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Historic Armory building in Jackson, Michigan
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Pioneer tools at Waterloo Farm Museum in Jackson, Michigan
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Historic building at Waterloo Farm Museum in Jackson, Michigan
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Carriage at Waterloo Farm Museum in Jackson, Michigan
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Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, Michigan
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Antique prison uniform on display at a museum in Jackson, Michigan
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Inside the Cell Block 7 Prison Museum in Jackson, Michigan
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Sign at Michigan’s Historic First State Prison in Jackson
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There are many interesting communities surrounding Detroit; one in particular that I was rather curious about was Jackson.

It’s only about an hour’s drive from the big city. I was excited to get some fresh air and check out some local history. One of Jackson’s main industries, interestingly enough, is the Michigan Department of Corrections. The history of how the community is connected to the prison system is fascinating. With museums, a fun craft brew scene, a pioneer village and a lively arts center, Jackson is a really unique and interesting place to discover.

Ella Sharp Museum

Visiting the Ella Sharp Museum was such a treat. I absolutely loved the diversity of exhibits, including World War II photographs and memorabilia from many Jackson residents who served in the war, beautiful Tiffany stained-glass panels and an exceptional antique clocks exhibit. Be sure to check out the online calendar as there are many changing exhibitions. It’s a great venue for families to check out.

Cell Block 7 Prison Museum

You can combine your admission to the Ella Sharp Museum with the Cell Block 7 Prison Museum. This is different from other famous prison museums in the United States, such as Alcatraz near San Francisco, California, in that it’s located in an active, working prison. Cell Block 7 is not a working section anymore, and yet you feel the imposing nature of the massive prison around you. After all, this was once the largest walled prison in the world. On my self-guided tour, I took my time reading the stories from the exhibits. Many different perspectives are given, from a guard’s to an inmate’s point of view. It’s thought provoking, to say the least.

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Waterloo Farm Museum 

After the serious nature of Cell Block 7, we took a fun and easy drive winding through beautiful, tree-lined country roads to visit the Waterloo Farm Museum. Members of the Waterloo Area Historical Society, who volunteer to maintain the grounds and operate the museum, greeted us warmly. Come experience a fascinating tour of this authentic 1800s farm with hosts in pioneer dress. The gift shop has excellent hand-made souvenirs. I found some adorable hand-made bonnets for my god-daughter to wear while playing tea party.

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Creativity and Craft Beer

Next, we traveled downtown to discover Art 634. This was such a cool venue: an arts center within an 1850s manufacturing facility. Walking in, I was excited to find a lounge area where a sea of delicate cranes hung gracefully from the ceiling. I could hear the thump of dancing feet from a ballet class upstairs. This center has everything from visual arts to the performing arts. On your visit, check out a class or find a special gift to take home.

After so many activities, I was famished and ready to relax and unwind. A fun local venue that has excellent craft beer and lovely local wines is the Grand River Marketplace. At this combination restaurant, brewery and live music venue, you can have a full night of foodie bliss, drinks and music. It was a perfect way to end a day full of thought-provoking history and culture with some local hospitality and flavors.

Jackson is a friendly community with lots of small-town hospitality and interesting Michigan history to explore. Be sure to include it on your next Michigan road trip.