March is a great time to explore the capital city, especially if you make it in time for the city’s iconic St. Patrick’s Day celebration. 

BY NATALIE WEST

Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade, Jackson’s largest cultural celebration, began as a small group of fun-loving friends strolling through the streets of the capital city dressed in costumes inspired by the plays of Tennessee Williams. It has been 34 years since local restaurateur and beloved cultural icon Malcolm White filed that first parade permit and led his merry band of revelers down Capitol Street, creating an annual tradition for tens of thousands of equally eccentric, expressive, creatively innovative, green-clad parade-goers.

On Saturday, March 18, the organizers of Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade and Festival expect as many as 80,000 onlookers celebrating the luck of the Irish in the heart of Mississippi. This year’s theme is “Happy St. Perennial on Our Bicentennial,” marking Mississippi’s 200th year of statehood. In honor of their important role in Mississippi’s history, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are this year’s grand marshals. There’s no better way to celebrate the Magnolia State’s bicentennial than a trip to the capital city during this uniquely Jackson rite of spring.

WHAT TO DO

 DRINK LOCAL

On Friday, March 17, Hal’s Marching MAL-Function from Cathead Distillery to Hal & Mal’s celebrates the parades origins by recreating that first raucous stroll through downtown Jackson. Get there early to take a tour of the capital city’s only vodka distillery and purchase a bottle or three. Part of the proceeds from the sale of Cathead Vodka supports blues music, so grab another bottle. (catheaddistillery.com)

DON’T MISS THE PARADE

The next morning, the starter’s pistol fires at 8 a.m. for the Fleet Feet Sports St. Paddy’s 5K. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the St. Paddy’s Day Pet Parade and Children’s Festival take place on Lamar Street. The first float rolls at 1 p.m. to kick off the main parade. Be sure to look for the incredible Sonic Boom of the South and The Prancing J-Settes from Jackson State University. (websites.one.jsums.edu/sonicboom)

STICK AROUND FOR THE MAIN EVENT

The gates open at 1 p.m. on Commerce Street for the post-parade Hal’s St. Paddy’s Festival at Hal & Mal’s Restaurant and Bar. The musical line-up includes The Molly Ringwalds, Freedom and Mustache the Band. Tickets for the festival are available at ardenland.net. For more information about the parade and related events, visit halsstpaddysparade.com.

WHAT TO SEE & EAT

MARTIN’S RESTAURANT AND BAR

Martin’s is located directly across the street from Hal & Mal’s. Not only is it near the parade route, it’s part of the party. Martin’s has a topnotch bar staff and one of the largest selections of craft beers and imports in the city. The kitchen serves up traditional American fare, from bar food to blue plate lunches to burgers until 9 p.m. on the weekends. Martin’s also features live music every weekend. (martinslounge.net)

MISSISSIPPI MUSEUM OF ART

Mississippi Museum of Art is located right on the parade route on Pascagoula Street. It is home to The Mississippi Collection, a large assortment of over 5500 paintings, prints and drawings, textiles, and photographs representing American art from about 1865 to present day by prominent artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol. Its’ principal gallery houses The Mississippi Story, a collection of art by Mississippi artists spanning Mississippi’s history, from 1816 to present day. (msmuseumart.org)

OLD CAPITOL MUSEUM

Take a tour of  history at the Old Capitol Museum located at 100 Capitol Street, just one block from the parade route. The museum’s exhibits explore the history of MS’ oldest building and the important legislative actions that were drafted and signed when it was the seat of Mississippi government from 1839 to 1903. (mdah.ms.gov/new/visit/old-capitol-museum)

FENIAN’S PUB

Continue the theme of Irish love and luck in the Mississippi capital a few miles away at Fenian’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on Fortification Street. This locally-owned hotspot celebrates Irish and Celtic heritage with food, drink and live entertainment year round. The kitchen stays open until 1 a.m., making it an ideal place for a few pints and a post-parade midnight snack. (fenianspub.com)

WHERE TO STAY

FAIRVIEW INN AND SUITES

Make the most of your stay in Jackson with a night or two at Fairview Inn and Suites. Rest before the parade in one of its 18 luxury guest rooms. Recharge in its relaxing spa, game room or private lounge. Recover the morning after the festivities with a full southern breakfast at the inn’s onsite restaurant, 1908 Provisions. The beautiful 1908 Colonial Revival mansion is located minutes from downtown Jackson on Fairview Street in the historic Belhaven neighborhood. (fairviewinn.com)

OLD CAPITOL INN

The Old Capitol Inn located downtown is just a 10 minute walk from the parade route. In the 1950s, the site was a YWCA. Young women who relocated from rural areas of the state rented rooms while they worked in the capital city. Today, it is Jackson’s only designer boutique hotel. The dorms have been turned into 24 luxury rooms and suites. Onsite amenities include a restaurant, health club, 24 hour business center and rooftop bar with a view of the city. (oldcapitolinn.com)

THE KING EDWARD

The King Edward has quite a history. It was burned during the Civil War, resurrected, renovated, abandoned and finally restored to its former architectural glory in 2009. After reopening, it became the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. The hotel includes 186 beautiful rooms and suites, the King Edward Grill, King Edward Bar, Pavilion Pantry, Seattle’s Best Coffee Shop, a fitness center, swimming pool and more. Located on West Capitol Street, it is within walking distance of the Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade route, a myriad of downtown restaurants, attractions, cultural sites and government offices.(kingedwardhoteljackson.com)