14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Jackson, MS
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Jackson is the capital of Mississippi and the most populous city in the state, located conveniently at the junction of Interstates 20 and 55. Jackson is home to several fantastic museums, which cover a wide range of topics, including history, civil rights, African-American culture, natural sciences, and art.
Families won't have a problem finding things to do with the kids in Jackson either - between the Children's Museum, the Jackson Zoo, and the Petrified Forest, they will be well occupied for days. The city also hosts a multitude of events year-round, including the Mississippi Blues Marathon in January; a Greek Fest in May; the Rhythm and Blues Festival in August; and an unexpected gem each September, the Celtic Fest.
Find the best places to visit in the city with our list of the top tourist attractions in Jackson, Mississippi.
See also: Where to Stay in Jackson
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Located inside LeFleur's Bluff State Park, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science teaches visitors about the natural history of Mississippi through educational exhibits, specimen collections, and interactive habitats. Among the areas devoted to wildlife is a 100,000-gallon aquarium network, which houses more than 200 native species of aquatic life.
The museum also houses a unique greenhouse named "The Swamp," home to wetland flora, as well as typical inhabitants like turtles and alligators. Exhibit halls include a large fossil collection, an up-close look at native white-tailed deer, and information about Mississippi's endangered species.
Kids can explore in the Discovery Room's giant treehouses, and the whole family can enjoy the nature trails on the 300-acre grounds.
Address: 2148 Riverside Dr, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: www.mdwfp.com/museum
2. Jackson Zoological Park
The Jackson Zoo is a hit with families and animal-lovers, home to more than 200 species of animals from five continents, including endangered species. African animals include primates like chimpanzees and colobus monkeys, birds like storks and ostriches, and even an African fat-tailed gecko.
Asia is represented by big cats like the Sumatran tiger and Amur Leopard, as well as the mischievous red panda, while a laughing kookaburra hails from Australia. South American residents include spider monkeys, tropical birds like macaws, and reptiles like the muscular anaconda.
North American wildlife is also well-represented, from the black bear to the red wolf. To make the visit even more fun, zoo admission now includes a splash pad, where visitors can cool off in the afternoon heat, and there are a carousel and train ride available for a nominal fee.
Address: 2918 West Capitol Street, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: www.jacksonzoo.org
3. The Mississippi State Capitol and Old Capitol Museum
Jackson is home to both the original capitol building, built in 1839, and the current state capitol. The former seat of state government is now open to the public as a museum, which highlights the historic events that took place here. Guided tours are also available for those who want to learn more about the architecture and restoration of this fine Greek Revival building.
The active Capitol Building, which was completed in 1903, can be toured by visitors as well. Highlights are an 180-foot dome roof with a 15-foot eagle coated in gold leaf. During legislative sessions, visitors may view Senate and House sessions from the public gallery. Both buildings are National Historic Landmarks.
- Address: 400 High Street, Jackson, Mississippi
Old Capitol Museum
- Address: 100 State Street, Jackson, Mississippi
4. Mississippi Petrified Forest
Just about two miles outside of Jackson, the Mississippi Petrified Forest is a must-see for anyone who wants to see an ancient forest that has been turned into stone by time.
Tourists can explore the park via several trails to see these spectacular fossils, and many stop to have their picture taken at "caveman's bench," a conveniently situated section of petrified wood. Here, you will also find the Earth Science Museum, which explains how such a drastic change can take place.
The museum has a collection of fossils, including dinosaur footprints, the bones of an ancient whale, and a cast of a prehistoric camel fossil. Younger visitors will enjoy the gem-mining flume, where they can sift for treasure.
Address: 124 Forest Park Road, Flora, Mississippi
Official site: www.mspetrifiedforest.com
5. Mississippi Children's Museum
The Mississippi Children's Museum is divided into six areas, which explore various topics to encourage curiosity and inspire children.
The "World at Work" gallery focuses on STEM concepts and how they relate to industry and careers, and the "Exploring Mississippi" exhibit consists of a giant map of the state, which kids can climb on and explore while learning about geography, history, and culture.
The "Healthy Fun" area has a variety of exhibits and activities, which teach kids about health and nutrition, and there is also a large area dedicated to exploring the arts and personal expression through music, dance, and the visual arts.
Outdoors, the Literacy garden encourages language skills and reading, and another garden grows edible plants. The Pollinator's Playground Garden, free and open to the public, teaches about gardening and the importance of pollinators in growing food.
Address: 2145 Museum Boulevard, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: https://mschildrensmuseum.org
6. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is home to a compelling series of exhibits, memorials, and films which take visitors from the end of the Civil War through the 1970s on a journey of struggles, triumphs, and sorrow. Visitors have the opportunity to see photographs and read quotes from those affected by slavery and those who risked everything to fight for their rights.
Memorials include monoliths dedicated to lynching victims, and multiple theaters show films about pivotal moments, like the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers. Other exhibits include information about the important role of church in building community and stories about civil rights activists during the turbulent 1960s.
Address: 222 North St Suite 2205l, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: https://mcrm.mdah.ms.gov/
7. Mississippi Museum of Art
The Mississippi Museum of Art opened in 1911 with a modest collection and has grown to contain more than 5,500 works of art, from pre-Columbian ceramics to contemporary paintings. The museum's central galleries, which are open to the public at no charge, revolve around the central theme "The Mississippi Story," focusing on local and regional artists and topics.
Other permanent collections include prints from as early as the 16th century, as well as 19th- and 20th-century American art, featuring work by Andy Warhol, Robert Henri, and Georgia O'Keefe. The museum also hosts educational programs, as well as special events including concerts in the Art garden.
Address: 380 South Lamar Street,Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: www.msmuseumart.org
8. Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum
The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum covers 39 acres of land and deals with the history of agriculture and forestry and its impact on Mississippi. One of the most popular sections of the museum is the "Small Town Mississippi" area, which features replicas of what a typical town looked and felt like during the 1920s, including businesses and public places like a school, church, general store, blacksmith shop, sugarcane mill, cotton gin, and more.
The Heritage Center is a major exhibit, which looks at how the transportation methods by rail, water, and land relate to agriculture and forestry. In keeping with the theme, the National Agricultural Aviation Museum, also on the grounds, examines the importance of air travel in the industry.
Other areas include a model train exhibit; the "Victory Garden," where visitors can learn about sustainable farming; a livestock exhibit; and nature trails. Almost hidden near the Heritage Center, the Fitzgerald Collection will fascinate anyone interested in Mississippi Delta Americana.
Address: 1150 Lakeland Drive, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: www.msagmuseum.org
9. Eudora Welty House and Garden
The writer Eudora Welty lived for more than seventy-five years in this home on Pinehurst Street in Jackson, where she wrote almost all of her fiction and essays. Her letters, however, are what most visitors come to see - a total of more than 15,000 were found upon her death.
These letters are not only remarkable for the notable recipients and senders but also for their content - an unfiltered peek into the society of her time and her impressions on travel, friends, and life in Mississippi.
Address: 1119 Pinehurst Street, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: www.mdah.ms.gov/welty
10. LeFleur's Bluff State Park
In addition to being home to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, LeFleur's Bluff State Park contains a myriad of things to do. Within its 305 acres, you will find a nine-hole golf course with a driving range, disc golf, playgrounds, and picnic areas, as well as places to eat and shop.
This oasis is surrounded by the city, but you wouldn't know it while hiking on one of the many nature trails. Mayes Lake is also a popular place for both fishing and boating, and there are several well-situated access points. There are also a wide range of campsites available, from rustic to fully-equipped RV sites, and ample bathhouse facilities.
11. Fondren District
Jackson's art district, once known as 'Sylum Heights for its proximity to the old Mississippi Lunatic Asylum, occupies the area between the railroad and interstate 55 from Northside Drive to Woodrow Wilson Avenue. The area's quirky vibe and lively art scene make it a great place for exploring, and it is full of unique boutiques, cafés, and bakeries.
The area is also home to plenty of galleries to be perused, and live music frequently serenades passersby. The neighborhood frequently hosts events as well, from public art shows and concerts to food tastings and book signings.
Official site: www.finditinfondren.com
12. The Boyd House
Also known as "The Oaks," the Boyd House is one of the city's oldest homes. Built in 1853, this Greek-Revival cottage is one of the few buildings to survive the fires that leveled much of Jackson during the Civil War. The building was restored in the 1960s to serve as the state headquarters for the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America and a museum.
The home has retained most of its original features, including large double-hung windows; 10-foot ceilings; and two fireplaces, each servicing two rooms. The museum house also features a great deal of its original furniture, the majority of which was acquired in 2006 from the last of the Boyd descendants. Among the prized pieces are a spooled walnut bed and matching commode, as well as a walnut turn-top card table and a walnut cylinder-top secretary.
Address: 823 North Jefferson Street, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: www.theoakshousemuseum.org
13. Mississippi Governor's Mansion
The Governor's Mansion, a white, Greek-Revival-style structure, was built in 1839 and first occupied in 1842. It is known for being the second oldest continuously occupied governor's residence in the USA. Grand columns of the curving portico grace the front of the mansion, which is approached by a long series of steps.
The building is a National Historic Landmark and is still used for official state functions. Unless otherwise in use, visitors can enjoy a tour of the mansion free of charge on a limited basis in the mornings.
Address: 300 East Capitol Street, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: www.mdah.ms.gov/new/visit/governors-mansion
14. Museum of Mississippi History
The Museum of Mississippi History contains a comprehensive series of exhibits, which shed light on the entirety of the area's known past.
The First Peoples exhibit looks as far back as 13,000 BCE to the first human inhabitants, providing artifacts and insights into the lives of the people who occupied the land long before Europeans arrived. Artifacts include a 500-year-old dugout canoe, and exhibits provide interesting facts about the cultures and beliefs of the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes.
The next exhibit looks at the profound changes that manifested after European contact. Subsequent exhibits explore 19th-century slavery, the "Cotton Kingdom," and the Civil War, as well as its aftermath and the arduous journey toward actual cultural change.
Additional areas deal with social and economic issues like industry and natural disasters, and there is a fine exhibit that highlights significant moments in Mississippi Civil Rights history; this museum is housed in the same complex as the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
Address: 222 North Street, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: www.mmh.mdah.ms.gov
15. Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center
The Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center was created to celebrate and shed light on the experience of being African-American in the deep south. Exhibits delve into various aspects of the experience, from African heritage in the Treasures of Africa exhibit to a wide variety of artwork and photography in the Visual and Master Collection galleries.
Other topics include the history of the Smith Robertson School and the historic Farish Street district in Jackson, as well as a look at African-American lifestyle in Mississippi. The museum is also proud to display a permanent exhibit courtesy of the Smithsonian, which examines the trend of northward movement of African Americans from 1915 through 1940.
The Hall of Fame honors African Americans from Mississippi who have been recognized in various fields.
Address: 528 Bloom Street, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: www.jacksonms.gov/index.aspx?nid=143
16. International Museum of Muslim Cultures
Opened in 2001, this museum was founded with the goal of sharing the rich history of Islamic culture with the American public. The museum regularly hosts temporary exhibits that explore a variety of topics, including the relationship between the Muslim community and other faiths and cultures.
Permanent exhibits include The Legacy of Timbuktu, an exhibit dedicated to highlighting the influence and complexity of early African literature. Among the collection are several fine examples of early texts and documents dating back to the 13th century.
There is also an exhibit about the history and culture of Moorish Spain, as well as an exhibit celebrating the spiritual heritage of Ramadan. The museum also presents changing exhibits that explore important topics, like the relationship between the Muslim faith and other Abrahamic religions.
Address: 101 E. Capitol Street, Jackson, Mississippi
Official site: https://muslimmuseum.org/
Where to Stay in Jackson for Sightseeing
Staying in downtown Jackson is a great option. Here, you'll find the city's top attractions, including the State Capitol and the Mississippi Museum of Art. The LeFleur Museum District, about four miles north of downtown, is another noteworthy area, with four of the city's top museums all within a short distance of each other. Below are some highly rated hotels in good locations:
- The Jackson Marriott is right in the center of downtown and is a full-service business hotel with well-appointed rooms, many with great city views.
- Near the LeFleur Museum District is the Hilton, with modern rooms and a spectacular outdoor pool with cabanas.
- A nice boutique option is the Old Capitol Inn, housed in a fully restored building from 1952. Cozy rooms, a rooftop patio garden, and a koi fish pond make for a pleasant stay.
- The Hilton Garden Inn occupies a historic 1923 hotel in downtown and is just a short walk from the Amtrak station. The hotel also has an indoor pool and offers a free shuttle in the immediate area.
- The Comfort Inn is conveniently located near the LeFleur Museum District and offers rooms with a complimentary breakfast.
- A short stroll from the Mississippi Coliseum, and ideal for those in town for a large event, is the BEST WESTERN Executive Inn. The hotel has recently been fully renovated.
- The Hampton Inn & Suites is near the Mississippi State Capitol and offers rooms that include breakfast.
- Southwest of downtown is the Quality Inn & Suites Southwest.
- Basic and clean rooms come with breakfast, and the hotel has a seasonal outdoor pool. Inexpensive, oversized rooms and a free breakfast are available at the Baymont Inn and Suites.