I have much love and pride for my hometown, Jackson, Michigan. When I tell people I am from Jackson, they’re usually familiar with one of three things: The Parlour (too cold for ice cream), The Cascade Falls (not open until Memorial Day) or the prison.
While the prison has historically been a sore spot for Jacksonians, it has, in recent years, become somewhat of a tourist attraction with the Original Jackson Historic Prison Tours and Cell Block 7 Prison Museum. Both Michigan’s First State Prison (1838-1934) and Southern Michigan Correctional Facility (1934-2007) were, after all, the largest walled prisons in the world and have some legitimately cool prison stories to tell.
That said, I decided to try just about everything else to do in Jackson on my #MittenTrip! I found delicious Michigan wine and beer, some best kept restaurant secrets, a hike through the snow and an antiquing adventure!
I began my #MittenTrip on Thursday evening at Ella Sharp Museum for the excellent Art of the Brick exhibit. This nationally touring exhibit has been around the world and is not to be missed during its stop in Jackson. Artist Nathan Sawaya has taken the humble LEGO brick and elevated it to an artform with his large scale sculptures. My favorites were “The Kiss” and “Reflection.” This cool exhibit is at the Ella Sharp Museum through April 22nd.
We continued throughout the rest of the galleries too. Ella Sharp Museum is a nationally accredited museum, one of only a few in Michigan. The Ella focuses on art and history including Jackson History Gallery, the Never Enough Time Clock Gallery and The Andrews Gallery of Wildlife Art. Michigan wine and beer fans might want to circle June 4th on their calendar for Ella’s Art, Beer and Wine Festival too!
For dinner we stopped for one of my favorite cuisines, Indian food! Jackson was sadly lacking this unique flavor until very recently when Lazeez Flavors of India Restaurant opened at the Westwood Mall. Owner Sangeeta Awan and her daughter are the sweetest people I know. They are always patient when explaining Indian food to a novice, too. We ordered at the counter before we sat. The menu is divided into Vegetarian and Chicken dishes. We ordered Palak Paneer (spinach and cheese) and egg curry (which interestingly enough was on the chicken side) and, of course, Naan. They come out in these cute little metal bowls each with a bowl of Basmati Rice. Just right-sized portions, however there is always room for dessert! We ordered Mango Ice Cream and Gulab Jamun for dessert. As a donut connoisseur, I love these sweet little balls of goo, Indian donuts soaked in honey and rose water. If you are looking to satisfy your Indian craving, this is the place!
I got a late start on Friday because… vacation! So my first stop was lunch at Café Lilla. I hadn’t been to this cute cafe in a long time, and I had forgotten how delicious their paninis are. I was actually meeting my Social Media Club friends, so I got to see a lot of soups, salads and sandwiches come out, and they all looked delicious. All the bread and baked goods are made on site except for a few that come from a bakery in Leslie. They even have gluten-free options.
Next was Angie’s Attic. This vintage and consignment shop was aptly described by General Manager Monica Wheeler as a Pinterest paradise. From vintage pillbox hats to jewelry artisans to milk paint to pallet signs, this store is packed full of everything from your Pinterest boards. There is even a basement filled with even more clothes and furniture. Stay tuned for my feature on this really cool shop!
My next stop was the Flea Market and Antique Show at the Jackson County Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds seem to be bustling with events year-round. I’ve honestly never been much of an antiquarian, so I thought I’d give it a try. I found any and everything you could think of — old Michigan license plates, antique wooden snowshoes, Barbies still in the box, old records and more. I stopped at the cast iron dealer to check out this odd looking pan. On first inspection it looked like it was made for eggs with little round divots, but alas no! The dealer explained it is for danish donuts called aebleskiver. You had me at donuts! My favorite antiques to look at are postcards, being the avid traveler. I suppose you can just call me a deltiologist aka postcard collector!
With my postcard collection expanded, I headed to my next stop, Jackson Antique Mall. With three floors and many, many rooms it’s easy to get lost in there. I’ve also heard tell that this Civil War Era building is haunted. Built in late 1860’s in the Commercial Italianate style, it has housed boarding rooms, a bar, livery stables, storage for Jackson Cracker Company and more. My favorite finds here were beautiful vintage fur coats, antique library card catalog drawers and a 3-pound drum for potato chips.
Before I got too lost in antiques, I made a quick stop at Grand River Brewery for their Girl Scout cookie pairing event, which was full of delicious options. It’s hard to pick favorites here, but I did enjoy the Black Penny Porter paired with Thin Mints.
Then I realized it was time to get ready for dinner theater. Sandhill Crane Vineyards, one of my favorite wineries along the Pioneer Wine Trail was featuring Center Stage Jackson’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace. Good thing I got my tickets early, because the event was sold out for the entire weekend! The banquet room was quite packed, and as we squeezed into our seats the waitress came around for our drink orders. As a red wine fan, I went with the Proprietor’s Reserve Chancellor, a limited edition wine is made with estate-grown Chancellor grapes. For dinner the choice was chicken pot pie or cheese ravioli. Their cafe always has delicious vegetarian options but today I went with chicken. We also got salads and, during intermission, delicious apple crisp with local favorite Calder Dairy vanilla ice cream. The show was spectacular community theater, they sure packed in the laughs. If you have not seen the Cary Grant movie version add it to your queue immediately!
Finally Saturday, the last day of my trip, I met Rod Malloy, director at the Dahlem Nature Center, for a pre-hike breakfast to another new restaurant, Chilango’s Broken Egg. This is the fourth restaurant for the busy enterprising couple, Carlos and Rachel Perez, after Chilango’s Mexican Grill, Chilango’s Burrito Bar and, a great place for a chopped salad, Chilango’s Chop House. The menu at Broken Egg is extensive, so it was hard to choose just one thing. I went with the Chipotle Eggs Benny while my companion went more traditional with the Huevos Rancheros. Because even breakfast should come with dessert, I picked up a fruit filled croissant from local European Bakery from their case on the way out.
After breakfast, we headed to Dahlem Nature Center for a winter hike. I am not much of an outdoorsy girl, especially in winter, but this was a adveweekend of adventure! Rod lead us through the trails, which are well marked with colored dots on the trees. We headed for the snow-covered pine forest, followed by a loop through the prairie. We followed the tracks of cross-country skiers before us. It was a beautiful and peaceful Saturday morning. Once I survived the hike, I remembered my delicious pastry in the car and we headed for a quick Biggby stop on the way home.
After a long nap I did make it down to Brooklyn for a late lunch at Shady’s Tap Room. Lunch was a delicious Shady’s Signature Pizza with chicken, tomato, onion and Shady’s feisty feta sauce. For drinks, a Michigan beer flight with Latitude 42 Island Fever, Right Brain Dead Kettle IPA, Saugatuck Cracked Pepper Ale, Oddside Ales Mayan Mocha and Short’s Superfluid IPA. It seems we were a bit early for a Short’s tap takeover event as well as live music planned for the evening. Just another reason to return!
The plan was to continue antiquing in Brooklyn, but time got the best of me. We were recommended to check out IDK, Four French Hens, Salvaged Decor and Pinetree Antiques in Brooklyn and Not so Shabby, Oh so Chic and Antique Mercantile in Jackson. Next time!
What are your favorite places to explore in Jackson? Let us know in the comments!