Thursday, February 23, 2012

Innsider's Scoop on Top 25 Things to Explore in Jackson, MS

As a Jacksonian and Innkeeper, here are my favorite things to explore, places to eat and just have fun.
So, come on down y'all!

1. Eudora Welty House, located in the historic Belhaven neighborhood, within walking distance of the Fairview Inn, you'll find the Tudor looking home of one of Mississippi's prolific writer's and Pulitzer Prize winner, Eudora Welty. Tours are offered by reservation.

2. Mississippi Museum of Art, this modern museum offers several permanent collections of Mississippi Art as well as special featured exhibitions. Unique events are held throughout the year. Check out their calendar.

3. Renaissance Shopping, located just north of downtown Jackson, in the suburb of Ridgeland at Colony Parkway, is a collection of fine national brand-name and local boutique stores, with plenty of dining and special events year round.

4. MS Crafts Center, pottery, art, jewelry, weaving- you name it, the Craftsmen's Guild of Mississippi offers a fine selection for viewing or purchase. Located north of downtown, off the Natchez Trace and near the Ross Barnett Reservoir.

5. New Stage Theatre, the best local theatre you will find anywhere. Located in the Belhaven historic neighborhood. Shows available year round.

6. Underground 119, available for dinner, but comes alive after 8pm with local talented musicians offering up jazz, blues and sometimes Bluegrass. Located downtown.

7. Viking Cooking School, learn to cook great recipes, study and sample wines in intimate classes with fun Chef Instructors. Great experience alone, as couples or with a group of friends. Pre-booking required. Visit website and click on Ridgeland location.

8. Pickenpaugh Pottery, try your hand at throwing some clay and taking home a unique memento. Let Robert and Merry show you how it's done at their Saturday classes. If you can't make their class it's worth a visit to browse their shop.

9. Koinonia Coffee House, visit Lee & Alexis at this eclectic home that emphasizes the cultural aspects of our community, offering pottery, music or art (along with a good cup of coffee). Stop by Friday mornings early to hear the sages in the Jackson Community talk about politics, social issues or new developments in our city.

10. Fondren Antiques, shop or just gaze at a collection of fine antique stores and collectibles for home interiors. The Fondren neighborhood recently underwent a renaissance of development with new and renovated retro period stores and great options for lunch and/or dinner.

11. Brent's Drugs, the location for filming scenes from the movie, "The Help," Brent's also offers up a great burger and malted shake. Although no longer selling pharmaceuticals, this Jackson classic will take you back to the fifties with a soda fountain and menu to boot.

12. MS Children's Museum, great for families or kids at heart, this state-of-the-art museum offers loads of fun and learning experiences for kids to experience all about Mississippi, healthy eating, reading and arts.

13. Vicksburg Trip, Just 40 minutes West of Jackson, Vicksburg offers great vistas of the mighty Mississippi River and a historic drive through National Military Park. With narrated Civil War history available on CD to listen to as you are driving, and the ability to be able to stop around the Park on your own schedule. You will be moved by the cemetery at the end of the drive.

14. Walker's Drive-In, one of the best restaurants in Jackson. The paradoxical atmosphere of a gourmet restaurant set up in an old drive in, as well as a greasy spoon lunch fused with a gourmet touch makes this classic a mult-layered favorite. James Beard recognized Chef Derek Emerson features great seafood in this eclectic, hip eatery.

15. Seasonal Events, throughout the year Jackson offers up some great reasons to visit. Experience the Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade, Taste of Mississippi, Sante South Wine Festival, or the Mississippi Blues Marathon, to name a few.

16. Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, from the classics to contemporary music, this talented group of musicians always put on a great concert with visiting soloists also adding to the fun. I especially like Pepsi Pops outside at the Reservoir in May under the stars with fireworks.

17. Fenian's Pub, about as Irish as it gets, this Belhaven neighborhood pub (just a few blocks from the Fairview) offers traditional pub food, great pints on tap and a variety of great live music most evenings. You can even try your hand at Karaoke on Mondays or if you have musical talent open mike on Tuesdays.

18. Old Capitol Museum, newly renovated, this original State Capitol (and Mississippi's most historic building) is now a museum that presents the history of politics and governance in our State. Many interactive exhibits and super architecture make it well worth the visit. And did I say it's all FREE! You may also wish to hire Forrest Cooper from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to give you the real tour of our Capital City.

19. Natchez Trace, one of the most beautiful drives of scenic highway anywhere. Great for biking, the Trace has stops for hikers also, and runs from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN right through Jackson. Trucks are not permitted and the speed limit is 50mph.

20.Old Trace Park-Ross Barnett Reservoir, take a picnic lunch to this scenic park overlooking the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Great vistas, ideal at sunrise or sunset, and close to boat rentals (at Main Harbor) if you choose to fish or take in the views from the water.

21. Lemuria Bookstore, this quintessential bookstore has been around since the mid 70's and is perfect for rainy day browsing or picking out that special Mississippi souvenir. Taking up almost the entire floor of Banner Hall, John Evans, the owner, puts together some great events, readings and author book signings and is a great resource for almost anything. You won't be disappointed.

22. Delta Blues Trip, you can't leave Mississippi without experiencing the Blues and there is no better place to experience the blues than a trip to the Delta. My perfect day includes a trip to the BB King Museum in Indianola, lunch at the Crystal Grill in Greenwood, then head up Route 61 checking out the Mississippi Blues Trail markers along the way to Clarksdale. While in Clarksdale, you must see the Delta Blues Museum, have dinner at Madidi's (owned by Morgan Freeman) and then enjoy live music at Ground Zero Blues Club or Red's Lounge for a real blues experience. If staying late, plan to stay overnight at the Shack Up Inn before returning to Jackson.

23. MS Museum of Natural Science, located in LeFleur Bluff State Park, the museum's mission is to focus on the protection of Mississippi's natural landscape and it's inhabitants through education. On 300 acres and with 2.5 miles of trails, the museum has a 100,000 gallon aquarium and over 30,000 sq. feet of exhibits. It's fun for the kids and the entire family.

24. Two Sisters Kitchen, some of the best Southern "comfort food" around. On the menu- Fried Chicken, Grits, Okra and Bread Pudding, just to name a few. This all you can eat country style buffet is true soul food and you cannot leave Jackson without sampling true Southern cooking.

25. Hal & Mal's, a fixture in Jackson for over forty years, owners Hal & Mal White created this upscale "honky tonk" with art memorabilia, New Orleans influenced food, live music, and a great atmosphere favored by the locals. Monday night has great Blues Musicians.