Inland Mississippi is a place that has left a strong imprint on American literature, inspiring authors from William Faulkner to Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams. It’s also a place where talented new chefs are putting their own spin on traditional Southern cuisine in ways that go beyond—while not ignoring—fried chicken, grits and barbecue. And it’s a place steeped in history, with evocative reminders of everything from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.
All of these aspects come together to make the region a distinctive meetings destination, a place of cultural depth as well as intriguing venues for events.
In December, Mississippi’s capital city unveiled two major attractions on the same site, the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which are connected by a lobby, cafe and gift shop. With exhibits encompassing prehistoric to modern times, the Museum of Mississippi History presents recorded oral histories from people throughout the state and explores such areas as the culture of the Chickasaw Indians and the legacy of native icons like Elvis Presley and William Faulkner.
The Civil Rights Museum, the only state-operated civil rights museum in the nation, features exhibits illustrating the tumultuous story of the fight for equal rights, as well as a variety of interactive galleries.
“These two museums are an exciting new development for us,” said Shun Hatten, vice president of sales for Visit Jackson. “They’re great for group tours and there is also space for meetings and events.”
The newest addition to Jackson’s downtown hotel scene is The Westin Jackson, which opened in August a block from the Jackson Convention Complex and offers 203 guest rooms, a full-service spa and over 12,000 square feet of meeting space. Among the hotel’s signature offerings is a Music Legends of Mississippi package that allows guests to play exact replicas of the guitars used by Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Jimmy Buffet, Elvis and others.
The city’s vibrant dining scene is also fast becoming one of its greatest assets for meetings, according to Hatten.
“Jackson has become one of the South’s great food destinations—not only for down-home country cooking, but for a huge variety of culinary styles,” she said.
Combining historic preservation with its own take on Southern cuisine, Parlor Market is a downtown hot spot for gulf seafood, house-made charcuterie and deep-fried pickles. Located in a handsomely restored 1898 former grocery store, the award-winning restaurant offers private event space.
In Jackson’s burgeoning Fondren arts district, Walker’s Drive-In is a retro-chic bistro, its name paying homage to the humble eatery once on the site.
The restaurant includes a private dining room for up to 100 people.
The birthplace of novelist and short-story writer Eudora Welty, Jackson also abounds with literary flavor. This is apparent even in the magnificent
Mississippi State Capitol building, which houses a picture of John Grisham, who penned his first legal thriller, A Time to Kill, while serving in the state legislature during the 1980s.
The city’s prime literary landmark is the Eudora Welty House, where Welty spent much of her life writing fiction inspired by the Jackson area. While the house is not available for events, The Commons at Eudora Welty’s Birthplace, a nearby complex on the site of Welty’s earliest home, is frequently used for receptions, concerts and art shows.
Located at the confluence of three rivers on the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta, Greenwood is a small city steeped in Southern lore. Part of the Mississippi Blues Trail, there are markers commemorating early blues legend Robert Johnson, who lived and died in the city under mysterious circumstances back in 1938.
While the movie and best-selling book The Help were set in Jackson, it is Greenwood where much of the movie was actually filmed. Visitors often tour the sites, aided by a map and brochure developed by the CVB detailing the film locations