Jackson has a long history dating back to the Native Americans, Choctaw Nation, all the way to the Civil Rights Movements of the 1800s. And for this reason, its museums cover a wide range of topics including history, civil rights, African-American culture, natural sciences, and art. Interestingly, Jackson has the largest Jewish community in Mississippi.
Located in the Jackson Prairie, the city sits along the Pearl River and Big Black River, on top of the extinct Jackson Volcano. Besides being the capital of Mississippi, Jackson became the most populous city in the state after the natural gas boom in the 1920s. Nowadays, Jackson is known as the “City With Soul” due to its blues, gospel, folk, and jazz scene.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Jackson (MS)
1. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
With interactive galleries exploring the state’s role in the civil rights movement, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is very detailed and filled with historical artifacts and interactive exhibits. Some major stories are familiar, but there are many, many more stories that deserve the recognition this museum bestows. You can easily have a new experience with every visit. Some of the displays include Mississippi Freedom Struggle, Mississippi in Black and White, This Little Light of Mine, A Closed Society, and more.
It is good to see Mississippi Civil Rights history next to the national history. No one teaches enough about the unsung heroes of the movement that made important strides and progress over time. Plan for 3 or more hours to watch the videos and read the artifacts.
2. Reservoir Overlook
Located 20 minutes driving from Jackson, Reservoir Overlook offers a scenic view of the Ross R Barnett Reservoir and some of the best and most usable trails in the area. There are trails available for most riders and skill levels so bring the whole family. Most of the trails are wide and offer easy hikes as well as shaded paths. With stunning views, the overlook is only a short drive from a creek picnic spot which is perfect to cool off and recharge.
Make sure to also walk across the bridge, which is an architectural masterpiece. Besides, the 444 mile-scenic trail Natchez Trace Parkway linking Natchez to Nashville can be accessed from there.
3. LeFleur’s Bluff State Park
Located between Pearl River and Mayes Lake, LeFleur’s Bluff State Park covers 305-acres with lakes, forests, and fields that offer camping, fishing, and a 9-hole golf course. The whole park is absolutely gorgeous with so much wildlife to spot. There is a nature trail providing a walk by Mayes Lake and the Pearl River. The area also counts with the Natural Science Museum which features great hands-on exhibits and friendly staff.
The campground itself is very clean and organized with wooded sites around a small but beautiful lake with lots of wildlife. It also features a fantastic playground for the children.
4. Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
The indoor/outdoor Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is located in a state park with an aquarium, greenhouse, exhibits, and more. With creative exhibits and live creatures on display, the museum features lots of information about the habitat and wildlife of Mississippi. The exhibits include both fossil and live animal displays of turtles, alligators, fish, snakes, and much more.
It has several trails behind the building where you cross some waterways and can even encounter deer. Also, there is a huge playground right outside of the museum that the kids love.
5. The Jackson Zoo
With over 120 animal species displayed in simulated habitats, The Jackson Zoo features a train ride, a splash pad, and a carousel in a park-set zoo. Overall, it is a very nice park, quite small but just big enough not to be too big. The displays offer an interesting assortment of critters and information.
You will be blown away by the close access to the animals and the glass viewing areas for many of them, or even the open moated enclosures. All the animals seem healthy, well-fed, and well taken care of.
6. Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum
Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum includes a living-history farm, a recreated 1920s cotton-economy-era town, and local historical artifacts. The museum features many recreated and historic buildings from mule sheds to barns and mills which were moved from all over the state to Jackson. Each building is a Mississippi treasure preserving and re-enacting its history.
There are a lot of nice things about this museum including the nice train tracks model and the plethora of equipment from vehicles to simple tools. Outside, there is a functioning general store and the museum also hosts special reenactment events.
7. Mississippi Petrified Forest
Formed 36 million years ago, Mississippi Petrified Forest has a nature trail, museum, campground, and gem-mining area. The attraction features great information for those who appreciate both nature and natural history.
Even though the nature trail is really nice with the Caveman’s Bench, the indoor area of the museum is even more fun than the outdoors. You can learn the process from all the glittery gemstones in their natural and polished states, to the fossils. And if you are into some very pretty stones and minerals, the gift shop has some nice pieces.
8. Mississippi Children’s Museum
With interactive exhibits, activities, and programs for kids, Mississippi Children’s Museum focuses on arts, history, health, and science. The museum counts with traveling summer exhibits, an outdoor garden/literacy exhibit, a splash pad in the summer, and tons of indoor activities. It is a great place to visit when the weather is too hot or too cold because it is mostly indoors.
The inside of the 3-level building is massive with tons of room for the kids to run around and play with. It has all kinds of fun hidden passages and even an outdoor play area.
9. Mississippi Museum of Art
Mississippi Museum of Art is actually the state’s largest art museum with galleries, a cafe, an outdoor garden, and a performance stage. Although it is a small museum, it a nice place to visit with all of its beautiful gardens and flowers as well as local and Mississippi artwork displayed.
The permanent exhibits display the history and culture of Mississippi, but the museum also displays traveling and seasonal exhibits. The gardens are a great place to relax, and a small splash pad for children to enjoy themselves. There is also a sweet water garden where you can put your feet in to cool off.
10. Enter/Locked Escape Rooms
Enter/Locked Escape Rooms offer a thrilling experience with puzzle solving and many intricate details and clues to help you escape a locked room. You can choose from five different rooms: The Murder Motel, The Rooftop, The Temple, The Pizzeria, and The Cleaners.
The staff organizes the attraction in a way that is challenging enough for adults to enjoy but not too hard that kids cannot have fun. Also, the staff is incredible at making the experience that much more special with customized storylines and welcoming game masters.
11. Old Capitol Museum
The Old Capitol Museum focuses on the historic preservation of both the building and the political events that have taken place in it. With interactive multimedia displays, the museum educates its visitors regarding the role of the legislature, governor, and high court. During your visit, you will learn about the 1839 Married Women’s Property Act, Mississippi’s secession from the Union in 1861, and the crafting of the 1868 and 1890 state constitutions.
Built in 1938, the building itself is a National Historic Landmark and Mississippi’s most historic building. The government does a great job at preserving the Greek Revival architecture of the building through constant renovations.
12. Freedom Ridge
Located 20 minutes driving from Jackson, Freedom Ridge is a park featuring baseball, softball, and soccer fields plus two playgrounds. Interestingly, the playgrounds have a separate playing area for small kids and a wheelchair accessible area as well.
The park also has a huge lakeside with plenty of shade and a nice pavilion to host meetings, gatherings, reunions, and entertainment. Besides, there is a wonderful, shaded walking trail back behind the fields next to a little pond with ducks.
13. Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument
Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument preserved the history behind the American civil rights activist who was fatally shot in his own driveway. With tours available by appointment, this small house is a well preserved modest ranch-style home.
Walking into this home really puts you in the moment in time. The host, Minnie Watson, will give you so much back story on the family, the home, and the events. Through Minnie’s story of meeting Medgar Evers and his impact on her life, you will feel like you knew the Evers family personally.
14. Shiloh Splash Park
The children’s splash play area in Shiloh Splash Park features dump buckets, spray rings, water cannons, and more. This is a great place to take small kids as there are no rides, just a fun splash pad where they can run free. The park counts with very nice baseball and soccer fields as well.
It is also a good place to initiate a walking exercise program at the nice walking trail on-site. Besides, it is a good place to have a picnic, granted you bring your own food. Make sure to take sunscreen and a hat if you are just going to watch the kids play in the water in the Mississippi heat. There is a sheltered area, but it is usually quite busy.
15. Byram Swinging Bridge
The historical landmark crossing the Pearl River, Byram Swinging Bridge, is a great little day trip around Jackson. The bridge is a piece of history that could have easily been torn down. But, instead, they did an excellent job of restoring and preserving an iconic part of Americana.
This is a wonderful place to visit and just enjoy the scenery of the Pearl River. This bridge was once used by vehicles to cross the river. The deck is made of wood and it is suspended by cables that allow the bridge to “swing”. There is also a place to fish and a swimming hole located under the bridge.
16. Governor’s Mansion
The Governor’s Mansion has been the home of the state’s governor since 1842 and offers frequent guided tours of its historic section. Alongside the Old Capitol building, the Governor’s Mansion is yet another unique historical building, architecturally speaking. Another fine example of Greek Revival style in Mississippi, the mansion is officially a National Historic Landmark.
During your tour, you will learn the stories of all the Mississippi’s governors that have lived in the mansion with their families, including the current governor.
17. Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum
Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum focuses on Mississippi athletes and teams, with interactive exhibits. If you are a huge sports fan and enjoy visiting sports museums, you should definitely add this to your Jackson itinerary.
When you first arrive, you will be greeted by a very welcoming staff that will have you watch a 10-minute video on Mississippi sports. The museum’s exhibits include a wide variety of memorabilia nicely set-up and covering different athletes. Besides, on the second floor, you can explore displays from the former Dizzy Dean Museum.
18. New Stage Theatre
The performing arts theatre of New Stage Theatre shows five plays per year in addition to a Holiday show, an annual SchoolFest, and a kids’ summer camp. This is a great performance space with no bad seats in the house. It is also intimate enough to have a good view, with a large enough stage for more elaborate productions. The theatre hosts a very talented group of actors in a wide variety of plays.
Overall, New Stage is the local playhouse for local theatrical talent, both trained and untrained. And it does not hurt that the staff is so courteous and provide a great box office on the phone.
19. Museum of Mississippi History
The local Museum of Mississippi History explores 15,000 years of history showcasing the different inhabitants of this area. The displays include interactive exhibits, artifacts, and stories from the most important people in the state. Besides, the work and detail put into the exhibits throughout the museum are exceptional.
Some of the exhibits include The First Peoples, Joining the United States, Cotton Kingdom, The World Remade, and more. Interestingly, the galleries are organized chronologically, and the exhibits are classified according to the time period they focus on.
20. Mynelle Gardens Arboretum & Botanical Center
The peaceful Mynelle Gardens Arboretum & Botanical Center is actually Jackson’s botanical garden with lush landscaping, shaded walking paths, and several sitting areas. The whole area was donated to the city and it still contains some of the nice bigger houses and greenhouses. And the exquisite garden has now been grown further throughout the property.
This is a beautiful place with paths that meander through landscaped gardens, over streams, and along the sides of a pond. Overall, it is a perfect place to sit and decompress. They also have food for feeding the fish in the pond with two arch bridges and a pretty fountain.
21. Smith Robertson Museum
Smith Robertson Museum is a museum dedicated to the preservation of black history as well as the history of Jackson and the state. The museum functions in a restored building housing art exhibits, photos, and artifacts exploring local African-American history.
Some of its exhibits include stories about Mr. Richard Wright and black like in Jackson during his time. You can also go on a walk through a model slave ship. This museum is for people of all ages as it is highly informative and educational, and presented in a very engaging manner.
22. Eudora Welty House & Garden
The Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty was one of America’s most significant authors and you can get your tour of Eudora Welty House & Garden, which also features a museum. The former residence of a 20th-century writer counts with a walk through her historic botanical garden, interpretive museum exhibits, and a guided tour of the house itself.
The introductory video keeps everyone’s interest and the visitor’s center exhibits are well done and provide glimpses into Ms. Welty’s fascinating life. However, the home is not wheelchair accessible. This is understandable in keeping the originality of Eudora’s time.
23. Mississippi State Capitol
The state government office of the Mississippi State Capitol features a rich history and many interesting artifacts displayed around its grounds. You can walk through and see how life was during a simpler time. There is also a great little museum with several nice pieces and information. Outside, there are old and new pieces of farm equipment spread throughout the grounds. There is a short walking trail through a wooded area that has different trees and plants marked.
The building itself is a beautiful work of architecture. Also considered the most magnificent building in the state, it is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece. The care and maintenance of Mississippi’s “treasure among treasures” is top drawer. You will not be disappointed when visiting this site.
24. International Museum of Muslim Cultures
The International Museum of Muslim Cultures features exhibitions related to Islamic history, art, and cultural traditions around the world. The staff puts an extra effort into explaining the importance of the Muslim faith to them and how it has affected lives in Mississippi.
The museum is very educational with well-researched interpretation and attractive displays. The exhibits cover Islamic Moorish Spain, Timbuktu, Mali, and a new exhibit on the coexistence and the similarities between Christianity and Judaism. This is a great experience to learn the history of Islamic contributions to the world and how cultures live together in peace.
25. The Iron Horse Grill
Built in 1906 and offering Southern-style pub fare, unique craft cocktails, and live music, The Iron Horse Grill functions in an airy, industrial space. The Iron Horse Grill is considered a landmark of Mississippi’s heritage with a rich history which includes being mysteriously burned down twice. If you want to go in and rock out or just have a few drinks combined with great food, this is your place!
Their most popular dishes include the unique fried broccoli, fajitas, and enchiladas. And as a bonus, you can visit their wax museum upstairs.