Jackson, MS: A Native’s Advice

January 29th, 2010

I grew up in Jackson.  My parents moved us there from Newton, MS when I was two, so essentially it is the only home I know.

I grew up on the “South Side”–southwest Jackson.   When I was in the 6th grade we moved to ritzy Northeast Jackson where the rich people live (actually, to clarify, the rich people now live outside of Jackson in the north suburbs on golf courses.)

If you visit Jackson, here are some suggestions.  I wish I could be there to show you around, since every corner has a personal meaning to me.  Be adventurous and talk to people. In itself, Jackson is just another small city, but it’s really the people who live there that make it special.  If all you do is drive around, you will probably be underwhelmed.

How long should you spend?  That depends on your interests.  If you like history and museums, you can easily spend a day and a half there.  You can really spend more if you want to see multiple museums, but I think a full day to a day and a half is adequate for an overview, probably even for Jackson and some of the surrounding area.

If you LOVE the big city life, don’t like exploring new areas or interacting with random people,  and don’t really care so much for history, go to New Orleans instead.  You won’t be happy spending time in Jackson.

Potential Itinerary

Morning:

Go downtown and drive around.  Definitely go into the New Capitol and try to see the Old Capitol http://mdah.state.ms.us/museum/oldcap/index.php.  See the Govenor’s Mansion ( I think you can tour it on some days.)   There are several other museums downtown including the newly renovated Mississippi Museum of Art www.mmoa.org, the International Museum of Muslim Culture (www.muslimmuseum.org, next door).

Drive down Amite Street (pronounced Ah-meet), toward the railroad, away from the Old Capitol, or Pearl Street and then turn the block and drive up East Capitol Street.   There is a commercial corridor along East Capitol, starting at the Amtrak Railroad Station, going  up towards the Old Capitol.  The Amtrak station was recently renovated, and the storied City of New Orleans train runs along it, from Chicago down to New Orleans.  It was featured in the Arlo Guthrie song of the same name:  “Good Morning America How Are Ya/Don’t ya know me, I’m your native son?/I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans/I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done”.

Around the train station there are decrepit store fronts, some hollowed out and some still functioning, from the early to mid twentieth century.  Several of Jackson’s most established lunch spots lie along this street, including the Mayflower and the Elite. Here you will see Mississippi politicians and professionals chatting with the servers (many of whom they know by name.)

The King Edward hotel has quite a storied history.  It sat in desolation for years, rotting away, until a recent influx of investment from MS native and football great Deuce Macallister has brought about its restoration.  It was an active construction zone the last time I was there.  The newly restored Amtrak terminal across the street is now a transportation hub and event center.

For lunch I personally prefer Two Sister’s Kitchen (a few blocks away).  It’s a shmorgosboard of southern food; a one-price lunch buffet where you can choose the vegetable plate or the meat plate, including salad, bread and dessert.  I always get the bread pudding for dessert.

Afternoon

Drive north on North State Street.  As you near Woodrow Wilson Boulevard, you’ll be passing through the Belhaven district.  You will pass my undergraduate college Millsaps, my high school Murrah, and my medical school the University of Mississippi Medical Center in one major intersection (well, Murrah’s pretty close).   Yup, I spent 12 years of my life taking the same friggin exit off the interstate to school.

Keep driving, and at the top of a hill while you are along the very edge of the Hospital campus, you’ll come to a fork in the road.  You can take either part of the fork, and soon you will be in a small area called Fondren.  The shopping district of Fondren received some major revitalization grants and now has some of the more charming shops in the city.  The map on their website, www.fondren.org is the best I’ve seen, and you can look at the list of shopping and dining establishments.

Some of places I’d take you if I were with you:

  • Brent’s Drugs (a REAL drugstore soda counter.  It’s greasy, grungy, down-home, real, and real good.  But it won’t win any beauty pagents.)
  • Cups ( a true Jackson coffee-shop original)
  • Duling School (I was truly amazed when I went to Jackson last.  When I was growing up, Duling was “juvy”–the juvenile delinquent school.  Before that, i think it was just a neighborhood school.  Now it’s got a great restaurant and several awesome shops inside.  It’s a fantastic example of re-use of space.
  • Fondren Corner (I guess that’s what they’re calling this.  It’s a big pink apartment building but there are some cool shops in the bottom floor.)

Get back in the car, and travel up Old Canton Road.  You’ll pass St. Andrews lower day school on your right and the oldest house in Jackson, The Cedars, on your left.  When you get to Meadowbrook road, take a right and you’ll cross the bridge over I-55.  Take a left onto the I-55 frontage road but DO NOT GET ONTO THE INTERSTATE.  You’ll go less than a mile, passing the outdoor shopping center Highland Village on your right.

Highland Village used to be the premier shopping area in the state.  It still houses some of Mississippi’s finest retail stores.  There is also a bridal shop here with a woman featured on the WE TV network.  A relatively new but quite good and hip restaurant, Julep, is located here.  There are two other fine restaurants as well: Bravo and Char.

Directly across from Highland Village, on the opposite side of the interstate, is another small shopping “tower” called Banner Hall.  One of the best independent bookstores is housed here: Lemuria Books.  If you are interested in author-signed copies or picture books on southern culture, this is definitely for you.  They have many other interesting books as well.  There’s a great restaurant called Broad Street Bakery next to it and free WiFi throughout the building.

There are several more museums in Jackson, some I have seen, some I haven’t.  I wish I had toured the Eudora Welty Home museum, since she’s such a well-known example of Mississippi Heritage.  There is a great Agriculture Museum where you can walk around a reproduction (in some places) and real (in other places) example of a true old-timey small Mississippi town.  We also have a Museum of Natural Science, and by the current pics I think this is a new building in a new site.  There are others, I certainly can’t list them all here.

Lena’s Life (For Kicks):

If you are curious about how I grew up, then here are a few points of interest to “drive by”.  I spent the latter half of my formative years at 1642 Brecon Drive, only a few houses down from Spann Elementary School.  I went to Murrah High School, then Millsaps College.  The college campus is really beautiful in the spring, and it is worth a 10 minute walking tour.  I was a proud Phi Mu fraternity member there.  One of our college “staples” was eating at Keifer’s, a greek restaurant near campus.  If you go, you must get a gyro and a cottage fries!  Lastly, I went to UMMC for med school.

Dinner

Mississippi is famous for food.  While you could find numerous styles of restaurants, I wouldn’t suggest eating Chinese food in Jackson.  Not that you can’t get good Chinese–I just think you should eat the food we’re known for.  That being said, one of my more moderate suggestions would be Old Venice which is Italian.  I mention it because it’s pretty good pizza, but more notably it’s a Jackson branch of an Oxford, MS staple.  Oxford is the home of Ole Miss, and those people are truly psychotic about their college.  It’s good stuff, and they have a nice outdoor patio bar.

Unless times have changed, I think Walker’s Drive In http://www.walkersdrivein.com/ is one of the best restaurants in Jackson.  It’s just awesome.  It’s also just a little pricey (entree’s are in the mid twenties).  However, if you’ve eaten out in Chicago recently, you’ll laugh that I think Walker’s is pricey.

Other really good choices include Julep (which may now be just as good as Walker’s.  It was really new when I lived there, but it’s established itself as a favorite by now.  I’ve eaten lunch there recently and been quite pleased).  As mentioned above, Bravo and Char are also quite good.

One of the very best steaks in town can be got at Shapley’s restaurant.  If you want a great steak, go here.   I haven’t personally eaten at Schimmel’s for dinner except drug rep dinners (med school), but it’s owned by a family friend, and sometimes it has blues music at night.  Both of these are also moderately priced options.

If you are on a budget, then think about going REALLY homeschool and eating at either the Cock of the Walk http://www.cockofthewalkrestaurant.com/Our_Jackson_Mississippi_Location/ on the Reservoir, Sal and Mookies, or Penn’s.  I’d probably choose Cock of the Walk for the location and the “ambiance”, if you could call it that: lake, wood, tin cups, tin plates, checkerboard, ’nuff said.

After Dinner:

If you’re still up, you should really think about going to the 930 Blues Café downtown.  I would call them first to make sure they are open and have music going that night.  Also, make sure you go over your directions well, because you do not want to get lost downtown.  The cafe is safe (sheesh, I went to college up the block for heaven’s sakes), but you can turn some wrong corners and get lost relatively easily.    Unfortunately, some of the other great places to go for music are gone now, including the Subway Lounge (there was a PBS documentary on this place).  Some other suggestions:

Fenian’s
601-948-0055 - 901 E. Fortification St.  We went to this Irish pub A LOT in college.  It’s downtown very close to the 930 Blues Cafe.  The often have irish singers and sometimes Irish dancers.

Cherokee Inn

601-362-6388 - 1410 Old Square Road.  This is next door to  Old Venice.

Follow this link for dining information regarding the restaurants I mentioned:  http://www.discoverourtown.com/MS/Jackson/Dining-13.html

HELPFUL LINKS:

Mississippi Development Authority- Tourism
www.visitmississippi.org

Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau
www.visitjackson.com

Ridgeland Convention & Visitors Bureau
www.visitridgeland.org

Canton Convention & Visitors Bureau
www.cantontourism.com

Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership
www.metrochamber.com

Metro Jackson Attractions Association
www.mjaams.com

Downtown Jackson Partners
www.downtown-jackson.com

Clarion-Ledger
www.clarionledger.com

Jackson Free Press
www.jacksonfreepress.com

    About Me

    Professional Gastroenterology Fellow

    Amateur Martha Stewart/Bob Villa/Julia Child/Collette Peters

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