|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 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.
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 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.
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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