What to Do in Jackson, Mississippi To Celebrate Your Homecoming

Celebrate Jackson, Mississippi’s Homecoming and feel the beat as the “City with Soul” moves beyond its bicentennial. Jackson boasts powerful Civil Rights monuments, terrific museums, and a delicious and diverse culinary scene. If you’re wondering what to do in Jackson, Mississippi, let the city’s homecoming festivities, historical sites, and gastronomic delights guide your exploration.

Expect one of the warmest welcomes you’ll get south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Experience the vibrant pulse of Jackson, Mississippi, with Homecoming activities that explore its place in Mississippi history. And expect to find one of the warmest welcomes you’ll get south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Jackson's historic Greyhound Bus Station was the site of many Freedom Riders events.
Jackson’s historic Greyhound Bus Station was the site of many Freedom Riders events.

My white family traveled there for the Jackson Homecoming to experience some of the 200 events that marked the city’s bicentennial in 2022. We also paid our respects to an important milestone in American history — the Great Migration of approximately 6 million Blacks from the South to find better opportunities between the Civil War and World War 2.

Many destinations, especially in the South, paint themselves woke to the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Some, like Montgomery and Jackson, began the process of reckoning with a brutal past long before 2020.

For our family, the time was right to explore the legacy of racism in one of the Blackest cities in America.

What is Jackson’s Homecoming?

Jackson Homecoming is a significant celebration that marked the 2022 bicentennial of Jackson, Mississippi. The yearlong celebration carries on, with various events, activities, and cultural experiences. It commemorates the city’s history, culture, and contributions.

Jackson’s Museum of Mississippi History / Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

Mississippi Civil Rights Museum has powerful exhibits about racial injustice.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum has very powerful exhibits about racial injustice and the Civil Rights struggle. Photo c. Ron Bozman / Springhill Productions

Jacksonians – 82% of the city’s population is African American — are the first to admit that amid much progress, there’s still work to be done. Being the state capital has provided resources to do some of that work by commemorating places in the Civil Rights struggle that are both powerful and painful. Historical plaques mark the Art Deco Greyhound bus station, where many Freedom Riders were arrested, and the Woolworth’s Lunch Counter, where student protesters were beaten.

Jackson’s most direct examination of its past is the stunning Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, adjacent to the Museum of Mississippi History. Did you know a secret Sovereignty Commission was established by Governor J.P. Coleman to block integration efforts after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision? Thousands of Sovereignty Commission documents and artifacts on display chronicle the state government’s relentless and systematic discrimination between 1956 and 1977.

The proof is staggering. Galleries, exhibits, video monitors and audio tracks, photos, and newspaper clippings shout out hate and bloodshed. The exhibit is circular, so there’s no escape. Museum docents like former Freedom Rider Hezekiah Watkins share compelling stories with school groups and visitors. It is a difficult and important experience — suitable for school-age children and their families, who will have much to discuss.

Jackson, Mississippi – Where Southern Charm Meets Resilience

Convict labor tends the gardens at the rural town recreation at the Mississippi Ag Museum.
Convict labor tends the gardens at the living history farm town recreated at the Mississippi Ag Museum. Photo by Ron Bozman / Springhill Productions

In Jackson, the struggle for social justice continues with a Southern grace that charms visitors. Expect delicious and creative Southern cooking, sweetened tea and more ‘Sirs’ and ‘Ma’ams’ than in “Gone With The Wind.”

Visitors with preconceived notions quickly see how much life has changed for Blacks in Mississippi. Two historically black universities, Jackson State (founded 1903) and Tougaloo College (1869), have long provided opportunities for students.

Like Austin, Jackson is the liberal capital of a very conservative state. Also like Austin, there’s a full calendar of events and festivals. All summer, celebrate Homecoming events and the rich musical heritage of the Mississippi Delta Blues at local venues.

Catch Juneteenth in mid-June, a Black Rodeo in July and more. Come to the annual Mississippi Book Festival to read and learn about the state’s many notable authors: William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Richard Wright among them.

Discover discount rental car deals to explore the best activities in Jackson, Mississippi.

Exploring Jackson with Younger Kids

Group of kids in a workshop at the Mississippi Childrens Museum in Jackson, Mississippi
Kids are busy at work in a maker workshop at the Mississippi Childrens Museum in Jackson. Photo c. Ron Bozman / Springhill Productions

LeFleur Bluff State Park

Start your visit to LeFleur Bluff State Park, the place for boating and camping on Lake May. The all-abilities playground is designed for visitors with disabilities to enjoy, with many structures for the mobility impaired. This park is more than a place for the kids to let off steam; it’s at the heart of the city’s LeFleur Museum District.

Mississippi Natural History Museum

Head to the Mississippi Natural History Museum, where an authentic giant dinosaur whale skeleton greets visitors. These folks take the South’s flora and fauna seriously. Encounter one of the state’s largest catfish. Ogle is a two-headed snake. Stroke a baby alligator and find out from a naturalist where it goes when it’s all grown up (which takes years.) If your family qualifies, stop into the Under-5s Room to see what museum staff work with. It’s a safe and quiet place to engage with learning toys without having big kids trample on you.

Mississippi Children’s Museum

The Mississippi Children’s Museum is another special place that joyfully serves its diverse community. Kids interact with museum staff and each other, playing at careers or the waterplay zone. An underground passage lined with rocks tells the region’s geological history. A Craft Machine resembling a junior maker studio encourages kids to create vehicles and test them on an overhead conveyor system.

The Viator site is great for discovering unusual attractions in advance of arrival and booking online sure saves time waiting in line.

Jackson Homecoming for Teens

People sit around tables at Highball Lanes, a bowling alley in Jackson, Mississippi.
Jacksonians and visitors enjoy a night out at Highball Lanes, a hip bowling alley in Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood. Photo by Ron Bozman / Springhill Productions

We stayed at the new Homewood Suites by Hilton Jackson, a convenient and affordable place at the heart of the restored Art Deco Fondren neighborhood. Young-at-heart Fondren is made for walking and playing at the High Ball Lanes Bowling Alley, a vintage movie theatre, and several fine restaurants. (Families can also stay at antebellum-style Fairview Inn, a colonnaded luxury bed and breakfast, for its classic Southern ambiance.)

The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame delights teens and sports fans of any age. If you follow baseball, learn more about Mississippian Jake Gibbs. Football fans get a thorough introduction to the careers of superstars Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and Brett Favre. Archie Manning (father of Eli and Peyton) is featured among many others. Roam the MS Legends Locker Room and learn about the color barrier that Black athletes face in the major leagues.

Then it’s off to Sal & Mookies New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint nearby for a fun lunch.

Come Home to Jackson Through its Museums

Works from the Great Migration show at the Mississippi Museum of Art
Works from the Great Migration show at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi.

The Mississippi Museum of Art features the work of artists ranging from Blacks who left the South to local artists to Picasso and others. Exhibits are well-labeled and small enough for even young artists to appreciate.

Study the sequins and quilting adorning photographic shadows of her ancestors by Akea Brionne. Robert Pruitt’s “A Song for Travelers” mural and Zoe Charlton’s playful 3D set of modern planes flying over a long ago town will intrigue kids. 

Explore the restored crossroads town, living history farm and educational displays at the Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum. Learn about King Cotton — the crop that made Southern plantation owners so wealthy was the real cause of the Civil War. The Ag Museum doesn’t highlight that enslaved people were crucial to cotton production. We did learn, however, that when jobs were considered too dangerous for slaves, plantation owners brought in Irish immigrants whose lives were less valuable on the open market. 

Jackson, Mississippi Homecoming: A Journey Through Civil Rights

Reproduction of the counter and three protesters who staged the sit in at Woolworth's lunch counter
Artistic reproduction of the sit in at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Ron Bozman / Springhill Productions

In Jackson, Mississippi, many businesses are run by Blacks who chose not to migrate. Resources are allocated to studying and revitalizing local monuments, several of which are on the National Civil Rights Trail. The Farish Street Neighborhood Historic District comes alive each September when the spotlight shines on the city’s former center of Black culture, commerce, and nightlife.

The Smith Robertson Museum, the first schoolhouse for children of color in 1894, now honors the city’s Black history and culture with exhibits that all ages appreciate. Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers Home, now a National Park Service monument, is awaiting restoration. A Visitors Center is planned in the Elraine subdivision, one of the earliest planned communities for people of color.

Young couples and families live in new condos at The District at Eastover, the site of the state’s first Food Hall. Drop in for the community parties each Thursday. Follow up with very good Southern Creole fusion – onion rings, grilled fish and mashed potatoes, bread pudding, at Lou’s Full Serv nearby.

Get the best rates on the top Rental Car brands at Priceline and explore the region.

Jackson Eats: More Than Just Southern Cooking

Two women eat fried chicken in takeout containers at restaurant table at Bully's
Scarfing down the fried chicken, yams and greens at Bully’s in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo c. Ron Bozman / Springhill Productions

Because my husband is from a Texas farm family, we are very selective about Southern cooking. That’s why the stop at Sugar’s Downtown for fried chicken, waffles, and ridiculously pink Kool-aid was such a treat.

Get even more deep South at Bully’s. One of the James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classics, Bully’s, serves “quality food that reflects the character of their community.” At this roadside stop, join locals enjoying oxtails, neckbones, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and Southern sides like black-eyed peas

Locals love Brent’s Drugs, a ca. 1946 soda fountain and diner in Fondren. Dive into their famous pancakes. Even better, steel yourselves for a biscuit sandwich. Locals spread fruit jelly (never butter!) on both biscuit halves before enclosing fried eggs, grilled ham, cheese, sausage gravy, and more. Come after dark when Apothecary, the speakeasy in back, opens to the public.

Walker’s Drive-in, also, in the Fondren neighborhood, features steak, po’boy sandwiches and lunch plates from $11 with a drink and all the fixin’s.

The Literary Legacy of Jackson, Mississippi

Outside the Margaret Alexander Walker Center at Jackson State University.
Outside the Margaret Alexander Walker Center at Jackson State University.

Jackson’s literacy legacy, like its sports, is outsized compared to its population. Noted hometown authors include Eudora Welty (author of “One Writer’s Beginnings”), Dr. Margaret Alexander Walker (Black poet and professor at Jackson State University), and Richard Wright (Black author of “Native Son.”)

Their work and that of other Mississippi authors is celebrated full-time at the famous Lemuria Bookstore. Founded by John Evans in 1975, Lemuria is still a beacon for book lovers and collectors worldwide.

Our family was fascinated by where Jackson had started and what the city had become. We asked Evans who had played a role in Jackson’s social justice evolution. We know that in 1963 Medgar Evers was murdered because of his work as NAACP field secretary. It took three trials in Mississippi over a 30-year period to convict white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith. The case garnered tremendous publicity. Had Eudora Welty, perhaps the city’s most famous white woman, lent her prestige to the cause of justice?

“As far as Miss Welty’s participation in the Civil Rights Movement, I don’t think that public protests would have been part of her character,” Evans said. Evans noted, however, that Ms. Welty wrote a compelling short story, “Where Is the Voice Coming from?” about Beckwith, published in The New Yorker after Evers’ assassination.

Lauren Rhodes, former director of the Eudora Welty House & Garden, adds, “’ Where Is the Voice Coming from?’ is Welty’s response to the horror of Evers’ murder and a clear stand in solidarity with the Civil Rights Movement.”

Prepare for Your Jackson Homecoming

John Evans, owner of Lemuria Books, poses in his famous bookstore
John Evans, owner of Lemuria Books, poses in his famous Jackson bookstore. Photo by Ron Bozman / Springhill Productions

Evans says reading Eudora Welty’s “Collected Stories” best explains Jackson’s tumultuous history. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s museum home remains one of Jackson’s most popular tourist attractions.

Evans added that Ms. Welty did a book signing at Lemuria with poet Dr. Margaret Alexander Walker. “Welty also gave a reading to Millsaps College’s first integrated audience in 1963,” Rhodes notes. “Miss Walker and Ms. Welty actually became friends and used to refer to their public appearances as their sister act.”

Visit Jackson Mississippi: Why and Why Now

Travel provides countless teachable moments, and Jackson is full of them. It’s more than a fun city filled with family attractions, great meals, and Southern culture. It’s a city with a soul forged by struggle, overcoming, and joy.

Some families see travel as the path to raising global citizens. If travel helps our children realize the great need for change, then Jackson, Mississippi, is a place that showcases what change can mean.

And Some Homework

Thanks to John Evans of Lemuria Books for his recommended readings about Jackson, the Great Migration, and growing up in the South. All of Evans’ reading suggestions may be ordered through the Lemuria website. For more information about what to do in Jackson Mississippi’s Homecoming, see VisitJackson.com or call 800/354-7695.


When does Jackson Homecoming take place?

The first Jackson Homecoming took place during the bicentennial year of the city. In 2022, it celebrated Jackson’s 200th birthday, but specific dates may vary for future events.

What are the must-visit attractions in Jackson for families?

Families should consider visiting the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, Mississippi Children’s Museum, and LeFleur Bluff State Park. These attractions offer educational and entertaining experiences for all ages.

Jackson offers a diverse culinary scene. Try Southern classics at Sugar’s Downtown, Bully’s, Brent’s Drugs, and Walker’s Drive-in. Explore local eateries for authentic Southern flavors.

Are there special events for teens during Jackson Homecoming?

Yes, teens can enjoy the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and various live music events throughout the city. Be sure to check the event calendar for specific teen-friendly activities.

Discover Jackson: Where History Becomes Heartwarming Memories!

As we bid adieu to Jackson, Mississippi, let’s not forget the incredible journey we’ve embarked on. From delving into the city’s poignant Civil Rights history to indulging in its warm Southern hospitality, Jackson has woven itself into the tapestry of our memories.

History becomes heartwarming here, and every moment leaves an indelible mark. So, as you leave Jackson behind, carry with you not just its stories but the warmth of its people, the flavors of its cuisine, and the echoes of its past. Until we meet again on the road of exploration, let Jackson’s spirit stay alive in your heart, reminding you that adventure and insight are always waiting around the corner. Safe travels!

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