Mississippi Road Trip: Jackson Rhythm & Blues Festival
Every summer, music fans come to the Jackson Rhythm and Blues Festival to experience soul, blues and R&B in heart of the Birthplace of America’s Music. Ludacris and Fantasia alongside Mississippi’s own GRAMMY Award® winner Bobby Rush will headline the 2017 festival at the Jackson Convention Complex. While you’re in town, follow this itinerary or make your own to discover the unique cultural flavor of Jackson.
Grab lunch at the Big Apple Inn on historic Farish Street, where you can order unique “smokes,” or smoked sausage sliders, and the other specialty, pig-ear sandwiches served with slaw, mustard and hot sauce (featured in this Travel Channel video). According to fourth-generation owner Geno Lee, civil rights activist Medgar Evers kept an office upstairs and held meetings in the restaurant. Visit the Alamo Theater and Dorothy Moore Blues Trail marker while you’re in the neighborhood.
Next, go to the place where many of Jackson’s blues and soul musicians put their signature sounds on wax, the Malaco Records Studios on Northside Drive. Artists from hill-country great Fred McDowell to Little Milton, Bobby Rush, the Pointer Sisters and even Paul Simon got the Malaco touch over the years. A new generation of blues, gospel and Americana artists carry the torch today. Call the studio at 601-982-4522 to schedule a tour.
Hal & Mal’s is a great spot to get ready for the opening night of the Jackson Rhythm & Blues Festival. This restaurant and live music venue with a funky diner vibe boasts a New Orleans-meets-Mississippi menu with award-winning gumbo, the Decatur Street muffaletta and an array of libations.
When the festival opens at 6 p.m. at the Jackson Convention Complex, you’ll have your pick of blues, soul, R&B and more, including sets from Bobby Rush, hip-hop legend Doug E. Fresh and hitmaker Ludacris.
Start your day by exploring Jackson attractions such as the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science or the Mississippi Museum of Art to learn about the ecological diversity and creative history of the state.
Venture to the Fondren District to grab lunch at unique eateries such as Walker’s Drive-In and enjoy dessert at the soda fountain at Brent’s Drugs or coffee at Sneaky Beans. Be sure to visit the neighborhood’s boutique shops while you’re there.
The festival gears up again at 6 p.m., with performances from comedian Rita B., Mississippi’s own blues stars Jarekus Singleton and Eddie Cotton and a headlining set from R&B star and “American Idol” winner Fantasia. Check into Underground 119 on President Street or F. Jones Corner on Farish Street for a late-night spot.
Don’t leave town on an empty stomach. For some of the best brunch options in the Capital City, order the torrijas or tortas at Babalu, or go for brunch oysters, smoked salmon tartine or the Southern breakfast staple loaded biscuits and gravy at Saltine.
No matter which direction you go from there, you can spend the afternoon shopping in the greater Jackson area. Renaissance at Colony Park in Ridgeland features Ann Taylor Loft, J. Crew, Barnes & Noble and more for travelers heading north, while the Outlets of Mississippi in Pearl at the crossroads of I-20, I-55 and U.S. Hwy. 49 offers factory shops and outlets by Nike, Adidas, Gap and others.