Summer brings lots of wonderful things: sunshine, beach trips, water skiing, and extra time with the kids. Eat Jackson wants to help you fill in some of that time with enriching experiences and wonderful memories — all without having to leave town. We’ve compiled a fun list of family-friendly things to do and where you should eat when you visit these local attractions.
Mississippi Museum of Art
Our Mississippi Museum of Art is one of the most impressive assets of our Capital City. The new grounds are beautiful and function as everything from a wedding venue to an outdoor movie theatre. The museum has several visiting and permanent exhibits, some of which are free to the public. The summer also brings a full itinerary to the art museum’s calendar including art classes for parents and kids.
We recommend capping off a fun time at the museum with lunch at Rooster’s in Fondren, where they definitely serve some of Jackson’s best burgers. While you’re in the Fondren Corner building, swing by La Brioche for some of their edible art in the form of homemade macaroons or gelato — the perfect accent to a day at the museum.
Admission to the featured exhibits at the Mississippi Museum of Art changes with each exhibit. Senior and student discounts are available. Children under five are free. You can find more information at msmuseumart.org. The museum is located at 380 S. Lamar Street in downtown Jackson, and you can reach them by phone at 601.960.1515.
Mississippi Children’s Museum
The Mississippi Children’s Museum has been one of my kids’ favorite destinations since it opened a few years ago. It features an ever-growing list of exhibits that are interactive and fun. Their current exhibit, Curious George™: Let’s Get Curious! runs through September 20. The splash pad out front is open all summer, and a variety of regular programming and summer camps are available all summer long.
The little ones can work up quite an appetite with all of the play areas available. One of our favorite places to go after a morning at the Mississippi Children’s Museum is Brent’s Drugs in Fondren. The historic throwback diner is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. We recommend one of their handmade shakes and a burger before going home for a solid afternoon nap!
Admission to the Mississippi Children’s Museum is $10. Children under one year are free. This terrific attraction is located conveniently at 2145 Museum Blvd right next to Lefleur’s Bluff State Park in Jackson. You can reach them by phone at 601.981.5469 or find out more information about events and classes at mschildrensmuseum.org.
Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum
The Ag Museum, as we locals call it, offers an amazing experience for little kids and big kids alike. The interactive Liberty Garden teaches kids about how plants grow, conservation and responsible farming. The expansive museum property includes a Nature Trail, Small-Town Mississippi Exhibit, a Barnyard and Livestock Exhibit, a Train Exhibit, and other collections as well. We can just about guarantee that kids of all ages – from 2 to 92 – will learn and enjoy their experience at this extraordinary interactive property.
George’s Museum Café uses some of the vegetables grown on the museum grounds and appropriately owns its reputation as one of Jackson’s best southern buffet lunches. After a long day at the museum – and this is a place where hours of fun await – and a lunch break at George’s, we recommend a quick hop, skip and jump (in your car) down Riverside Drive to enjoy a cooldown at Deep South Pops. Mom and Dad will especially appreciate the popscicles paired with coffee or beer.
The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum is located at 1150 Lakeland Drive in Jackson. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for children, seniors and military personnel. Children under three are free. Find out more info by visiting them on the web at msagmuseum.org or give them a call at 601.432.4500.
Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
People of every age will find something of interest at the Sports Hall of Fame, whether it’s an interactive visit to The Participatory Room (how hard can you throw a baseball, kick a soccer ball, or hit a golf ball?) or a stroll through the Dizzy Dean Museum.
Just a short drive from the Sports Museum is The Pig and Pint in Fondren. This award-winning BBQ restaurant serves up all your barbecue favorites, including ribs, barbecue chicken, pulled pork and more Southern favorites.
Admission into the Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is $5 for adults 18 years and older. Seniors, students, and military are $3.50. Children five and under are free. The Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 1152 Lakeland Drive in Jackson, adjacent to the Ag Museum. Find out more info by visiting them on the web msfame.com or give them a call at 601-982-8264.
The Jackson Zoo is always a memorable visit for parents and kids alike. Boasting new areas like the Discovery Zoo Contact Yard and the Splash Pad where kids can cool off and play, there has never been a better time to visit our local zoo. If you have a dinosaur lover in the family, you definitely don’t want to miss the fifteen lifelike animatronic dinosaurs on display until July 9th.
After spending time with the animals, we recommend taking your little animals to Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint, located in the bright yellow building in Fondren for some of Jackson’s best pizza – big enough to feed the entire crew! Plus, don’t leave without a trip to the old-fashioned ice cream counter where kids can sample and order all by themselves!
Admission to the Jackson Zoo is $12.25 for adults, $11.25 for seniors, and $9.25 for kids age 2-12. Children under two are free. Advance tickets can be purchased through their website. Check them out on the web at jacksonzoo.org or give them a call 601.352.2580. The Jackson Zoo is located at 2918 W. Capitol Street in Jackson.
Old Capitol Museum
Contrary to popular belief (well – belief among many kids that are out of school for the summer!), history can be fun. So fun, in fact, that your kids may not even realize that they’re actually learning something. Explore a true gem –a place where Mississippi history happened: The Old Capitol Museum. Built in 1839, the Old Capitol still stands in downtown Jackson, now as a museum. This building where some of the most significant and notorious legislative actions took place. Interactive multimedia exhibits in the museum explore the roles of the legislature, governor, and high court, as well as the importance of historic preservation to the state of Mississippi.
Not only is the history remarkable, but the architecture and restoration is worth a visit. The Old Capitol is a National Historic Landmark and one of the country’s premier examples of Greek Revival public architecture with its limestone exterior, copper dome, and extraordinary interior. Tours are free to the public and are offered Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Keep the history lesson rolling and stop in for a bite at The Mayflower Café. For nearly 80 years, the Mayflower has served Jackson’s favorite seafood. We recommend starting with the oysters. They’re famous, they’re basic, and they’re delicious. Then, try the simple and straightforward redfish or the soft shell crab, fried or broiled. The atmosphere and service are classic and unassuming, allowing the food to be the real showstopper.
Russell C. Davis Planetarium
The Russell C. Davis Planetarium on Pascagoula Street in downtown Jackson is a little known jewel. Take the kids to get a taste of space with giant stars, glowing planets and distant galaxies showcased on the center’s giant wraparound screen. A Jackson attraction for over 25 years, the Planetarium is perfect for any age visitor. The Davis Planetarium is actually one of the largest in the South, and will leave you starry eyed and dreaming of the great beyond.
After you indulge in some astronomy, indulge in a downtown dining institution, Keifer’s. You may be familiar with the big porch at the Belhaven Keifer’s hub, but the downtown Jackson location is not to be missed, either. Since 1981, Keifer’s has been the go-to downtown lunch spot with made-to-order sandwiches and the best (trust us) curly fries around. Grab a gyro, a side of hummus or a pita mozzarella for the kids. Don’t forget the feta dressing; nowhere else does it quite the same.
The Simmons Arboretum
The Simmons Arboretum in Madison is nestled at the end of St. Augustine Drive, and makes for a lovely morning of exploring. For 20 years, residents and visitors alike have been able to enjoy this ten-acre arboretum and its walking trails, native wildlife and plants. Here you’ll find small, rolling hills, wetlands and a sunken road, which is speculated by Natchez Trace officials to be a part of the original Trace road system. It is the perfect place for a hike and day of exploration.
After exploring up an appetite, explore a little Mississippi cuisine just down the road at Mama Hamil’s. You and your family can get fried chicken any day of the week, along with turnip greens, mashed potatoes and black eyed peas (among other Southern staples) on the always busy lunch buffet, for just under $10.
The Natchez Trace
The west shore of the Ross Barnett Reservoir is bordered by the Natchez Trace, which runs 444 miles from Natchez to Nashville. Here, you can go hiking, biking, or even camping. The National Park Service has created the Natchez Trace multi-use trail, which connects with either end of the City of Ridgeland’s multi-use biking and hiking path. Bring a Frisbee or some good reading material and a blanket. It’s a great local option for enjoying a beautiful day and enjoying the lovely landscape that our area offers.
You can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the Reservoir Outlook at milepost 105.6 on the Trace. However, if you prefer to cool off at someplace air-conditioned, check out The Trace Grill in Ridgeland. Grab a juicy burger, a BLT, or a hot dog and don’t forget to top off your meal with a summer classic, blackberry cobbler, hearkening back to summer days gone by.
You don’t need a beach to enjoy a good read. Lemuria Books in Banner Hall is a great place to find a book that will take you to someplace far and away. For 38 years later, Lemuria Books has been much more than a bookstore. It’s a beloved destination for literature lovers throughout the city and beyond. The cozy space offers everything from easy summer reads to New York Times Bestsellers to the classics. Nestle into one of the plush green velvet couches and get whisked away to a different time and place. Plus, Lemuria can help guarantee that your little ones won’t get rusty with their reading this summer. Lemuria’s children’s section is whimsical and intriguing, a delight for kids and their parents.
After a morning with your nose in a book, you’ll soon be craving food in your belly. So stay at Banner Hall, and just take a little jaunt downstairs from Lemuria to another Jackson institution, Broad Street Bakery & Café, for lunch. There is something for everyone at Broad Street — from sandwiches, homemade quiches, salads, and yummy baked goods.
Shiloh Splash Park
Cool off with the kids at Shiloh Splash Park in Brandon. Shiloh Splash Park is a zero depth spray park featuring a mushroom, spray rings, ground geysers, butterfly falls, palm trees, water cannons and the froggy slide. The main attraction is a a 50-gallon water bucket that randomly tips and soaks all who happen to be around, resulting in delighted squeals from water logged kids.
Soaking up all that sun is sure to leave you hungry. Afterwards, head over to Heart and Soul Diner. This family friendly restaurant serves plate lunches along with sandwiches and po’ boys.
Shiloh Splash Park is located at 324 Shiloh Road in Brandon. Admission is only $5. Visit www.cityofbrandon.net for more information.