With an array of big-city amenities, Jackson maintains a delightful sense of small-town Southern charm.
You might say that Jackson is Mississippi in microcosm. This self-proclaimed “city with soul” celebrates both the state’s past and its present with zeal, from the gracious Southern homes to the deeply rooted blues culture and prolific arts scene. On the cusp of an urban renaissance, Jackson is dedicated to preserving Mississippi’s multilayered history while forging a fresh and sassy new spirit.
Deborah Bryant, Mississippi’s First Lady and a native of west Jackson, has enjoyed a ringside seat for the city’s evolution. Although she doesn’t recall touring the Governor’s Mansion as a child—and certainly never dreamed she’d one day live there—it has been a constant presence through the decades, figuring prominently in key memories. “I learned to parallel park in front of the mansion—it was a little intimidating,” Deborah says with a laugh.
She was equally intimidated during her first visits to the house when her husband, Governor Phil Bryant, was rising through the political ranks. As First Lady, she has made it a priority to put guests at ease as soon as they step through the door. “I want everyone to feel like they can come up and just talk to us, and they do,” she says. “It was important to make people feel at home, especially in the people’s home.”
Improving the mansion has been a pillar of the Bryants’ tenure. “It’s the responsibility of the [current] family to leave it better than you found it,” Deborah says. At the time they moved in, recurrent ductwork and plumbing issues had taken their toll, and the 1842 structure looked every year of its age. Thanks to donations, along with the help of son Patrick, an interior designer, Deborah and Phil have restored the house to its full magnificence. Deborah urges locals and visitors alike to stop by and see the changes, and she delights in giving them a top-to-bottom tour, from the upstairs bedrooms to the garden where the Bryants’ grandson celebrated his first birthday.
Still, there’s one vantage point that belongs to the Bryants alone. On the night of the “blood moon” in 2015, Deborah crept out to the rooftop to snap photos of the spectacle and marvel at the sweep of city lights below. “I saw the entire city at night— that was so surreal,” she says. “The area is so beautiful.” Read more of our chat with First Lady Deborah Bryant.
Nowhere does Jackson’s allure shine brighter than in the charming, historic Belhaven neighborhood, an ideal home base for exploring the city. The Fairview Inn, a 1908 Colonial Revival mansion steeped in luxury and storied charm, is among the cream of the area’s accommodations. Nearby sits the Eudora Welty House, a National Historic Landmark where the famed Southern author lived for more than 70 years. The Tudor Revival–style dwelling remains just as Welty left it, right down to the typewriter on her desk and the toiletries on her dresser. Literary buffs also won’t want to miss the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University, named for author and professor Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander and dedicated to preserving African-American history and culture.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, indulge in a seafood feast at the venerable Mayflower Cafe downtown, one of Welty’s favorite haunts—it’s where Mississippi Comeback Sauce, the local answer to remoulade, was invented. Or if you fancy fried chicken, you can’t do better than Two Sister’s Kitchen, which dishes up meat-and-three classics in a historic home. Both eateries are a stone’s throw from the Mississippi State Capitol building, as well as the copper-domed Old Capitol Museum, a room-by-room walk through the state’s vibrant history.
North Jackson’s arts district, the Fondren neighborhood, is also well worth visiting. Once an independent suburb, it has sustained its own singular appeal. Delve into Mississippi’s rich literary tradition at Lemuria Books, a trilevel expanse that offers volumes to suit all tastes and ages. Fondren includes some of Jackson’s most diverse dining as well, from Thai to tapas. And before heading out of town, be sure to stop at Nandy’s Candy for a handmade chocolate confection or two—a sweet reminder of your sojourn in this winsome Southern city.
At the Eudora Welty House, the author’s vast book collection and other personal effects remain in their original spots. The Mississippi Museum of Art features a diverse collection of works by American artists, including such notables as Walker Evans and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Late spring and early summer are optimal times to enjoy the lush blooms at Mynelle Gardens, a horticultural gem in west Jackson. Tour one of the city’s oldest dwellings at the 1850s Oaks House Museum, once home to Jackson mayor James Hervey Boyd and his family.
Bravo! is the place to go in Jackson for Italian favorites; Walker’s Drive-In, part of the Fondren arts district, offers global-inspired Southern cuisine. Stop by Brent’s Drugs, a local institution since 1946, for a soul-warming breakfast or a thick and creamy milkshake. At CAET wine bar, small plates keep company with a well-curated list of vino.
Even the youngest guests can’t resist a frozen treat from Deep South Pops, which offers flavors as classic and comforting as Orange Vanilla and as innovative as Buttermilk with Mango Sriracha. The fried chicken and Southern vegetable standbys at Two Sister’s Kitchen draw a crowd, as do the oven-fresh goodies, tempting salads, and hearty sandwiches at Broad Street Baking Company and Café.
Right in the heart of downtown Jackson, the boutique Old Capitol Inn is just a few minutes’ walk from the Old Capitol Museum and the State Capitol. Its crowning glory is the rooftop garden, which offers lovely views over the city. The gracious front porch at Fairview Inn, a bed-and-breakfast housed in a 1908 mansion in the elegant Belhaven neighborhood, beckons guests to sit and savor the sweet Mississippi air. Choose from the inn’s 17 guest rooms and suites, each uniquely and lavishly decorated along a particular theme.
Bookworms of all stripes will adore Lemuria Books, a treasure trove of volumes ranging from classic children’s works to signed first editions by William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Eudora Welty, and more. Well-chosen antiques and an ever-changing selection of home décor accessories spill from every corner at Interiors Market. Browse one-of-a-kind clothing and gifts, jewelry, baby items, and notions at BellaChes.
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