© Photos by Sherri Tilley
Eudora Welty, Author
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Jackson, Mississippi | City with Soul
Internationally-acclaimed American author Eudora Welty was, in many ways, the eyes and even the mouthpiece of 20th century life in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. Working in early years as a junior publicity agent, she developed a keen connection with the local community and an astute observation of human relations and daily interactions. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Optimist's Daughter along with her portfolio of affectionately-captured photographs depicting the Great Depression are among the most significant contributions to Mississippi's rich literary and historical heritage.
The authentically-intact Eudora Welty House and Garden, where the prolific author lived for nearly 80 years and wrote almost all of her fiction and essays, has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is now open to the public as a well-preserved museum. Our additional sightseeing at the State Capitol, Old Capitol Museum, First Baptist Church, and stunning Mississippi Governor's Mansion preceded a leisurely driving tour of the Greater Belhaven neighborhood, the setting that Jackson-native Kathryn Stockett referenced extensively in her best-selling book The Help which subsequently became an award-winning movie.
The Fondren arts district, a hub of artistic creativity expressed through live music and visual arts, is billed as
the hippest neighborhood in Jackson and is known for its refined nightlife and weekly entertainment. This eclectic collection of boutiques, restaurants, and local hangout venues was buzzing with excitement when we arrived just in time to hear an energetic rock tribute band performing on a large outdoor stage as part of the State Street concert series hosted by the nearby Sneaky Beans coffee shop and Rooster's restaurant.
If blues music is more your style however, follow the Mississippi Blues Trail across the state to find interpretive markers that indicate notable landmarks related to the proliferation of the genre and its influence throughout the generations. Commemorative life-sized figures of legendary musicians by artist Anne Robin Luckett are also on display upstairs at the Iron Horse Grill where visitors can view a wax representation of greats such as B. B. King, Allman Brothers drummer Jaimoe, and more.
Departing at sunrise from Dallas to Jackson, we stopped off at Another Broken Egg Cafe in Shreveport, Louisiana, for a hit-the-spot brunch plate of fried green tomatoes topped with lump crab cake, goat cheese, and creole remoulade sauce. And after walking tours around the Vicksburg Riverfront Murals, Vicksburg National Military Park, Old Courthouse, and Lower Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Center, we arrived in Jackson just in time for dinner.
The nationally-recognized Two Sister's Kitchen is a cozy homelike option for collard greens, fried okra, warm biscuits, and the hands-down best local fried chicken; while Lou's Full-Serv Neighborhood Kitchen provides a vintage-industrial atmosphere serving up southern-hearted dishes like crawfish fondue, spiced pecans, and pork chops with black-eye pea salsa. Walker's Drive-In, a longtime city staple which isn’t actually a drive-in at all, was hopping when we walked in which gave us a little time to check out the framed photograph of Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer which hangs on the wall with an inscription that reads,
I’m a Southerner that knows good food, and yours is definitely that!
While Jackson also offers fine local favorites like The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen, Parlor Market, and Char; you might also check out the Mayflower Cafe and its well-known comeback sauce, the soda fountain at Brent's Drugs where you can sip a peanut butter shake while stationed at the counter, or Deep South Pops which is interestingly an early-morning hotspot with regulars who like to dip a hand-crafted ice pop into their cup of coffee.
Our charming stay at the Old Capitol Inn, formerly home to the YWCA, was marked with warm hospitality and a casually-elegant ambience in a posh suite which featured a chic seating area, stately four-post bed, hand-painted furnishings, and Aveda bath products. A relaxing wind-down on the rooftop patio punctuated the end of a satisfyingly-entertaining evening, and fresh selections from the morning breakfast buffet were enjoyed in the serene back courtyard beside the garden fountain and koi pond.
The historic Fairview Inn, a small luxury hotel housed in a beautiful 1908 Colonial Revival mansion in the prestigious Belhaven neighborhood, additionally offers a cozy bar in its original library as well as a full-service restaurant and has played host to Hollywood celebrities such as Renee Zellweger, Greg Kinnear, and Angelina Jolie's actor father Jon Voight. For lodging in the heart of downtown, the magnificent Hilton Garden Inn, formerly the King Edward Hotel, is located within close proximity to restaurants and museums. This stunningly-beautiful iconic landmark hotel mixes Southern charm with modern luxury for an exquisite experience unmatched in the city.
Jackson residents get more than a little wacky during Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade, Mississippi's yearly celebration of Spring which has been described as a
green Mardi Gras. Whimsical passions are then quickly sparked once again during Zippity Do Dah Weekend, an annual event held in conjunction with the Sweet Potato Queens convention which benefits local charities and features fun-filled frivolity along with activities like an elaborate nighttime parade, street carnival, musical entertainment, Big Hat Brunch, and much more.
The city of Jackson, which incidentally sits atop a large dormant volcano, is bursting with talent from its deep literary roots to its current musically-inspired way of life. Three of the town's historically famous writers have been commemorated in a display of limestone statues that stand at Jackson Place downtown depicting storytellers William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Richard Wright. The headstone at Welty's gravesite in Greenwood Cemetery reflects the soul of Jackson as it is inscribed with a quote from The Optimist's Daughter which reads, "For her life, any life, she had to believe, was nothing but the continuity of its love."
Our full review of the Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited, which was driven on this 3,000-mile trip through six southern states, examines ten unique aspects of the practical yet elegant upscale sedan.
The Avalon's Hybrid Synergy Drive system combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor which allows the car to utilize either or both resources for a highly-efficient end result. The whisper-quiet car is ranked as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle, and its 40 mpg EPA-estimated combined fuel economy rating was consistent with our own fuel usage throughout this extensive trip. The 17-gallon fuel tank provides a whopping 680-mile fuel range which allowed us to travel from one major city to the next on far less than one tank of gas, thus eliminating the need to stop in small towns along the way for additional fill-ups. The multi-information display also allowed quick view of the current/average fuel economy, distance to empty, mode indicators, energy monitor, and more.
For more information about Jackson, Mississippi, please visit:
Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau