by Liz Allen
The azaleas are in bloom and warm weather is finally upon us again, just in time for a much-needed Easter weekend break before finals creep up on us. So this week, the Friday+Saturday section is dedicated to bringing you the best ways to enjoy the rays and relax this extended weekend, for as little moolah as possible. We’ll start with some favorite spots around Jackson, and then break with our Jackson-focused mission for a few day trip ideas.
Around Jackson, the Reservoir is always a classic—it is hard to go wrong there—but here are a few more local favorites.
LeFleur’s Bluff State Park
This park is maybe five minutes from campus, but you can easily forget the proximity as you explore trails behind the Natural Science Museum or sit and fish at the lake. Pack a picnic and claim a spot at the picnic tables in the day-use area. My personal favorite aspect is the swings, where you can forget any pretenses of adulthood. The park is at 2140 Riverside Drive (right past where Riverside joins Lakeland), and a day pass for an entire car is $3.
Exchange the city for winding scenic roads by taking the Natchez Trace, the historic route that cuts through Jackson as it meanders from Natchez all the way to Nashville. Roll your windows down and take a cruise, or bring your bike along. The easiest way to join the trace is to take Interstate 55 north until you hit the Natchez Trace exit, right before Madison.
One of Belhaven’s more hidden treasures, but located conveniently near campus, the Belhaven beach is where the neighborhood runs into the banks of the Pearl River at the end of Laurel Street. If you’re out walking the neighborhood (daydreaming about the houses mayhaps), take the extra walk to stumble upon this surprising little beach.
Oxford, Miss—located about three hours away in northeast Mississippi.
Oxford isn’t real. At least, as you wander around the historic and overwhelmingly quaint town, it doesn’t seem real. It has also something for almost everyone. The first must-do is the Square with its local boutiques, shops and restaurants. Ajax or Little Venice are a couple of palette satisfiers while you’re on the Square. You can also visit the campus of Ole Miss and perhaps catch Friday’s LSU-Ole Miss baseball game . Those seeking some Mississippi culture and history will find ample opportunities, including the elegant and woods-surrounded Rowan Oak, the historic home of author William Faulkner. Admission to the house is $5, or you can explore the 23 acres of woods free—they are open dawn to dusk.
Windsor Ruins, located an hour and half away, right outside Port Gibson, Miss.
At its most basic, the Windsor Ruins sound underwhelming: some old columns in a field. But they are haunting and beautiful; he history and the sheer magnitude of the place will stick with you. The columns are the only remains of the Windsor Plantation, the largest antebellum home in Mississippi, which actually lasted through the Civil War, to be burned down in 1890 supposedly by a party guest dropping a cigarette. (Make what you will of the story—it’s either an illustration of the ironies and oddities of history or a great public service announcement about putting out your cigarettes responsibly.) The ruins are a contemplative sort of place, and a great place to practice your photography—they’ve been famously captured by countless people, including Eudora Welty—or for working through some complexities of Mississippi’s past, such as Brinda Willis did here.
Side note: You can also follow the Natchez Trace to the Ruins, if you want a more scenic, but slightly longer, trip.