Streetscape on a sunny day in Jackson Mississippi

Jackson is the state capitol of Mississippi. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Spend a Weekend in Jackson, Mississippi, the Historic Epicenter of the South

In Jackson, Mississippi, there’s no lack of living history available to explore. Here, you’ll trace the city’s role in the Civil Rights Movement at a diverse range of museums and historic landmarks, including the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Greyhound Bus Station, where Freedom Riders first arrived in 1961. But don’t get us wrong: Mississippi’s capital city looks good in the present, too.

You can enjoy a dry martini at a snazzy cocktail lounge or dine at a cozy local joint serving up delicious Southern fare. Situated along the Pearl River, you’ll find the city’s expansive visual and performing arts scene, the immersive Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Museum and a sprawling state park with a 50-acre lake within the city limits.

With all of its rich offerings, it doesn’t take long to understand why this venerable Southern outpost goes by the nickname City of Soul.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Experience Historic Landmarks and Southern-Style Fare

Your first morning in Jackson calls for breakfast at Elvie’s in the historic Belhaven neighborhood.

Serving seasonal Southern fare with a French twist, this is exactly the kind of old-meets-new charm that Jackson does best. Prepared with ingredients sourced from local farmers, dishes like duck-fat hash browns, shrimp and grits and classic eggs cochon, served with coffee-rubbed pork and maple red-eye gravy, make for an unforgettable Southern breakfast experience.

After your last cup of coffee, stroll south into the heart of Jackson’s downtown district and buy a dual-admission ticket to the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Both state-of-the-art museums are located in the same building and offer powerful insight and reflection on the state’s past and future.

After your history lesson, order lunch at Hal & Mal’s, a Jackson staple opened by brothers Hal and Malcolm White in 1985. Don’t miss their classic take on gumbo, fried catfish or red beans and rice.

Post lunch, swing by the Eudora Welty House & Garden and connect with stories of this inspired Southern author and her deep Jackson roots. The home’s original gardens — planted with camellias and fragrant heirloom roses by the talented short-story writer herself — are a joy to wander through.

Your late-afternoon destination is Fondren, Jackson’s beloved arts district. Stroll along blocks of local art galleries, restaurants and shops. End of All Music is great for vinyl, and Interiors Market and Hunt are treasure troves of vintage housewares and luxury furniture and decorative items on consignment, respectively.

Tiramisu with whipped cream and berries
There are lots of dessert options in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo: Marriott International)

Treat yourself to dinner at Walker’s Drive-In, led by James Beard Award semifinalist Chef Derek Emerson, who works culinary magic with the region’s sustainable seafood.

Order a glass of wine and the fried barbecue oysters, shrimp-and-feta risotto or the redfish with fresh lump crabmeat. End the night with Heath Bar tiramisu or a fried fruit hand pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Saturday: Visit Museums and Enjoy Live Blues Music

Edifice of Old Capital Museum in Jackson Mississippi
The neoclassical edifice of the Old Capitol Museum. (Photo: Getty Images)

Enjoy a cortado and fresh, small-batch scones in the relaxed courtyard of Urban Foxes before swinging through Jackson’s weekly farmers market downtown.

Next up, explore the Smith Robertson Museum & Cultural Center. Housed in the city’s first public-school building for Black students, this museum houses a powerful, comprehensive archive of music, art, history and literature created by Mississippi’s Black creative community.

Afterward, head to Mississippi Street to take in the Old Capitol Museum and the State Capitol, a stoic, neoclassical edifice that cost upwards of a million dollars when it was constructed in 1903.

Nearby you’ll find the Mayflower Café, a local landmark that has been serving Greek-inspired cuisine since 1935. It was also the backdrop for “The Help,” a Hollywood blockbuster set in 1963 Jackson during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Order the redfish and legendary comeback sauce with onion rings or fried shrimp.

Bully’s Restaurant and E & L Barbeque are other classic Jackson lunch spots to try.

Up next: One of the state’s most renowned cultural institutions, the Mississippi Museum of Art, known for its contemporary American art collection and world-class traveling exhibitions.

Nearby you can also check out the International Museum of Muslim Cultures. Dedicated to the preservation of Islamic history and culture, the museum offers exhibits on music, education, art and more. Space junkies will enjoy a trip to the Russell C. Davis Planetarium to marvel at the cosmos in the 60-foot diameter projection dome.

For dinner, head to the Manship for bold Southern-meets-Mediterranean cuisine and Prohibition-era cocktails. Afterward, enjoy a nightcap at the Library Lounge: You can’t go wrong with a “Eudora Welty,” which calls for Jackson-made Cathead vodka, cucumber, Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda and ginger liqueur. Still kickin’? Hit F. Jones Corner around midnight for their unbeatable sets of late-night blues.

Sunday: Experience Jackson’s Museum District—and a Classic Soda Fountain

Usher in an easy Sunday morning at Cups, a hip espresso café in Fondren, before heading over to the Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Museum, a living-history farm that re-creates a 1920s crossroads town built on crops like cotton.

For lunch, grab an outdoor table at the Crawdad Hole, which serves tamales, spicy crawfish and even boiled peanuts, a salty Southern delicacy that everyone should try at least once. Saltine Restaurant and Babalu Tapas & Tacos, both in Fondren, are also great local lunch stops.

LeFleur's Bluff State Park in the fall
The trees at LeFleur’s Bluff State Park are stunning in the fall. (Photo: Getty Images)

Head back to the LeFleur Museum District, where you can visit the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Children’s Museum or the Museum of Natural Science, all of which are located within or neighboring LeFleur Bluff, a wooded, 305-acre state park with nature trails, fishing, picnicking and regular and disc golf courses.

Spend the balance of the afternoon wandering the park’s shady walking trails, fishing on Mayes Lake or hunting for 50-million-year-old fossils, which date back to when the area was covered by an inland sea.

For dinner, hit up Brent’s Drugs, a soda fountain and diner that’s been in continuous operation in Jackson since 1946. After you enjoy a classic shake and patty melt, head to the back of the diner, where you can walk through a door with a peephole.

Once there, part the heavy curtains to arrive at the Apothecary, Brent’s Drugs’ hidden cocktail lounge—and one of the swankiest bars in the South, according to venerable magazines like “Esquire” and “Garden & Gun.”