If you’ve lived in or near Jackson County for any length of time, you know there are many things to do in Jackson MI. With its many parks and lakes and a bustling downtown area, you don’t have to look very far to discover ways to join in, play in, and become a part of this vibrant community.
Best Outdoor Things to Do in Jackson County MI
If there’s one thing that Jackson and its neighboring towns offer, it’s plenty of free and inexpensive things to do if you have a small budget. Best of all, these outdoor activities are family-friendly.
Parks & Trails
Jackson Michigan is full of amazing parks and playgrounds with something for everyone, no matter where you live in the area!
Sparks Foundation County Park
No matter which outdoor activities you want to do, Sparks Foundation County Park probably has it. There’s a recreation field for baseball, a basketball court, picnic areas, a playground, and walking trails. This park also features the popular Cascade Falls, which is a man-made illuminated and choreographed water feature.
Vandercook Lake County Park
With 21 acres, Vandercook Lake County Park has a boat launch and offers fishing, baseball, picnic areas, a playground, and swimming. Nearby Quiet World Sports offers kayak rentals if you want to explore the lake.
Falling Waters Trail
As one of the most popular trails in the state, Falling Waters Trail connects Jackson with Concord. The 10.5-mile paved trail was built on part of an abandoned railroad and is great for biking, running, and walking.
Waterloo Recreation Area
In northeast Jackson County, Waterloo Recreation Area is the largest park in the area. In fact, it stretches into parts of Washtenaw County. There are several trails for nature watching, mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
MacCready Nature Reserve
South of Jackson, MacCready Nature Reserve features 6.5 miles of trails. Expanding across 400 acres of forest, the reserve and trails make a friendly place for dogs.
Clark Lake County Park
With 7 acres, Clark Lake County Park has a playground, picnic areas with grills, a boat launch and a swimming area. The more than 7-mile Clark Lake Spirit Trail, which passes through the park, circles the lake.
The Dahlem Center
Located in southern Jackson MI, The Dahlem Center boasts 300 acres of land with over 5 miles of trail and is open from dawn to dusk daily. There is no cost to enjoy the trails during daylight hours.
Since the 1800s, golfing has been one of the most popular things to do in Jackson MI and Jackson County. Although there are more than 20 golf courses in the Jackson area, these are some of the most notable.
Cascades Golf Course
Near Sparks Foundation County Park, Cascades Golf Course is one of the best in Michigan. Established in 1929, the challenging course features beautiful scenery with white trees and waterscapes. Unique to this place is Ken Douglas Learning Center, which has a FootGolf course.
Grande Golf Club
Voted Jackson’s Best Golf Course in 2013 and a 4.5-star course by Golf Digest Places to Play, Grande Golf Club has been open since 2001. Golfers from across the nation praise the manicured grounds and unique design.
Ella Sharp Park
Along with offering traditional park features and trails, Ella Sharp Park has 562 acres and courses for golf, disc golf, and mini-golf. The grounds are well-maintained and the holes are laid out nicely.
Arbor Hills Golf Club
Opened in 1926, Arbor Hills Golf Club offers a parkland-style course with some of the best greens in Jackson County. Ducks, geese, and squirrels frequent the impeccably manicured course.
Best Indoor Things to Do in Jackson Michigan
When the weather doesn’t cooperate for outdoor adventuring, you need some indoor activities to enjoy. Jackson has a few spots that will keep you busy.
Optimist Ice Arena
It’s no surprise that ice hockey is a popular sport in Michigan, and you can join in the fun at Optimist Ice Arena. This family-friendly rink has pickup games for adults and youths as well as public skating.
Allskate Fun Center
If you don’t like ice hockey or ice skating, check out Allskate Fun Center for roller skating and laser tag. This affordable, clean, and family-friendly place is great for birthday parties and other special events.
Fundays Family Fun Cafe For families with younger kids, Fundays Family Fun Cafe is a fun indoor playground that offers a limited menu, free drink refills, and a relaxing atmosphere. It’s also a popular birthday party location. (Fundays has closed and will be reopening under a new name/new ownership in the near future.)
For a more relaxing indoor activity, visit Hurst Planetarium at the Ella Sharp Museum. The astronomy shows are cast on a 30-foot dome using a state-of-the-art projector.
Best Jackson Michigan Museums to Explore
After it was established in 1829, Jackson didn’t waste any time leaving a mark on state and national history. It played a major role in the Underground Railroad and built the first state prison. Many museums highlight this history and even some art.
The Coe House Museum
Operated by Grass Lake Area Historical Society, The Coe House Museum is a former single-family home. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building features Italianate brick and highlights small village life at the end of the 19th century.
Michigan Military Heritage Museum
Also operated by GLAHC, the Michigan Military Heritage Museum tells the stories of Michigan veterans through informative and dynamic exhibits. It has a great collection of military artifacts, and the staff is very knowledgeable about them.
Ella Sharp Museum
Opened in 1965, the Ella Sharp Museum resides in a Victorian home and features changing exhibits of Jackson history and art. Despite its small size, it has plenty of things to see and several hands-on children’s activities.
Lost Railway Museum
In the early 1900s, Jackson was a crossroads for rail lines. The Lost Railway Museum honors that history and shows you what it was like to live during that time in a fun and entertaining way.
Best Shopping Spots in Jackson MI
One of the ways you can join in our community is through shopping in local stores. Here are a few places where you can find common and unique items in Jackson MI.
A fair-trade store within one of Jackson’s two shopping malls, Marketplace Manna sells one-of-a-kind items from around the world with the purpose of helping others provide for their families.
Jackson Antique Mall
In downtown Jackson, the Jackson Antique Mall is one of the largest malls of antiques and collectibles in Mid-Michigan. A variety of quality dealers sell unique items, and TripAdvisor users rate it 4.5 stars.
Also in downtown, Antique Mercantile looks like a traditional antique mall combined with a retail store. Founded by Jennifer Bernard, it has a huge selection of antiques and a TripAdvisor user rating of 5 stars.
Best Exciting and Romantic Things to Do in Jackson Michigan
If you want to get your adrenaline going, Jackson has a few options. On the other hand, there are a couple of relaxing and romantic things that you can do.
Michigan International Speedway
Known as the most entertaining track in NASCAR, the Michigan International Speedway features more than 1,400 acres of racing action. Along with races, the MIS offers memorable and unique experiences.
With a safe, competitive design, Jackson Speedway has an oval dirt track and a cement track for beginners and amateurs alike. It offers go-karts, mini-cup racing, endurance races, racing leagues, and more.
Recently opened in downtown Jackson, Axe Play is a fun and thrilling way to spend an afternoon or evening with friends. Reserve a lane or join a league and put your axe-throwing skills to the test.
Chateau Aeronautique Winery & Blue Skies Brewery
At the Chateau Aeronautique Winery & Blue Skies Brewery, which started in an airplane hangar, you can have a romantic day of trying wines, beers, and ciders. You can even take a tour of the wine cellar and go on a beer or wine flight.
Sandhill Crane Vineyards
Dedicated to making wine with only fruit grown in Michigan, Sandhill Crane Vineyards is a charming winery and has a variety of wine flavors for every palate. The staff is helpful in recommending varieties for your taste.
Best Restaurants in the Jackson Area
From American and Italian cuisines to Chinese and Japanese cuisines, numerous great Jackson Michigan restaurants throughout the entire county. However, here are a few that locals frequent most.
Jackson Coney Island
Opened in 1914, Jackson Coney Island has served the community for more than a century but hasn’t changed much. Serving delicious hot dogs alongside other signature items, the restaurant makes quality, affordable food.
West Texas Barbecue Co.
Since 2007, West Texas Barbecue Co. has become one of the premier restaurant destinations in Michigan for real barbecue. From the turkey club to the smoked meats, this no-frills joint offers amazing food in a clean, casual atmosphere.
Klavon’s Pizzeria & Pub
Established by Justin Klavon in 2009, Klavon’s Pizzeria & Pub makes authentic, handcrafted artisan pizzas. The restaurant has been voted Jackson’s favorite place to watch a sporting event, thanks to its walls full of TVs and a full-service bar.
“Serving breakfast and lunch until we decide to go home”, Roxy Cafe is ideal for breakfast, lunch, or weekend brunch. The outside might look small, but the inside is full of booths and tables ready for solo diners and groups alike. The menu is full of Americana cuisine, and the portions never leave you hungry!
If you’re looking for upscale fine dining in Jackson Michigan, you’ll want to reserve a table at Veritas. Lunch options include soup and salad, sandwiches on homemade bread, and delicious entrees. For dinner, you can enjoy a dry-aged steak, specialty seafood, or hand-rolled sushi. And don’t forget to peruse the drinks and desserts menus!
Grand River Brewery
A brewery, winery, distillery, and eatery, Grand River Brewery is a farm-to-table restaurant with locations in Jackson and Marshall. The menu is made up of dishes using fresh, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, each made from scratch in the restaurant’s kitchen. They even smoke their own BBQ on-site!
Be sure to explore our full post on more great restaurants in Jackson MI.
Best Jackson Area Events & Festivals
Below are a few that you shouldn’t miss, though.
MIS Backyard Hockey Tournament
In late January, the MIS hosts the Backyard Hockey Tournament on a pit road. The public can enjoy beverages, food, and other winter activities during this winter festival.
Art, Beer & Wine Festival
Generally hosted in mid-June, the Art, Beer & Wine Festival is held at the Ella Sharp Museum. Usually, more than 40 local breweries, cider mills, distilleries, and wineries are represented alongside more than 50 artists. The good art, drink, and food keep visitors going back every year.
Hot Air Jubilee
The third weekend in July is the annual Hot Air Jubilee in Jackson. Don’t miss this popular Jackson event with daily hot air balloon launches, Kids Kingdom carnival, food vendors, live music, and so much more!
Jackson Blues Fest
Each summer, the Jackson Blues Fest has some of the most popular and up-and-coming blues artists perform for thousands of listeners. The affordable food and beer vendors make the live music even better. In 2021, the Jackson Blues Fest combined with the Hot Air Jubilee.
Nite Lites Show
Lasting from late November through December, the MIS gets into the holiday spirit with the Nite Lites Show. Along with Christmas light sculptures, there’s a walkable Winter Wonderland, holiday puppet show, and Santa Claus, whose reindeer visit on some weekends.
Explore Jackson to Experience Everything It Has to Offer
There are so many more things to do in Jackson MI. Explore the downtown area for more award-winning dining, historic structures, and artistic culture.