Michael Ream

Correspondent

  • Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Michael Ream is a correspondent who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and covers the city as well as Omaha; Oklahoma City; Rapid City, S.D.; Jackson, Miss.; and Baton Rouge, La. for Forbes Travel Guide. Ream is a travel writer who has filed stories from three continents for publications including Saveur, Southern Traveler and South American Explorer. He is the author of five books, including Backroads & Byways of Iowa and Best Hikes Near Madison (Wisconsin), and has contributed to numerous other guidebooks and travel web sites.

  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    Where is the best shopping in Jackson?

    From high-end antiques in the Fondren District to outdoor gear in Highland Village, great shopping can be found in Jackson. The Fondren District is crowded with antique dealers and specialty shops in a tight grid of city blocks, making it an ideal spot for a stroll and window-shopping. Highland Village is an attractive shopping emporium anchored by Maison Weiss, Jackson’s longtime purveyor of women’s clothing and accessories, as well as Buffalo Peak Outfitters, which offers outdoor and adventure clothing.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the best things to do with kids in Jackson?

    Touring Jackson with kids can be a fun, educational experience. These five picks from Forbes Travel Guide editors are sure to keep kids entertained:
     
    1. Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum. A reconstructed historical village, this “museum” has opportunities for kids to learn all about small-town life in 1920s Mississippi. Visit the blacksmith shop, cotton gin, veterinary office and sawmill while guides explain Mississippi’s long farming heritage.
     
    2. Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Located next door to the agricultural and forestry museum, this interactive facility gives kids the opportunity to hit a golf ball, kick a football or toss a baseball just like the sporting greats. There are also extensive displays dedicated to the many homegrown sports heroes.
     
    3. The Jackson Zoo. All sorts of animals romp at this zoo, including red pandas, chimpanzees and Sumatran tigers, among others. There is also a miniature train ride and a carousel featuring a slew of exotic species.
     
    4. Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Sitting on the banks of the Pearl River in LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, this museum has lots to keep kids entertained, including an aquarium and greenhouse. Walk the trails that wind through the surrounding park.
     
    5. Russell C. Davis Planetarium. Located in the Downtown Cultural Arts District, the city’s planetarium features sky shows, laser light concerts and large-format educational films.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the best things to see and do in Jackson?

    Jackson’s rich history adds to the city’s ideal sightseeing, This Southern city seems to have something for everyone — from rich historical sites to cultural centers. Here are the best things to see and do in Jackson:

    1. Visit the downtown buildings. Begin with the Mississippi State Capitol, a granite and limestone Beaux Arts structure topped with a dome and a golden eagle. The nearby Old Capitol was where Mississippi seceded from the United States, and was one of the few buildings in town to survive the Union offensives during the Civil War. Today it is home to a museum of state history.
     
    2. Stroll through the Mississippi Museum of Art. The state’s largest art museum has works in many media by many notable artists including Picasso, Miro, Chagall and Rembrandt, in addition to a number of pieces by native Mississippians. There’s also an excellent selection of folk art and outsider art.
     
    3. Tour the Eudora Welty House. In a state known for its literary heritage, from Faulkner to John Grisham, this modest home across the street from Millsaps College is definitely worth a pilgrimage for fans of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Welty called the Tudor Revival-style house home for 76 years, until her death in 2001 at age 92.
     
    4. Explore African American history. Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, housed in the former first public school for African American children in Jackson, has exhibits on various eras of African American life in Jackson and in the South, including the Great Migration. It’s adjacent to the Farish Street District, once a thriving African American business area. It has fallen into decline, but you can still chow down on some authentic soul food at Peaches Restaurant, in the shadow of the Alamo Theater, whose marquee dominates the street.
     
    5. Head to the Governor’s Mansion. The Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, built in Greek revival style, has tours with guides who will explain the history of each room. Behind the governor’s mansion is Smith Park, a public square and the only park that remains from Jackson’s original city plan.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What is the best way to see Jackson in one day?

    You’ll be hard-pressed to fit all of Jackson’s museums and other attractions into a single day; it’s best to pick and choose based on your interests. Here are our top sites and experiences to check out if you only have a day in Jackson:
     
    Begin with a leisurely walking tour of downtown, including the Mississippi State Capitol, Old Capitol Museum, Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, Smith Park and City Hall. After a lunch at The Palette Café, check out the Agriculture and Forestry Museum, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame or Mississippi Art Museum. Spend a relaxing afternoon at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, where locals go for outdoor fun, including fishing, boating and water-skiing. Have dinner at Nick’s, and if you’re up for it, check out Jackson’s nightlife in one of its many live music clubs.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    Where is the best nightlife in Jackson?

    In a city known for the blues, there are no shortages of after-hours bars and clubs to keep you occupied until the sun comes up. Mississippi has produced more famous blues musicians (B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson) than any other state, and Jackson has a generous club scene showcasing this American musical forms. While the city doesn’t jump as much as it did in the blues’ heyday, you can still catch occasional performances in town by blues greats, as well as performances of rock, country and other music.
     
    Live music clubs in Jackson open and close with some frequency. Pick up an issue of the Jackson Free Press for a schedule of upcoming shows. Hal and Mal’s is a big brewpub and music venue in the center of the city that consistently has good acts. Burgers and Blues is primarily a restaurant, but it has live music as well, and Underground 119 is a swank basement lounge just steps from the Mississippi Governor’s mansion that showcases all kinds of music, including blues, jazz and bluegrass.
     
    Hardcore blues fans will want to make the trek to Bentonia, 20 miles northwest of Jackson and home to the Blue Front Café, a classic juke joint where cinderblock walls rattle with gritty, soulful sounds most weekends. It’s one of the last true jukes left, so get there before it’s gone.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the best Jackson food experiences?

    When you’re craving soulful comfort food, head for Jackson. This Mississippi city has must-taste dishes worth traveling for. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors chose a few of the best Jackson food experiences.
     
    The first is fried catfish. Frying up catfish may sound simple, but there’s complex technique involved and you’ll also want the freshest, most succulent Mississippi catfish if you’re going to indulge. We recommend testing out the southern treat at Bo-Don’s, Cock of the Walk or Country Fisherman.
     
    Southern barbecue is a must. The Jackson way to make barbecue involves slow-cooked meat over hickory wood. The result? It falls right off the bone. Pulled pork, country sausage and smoked chicken are tastiest at Chimneyville Smokehouse, Hickory Pit or Red Hot and Blue.
     
    When in the South, get a taste of authentic soul food — think fresh collard greens, cornbread and pig ears. Head down to Farish Street for the real deal — we recommend Peaches or Big Apple Inn, famous for their pig ear sandwiches.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What is the best thing to bring home from Jackson?

    To bring a little Jackson home with you, save room in your suitcase for the best local reading material. Mississippi is one of the more literary states in the nation, turning out famous authors including William Faulkner and John Grisham. Stock up on reading material at Lemuria Books. This bibliophile’s paradise is stocked to the ceiling with books in every conceivable genre, including an impressive selection of Mississippi authors. The staff can help you find whatever you’re looking for, as well as expose you to written works you may not know.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the best neighborhoods to see historic Jackson?

    While much of Jackson’s historic buildings, including many fine antebellum homes, disappeared under successive waves of urban renewal, you can still get a sense of the city’s past in the Belhaven neighborhood, bounded by Riverside Drive, I–55, Fortification Street and North State Street. Cruise or walk along Poplar or Peachtree Streets to see some distinctive dwellings, which can also be seen on Carlisle and Fairview. At the center of the neighborhood sits Belhaven University and the Eudora Welty House, which is open for tours.
     
    Another interesting part of Jackson history can be seen at the 600 block of Pearl Street, where a plaque commemorates the site of the Subway Lounge. The legendary juke joint occupied the basement of a former hotel that was eventually razed, but not before it saw some truly memorable performances by legendary blues musicians. It is said that the ghosts of blues greats haunt the former locations of Ace Records, Trumpet Records and Speir Phonograph Company, all along Farish Street just outside of downtown Jackson.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    Where is the best shopping in Baton Rouge?

    Baton Rouge is not as much of a shopper’s paradise as nearby New Orleans, but it still has some shops worth checking out. Poke around The Royal Standard for all sorts of unique fashions and housewares, including an impressive selection of Louisiana State University-themed items; or go to Circa 1857 for art, antiques and architectural salvage. The Baton Rouge Arts Market is an open-air arts extravaganza held the first Saturday of every month, (excluding January and May, and the first three Saturdays in December), while the Red Stick Farmers’ Market offers fresh produce and other goodies every Saturday at Fifth and Main Streets. The farmers’ market is located next to Main Street Market, which has its own collection of shops and eating spots and is open every day but Sunday. Finally, Perkins Rowe and Towne Center at Cedar Lodge are both large modern shopping centers with a slew of stores, dining and entertainment options.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Baton Rouge?

    From interactive shows to shady swamps, Baton Rogue’s attractions can entertain kids of all ages. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to do with little ones in this Southern city:
     
    1. Explore the Louisiana Art & Science Museum. Stick to the science side of this sprawling museum on the banks of the Mississippi. It features interactive exhibits that kids will love, as well as a planetarium with all kinds of sky shows and even an authentic Egyptian mummy. Step outside to watch the riverboat casinos cruising by on the waters of the “Big Muddy.”
     
    2. Hop onboard the USS Kidd. Next to the science museum on the riverfront, this World War II destroyer is open for tours. Walk around the historic ship, and then visit the adjacent museum to see a trove of military artifacts, including vintage aircraft.
     
    3. Interact with animals at BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo. Animals from all over the world are found at this zoo, including a black rhino, impressive birds and a large tiger habitat, as well as fish, reptiles and amphibians native to Louisiana. Elephant shows happen daily, and there’s also a playground and petting zoo here.
     
    4. Walk through the Rural Life Museum. A showcase of traditional country living, this largely outdoor complex on the Louisiana State University campus includes an authentic 19th-century plantation with several restored buildings, including a sugar house, grist mill and blacksmith’s shop. There are also semi-formal gardens with many examples of native flowers and plants.
     
    5. Take a swamp tour. Give kids an up-close look at the alligators that live in Baton Rouge’s legendary swamps — you won’t even need to enter the backwoods. The city boasts several cruises through the bayous, including the Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, McGee’s Landing and The Last Wilderness Swamp Tour.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the five best things to see and do in Baton Rouge?

    The city on the Mississippi offers visitors a taste of the Old South with all the modern day conveniences of a mid-sized metropolis. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s five best things to see and do in Baton Rogue:
     
    1. Visit the Louisiana State Capitol building. The historic capitol building is a monument to the controversial tenure of Huey Long, who infamously ruled over Louisiana in the ‘20s and ‘30s as governor and U.S. Senator. He commissioned the 450-foot-tall structure — today it’s the tallest state capitol in the United States — where he died in a hail of bullets in 1935. Meander the formal garden south of the building where Long’s grave is located, or head to the observation deck on the 27th floor for views of Baton Rogue and beyond.
     
    2. Meander through Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center. On the southern end of the city sits this 100-acre nature preserve. Walk the boardwalk through cypress swamp and beech-magnolia forest, then visit the exhibit building which has live animals, a working bee hive and more.
     
    3. Explore the Old State Capitol. In marked contrast to the soaring current capitol, the Old State Capitol is a neo-gothic fortress on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. It houses a museum devoted to state politics — and as any history buff could tell you, Louisiana has had some of the most colorful in U.S. history.
     
    4. Drive through Plantation Alley. The small towns that line the Mississippi from Baton Rouge to New Orleans are home to perhaps the highest concentration of restored antebellum mansions — all located on gorgeously manicured grounds. While touring plantations, be sure to stop at The River Road African-American Museum in Donaldsonville. The slaves whose labor provided the lifestyle for their rich owners are just part of the focus at this museum, which includes numerous exhibits on African-American history and culture.
     
    5. Take in the Capitol Park Museum. Learn all about Louisiana state history at this museum near the capitol building. Displays touch on everything from the Civil War to shrimp and oyster fishing to the colorful pageantry of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What is the best way to see Baton Rouge in one day?

    The best way to see Baton Rogue in one day is to begin your adventure downtown. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest starting with the Louisiana State Capitol building and its surrounding monuments. If you have little ones with you, make a visit to the kid-friendly Louisiana Art & Science Museum or the Rural Life Museum where you can walk through an authentic 19th-century plantation. After noshing on a po’ boy and some oysters for lunch at any corner café, head out to Great River Road for a winding trip along the Mississippi. You’ll pass the gorgeous old plantations of the wealthy sugar barons who once reigned here (you’ll also see the homes starkly contrast with the large petrochemical works along the river). There are a slew of charming country outposts where you can indulge in some shrimp or crawfish — our low-key favorite for a snack is The Cabin Restaurant in Gonzales. End your day back in Baton Rogue and watch the sun set over the bayous before a stellar Louisiana-style dinner at Juban’s.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    Where is the best nightlife in Baton Rouge?

    If you’re looking for a refined nightlife experience in Baton Rogue, you’re probably out of luck. But if you’re up for a laid-back, music-filled scene, Forbes Travel Guide editors can vouch that you’ve come to the right place. This Southern city is dominated by college students, beer and booming music — hear some blues at Teddy’s Juke Joint, an old-school club in an authentic shotgun shack, where a DJ plays recordings of classic bluesmen on nights when there are no live bands. You can also settle in with a drink at longtime Baton Rouge mainstay The Chimes, an atmospherically scenic joint that sits next to the Varsity Theatre — this spot books all kinds of bands and you can expect a lively, all-types clientele.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the five best Baton Rouge food experiences?

    For an authentic Baton Rogue food experience, don’t be shy about indulging in traditional Southern food mainstays: grease, sugar and pork. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editor’s picks for five Baton Rouge tastes not to be missed:
     
    1. Po’ boy sandwich. Deep-fried foods are de rigueur in Baton Rogue, including the ubiquitous po’ boy sandwich, typically made with fried shrimp or oysters and served on chewy French bread (you can get plenty of other fillings as well and many aficionados swear by roast beef). Try one at Poor Boy Lloyd’s near the river or any of the sandwich stands or delis around town.
     
    2. Boiled shrimp or catfish. Not all seafood is fried. You can get tasty boiled shrimp or crawfish all over town. Forbes Travel Guide recommends longtime local favorite Hymel’s Seafood Restaurant for top-notch seafood specialties.
     
    3. Decadent desserts. Baton Rogue is where sugar cane once grew thick from the black earth, and the rich and heavy desserts found here are a big nod to the sweet stuff. You can’t go wrong with signature Southern pies like pecan and lemon.
     
    4. Barbecue. Louisiana is known for its spicy, succulent pulled pork and other barbecued meats. Locals pour into Jay’s Bar-B-Q, a roadside spot with excellent barbecue and whole-chicken dinners.
     
    5. Fried alligator. Plenty of country folk have a thing for fried alligator — some say it tastes like chicken — found in the small cafés in and around Baton Rogue.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What is the best thing to bring home from Baton Rouge?

    Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest shipping a taste of Louisiana home. Stop by Tony’s Seafood Market & Deli, the largest seafood market in the state, and have them ship their finest goods to your front door. Ask them about the fresh crawfish, crabs, shrimp, and packaged seasonings for gumbo and jambalaya.
     
    Any visitor to Baton Rouge can see that Louisiana State University plays a major role in the city’s daily life. Shops all over town sell souvenirs featuring the school’s purple and gold colors as well as images of the tiger mascot. One of the best spots for LSU gear is the LSU SportShop, located on campus near the ornate temple that is home to Mike the Tiger, a live Bengal.
     
    While it’s not nearly as famous as New Orleans’ annual party, Baton Rouge has its own Mardi Gras. If you can’t make it to town for the party you can pick up masks, beads and other trinkets at Parties Start Here, a huge Mardi Gras emporium.