Family-Friendly Fun in Jackson, Mississippi
A full Southern breakfast comes with a stay at the Old Capitol Inn, so I started my morning on December 31 with this AMAZING banana bread french toast. Yum!
We had three museums to visit that, each just a block away from our hotel. The first opened at 9:00 am. I figured if we got there right at opening, we'd have plenty of time to spend two hours each at the first and second museums, have a leisurely lunch, and then spend a bit of time at the third museum, before having dinner, changing, and heading out for our epic New Year's Eve plans. That's not what happened.
We did arrive at the first museum, the Museum of Mississippi History, right at 9:00 am as planned.
However, we did not spend two hours there. We spent four hours there. And that was with us hurrying. This museum is AWESOME. You start with a video, while seated around the 'campfire.'
Then you travel chronologically through the history of Mississippi, starting basically with the dawn of time. Here, Trevor is examining what can be found at different depths underground.
This shows the changing demographics of the area, from an abundant population of native peoples, to the first white colonizers, to the introduction of enslaved blacks.
The Museum of Mississippi History is packed with hands-on activities. Here, Trevor is designing a flag using various colors and symbols to mean different things.
Here, he's learning about the Civil War through another hands-on activity.
Time to head upstairs for the rest of the museum.
Did you know that Kermit the Frog was born in Mississippi?
When we finally pulled ourselves away, we realized we would have to either run through the other two museums or skip lunch. We skipped lunch and headed to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
There is a sign at the beginning warning visitors that, "to present a true and accurate story, the stories told here includes acts of violence, oppression, and injustice... and some include offensive images and language."
When considering whether to take children to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, please consider their age, maturity level, and familiarity with civil rights. There is a lot of disturbing content in this museum, much of which is hard even for adults. The most graphic content (including things like photos of Emmet Till's open casket) is in labeled alcoves; at 13, Trevor chose not to go in those and I respected his decision.
This section of the museum was hard for me. As you move through the exhibit and stop to read about lynchings, angry voices yell at you. "What are YOU looking at?" "You don't belong in this part of town." And worse. It is very uncomfortable and I wanted to run away. But I made myself stay and experience it.
This school room, which functions as a theater, impacted me as well. There is a jagged line down the middle, with the two sides representing separate but 'equal.' Let me assure you, they were not equal. We sat on the side with the uncomfortable benches and rough floor rather than at the desks with the smooth tile floor.
I can't overstate how much I loved this museum. It's uncomfortable and painful at times, but inspirational and uplifting as well.
Trevor and I spent quite a bit of time at this interactive display. You're presented with a real scenario with difficult choices and asked to decide how you would react. Your answer is tallied with that of other museum-goers.
We were not able to spend as much time at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum as I would have liked. I could have easily spent all day, reading every word and watching all the video. But we did spend a good 2.5 hours at the Civil Rights Museum before we had to head to our third museum of the day, the Old Capitol Museum.
It sounds ridiculous to say this, but we were actually hoping that it wouldn’t be great so that we could pop in and out without being rushed or feeling like we missed anything. But, no. It was excellent.
We rushed back to our hotel, planning to squeeze in a quick dinner before our evening plans. I knew some things would be closed because of New Year's Eve, but I was not prepared for practically everything to be closed. Thank goodness I thought to call ahead! One by one, I called all of the places that had been recommended to me. Over and over: Closed for New Year's Eve. I even tried a fast food chain! Closed. I finally found a wood-fired pizza restaurant that was open. At this point, it was 4:45 and we needed to be at our event (about five miles away) at 6:00. There would be time for a quick pizza. We hustled over... where we learned that they were serving a special New Year's Eve dinner and that they weren't making pizzas at all. Everything on the menu was ridiculously expensive and wouldn't possibly be ready fast enough, so we left. You'd think a pizza parlor might have mentioned they weren't serving pizza when I called ahead.
So what were our big New Year's Eve plans? The "Countdown to Extinction Glow Party" at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science!
The temporary dinosaur exhibit would be ending, hence the Countdown to Extinction. What a fun theme for New Year's Eve!
The party was a somewhat last minute decision, so I only had about a week to put together glow outfits for us before we traveled. My friends at Plaid gave me a bunch of their fabulous glow-in-the-dark paints (affiliate link here and throughout the post) and I experimented with different techniques, not sure what would be the most effective. For Steve's shirt, I used a brush to make swooshes of color on a black t-shirt. It glowed OK, but it would have been better with a second coat of paint. I used pouncers to add dots all over Trevor's neon yellow shirt. It looked really good under the glow lights.
I used a Crafters Workshop stencil for my shirt. I did a first coat, let it dry, then did a second coat on top. I didn't clean the stencil brush in between colors, so they blended well in the design. After the paint dried but before I removed the stencil, I took the shirt outside, covered the main design with newspaper and flung yellow paint at the shirt. It added a neat effect, but I wish I'd done more.
Unfortunately, our family picture didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, but it gives you an idea of what our shirts looked like.
I found the gloves for cheap in the kids department at Target. They barely fit Trevor and me and didn't fit Steve. Rather than each wearing a complete pair, Trevor and I shared so we each had one green and one pink. I'm also wearing a neon headband, but you can't see it in any of the photos.
So what does one do at a Countdown to Extinction Glow Party? The first thing we did was check out the exhibits at the museum. I'm guessing most, if not all, of the party guests had already been to the museum numerous times, but it was all new to us. The greenhouse area had a dance party starting up.
In addition to the regular exhibits, there were glow game stations throughout the museum.
And there were glowing dinosaur cupcakes and punch for us to enjoy.
One of the highlights for me was a presentation on nocturnal animals.
After the presentation, we were invited to pet a juvenile alligator. Adults were allowed to hold a baby alligator.
Then we went outside to walk the glow-lit nature trail. We couldn't see much, but it was still cool. I wish we'd had a chance to do the hikes during the daylight.
The party ended at 8:00 pm, which is just about my speed. At 7:55, everyone gathered downstairs to start the countdown. See those balloons? Some of them have prizes inside, including passes to the museum.
As you can see from the photos, we stayed upstairs, out of the melee. None of us are crowd people and we had no use for passes to a museum that's 2000+ miles from home. It was more fun to watch the action from above.
Our vantage spot upstairs near the exit meant we were the first in the parking lot, ahead of the masses. We got back to the hotel and crashed after a great day.
We enjoyed a lazy morning on New Year's Day before packing up and heading out. We made a quick stop to find a geocache (our first in Mississippi)...
.... and to photograph this sign.....
..... before heading to the airport. We arrived home around 11:00 pm, exhausted, but happy. We had a wonderful time in Louisiana and Mississippi. If you've never been, both states are well-worth a visit.
Trevor has now been to 34 states. Only 16 to go before he turns 18!