If you’re looking for Michigan’s liberal stronghold, don’t look in Jackson. The Republican Party was founded in this small city of 36,300 back in 1854. More than a thousand Free Soilers, Whigs, and Democrats gathered here, where they adopted the Republican name, issued a platform, and nominated candidates for state office. A tablet still marks the site at the corner of Franklin and 2nd Streets
The Jackson area has also been home to several astronauts. Moreover, it has often claimed fame as “Nuge Country,” a nod to Ted Nugent, rocker and bow hunter extraordinaire, who lives nearby. As if that isn’t enough, Jackson holds the Midwest’s largest and oldest Civil War muster each August, attracting more than 1,200 costumed reenactors from across the country who gather here for battle, balls, and ballistics.
Like many once-booming industrial cities in mid-Michigan, downtown Jackson was hit hard by unemployment and the “malling” of America. Few shops still occupy the city’s stately Victorian and art deco storefronts. Even Jacobson’s—the posh department store chain founded in Jackson, with stores that once stretched to Florida—closed its downtown store here and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2002.
But even a flat economy can’t affect the wealth of wonderful lakes in surrounding Jackson County. Hundreds of natural lakes dot the countryside, keeping the Jackson area near the top of the list for those in southern Michigan and northern Indiana looking for an easy weekend getaway. Area golf courses, museums, antique shops, and vineyards only sweeten the deal for many vacationers.
Getting to Jackson
Both Amtrak (501 E. Michigan Ave., 800/872-7245, www.amtrak.com) and Greyhound (127 W. Cortland, 800/231-2222, www.greyhound.com) serve Jackson. In addition, the town is situated halfway between the Detroit Metropolitan–Wayne County Airport (DTW) (734/247-7678 or 800/642-1978, www.metroairport.com) and the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (AZO) (5235 Portage Rd., Kalamazoo, 269/388-3668, www.azoairport.com), from which you can rent a vehicle and head to Jackson via I-94.
Of course, if you’ve driven to Michigan, there are a number of ways to reach Jackson. From Lansing, for instance, you can simply head south on U.S. 127 and bypass the interstate altogether.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel