Dedicated to the legendary train engineer, Casey Jones Village features shops, attractions, and a museum rife with artifacts and anecdotes about Jackson's railroad history. Three authentic railcars are displayed prominently as mainstays from a different era, and children are encouraged to climb up on the engine and ring the train bell. A short film detailing the life of Casey Jones plays in the museum's theater, and a children's area entreats kids with wooden train sets so they can imagine they're piloting the first locomotive to shoot missiles at Saturn. After viewing the museum's offerings, guests can engage in other village attractions, such as mini golf, woodcarving demonstrations, and traditional treats at the antique-laden Brooke Shaw's Old Country Store. Before leaving, visitors can nosh on old-fashioned milk shakes and ice-cream sodas at the 1890s-inspired Ice Cream Parlor and Fudge Shoppe, voted one of the best 50 ice-cream parlors in the country by USA Today.
The interactive exhibits and programs compiled by the Pink Palace Family of Museums reinforce a mission that has stayed constant for 80 years: to "inspire people to learn how history, science, technology, and nature shape the Mid-South." Attached to Clarence Saunders' mansion built in the 1920s, the museum's permanent exhibits take an eclectic approach to chronicling the past, revealing everything from ancient fossils to contemporary southern history. Inside, visitors can chart the history of Memphis from the early Spanish explorers through the Civil War or walk through a replica of Saunders' original Piggly Wiggly—the country’s first self-service grocery store, and even see a shrunken head. Global adventures are chronicled on a four-story screen at the CTI-IMAX theater, and the Sharpe Planetarium explores the cosmos from the comfort of a 130-seat theater.
Traveling to east Memphis, one can discern the natural side of the Pink Palace Family of Museums. Lichterman Nature Center encompasses 65 acres of lush gardens filled with native wildflowers, trees, and wildlife. The center combines self-guided nature walks with plant sales and educational activities to expose visitors to the natural world.
The Brooks Museum's opera and ballet cinema series carves a screen-size window into Europe's most venerable cultural institutions with high-def digital projections of recent world-class performances. Banned for decades in Russia by Stalin's order, Dmitri Shostakovich's The Bright Stream finds zany, lighthearted comedy on a collectivist farm under the Soviet regime. Renowned choreographer Alexei Ratmansky leads Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet through a culture clash between a troupe of citified dancers and the rustic workers they set out to entertain. Jealous lovers, bumbling retirees, and cross-dressing deception weave through the plot to ravishing dances and a score inspired by Russian folk music.
Treat ears to the rollicking melodies pervading the 2011 International Rockabilly Music Festival, which congregates riff-slinging luminaries from two continents and four countries. Swedish tune makers The Cadillac Band arrive from the Norse country to perform hits from the '50s, '60s, and 1570s. Tap toes to the rockabilly stylings of Jackson's own Red, Hot and Blue Band, or nod in rhythm to the country beats of Canada's Judy Kanyo. Check the website for more information.
Century Farm orchestrates a bright spectrum of dry, semisweet, and fruity wines in a charming country shop surrounded by acres of shady arbors and southern grape vines. Only 4.5 years old, the blossoming winery proved its mettle at the 2011 Wines of the South Competition by collecting three awards—the Best of Tennessee Fruit–William O. Beach Award for its 2009 vintage traminette; a silver medal for its 2009 Norton; and a bronze for its 2009 red muscadine. While guests peruse bottles, a complimentary tasting introduces palates to the subtle notes and intricacies of varieties such as the dry, oaked 2010 Norton ($12.95) or the semisweet 2008 traminette ($12), with fruity layers and a spicy finish. Century Farm also hosts musical performances on select Saturdays from late April to September, during which visitors may enjoy wine tastings, picnics, and slow dances with graceful vines.
Dixon Gallery and Gardens saturates the senses with a 2,000-piece museum collection bordered by 17 acres of lush English gardens. An e-membership grants unlimited admission to the grounds as well as a weekly e-newsletter, whose digital format significantly reduces paper-airplane attacks. Behind the museum’s corinthian columns and brick façade, patrons peruse works by French and American impressionists along with rotating exhibitions.