I’m going to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson
Look out Jackson town
Look out indeed, Jackson sits just 10 miles off the Trace and makes a perfect place for an overnight stop. So, we left the calm ease of driving the two-lane parkway and entered high-speed interstate traffic, carefully merging with the oncoming vehicles.
We arrived for lunch at Cultivation Food Hall. The center part of a newly renovated area called The District at Eastover. The food hall surprised and delighted us, a first of its kind in Mississippi. This food hall showcases local, chef-inspired boutique restaurants instead of chain restaurants like those in the mall food courts. We were told it acts as an incubator to help jumpstart the local restaurants and their chefs. Super idea!
|Cultivation Food Hall|
We strolled around enticed by many dishes, but finally chose the station called the Poké Stop. I ordered a custom deconstructed sushi roll, served in a poké bowl. My dish included chunks of salmon combined with Hawaiian and Japanese accents giving it a colorful flair. It tasted fresh and delicious, and the portion size exceeded what I could eat. We both loved the concept and this food hall.
|A deconstructed sushi roll from Poke Bowl.|
Afterward, we headed for the combined Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. The award-winning Civil Rights Museum, dedicated in December 2017, has become a highlighted stop on the Civil Rights Trail. I’d explored it shortly after it opened, but the place was very crowded. I looked forward to returning and getting a better look.
Good thing we gave ourselves the entire afternoon. The two attractions jointly cover 200,000 square feet and include 22,000 artifacts. As recommended, we started on the history side and found the 1800-1900s era the most interesting. Kids and grandkids will like all the interactive exhibits.
|Loved this display near the entrance to the Museum of Mississippi History.|
|Exhibit about the cotton gin in the Museum of Mississippi History.|
The Civil Rights Museum
Then, we crossed over to the state-of-the-art Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which presents compelling and painful stories. We found eight interactive galleries with striking images and displays. Seven of the galleries encircle a central space, highlighted by a sculpture called “This Little Light of Mine.” You move from the darkened galleries into the light as you work your way around the museum. The sculpture becomes brightest when the music of the Movement swells, about every 15 minutes. (The recordings were made by the Freedom Singers, reminding us of Rutha Harris whom we met and heard sing when we toured Albany in Georgia.) I found myself pulled in by the clapping, swaying and singing. This spot is genuinely uplifting, a good thing because there’s no sugarcoating of these stories. The museum tells poignant, often tearful tales.
|This Little Light of Mine Sculpture.|
A lynching tree inscribed with names bears witness to the 600 Mississippians hung in the state. Other displays include Ku Klux Klan robes, shackles, and the rifle that killed Medgar Evans. Plus, there are many informative videos set within small spaces - - for example, the back of a police wagon or a jail cell.
|Ku Klux Klan robes in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.|
The story of the Emmet Till case, narrated by Oprah Winfrey, reveals the riveting tale of a 14-year old boy beaten, shot, and then thrown in a river for whistling at a white woman shop owner.
|Historic photo in Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.|
Civil and human rights remain at the center of political and social discussion today. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum highlights stories that Americans can’t and shouldn’t forget, certainly not on a trip through the state. We were glad we included this stop on our tour.
Dining in Jackson
For dinner, we headed to Babalu, a restaurant named after the signature song of the television character Ricky Ricardo, played by Desi Arnez, on I Love Lucy. The Latin-inspired menu features tapas and tacos instead of typical southern fare. We tried their signature fresh guacamole made tableside along with the house margarita: The Baba Rita. Our review: terrific!!
|Table-side preparation of Guacamole.|
Breakfast at Brent’s Drugs the next morning turned out to be a real treat. It’s an old-fashion pharmacy/soda fountain that takes you back to childhood days. The place opened in 1946 and feels and looks like a time capsule complete with real soda jerks. No surprise, many scenes in the movie The Help were filmed there.
|Brent's Drugs in Jackson, Mississippi.|
Brent’s remains popular with all ages, and we heard that many extended families like to dine at “grandma’s old place.” Also, many children have birthday parties at Brendt’s. It wasn’t our birthday, but we decided to have a breakfast dessert- a black and white milkshake. Yummy.
|Sharing a Shake!|
|A soda jerk prepares our shake.|
Hidden in the rear of Brent’s lies The Apothecary -- the most atmospheric speakeasy-style bar ever. We wish we’d known about this earlier. Apparently, the locals like keeping it a secret.
|The Apothecary at Brent's.|
The Mississippi State Capitol
|Mississippi State Capitol Building|
In my opinion, state capitols are always worth a visit. They burst with grandeur and symbolic art. Judy and I quickly popped in for a self- tour using the visitor brochure as our guide. We loved the rotunda and both chambers, though not in session. We thought it fun to see author John Grisham’s photo on the wall (1983-90) when he was representative of the State Senate.
|Looking up at the Capitol Done.|
As we headed out of Jackson, we both remarked that the city was much more modern and fun than we expected. It is indeed a City with Soul. Glad I gave it a second chance.
Before re-entering the Natchez Trace Parkway, we stopped at the Mississippi Crafts Center in Ridgeland. The exterior presents a dull concrete look, but inside we found fine artisan arts and crafts. Plenty of gift ideas and items for the home. Worth a stop if you are that kind of thing.
|Mississippi Crafts Center|
Next stop Vicksburg.
A big thank you to the folks at Visit Jackson for hosting us.