippi.
8. Find the Lamar Life Building Clock Tower
Built in 1924, the Lamar Life Building is essentially Jackson’s answer to London’s Big Ben. It is nowhere near as iconic for obvious reasons. But still, it’s the oldest skyscraper in the city and tells the correct time reasonably well which is all we can really ask for from a clock isn’t it?
Constructed of concrete with a 35 foot tall clock tower on the Capitol Street side, it’s been listed as a Historic Place. For anybody who likes 1920’a buildings (that’s you ladies), paying a visit to this icon of the city is quite easily one of the coolest, most unique things to do in Jackson, Mississippi that won’t be crawling with tourists either.
9. See the solar system at Russell C. Davis Planetarium
For one of the more unusual things to do in Jackson, Mississippi, we would recommend heading to the Russell C. Davis Planetarium. At this 40 year old institution, you will get to see some pretty awesome views of the Solar System and other parts of the Milky Way galaxy… and all very conveniently located in Downtown Jackson.
One of the best things about this spot is the quality going on here: it’s got a massive 4K, full dome projection system, making for an incredibly immersive experience. And not only can you peer to other planets and stars, but you can swim in the depths of the ocean with fish and even roam around with dinosaurs – all thanks to that awesome projector. However, we will admit the exterior of the building does resemble a 1960’s car park.
Safety in Jackson, Mississippi
Mississippi is generally pretty safe, but cautions should still be heeded. There are certain areas of the city that are safer than others, and some neighbourhoods which are more dangerous than other places.
Most of the areas that aren’t particularly safe, however, aren’t the sorts of places that are going to be visited by tourists anyway. Much of the crime that occurs in Jackson, Mississippi happens in socially and economically deprived residential areas.
That doesn’t mean you should walk around thinking that you’re going to be perfectly safe. You should still use those street smarts of yours, making sure you don’t flash your cash, keep your belongings close to you, and possibly – to be extra careful – using a money belt (the Active Roots Security Belt is a good option).
Other than that, common sense applies; things you wouldn’t do at home – walk around dimly lit, deserted streets at night by yourself, for example – are the same things you shouldn’t be doing here.
Other than that, there’s no reason why your trip shouldn’t go without a hitch. Read our tips for traveling safely before you fly and always get travel insurance. Check out our roundup of the best travel insurance.
Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi at Night
Those Mississippi nights can get hot and wild. From speakeasy’s to blues bars, to grill joints there is a lot going on in Jackson after the sun goes down. Let’s look at just what.
10. Have dinner at an old diner and drink at a speakeasy
With all that Prohibition going on until as recently as the ’60s, Mississippi developed plenty of speakeasies. Though The Apothecary may not actually be a genuine speakeasy, the slightly hidden location and interiors make it look the part – and make it one of our favourite things to do in Jackson, Mississippi at night.
With a proper nod to the old days, there are plenty of pre-Prohibition cocktails on offer at The Apothecary. However, before that you might want to have dinner. You can do just that at Brent’s Drugs, a historic soda fountain turned diner where you can chow down on classics before entering The Apothecary through the “secret” entrance at the back. Hands down this is one of the best cocktail bars in the city.
11. Jive To the Delta Blues
It wouldn’t be a proper trip to Jackson, Mississippi without catching a snippet of the sound that makes this region of the US. Home of the Delta Blues, it’s a must for any music lover – or any visitor to the city for that matter. And one of the very best things to do in Jackson, Mississippi at night would be to hear some for yourself.
The best venue for that? We would recommend the 70+ year old Blue Front Cafe, a historic venue for the blues. Or you could check other more Downtown institutions such as Hal & Mal’s, or Martin’s, at both of which you can catch nightly live music – mostly in the form of blues and with alcoholic beverages on offer, of course.
Where to Stay in Jackson, Mississippi
Best Airbnb in Jackson, Mississippi – “Walk to Work or Special Events!”
With a crazy good location near to the State Capitol Building, this is a charming house which boasts a flat where the guests stay. It’s safe, it’s got everything you need to make it the best Airbnb in Jackson, Mississippi – a good full kitchen, a king-size bed, and a nicely sized bathroom. Top it off with some decent decor, including real wood floors, and this is really a charming place to stay in the city.View on Airbnb
Best Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi – Holiday Inn Express Suites Downtown
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option in the city, then Holiday Inn Express Suites Downtown is a great choice. It’s a contemporary hotel that boasts plenty of space in its rooms, with large, comfy beds for a peaceful night’s sleep. The staff here are super friendly, things are run professionally, and as a bonus, there’s even a free breakfast to tuck into every morning. Definitely good for budget travellers.View on Booking.com
Romantic Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi
The blues is the soundtrack heartbreak, rejection & oppression so you may be thinking that Jackson isn’t exactly a romantic place? Well you’d be wrong as our list of the best romantic things to so in Jackson will testify.
12. Stroll around City Hall’s formal garden
A simple but romantic thing to do in Jackson, Mississippi, especially if you and your partner happen to be avid readers, would be to go and check out the Eudora Welty House and Garden. From 1909 to 2001 this pretty house was the home of prolific writer and author of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Optimist’s Daughter, Eudora Welty.
Open from Tuesday to Friday, you can visit this beautiful house on a tour four times per day. The garden here is beautifully tended and is well worth a quiet stroll. All in all the picturesque setting and learning about the fascinating life of Eudora Welty makes for one of the best things to do in Jackson, Mississippi for couples who like a bit culture and history.
13. Enjoy a trip to the Mississippi Museum of Art
Looking more like a Googie diner than a museum of art, the Mississippi Museum of Art is one of the best places to soak up a bit of culture in the city. If you and your partner are looking for artsy things to do in Jackson, Mississippi, then you should definitely put this cool spot on your itinerary.
With 5,500 pieces of art in the collection here, the Mississippi Museum of Art focuses on American art from 1865 (the year that the American Civil War ended, incidentally) all the way to the modern-day. See what the art world in Mississippi has looked like for the past 150 years and how it has told the story of the state. Tip: There are art classes offered here throughout the year, so check the schedule.
Always Be Insured
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Best Free Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi
If you’re on a budget, don’t despair because there is some bargain fun to be had. Let’s see just what the best free things to do in Mississippi are.
14. Spot the Freedom Riders bus station
The site of many arrests and hard times, the Greyhound Bus Station located at 219 N. Lamar St. is popularly known as the Freedom Riders bus station. An Art Deco style building that has been preserved in its original form, this was where the Freedom Rides of 1961 took place as people got on and off of the segregated bus system in the Southern United States.
It had been ruled that segregated buses were unconstitutional, but the Southern States ignored this ruling – and the Federal Government didn’t do all that much to enforce it. This led to the Freedom Rides, where many Black Americans and some White Americans in solidarity with the movement, rode together on buses. Coming to visit this iconic place is an unmissable thing to do in Jackson, Mississippi.
15. Go for a walk along the Natchez Trace Parkway
For one of the nicest outdoorsy things to do in Jackson, Mississippi, head over to the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. Extending 444 miles across the state, this is part of the historic Natchez Trace, used by Native Americans for centuries.
“Officially” established in 1938, the major junction to get there in Jackson is the US 49. Though you can drive it as the road gently curves along pretty much the exact original route, there are plenty of trails in the area which trace the original interweaving pathway of the established route, where Native Americans followed the traces of bison and other big game.
Jackson Packing List
1. Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
2. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
3. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
4. Camera or Cell Phone Camera Accessories: One thing’s for sure – Jackson is a picturesque destination! Get perfect shots from your phone using clip-on-lenses with wide-angle, close-up and optical zoom. With the ability to turn travel pictures from basic to professional, this universal lens sits neatly over any phone camera and comes with a durable, travel-friendly case!
5. International Adapter: Jackson outlets accommodate typical US two-pronged plugs, but for electronics that have three prongs or if your plugs are of a different variety, you’ll need an adapter. Save yourself the hassle of trying to track down an adapter at your destination and paying twice as much than planning ahead by buying one online.
Books to Read in Jackson
The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here.
Walden – The transcendental masterpiece by Henry David Thoreau that helped modern Americans rediscover nature and her beauty.
To Have and To Have Not – A family man gets involved with the drug smuggling business in the Key West and ends up in a strange affair. Written by the great Ernest Hemingway.
Gone with the Wind – An American classic and an epic about the Civil War and its consequences as told from the perspectives of two Southern lovers.
Best Things to Do in Jackson, Mississippi with Kids
If you are going to Jackson, Mississippi with kids, then you’ll be needing something to keep them quiet right?
16. Have some fun at the Mississippi Children’s Museum
If you’re in the city and you’re with your children – and you need something cool to do in Jackson, Mississippi with kids – then you should definitely head on over to the Mississippi Children’s Museum. The clue is in the name: this place is all about learning, but the fun way.
Located on the aptly named Museum Boulevard, there are always fun activities going on at this hands on, interactive museum. With a focus on science, history and arts, your little ones will be able to get to grips with the mysteries of the world – or simply play whilst you have a cup of coffee (and a break!) in a friendly environment.
17. Learn about nature at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
For more chances for your children to learn all about the natural world, there’s the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. This huge institution is open every day and, being set indoors, it makes for one of the best things to do in Jackson, Mississippi when it’s raining and you don’t feel like walking around the city getting drenched – or staying in your hotel room with kids going crazy.
There’s a ton of information here about the wildlife of Mississippi and the natural habitats they live in, there’s also a dinosaur exhibit (which is pretty cool, what kid won’t like that?), and the chance to learn about the world of creepy crawlies as well. Basically, your children are going to love this place!
Day Trips from Jackson, Mississippi
There are a surprising amount of things to get up to in Jackson, Mississippi that is going to make your time in the city packed with stuff. You’ll be constantly busy. Then again, if you’re here for more than just a long weekend, you might want to consider heading out of the city and seeing what’s going on in the local area. With that in mind, here are a few cool day trips from Jackson, Mississippi to start you off…
Known for its proliferation of Antebellum mansions, Natchez is well worth your time. Easily reachable on a day trip from Jackson, Mississippi (taking just 2 hours by car) there are plenty of historic sites and beautiful buildings that will definitely make for an interesting journey. Get ready to take about a zillion photos as you explore this city, a hidden gem in the state of Mississippi.
There are so many beautiful buildings to look at here, with over 1,000 of them on the National Register of Historic Places. The standout structure has got to be the Longwood Historic Home, a stunner of an octagonal mansion. But this might not be your favourite: with so many to choose from, you’ll be bound to find one that you want to move into! Visit the Natchez National Historical Park to learn more.
Explore the Mississippi Petrified Forest
Probably one of the easiest day trips from Jackson, Mississippi that you could make (being a short half an hour drive away from the state capital) the Flora Petrified Forest isn’t just a place to go because of its convenience. This place is an incredible natural wonder to explore, with tons of trails crisscrossing through a landscape of ancient fossilized trees. Fun fact: petrified wood is the state rock of Mississippi!
Visiting the Mississippi Petrified Forest means you’ll get to wander through prehistoric woodlands of palm, maple, and fir, as well as now-extinct species of other trees – all of which quite mind-blowingly became stone millions and millions of years ago. Over a thousand years old before they fell, many of them were thought to be much bigger (before they were pushed over by a flood) than they are now.
3 Day Jackson, Mississippi Itinerary
Even though you’ve found out a load of cool things to do in Jackson, Mississippi, you’ve still got to narrow it all down to make sure you can fit in the best bits. At the same time, you don’t want your days to be so completely packed full that you leave more exhausted than you arrive! To help out, we’ve come up with a 3 day Jackson, Mississippi itinerary to give you a hand in making sure your trip runs smoothly.
Day 1 – A Day of History in Jackson, Mississippi
The former soda fountain now turned much-loved diner, Brent’s Drugs should be your first port of call on day one of your trip to Jackson, Mississippi. Open from 7am, you’ll be able to chow down on some old school classic breakfast foods here before heading on to the Mississippi State Capitol (a 10-minute drive from your breakfast spot). Take in the grandeur and make sure you step inside, too!
After this, you should start making a move to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which is just a 10-minute walk away from the Mississippi State Capitol. Explore the museum and its galleries, understanding and learning more about the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Grab some lunch nearby at The Farmer’s Table, which serves up some hearty dishes to fill you up.
Once you’ve eaten enough, make your way to the Medgar Evers House. This takes around a 15-minute drive from your lunch spot and is set in an unassuming, local neighbourhood; call in advance to see if there’s a tour of the house available when you plan to visit. Learn about the life of Medgar Evers. Return to Brent’s Drugs for dinner before heading out back for drinks at The Apothecary.
Day 2 – Being Cool in Jackson, Mississippi
You should start your second day in Jackson, Mississippi by heading to the Mississippi Museum of Modern Art. There’s a cafe on site where you can grab a bite to eat and a coffee in the morning. Spend some time afterwards soaking up the art and strolling around the gardens. Then it’s just a 20 minute walk to the Old Capitol Museum. Set in a beautiful Antebellum building, it’s a cool place to learn.
Make sure to stop off at the nearby blues joint Hal & Mal’s for lunch – rumour has it they serve up a mean burger. If there was no live blues at Hal & Mal’s, don’t worry: because now you’re off to make a pilgrimage to Blue Front Cafe. This is a historic institution that’s about a 40 minute drive north of Jackson – but it’s totally worth the trip. Hear the blues and head back into town for early evening.
There you can head to Martin’s, another establishment that’s well known for its live blues. You can also grab a bite to eat for dinner here, with some truly classic stuff on offer. If you’ve had enough blues for one day, then you might want to head out for another drink; try One Block East. This fun place closes at 2am in the morning and has the slogan “Live music, good times” – what could go wrong?
Day 3 – Geeking Out in Jackson, Mississippi
It’s day 3 in Jackson, Mississippi, and the first order of business for the morning is to drive 16 or so minutes to LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. Here you will get to spend some time chilling out in the midst of serene and tranquil nature, walking around its many trails. Got kids with you? Then check out the Mississippi Children’s Musem or the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, both here.
Drive from here for around 23 minutes for the main event of the day: Mississippi River Basin Model. A good tip here is to head online and book a tour with the Friends of the Mississippi River Basin Model, who will gladly talk you through the history and workings of this amazing scale model of the mighty Mississippi itself. Grab food on your way back at Parlor Market, a Southern food joint.
Once you’ve lined your stomach sufficiently, it’s time to make your way a 9 minute walk from Downtown to the Cat Head Distillery. Here you will get to sample some of the best spirits and liquors Mississippi has to offer. There are often live events here, with music and dancing (and good cocktails to boot), so check the schedule online. For dinner? Eat at the old school Elite Restaurant, of course.
More Great Resources
So there you have it. Jackson, Mississippi may not be your ordinary tourist destination, but there is plenty in the Mississippi state capital to keep even the more veteran independent traveller or backpacker interested. From important monuments and museums to the Civil Rights Movement, to historic houses and amazing vestiges of the blues, there’s going to be something for everyone here.
You may be visiting as a couple, or you may be looking for some more hipster things to do in Jackson, Mississippi – whatever it is, we hope your trip is as awesome as it can be. All that’s left for you today is discover the hidden history and incredible sights of the city.
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A self-proclaimed travel-yoga-freak, Mathilde Magnier is French, raised in Brussels, and spent most of her adulthood in Sydney. Prior to working for The Broke Backpacker, Mathilde was working in the tech industry for a few years. She plans to spend most of 2020 balancing wellness and la Vida Loca in Central and South America.
You can connect and follow her journey on Instagram!