Six Things You Didn’t Know About Jackson

If you’ve never been to Jackson, you may be unaware of the incredible history that lies within this city! From an iconic prison site to a booming auto industry, Jackson has its share of surprising (and sometimes shocking) stories. Fortunately, those stories live on today through businesses, museums, and architecture that are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Read on to learn more and discover some fun facts about Jackson you might not have known!

Delicious foods can be found at Jackson's Coney Island

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman

 1. It’s Where The Coney Was Invented

I love a good coney as much as the next girl, but only recently realized that there’s a whole world of coneys outside of Detroit! Contrary to popular belief that the coney originated in Detroit, Jackson actually introduced its first coney restaurant in 1914 (that’s three years before the motor city opened its first location). Like Detroit, Jackson has two neighboring competitors—Jackson Coney Island and Virginia Coney Island, each of which has its own loyal following. As for which is better, I honestly found the results too close to call. You’ll have to visit to decide for yourself!

Explore a Jackson prison tour for fascinating history

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman

 2. Law Abiding Citizens Live In Prison Cells

Once the world’s largest walled prison, Michigan’s First State Prison is now Armory Arts Village, a community of galleries, workspaces, and apartments. While this historic site has transformed into a vibrant neighborhood, tours are available from Jackson Historic Prison Tours for anyone who’s interested in learning about its controversial past. Get a first-hand look at the former prison’s amazing architecture and eerie basement (formerly solitary confinement), and peek into a current resident’s living space (a loft apartment that was once 36 cell blocks). From industrialism to rehabilitation, the influence this landmark has on Jackson’s history is remarkable (and not to be missed).

Prison cells at the Jackson State Prison

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman, Permissions given by the Michigan Department of Corrections

 3. Dr. Kevorkian Passed Through Here

Interested in seeing a more current representation of prison life? Cell Block 7, a museum located on the grounds of a functioning prison, was recently an active cell block that served as the entry point for convicts such as Kwame Kilpatrick and Jack Kevorkian. Inmate-free since 2007, Cell Block 7 is now open to the public and provides a look at how intense life behind bars really is. Whether you visit on your own or in conjunction with an historic prison tour, you’ll leave with a sobering reminder that freedom isn’t something to be taken for granted.

Jackson has a rich automotive history

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman

4. It Once Rivaled Detroit As The Motor City

Most people associate cars with Detroit, but few know that Jackson was home to multiple auto manufacturers around the turn of the 20th century! Ye Ole Carriage Shop in nearby Spring Arbor features 18 made-in-Jackson vehicles, including a 1902 steam-powered JAXON and a 1908 2-cylinder Fuller (the only one of its kind known to still exist). Available for group tours, Ye Ole Carriage Shop also showcases several other classic cars and antiques, including vintage radios, toys, and an impressive Coca-Cola room (call ahead to schedule a group tour).

 5. It’s Home To A 500-Foot, Light-Up Waterfall

Each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Jackson residents and visitors are invited to enjoy concerts, fireworks, nightly light shows, and more at the Cascades waterfall in Sparks Park. Unveiled in 1932, this manmade wonder features colorful light and water shows, and can be synchronized to music for weddings and other events—quite a sight to behold!

Take a trip to the Jackson Train Station

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bowman

6. It’s Where You’ll Find The Nation’s Oldest Continually-Operating Train Station

Jackson is a train town—a title that’s literally put it on the map for over 140 years! Welcoming travelers such as presidents (and presidential candidates) McKinley, Taft, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, the Jackson Depot has served passengers every day since 1873 and continues to receive Amtrak trains daily.

How many of Jackson’s historic activities have you experienced for yourself? Share your favorites (or activities that interest you most) in the comments! 

Jennifer-Bowman-BioJennifer Bowman is a southwest Virginia native who moved to metro Detroit in 2011. Fascinated by travel and discovering new places, Jennifer spends her free time exploring Michigan towns and writing about her experiences on her blog, Wading in Big Shoes. To keep up with her adventures, you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Four Michigan Microbreweries You Won’t Want to Miss in Jackson

A cold winter requires a lot of bundling up and settling indoors to keep warm. Escape cabin fever by planning a day filled with Michigan craft beer and good friends at the 4th Annual Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival! Today, guest blogger Rebecca Calkins from Experience Jackson describes four great Michigan microbreweries to check out during the event in Jackson, MI. 

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

On Saturday, March 8th, the Jackson County Fairgrounds will feature over 150 craft beers from Michigan and around the world during the 4th Annual Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival – you’re bound to find your new favorite! What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? Enjoying live music, good food, and great beer with your friends; maybe even making a few new friends.  You’ll hardly notice the cold at this indoor/outdoor event with campfires and warming stations, along with the warmth of good friends and great beers. Outside, the entertainment tent will feature live music from local and regional acts, a lively corn hole tournament as well as food vendors and more beer.

The event is sponsored by both Experience Jackson and Jackson’s newest microbrewery, Grand River Marketplace. This new Marketplace includes a brewery, winery, restaurant and deli all in one 12,000 square foot facility. This unique venue along the banks of the Grand River incorporates a funky steampunk theme. The walls feature a view into the steam-powered idealized future of Victorian-era minds. This vibe lends itself well to the types of hip roots-rock sound of the regional acts that perform on the indoor stage on Saturday nights.

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Recently, Grand River Marketplace won the Brick Award from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce for the restorative work they have done to this historic downtown building. Come back in the summer, for a “Party on the Grand”, where you can enjoy your craft beer or wine with live music under the pavilion that also regularly houses the Grand River Farmer’s Market.  Sourcing local is important to the people at Grand River. New England trained Chef Corey Bieber is proudly sourcing local ingredients for his one of a kind dishes. Brewer Ben Tackett and Thomas Block, who man the state of the art 15-barrel brew system, get their hops from the Sleeping Bear area of Michigan. Finally, winemaker Blake Kownacki is using only Michigan fruit for his award-winning wine.

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Grand River isn’t the only micro-brewery in town; however micro might be too big to describe the next three locations that have opened in Jackson. For most home brewers just stepping out into the public, one barrel at a time is often the best way to brew. So spend the night in a warm Jackson hotel after the Beer Festival, follow our Beer Festival Weekend Itinerary, and spend your Sunday tasting some of the local pico-breweries latest offerings at Bifferhaus Brewing Company on Lansing Avenue, Tootsie’s Brewery at Lone Oak Vineyard Estate in Grass Lake, and Shed’s Brewing Company located off of US-127.

Get your tickets now for the Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival. Tickets are $25 before the event or $30 at the gate (depending on availability) this includes 10 tasting tickets, admission and parking. Designated driver tickets will be available at the door for $5. Proceeds go to the Jackson County Fair Premium Program. You must be 21 years or older to attend.  Limited tickets are available so get your tickets early by either calling the fair box office at 517-788-4405 or Etix at 1-800-514-3849 or go online to

Have you visited any of these Jackson microbreweries? Where is your favorite place to try Michigan craft beer