Jackson Travel Information

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Visitors to Jackson will discover an interesting blend of old and new that is perhaps best exemplified by the citys distinct neighborhoods. As Mississippis largest city and state capital, Jackson is home to nearly 200,000 souls, although its slow pace and wide population distribution make it seem smaller. Located on the banks of the winding Pearl River, the city was incorporated in 1833 for the express purpose of being the capital, and its orderly layout still stands as a testament to the lasting benefits of sound city planning. Exploring the city requires some forethought, however, and usually a car, as many of Jacksons tourist attractions, shopping opportunities, and business concerns are spread over a large geographic area.

Downtown is where the action is, at least during business hours. The heart of old Jackson centers around the government facilities that built the city and continue to provide it with its lifeblood. At ground zero sits the Mississippi State Capitol, bordered by High Street to the north and President Street to the east. Built in 1903, this stunning structure was modeled on the United States Capitol in Washington, and cuts a commanding figure against the downtown skyline. Two blocks to the south, on the corner of Congress and Capitol, you will find the Mississippi Governors Mansion, a fine example of Greek Revival architecture and one of the few lucky buildings to survive the Civil War. Two other ante-bellum buildings are located nearby: the Old State Capitol on State Street and Jackson City Hall at the corner of Pascagoula and Congress. In addition to its own historical value, the Old Capitol building harbors the countrys most comprehensive museum on Mississippi history and culture. The three-storied City Hall presides regally over a bronze likeness of Andrew Jackson, the nations seventh president and the citys namesake. The statue stands in a pleasant garden that is one of downtowns most popular gathering places.

Downtown is home to most of Jacksons cultural outlets. Two blocks from City Hall rests the Russell C. Davis Planetarium, one of the largest in the Southeast, right next door to the Mississippi Museum of Art, which boasts the worlds largest collection of folk art and crafts by regional artisans. Performances by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Ballet Magnificat!, and the Mississippi Opera Association are regularly scheduled at Thalia Mara Hall, a state-of-the-art auditorium directly across the street.

Today, as in 1833, the downtown area remains the center of Jacksons government and business affairs. However, most restaurants and retail outlets shut down promptly at the close of the business day, as Jacksonians tend not to tarry here after dark. Its not that the area is unsafe after hours, merely abandoned. If you're looking to extend your day past 10pm, you will need to look elsewhere.

Elsewhere, for the most part, consists of the northside suburban sprawl that begins with the town of Ridgeland. Just a few miles from the city center, Ridgeland is comprised of an enormous mass of shopping, eating, and lodging opportunities, along with a bit of nightlife. At the core of it all is the Northpark Mall, providing Jackson shoppers with everything from large national department stores to the finest in local specialty shops.

While you're in the area, be sure to pay a visit to Tougaloo College. One of the nations oldest and most-respected traditionally black colleges, Tougaloos historic Woodworth Chapel was the site of many important meetings and events during the Civil Rights Movement. Also of historical significance is the Natchez Trace Parkway, which bypasses Jackson through Ridgeland and neighboring Madison. One of Americas oldest and most beautiful thoroughfares, the Trace was originally a trading route for American Indians and today operates under the protection of the National Park Service. Ridgeland is also home to one of Jacksons most popular recreational facilities, the Ross Barnett Reservoir. This 33,000-acre expanse of water was created by the damming of the Pearl River, and is a summertime playground for boaters, swimmers, fisherman and picnic-goers. A nearby waterpark with swimming pools and water slides is a great place to cool off kids wound up after a day of driving.

The greater portion of Jacksons metropolitan population resides in Ridgeland and neighboring suburbs to the north, including most of the regions more affluent residents. This, combined with the areas dense concentration of shopping and hotels makes the vicinity the busiest and most crowded in town. Allow plenty of time to reach destinations in Ridgeland, particularly during rush hour, weekends, and periods of heavy shopping or special events.

Mid North
North of the downtown business district is a comfortable neighborhood of residences, small businesses, and large medical facilities. In the middle of it all is scenic Millsaps College, a small liberal arts school that features perhaps the most pleasant campus in Jackson. Across the road, the towering Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium is a venue for concerts and major sporting events. This area also contains the nucleus of Jacksons thriving medical community, anchored by the enormous Baptist Medical Center on State Street, and the University of Mississippi Medical School.

Mid North is home to many museums and recreational outlets, perhaps none more utilized than the verdant expanse of LeFleurs Bluff State Park. Offering fishing, camping, and even a nine-hole public golf course, the park also houses one of the citys most cherished shrines, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Across the street, a large, state-owned complex is home to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Museum. And while you're in the neighborhood, be sure to catch a minor league baseball game at Smith-Wills Stadium, home to the Houston Astros' AA farm club, the Jackson Generals.

Farish Street
Historically significant but financially depressed in recent years, the Farish Street Historical District is comprised of roughly 60 square blocks just to the west of downtown Jackson. In the years of racial segregation that followed the Civil War, this neighborhood became the center of black culture, politics, religion and business. At its peak, Farish Street was a thriving and vibrant community, and landmarks like the Alamo Theater regularly hosted such greats as Louis Armstrong and Jackie Robinson, but the district has experienced a significant decline over the past two decades. With nearly 700 historical landmarks within its boundaries, including churches, buildings and Civil Rights shrines, the neighborhood is worth seeing, but visitors unfamiliar with the area are advised to use caution. If you visit Jackson during September, be sure to check out the Farish Street Heritage Festival, a week-long event that pays tribute to the struggles and triumphs of African-Americans in Jackson.

Outlying Areas
Much of interest lies outside the citys easily-discernable neighborhoods. Amid the lower middle class neighborhoods that stretch away to the southwest of downtown, for example, are the enormous Methodist Medical Center and Jackson State University. One of the nations premier historically-black colleges, Jackson State is home to the newly-renovated H.T. Sampson Library and historic Ayer Hall, and the JSU Tigers compete in many intercollegiate sports. Similarly-positioned to the near northwest of downtown, the Medgar Evers Home, a fittingly-subtle tribute to the soft-spoken Civil Rights martyr, sits on a quiet residential street. This part of town also features several public golf courses, the bucolic Mynelle Gardens, and the gem of the citys park system, the Jackson Zoological Park.

Due west of the Old State Capitol, you will find the sprawling greens of the Mississippi State Fairgrounds. The regular site of exhibitions, livestock shows, and of course, the State Fair, the facility also houses the Mississippi Coliseum, where large-scale conventions meet and the Jackson Bandits take to the ice to compete in East Coast League hockey.

Clinton, about eight miles to the northwest of the city center, is home to telecommunications giant Worldcom.


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