12 Things to Do with Family in Jackson, Mississippi

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Jackson is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Mississippi. Located in Central Mississippi, it plays a major role in the state’s economy and culture. Jackson offers visitors a unique mix of history, art, music and food with an undeniable Southern flair. From historic sites and fascinating museums to delicious local cuisine and family-friendly outdoor spaces, there’s something for every member of the family to enjoy in Jackson.

Spend a day exploring the museums of Smith Robertson Museum and Sports Hall of Fame or the dinosaur exhibits at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Marvel at the wide open spaces and hiking trails through the ancient forest at LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. Catch a show at Thalia Mara Hall or take in views of the city from an open air tractor ride. When you work up an appetite, dig into hearty Southern comfort food at local mainstays like Bully’s Restaurant or Walker’s Drive-In. End your night on a sweet note with homemade ice cream from Crechale’s Cafe.

With this guide covering the top 12 things to do in Jackson with kids, you’re sure to plan an amazing family getaway full of history, culture, art, and good old Southern charm.

1.Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

As themagnificent exhibits at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum attest, Jackson was at the epicenter of the civil rights movement. Learn about Mississippi’s role in shaping equality for all at this museum which contains more than 20,000 artifacts as well as 40 short films.

Walk through the museum’s extensive galleries that cover slavery, racial violence, the rise of opposition to racial segregation and discrimination. The museum does an excellent job chronicling the state’s path from a closed society to one with equal voting and education rights. Visitors also get to see detailed information on influential civil rights leaders with a connection to Mississippi like Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers as well as learn more about the state’s racist past.

Insider’s Tip: Make sure to save time for the companion Museum of Mississippi History in the same building to provide important historical context.

2.Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

Budding paleontologists are sure to love the dinosaur exhibits at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Inside visitors can check out an ancient fossilized skeleton of a 60-foot-long dinosaur known as “Baby” that was discovered locally. Kids can even play paleontologist and “excavate” their own fossils.

In addition to dinosaur remains, the museum has exhibits dedicated to rocks, minerals and fossils from the Mississippi region. Guests can also experience the DIY experiment gallery, stargaze in the planetarium and say hello to the resident raptors (birds of prey). Outside, budding biologists can explore 44 acres of nature trails and native habitats in the Heather Langdon Nature Trails.

3.Smith Robertson Museum

To immerse the family in African American heritage in Mississippi, head to Smith Robertson Museum. For almost 50 years, it has shared impactful stories of African American ingenuity and perseverance in the face of adversity. Visitors follow a timeline from pre-slavery eras through Jim Crow, the modern civil rights movement and into today.

Your family can reflect on the hard-won victories toward equality while also paying respect to influential Mississippi trailblazers. Interactive exhibits bring history to life for kids through hands-on games and visuals. The museum also offers rotating exhibits related to the African American experience as well as genealogy resources.

4.Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame

The whole family will enjoy exploring the stories of excellence at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson. As you might expect in a Southern state that takes its college “footbaw” very seriously, American football features prominently. Kids can check out Brett Favre’s first NFL touchdown pass football and Walter Payton’s Heisman Trophy.

Of course, Mississippi athletes have made their mark across all sports. Nike co-founder Phil Knight got his start as a track athlete at the University of Oregon under the tutelage of Mississippi-born track coach Bill Bowerman. Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning and Alcorn State’s Steve “Air II” McNair dominated the football record books before injuries cut their storied careers short. The museum leads visitors through the development of sports in Mississippi from the 19th century into today.

Insider’s Tip: Make sure to check out the museum’s Toyota Mississippi Legends Gallery on the second floor for biographical details on the state’s most celebrated sports heroes.

5.Mississippi Governor’s Mansion

For over 150 years, the gorgeous antebellum-style Mississippi Governor’s Mansion has hosted the state’s first families. Completed in 1842, the National Historic Landmark provides an intimate look into the lives of the state governors who have resided here over the decades. Guided tours take 45 minutes as visitors walk through the historic dwelling filled with period antiques and artifacts. Kids can play the state “First Lady” as they explore the formal dining room and entertaining spaces. Tours require advance reservations.

Insider’s Tip: Around the holidays, the Governor’s Mansion hosts special events when groups can enjoy refreshments and festive decor.

6.Thalia Mara Hall

First opened in 1968, Thalia Mara Hall has hosted legendary greats from classical stars André Watts, Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma to R&B queen Aretha Franklin, pop icon Diana Ross and comedian Robin Williams. As the largest seated theater space in Mississippi, the venue draws major Broadway musical touring productions as well.

Families can introduce kids to the performing arts by taking in a concert, play, dance or comedy event in the state-of-the-art main hall. The Fordice Community Art Gallery inside also hosts rotating visual arts exhibitions to provide inspiration for your budding actress or artist before heading home.

7.LeFleur’s Bluff State Park

Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the sprawling outdoor wonderland of LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. Just five miles from downtown, the state’s only urban state park spans 970 acres of forests, streams and marshes along the Pearl River.

Kids can burn off some energy hiking and biking the extensive trails through swamp chestnut oak and magnolia grandiflora trees draped in Spanish moss. The Discover Disc Golf Course winds through the property with kids sure to enjoy spotting (and counting) the colorful discs.

Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the park’s pavilions and nature play areas. Make sure to also save time for splashing around in the water features like the Enchanted Forest Fountain spray grounds. Families can also rent one of the park’s kayaks or canoes to paddle around the scenic oxbow lake.

8.Jackson Zoological Park

The Jackson Zoological Park features winding trails past over 200 species from across Africa, Asia and beyond. Get up close views of majestic Amur tigers and mischievous chimpanzees. Kids can burn off energy climbing on the Gorongosa Adventure Playground inspired by landscapes in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. Make sure to also stop by the zoo’s mock archaeological dig pits for hands-on fun.

Don’t miss visiting the state’s largest collection of bird species including the colorful hot pink Caribbean flamingoes. You can also check out behind-the-scenes looks at what it takes to care for these amazing creatures during twice-daily keeper chats. Feed giraffes from an elevated platform for serious Instagrammable moments with the family.

Insider’s Tip: Arrive when the zoo opens in the morning or late afternoon before closing to avoid large school tour crowds.

9.Fondren District

Fondren District first developed in the late 19th century as Jackson’s first suburb. Today the vibrant neighborhood still retains its historic charm while also emerging as the city’s hub for arts, shopping, dining and entertainment. Park the car and spend a relaxing day exploring with the family.

Grab lunch from hip eateries like Saltine followed by homemade candy shopping at JJ Brocks Candy and Fondren Fancies. Walk off your meal while checking out the colorful street murals and imaginative sculptures created by local artists.

Let the kids pick up a new book, stuffed animal or toy at local favorites like Franny Bee’s Toys or Lemuria Books. Mom and daughter can also plan a little retail therapy with clothing, gifts and accessories at boutiques like The Village Merchant.

Insider’s Tip: Time your visit in fall or spring to catch one of Fondren’s popular festivals like the Fondren Unwrapped Music and Arts Festival or the Renaissance Fondren Festival.

10.Parham Bridges Park

In the mood for outdoor adventure? Pack the family up for a day of fun at Parham Bridges Park southwest of Jackson. The massive 1,500 acre park straddles the Big Black River with plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing and paddling.

Rent kayaks, canoes or rafts from the on-site outfitters to explore 12 miles of scenic waterways dotted with swimming holes. Over ten miles of multi-use trails also wind through the park including a portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Younger kids will enjoy the enclosed playground and splash pad while teens can show off tricks on the concrete skate spots. Pack a lunch to enjoy at one of the covered picnic pavilions or grab grub from the on-site Camphouse Restaurant known for its catfish plates.

Insider’s Tip: Make sure to call ahead to reserve watercraft rentals, especially during spring and summer seasons.

11.Mississippi Children’s Museum

Even toddlers with short attention spans will enjoy exploring the engaging hands-on exhibits at the Mississippi Children’s Museum. The museum does an awesome job providing enriching play-based learning experiences focused on STEM education, literacy, health, creative expression and Mississippi heritage.

Kids can play grocery shop keeper, soar on a flight simulator, perform surgery on a teddy bear and drive a John Deere tractor. Special traveling exhibits also mean there’s always something new to discover with seasonal themes around dinosaurs, trains, space and more.

Insider’s Tip: Take advantage of free admission hours on Wednesday evenings and Sundays sponsored by BankPlus. Pack a picnic dinner to eat on the grounds too.

12.Walker’s Drive In

You can’t visit Jackson without trying some Southern hospitality flavors. For a quintessentially Mississippi dining experience, head to Walker’s Drive In, a longtime favorite for jackfish plates, hearty burgers and fried pickles.

The retro drive-in restaurant first opened its doors in the late 1940s, known for carhop service on roller skates back in the day. While you may have to walk inside to order these days, the old school vibes and hearty comfort food favorites still deliver plenty of charm.

Conclusion

From fascinating history lessons to hands-on science fun, outdoor adventure and family dining there are so many amazing ways to bond with the kids across Jackson. Use this guide to make the most of your family time exploring this vibrant Southern capital city.

Whether it’s your first time visiting the Magnolia state or you’re looking for new attractions beyond the city center, Jackson serves up rich culture, soulful food and famed Southern hospitality perfect for curious minds and memorable moments.

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