We weren’t sure what to expect from our family getaway to Jackson Mississippi.
We didn’t know too much about it, except that it was the birthplace of blues and had a checkered history with the Civil Rights Movement.
When we organized to visit in partnership with Visit Jackson CVB to showcase the family fun, I couldn’t stop singing the Johnny Cash lyrics,
“I’m going to Jackson”
And then I googled it and found out it wasn’t written about Jackson Mississippi at all, but Jackson in Nashville.
Seemed like I had a lot to learn!
I wasn’t sure what we’d uncover, but I love arriving in a destination without any expectations.
You tend to arrive with a more open and curious heart and leave with plenty of memories of unexpected surprises.
Jackson was full of surprises and memorable moments.
We did discover why Jackson is known as the City With Soul and has everything required for a happy family getaway – interesting attractions, delicious food, and plenty of soulful entertainment.
Here’s why we think Jackson is a great family getaway.
1. An Educational Experience
Families are beginning to see travel as a way to provide valuable educational opportunities for their children.
Children learn best from real life experiences they can engage and interact with. The more fun and relatable it is, the faster they will learn.
I know this from years of experience as a teacher, and now as a homeschooling mum who has slowly unwound from a strict homeschool curriculum to more of an unschooling approach.
Both the girls are thriving with little teacher led instruction. That’s a yippee from me!
It means we have more time to travel and have fun together.
Jackson, Mississippi was full of engaging and interactive museums and opportunities to learn.
I’ll split some of them into more specific categories, but all of them could fit under this reason that makes Jackson a great getaway for families.
Now the girls are becoming more involved in our travel blog, they are fascinated with words and productions.
They both said learning about old ways of printing at the Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Museum was their favorite part, and that blogging makes it so easy to share your words!
They discovered just how heavy those printing machines are.
Museum of Mississippi History captured the girls attention and enthusiasm, with their interactive exhibits sharing the stories from hear stories from the people who shaped Mississippi.
They loved going into the video room to record their own personal stories and thoughts on Mississippi. And they were able to write a postcard which the Museum sends for you.
Not sure if they will send it to Australia, but we popped it in the box anyway.
The girls will never forget the two-headed snake they saw at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. They felt like they had just walked into Voldemort’s Den.
I will also never forget the creepy fascination of it. In over 20 years of travel, I’ve never quite seen anything like it.
As our tagline says, “Travel More. Create Better Memories.”
2. A place to appreciate art, create and play
The artwork at the Jackson Mississippi Museum of Art was exceptional.
You rarely see art museums on this blog as we aren’t passionate about it and usually find them boring. To be honest we were expecting the same but were completely surprised.
It’s a very inviting space that feels very welcoming to children, especially with the family corners set up throughout the galleries where kids can play with objects, read picture books, create artworks and reflect.
The museum tells the Mississippi story and is organized into time periods.
Each section has which had older pieces and then a more modern piece interpreting the story from that time. It made the displays fresh and interesting.
I loved the art appreciation lesson my girls got with our two college students from the Teaching Fellows program.
They helped them to see how to look at a piece of art and use their observational skills to discover what it was trying to tell you and to draw out what they saw and liked.
The incredible Haitian Postcard painting offered an interactive section with questions that helped the girls (and myself) find more things in the painting that told the story of slavery.
As we had learned so much of the Civil Rights history on this Deep South trip, I loved that there was a Civil Rights section which the girls could easily connect to.
My favorite piece was Red April which was created to depict the assassination of MLK and the emotions behind it.
I love this picture of our girls reflecting upon it.
I was so grateful they had this experience, as I am not particularly artistic so am not the best person to enrich their artistic souls.
It’s not just the Art Museum that opened up the way for creative paly for my girls, but the incredible Mississippi Children’s Museum, which was the best we have been to so far in the US (and we’ve been to a lot).
The Express Yourself Gallery is where the girls had a ball making spinning art with paint, twirling and flipping in the dance studio, and playing with instruments and recording songs in the music room.
Okay, so maybe I hogged the microphone and karaoked just a little bit.
And how could kids not love a play area designed like the gastrointestinal system and farts as you run through it?
Just another memory of Jackson they won’t forget in a hurry.
Visually, it’s bright and colorful and conducive to play.
For sport loving families, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum gives you a place to bond over your heroes and have a space for a few cartwheels and games in the interactive baseball/basketball arena.
Some of the most famous NFL Footballers of all time hail from Mississippi; Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Brett Fave and Archie Manning.
I want my girls to be aware of their privilege and to learn how they can use it to create a better world.
I want them to grow up as tolerant, compassionate, strong empowered women. We seek out these experiences when we travel so they know they’re here not just for themselves alone.
We spent time at the new and very sobering Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.
The eight galleries focus on the years 1945–1976 when Mississippi was ground zero for the national Civil Rights Movement.
The galleries encircle a central space called “This Little Light of Mine.”
A dramatic sculpture hangs from the ceiling and glows brighter as inspiring music such as “This little light of mine” and “We shall overcome” plays.
It’s a good space to sit and reflect, especially if you need a dose of hope.
The kids (and you) may need to take a break in here as the story shown within the museum is heartbreaking.
I recommend working with your child, in the final exhibition, to create their statement for what they promise to stand for. They can write on the computer to be projected onto the walls.
We continued the story by visiting the home of Medgar Evers, a prominent Civil Rights Activist.
I’ll never forget the look on Kalyra’s face as she sat on the floor in his home listening to our guide, Minnie, share his story and the dangers he and his family faced in Jackson.
She hung off every word with a look of confusion and shock, especially when her eyes traced the path of the bullet that killed Medgar in his driveway.
It went right by her head into the kitchen.
I was a bit worried it may have been too traumatic for her, but she handled it well and we were able to talk about the position of privilege that she experiences now is a result of the sacrifices of many that went before her.
These are experiences and lessons that cannot be absorbed through a text book or teacher lectures in school.
It’s vital that our children are given opportunities when we travel to see how the world has grown and evolved and to know they play a role in continuing that today.
They are our future, it’s up to us as parents to nurture in them that sense of service for the greater good.
Travel is more than just about the number of like on an Instagram memory.
4. An opportunity to connect to the language of the soul
Jackson is the birthplace of the Blues and the City of Soul.
And while Johnny Cash may not have written his famous song about this city, there are plenty of other great musicians adding the depth of its musical soul blueprint.
And yes, once again, we’re happy to prove that you can go to music venues with kids.
Blue Monday, hosted by the Central MS Blues Society, Inc. at Hal and Mal’s is an iconic tradition in Jackson.
Their regular blues band plays a set of about five songs before calling up people from the audience to come jam with them.
We’re normally not huge blues fans, but we thoroughly enjoyed this evening.
The music was incredible, the location small and intimidate, and everyone was relaxed, friendly and having a wonderful time.
There are plenty of options to appreciate music over meals, like the Sunday Brunch we had at the Iron Horse Grill.
And the BBQ and Blues event at the Cathead Distillery.
Not only will the kids love the music in a relaxed, family friendly atmosphere, but the giant games of Jenga, Connect Four and cornhole!
The girls have now put in a request for a guitar after an exciting half hour guitar lesson with Patrick at Fondren Guitars, where they learned a few riffs with the bluesy E chord.
I love travel experiences that introduce them to new hobbies and passions and keeps them connected to real life experiences instead of a world governed by devices and highlight reels.
5. Soulful Food to remember
We’re usually wary of food traveling in the South as it has a reputation for fried food and a BBQ. Being gluten intolerant this brings out a bit of trepidation.
The food in Jackson was incredible.
We had some of the best meals so far on our road trip across the country.
You can still get some of that great southern cooking (some of which has won James Beard awards) but you can also get more modern twists on southern food.
You can read more about some of those dishes in our post on things to do in Jackson with kids coming soon!
Parents, know you will be satisfied.
For now, let’s focus on the food the kids will remember, because we all know unhappy hungry children is a recipe for a completely disastrous family getaway.
Okay so you know I’m talking about ice cream here. What else right?!
What about hot choc sundaes and Nutella milkshakes?
Yeah, it took me five minutes to decide which one too. Good thing families who share together stay together.
Brent’s Soda Fountain has been dishing up ice cream and milkshakes since 1946. You may recognize its charming turquoise mid-century decor from the movie, The Help.
It’s also one of the friendliest places for families in Jackson and still has the old style communal gathering place vibe.
But, wait. There are healthy ice cream choices in Jackson as well.
Head to Deep South Pops for some healthy, hand crafted popsicles.
The flavors change regularly, whose yumminess includes chocolate avocado cake, Strawberry lemonade, and pineapple coconut cream.
Oh, and parents you can drop your pop into a beer that complements its flavor too.
Yep, it’s a Jackson Mississippi thing! I just wish I could have given it a go.
There are plenty of bakeries as well.
The girls gave a double thumbs up to the gigantic cinnamon rolls at Broad Street Bakery and the cupcakes and Mississippi shaped teacakes at Campbell’s Bakery, where they also had a cake decorating lesson.
They now have permission to take over my kitchen and have baked a few treats since returning from Jackson.
Keep it up girls!
6. A restful place for your soul
If you are visiting a City With Soul, you definitely want to stay in a place that is restful for the soul.
For a fantastic family friendly place to stay in Jackson Mississippi, don’t look past the Westin Hotel.
The Westin Jackson MS is only 8 months old and has a central location near many of the attractions. The girls can be harsh accommodation critics, but they loved the comfort and style of this hotel in Jackson.
I loved the amenities of the hotel, in particular, the well-stocked and spacious fitness center, providing me with everything to keep up my fitness routine.
There is an indoor pool as well that the girls enjoyed swimming in.
There is a notable restaurant, Estelle Wine Bar & Bistro.
I recommend starting the day in the right way with a delicious cast iron frittata with sausage, Tomatoes, Shiitake Mushrooms, Cheddar Cheese for breakfast.
Here’s something especially cool that can only happen in Jackson. Depending on your room package, you can take one of the gorgeous guitars on display up to your room for a jamming session.
How amazing is that?
And then there is the Soul Spa (open to the public as well).
The girls enjoyed a little giggling pampering pedicure, accompanied by ticklish feet. (I kinda loved my facial and massage too. The quality and restorative treatment and service was exceptional. The best I have had in a very long time)
There is no family getaway complete without some relaxation and indulgence. It’s all about balance after all and your soul wants you to look after its temple.
I guess what I really loved about my family getaway to Jackson Mississippi is that it is a destination that can help enrich and evolve my girls’ souls.
It helped contribute to the development of their whole self and has given them something more than just pretty scenery, adventures and yummy ice cream.
A rewarding and fulfilling life requires these things, but also so much more than that.
Dive deep and seek out the soul on your travels.
Jackson, the City with Soul, has plenty of it, for you and the kids. It’s worthy of being the lyrics of a Johnny Cash song.
While planning your trip to Jackson with kids, make sure you check out the Docuseries created by Visit Jackson for some great ideas.
It’s a six-part series hosted by comedian Rita Brent.
As we visited in winter, we didn’t focus on the vast array of outdoor activities you can do.
Next on a visit to Jackson, MS will be the State Park and the petrified forest for some kayaking, biking and hiking adventures.