The City of Jackson sits in the middle of the Mississippi, about an hour east of the Mississippi River. Jackson is a modern city with a colourful history.
It is Mississippi’s largest city and its capital is home to nearly 200,000 people, yet the everyday pace of life here is slow and friendly, reminiscent of the Old South. There is plenty to do and see on a visit to Jackson, starting with downtown, and spreading out to the areas surrounding the city, so travelling by car would be the best way to explore all this ‘Grand Southern Belle’ has to offer.
Founded in 1821, Jackson was originally the site of a trading post on the west bank of the Pearl River. Originally named LeFleur’s Bluff, after the French-Canadian trader who owned the trading post, Jackson sat on a bluff high above the river with a view of all around. This former trading post was later chosen as the State Capital in 1821, and renamed ‘Jackson’, after then Major General Andrew Jackson, who would later be the 7th President of the United States. During the Civil War, Jackson was burned three times by Union Forces, but recovered and arose finer and greater than before. Today, this jewel of the South is home to a robust economy with an arts and music culture second to none.
At the centre of Jackson is the Mississippi State Capital, which was built in 1903 and sits highlighted against the Jackson skyline. Near the capital is the Governor’s Mansion, one of the few buildings to survive the three burnings of the Civil War. There are two other Civil War Heritage buildings in downtown Jackson, the Old State Capital and Jackson City Hall. The Old State Capital also has the nation’s largest museum on Mississippi history and culture. Also downtown is the Russell D. Davis Planetarium, and adjacent is the Mississippi Museum of Art. This Museum of Art holds the world’s largest collection of folk art and crafts by regional artisans, an incredible display of unique artwork not found elsewhere. Across the street, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Mississippi Opera Association and the Ballet Magnificat! Perform regularly in the Thalia Mara Hall.
Jackson is the City with Soul, and its art’s scene vibrates with music and culture. Any night of the week there is a performance of some sort. It doesn’t matter if a visitor enjoys comedy, a musical, the Blues or Rock and Roll, they will be able to find something they’ll enjoy in Jackson. The visitors to Jackson don’t just hear the music or see the art; they feel the vibrancy in the very air around them. ‘The Mississippi Blues Trail’ is one of the best ways to learn about the history of the Blues. Visitors learn about pioneer recording studios, Farish Street Sound, and the famous Blues Artists who got their start in Jackson.
Moving out of the downtown area, Natchez Trace Parkway, one of the oldest and most scenic routes in the United States, runs diagonally across the city. Native Americans used the Trace as a trading route and today it is operated by the National Park Service. Nearby is the spectacular Ross Barnett Reservoir, 33,000 acres of water, providing a host of recreational activities including boating, swimming, fishing, and picnicking.
Shopping is big and diverse in Jackson, and it is taken very seriously. Visitors are welcomed with open arms, and encouraged to look around and poke in the corners of the shops and boutiques in the ‘Fondren District’, or delight in the sights and sounds at ‘Highland Village’ with its beautiful courtyards and glorious gardens.
If the men in the group would rather not shop, they can take in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, while they wait on the ladies. This incredible collection of sports memorabilia was named an ESPN Top Ten Most Amazing Baseball Museums in America.
Below are two tours which highlight the major tourist sites of Jackson.
Downtown Jackson Walking Tour
- Begin at intersection of Amite and State Streets. Here you can see the War Memorial Building, the William F. Winter Archives & History Building, and the Old Capital Museum which are all located around the Capital Green. From here, you can walk west along Capital Street passing buildings long ago called ‘Spengler’s Corner’, eventually coming to the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion. This Mansion is a National Historic Landmark.
- Across from the Mansion is the Lamar Life Building, the first skyscraper in Jackson. Continue walking to West St., then turn right to Smith Park, the only remaining park in the downtown area. It is surrounded by St. Peter’s Catholic Church, the original First Baptist Church, and the old Central High School. Walking north, you will pass Woolfolk State Office Building and can stop and read the inscriptions upon the Mississippi Veterans Monument. The New City Hall is directly across the street.
- Walk along Congress St. passing Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church and Galloway House. Now walk along the only remaining, original brick street back to City Hall, one of only four public buildings still standing after the three burnings of Jackson during the Civil War.
- Sit down a bit and enjoy the City Gardens before proceeding to Pascagoula St. Look across the street to Hinds County Courthouse and the two statues situated on the roof. One of these statues is Moses and the other is Socrates.
- Turn left and walk east along Pascagoula St. to President St., turning left again to see the other side of City Hall. Just past City Hall, to the north, is the old Central Fire Station which is now the home of Jackson’s Chamber of Commerce. Here is a Monument dedicated to the Mississippi Fire fighters who gave their lives in the line of duty.
- Continue north to Capital St., turn right and pass Mississippi State School of Architecture, then back to Capital Green where you started.
Another good tour in Jackson is the ‘Tour of Monuments’. This is another tour through downtown Jackson and one that is best done on foot.
Jackson ‘Tour of Monuments’
- Begin at the War Memorial Building at 120 North State St., where soldiers of all the wars are honoured. The Old Capital Museum at 100 South State St. is just two buildings down, and is Mississippi’s Confederate Museum. The Wives’ and Daughters’ Monument , a few blocks northwest on Mississippi St. is dedicated to the women of the Civil War who were left behind, but kept the home fires burning.
- Turn north at Mississippi and West Streets, walking to the Flag Wall which is dedicated to Mississippi Veterans of all Wars.
- Walk south to Pascagoula St. to the Police Memorial at JPD Headquarters, 327 East Pascagoula St.
- Continue on Pascagoula St. to the Hinds County Courthouse, where on the roof stand statues of Moses, giver of the law, and Socrates, interpreter of the law.
- Turn and walk north on President St. to the original Jackson Firehouse, which is now the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. Here is the Jackson Fallen Fire fighter’s Memorial, (a statue of a fireman holding a small boy in his arms with a teddy bear).
The culture and heritage of Jackson make it one of the best places to visit in all of America. From the music and arts, to the history and the sports, Jackson has something for everyone, particularly to those of a ‘sightseeing’ disposition. Jackson is one of the finest cities in the world to explore!