Things To Do in Meridian MS
If you are considering visiting or living in Meridian, be prepared for an adventure! Despite being miles away from the nearest Target and Starbucks, there is plenty to do and enjoy in the small town. From Wine Wednesdays to weekend getaways, spouses’ clubs, and impromptu parties, Meridian offers a fun-filled environment for all ages and interests. The best thing to keep in mind when approaching Meridian life is to maintain a positive attitude and willingness to try new experiences. You’ll be surprised by how much of a blast you can have with such limited resources; my time living in Meridian was truly unforgettable!
If your time in Meridian is just starting, I’m kind of envious; make the most of it! Take advantage of your time in the Deep South and stay involved. Here are some of my favorite things to do in and around Meridian:
Geyser Falls Water Park
Geyser Falls is a 23-acre water park with a wave pool, a lazy river, a “beach” pool with cabanas, 13 water slides, a beach club restaurant, and tiki bars in Philadelphia, MS (about 45 minutes from the base, right past the casinos). We lucked into hearing about this place, took a drive out to check in, and were totally obsessed! We bought season passes that day and highly recommend them! The summer in Meridian gets HOT and going on a day trip to the waterpark felt like we were on vacation a world away from Meridian.
TIP: Get season passes early-it pays for itself in three trips! The park opens in March and closes during the week in September so go early in the season to take advantage of your passes!
Pearl River Resort
Two big casinos with tables and slot machines, with normal casino-style buffets, bars, restaurants, a hotel, and the nicest golf course in the state of Mississippi, Dancing Rabbit. Pearl River Resort is about 45 minutes from Meridian on the Indian reservation in Choctaw/Philadelphia, MS.
TIP: Sign up for the rewards program (it’s free) and they often send out vouchers for free rooms at the hotel!
Neshoba County Fair
16800 State 21 South, Philadelphia, MS 39350; neshobacountyfair.org. Day tickets, $15; season tickets, $30 ages 10 and up.
One part state fair, one part party cabins — the Neshoba county fair is an experience! Held one week in July, people pour into town from all over to stay in one of the 600 party cabins and 200 RV spots. While you probably won’t be lucky enough to get an overnight spot, it is still worth the trip for the evening! This fair, referred to as Mississippi’s giant house party, has been a staple in Mississippi since 1889 and is the perfect way to immerse yourself in local culture.
The fair itself is pretty much what you would expect – rides, food vendors, games, but where this southern gem really gets interesting is the front porch sitting at the fair cabins! The fair covers 60 acres of land in Philadelphia, MS, and has been a Mississippi tradition since 1889. Around the racetrack, there are close to 900 fair cabins, all brightly painted and colorfully lit up, separated into “neighborhoods” with names like Happy Hollows, Sunset Boulevard, and Bourbon Street. Pictures cannot do these cabins justice! The fair cabins are passed down from generation to generation and the families lucky enough to be in one will come into town and live on the fairgrounds for the week. The fair itself is pretty much what you would expect – rides, food vendors, games, but where this southern gem really gets interesting is the front porch sitting at the fair cabins!
The fair covers 60 acres of land in Philadelphia, MS, and has been a Mississippi tradition since 1889. Around the racetrack, there are close to 900 fair cabins, all brightly painted and colorfully lit up, separated into “neighborhoods” with names like Happy Hollows, Sunset Boulevard, and Bourbon Street. Pictures cannot do these cabins justice! The fair cabins are passed down from generation to generation and the families lucky enough to be in one will come into town and live on the fairgrounds for the week.
I was so intrigued by everything I had to ask a few locals for all of the details! The power to the fair cabins is turned on from April to August but most people only stay in the cabins for the nine days that the fair is in town. Several of these fair cabins cost half a million dollars and are considered some of the most prime real estate in the entire state of Mississippi! The fairgrounds are like a self-contained city during this week, even opening their own post office for nine days! Southern literary icon Willie Morris called it a “combination camp meeting, picnic, recital, amusement park, music jamboree, race track, and political rally…[with] no institution quite like it in America.” Ronald Reagan announced his run for the presidency here and many famous people including John Glen have given political speeches at the Neshoba County Fair.
Tuesday night trivia
Tuesday nights trivia is at the Balcony Bar, upstairs in Weidmann’s and Wednesday nights trivia is at the Brickhaus Bar, both downtown. It is free and both give away restaurant gift cards as prizes. (Brickhaus also gives away free pitchers of beer to all teams who beat the bartender!) There are always people you know at trivia and it’s a fun way to break up the week.
TIP: Weidmann’s trivia gets packed so get there early to get a table.
Earth’s Bounty Festival
There is a small farmers market held under the bridge near the train station each Saturday morning, June through November, from 8 am-3 pm. On the first Saturday of each month, there is a larger farmers’ market called Earth’s Bounty.
TIP: The first Earth’s Bounty of the season is always the largest and the one I would recommend! Last year, it overlapped with the Three Foot festival which meant mimosas and bloody marys.
April 4th has been circled in my planner for months! Not because of Easter weekend or any out-of-town visitors but because April 4th was the day the Farmer’s Market re-opened for the season in Meridian! Not only that but it was supposed to be a BIG event downtown called Earth’s Bounty to kick off farmers’ market season. We loved going to the Palafox Market on Saturday mornings while we lived in Pensacola so I had my fingers crossed that we could continue that tradition here in Meridian.
The Meridian farmer’s market is not huge but, as usual, made up for what it lacked in size in extremely friendly vendors. It was a cool morning but we grabbed mimosas and bloody marys from a street vendor (only in Mississippi lol) and walked up and down, checking out all of the booths. Everyone from the sausage guys to Denise with her sweet treats was more than happy to strike up a friendly conversation. There is nothing I love more than friendly, welcoming people! We left with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, sausages, and gluten-free cinnamon crumb cakes.
Also, if you are a fan of local farm-raised meat, eggs, and produce, Beaverdam Farms is incredible. Get on their mailing list and every other week you have the option to place an order to be picked up that Saturday. (No requirements to ever order by joining the buying club mailing list) We love getting their bacon and eggs and making a big brunch on Sundays.
Not sure what to expect (the menu of offerings is huge!), we started small with just bacon and breakfast sausage. On Saturday, we headed over to the pickup point and were surprised to see Dustin and Ali there for the pickup. Knowing where your food comes from AND getting the chance to meet and talk with the farmers?! This was a dream come true and something I was not expecting to find in Meridian. Pick-up was super easy (cash or check and bring your own bags), Dustin and Ali were both super friendly and helpful, and we were excited to see that they bring extras that you can purchase. We grabbed a dozen eggs in addition to our breakfast meats and were quickly on our way.
Sunday, we made brunch using eggs and bacon, and oh my goodness! Nothing compares to farm-fresh eggs and REAL bacon! I cannot wait until the next pickup date and know that this will be a bi-weekly treat for us. Needless to say, our next order will be a little bigger than this one. After watching the documentary Food, Inc (highly recommend!), it is so refreshing to know exactly what we are putting in our bodies, as well as supporting local farmers in Mississippi. Is the food more expensive than that at Winn Dixie or Sam’s Club? Of course, but like they say “Pay the Farmer or Pay the Doctor”.
Ralph Morgan Rodeo
This Friday and Saturday, more than one hundred highly-skilled cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country will converge upon the semi-annual Ralph Morgan Rodeo in Lauderdale, MS. Fans of the event can expect to find a myriad of new faces and fresh performances alongside returning favorites.
Every contestant brings their own special flair and expertise to each rodeo, resulting in an event full of unique and exciting events. Competitions range from barrel racing and bull riding to steer wrestling and team roping, to name a few. The animals competing at the rodeo also will be vying for impressive awards such as Number One Horse of the Year.
TIP: Dressing in redneck attire and riding in the back of a pickup truck makes it even more fun
Not only will there be amazing performances to watch, but audience members will have the chance to experience live entertainment by world-renowned rodeo clown Lecile Harris from Collierville, Tennessee. With over thirty-five years as a part of the Ralph Morgan Rodeo and four consecutive Pro-Rodeo Clown of the Year awards under his belt, Harris is sure to provide a dazzling performance.
In addition, Mike Mathis from Lubbock, Texas, has returned to serve as announcer for the show. Kids are also encouraged to join in on the fun by participating in various activities throughout the rodeo.
The rodeo is held multiple times during the summer, right here in Lauderdale County!
6890 Dunn’s Falls Road, Enterprise, MS 39930; 601-655-8550
Although this weekend gave us our first true taste of Mississippi summer heat (sweltering!), it was a great one! We relaxed by the pool, did some shopping in Jackson, and caught up on some TV shows, but the highlight of our weekend was checking out Dunn’s Falls. This place is truly a hidden gem in Meridian!
A beautiful waterfall, just 10 minutes south of downtown Meridian! This location used to power the Stetson hat factory however now is just a great spot to relax on a hot summer day.
Just ten minutes south of downtown Meridian, right off of I-59, is Dunn’s Fall — a gorgeous waterfall along the Chunky River. It was originally used in 1850 as the power source for a gristmill and the factory that manufactured Stetson hats! Now, it’s just a fun place to spend a Sunday afternoon. There are steps to the bottom of the waterfall and a trail from there to the river for swimming.
In Meridian and want to check it out? Just take I-59S to the Savoy exit and then follow the signs for Dunns Falls. It’s open 9 am to 5 pm, Wednesday through Sunday during the summer season. Heads up: it costs $3.25 per person in an “honor system” box so be sure to bring cash. There are spots for primitive camping, cabins to rent, and tables for picnics.
Eat, Drink, Meridian
We attended Eat, Drink, Meridian on a whim, convinced that we would grab sushi afterward because there wouldn’t be much food at the event. Boy, were we wrong! For a five-dollar ticket, we were able to sample food from over 25 local restaurants, everything from Waffle House to Harvest Grill! On top of that, we were also able to help ourselves to drink samples (in most cases a full beer, cider, or cocktail!) from 5+ bar/distributor stations. We must have consumed 10x our $5 tickets and had a blast! The event was held in a hotel ballroom in April so keep an eye out for any advertisements about this!
We finally had brunch on Sunday at Weidmann’s. If you look up Meridian on Pinterest or Google, Weidmann’s is the one restaurant that everyone recommends. (Maybe the only restaurant but that’s another story!) Weidmann’s is gorgeous, with its exposed brick walls and hardwood floors, and it is full of tradition. Minus a small hiccup in 2010, it has been open since 1870! Instead of getting bread and butter before your meal, you are brought out a crock of peanut butter and crackers, a tradition dating back to butter shortages during WWII. After stuffed french toast and a round of Ramos gin fizzes, we headed to the grocery store and then home to watch some football.
Weidmann’s is located in downtown Meridian, Mississippi at the intersection of 22nd Avenue & 4th Street, between 2nd Street & 4th Street.
Hwy.19 South near I-20/59 interchange, Meridian, MS; 601-485-1920
Meridian is a fantastic place to experience the outdoors. Located within its city limits is the sprawling 3,300-acre Bonita Lakes Park, an ideal destination for paddling, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, exercising, picnicking, or just soaking up the beauty of nature. The park also provides visitors with ample room to bring their canine companions (with a leash) and equestrian friends – there are over 20 miles of trails specifically designed for horseback riding that meander through forests and around lake shores.
For those looking to explore more, the park offers a 7-mile loop that winds throughout the terrain; this trail is deemed moderate in difficulty and features multiple workout stations scattered along its path. Additionally, offshoots from the main track are available for those wanting to explore the surrounding environs, particularly on bikes. Best of all, the park is dog-friendly provided that visitors keep their furry friends on a leash at all times.
To make navigating easier, an interactive Trail Map can be accessed online – it outlines the various routes available and also points out nearby landmarks and other points of interest. So if you’re seeking fresh air and some much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, then visiting Bonita Lakes Park in Meridian should be top of your list.
Great walking and biking trails around the lake near the mall. Lots of picnic tables and outdoor swings. 4th of July fireworks are also held here!
Blueberry picking at Johnson’s Farms
11624 Suqualena Road, Meridian, MS 39305; 601-626-8166
A fellow spouse passed along this suggestion and it was a great one! Johnson’s Farms is open in season, Tuesdays through Saturdays, for blueberry picking. The farm is large, the blueberries are plenty, Joe is sweet as can be, and the prices can’t be beaten. Go early in the season for the best selection!
TIP: Head out early in the mornings when they open to avoid the crazy Mississippi heat!
Hal’s St. Patricks Day parade
When I heard that one of the country’s largest St. Patricks Day parades was held right down the road in Jackson, Mississippi, gathering crowds of over 70,000 people, I thought it was a mistake. Turns out, it is true! What looks more like a Mardi Gras parade mixed with a college football tailgate, this is the real deal and worth the drive!
The best comparison for the parade that I’ve heard is that it is a cross between “Mardi Gras in New Orleans and an SEC football tailgate”. While the parade starts at one, the pre and post-parade are equally as important as the parade itself. Tents line the parade route early filled with spreads of foods, adult beverages, chairs, music, and other party essentials. While researching for our trip, I couldn’t find any of the “rules” about alcohol but from experience, the only rule I could see was “there are none!” It’s free to set up your “plot” and I highly recommend it! Plus a tent can help protect you from the elements, whether that is sun, rain, or just beads! I recommend bringing your own spread of food but there are also food vendors every block or so.
TIP: Bring the full tailgate spread: tents, coolers, tables, etc. We showed up with just an umbrella (it was pouring!) and were shocked to see miles and miles of tailgates set up for hours before the parade!
After the parade, there is a giant street party with live music and entertainment outside of Hal and Mal’s. While we were too cold and wet to stay this year, it seems like it would be a great time. The parade is free but the after-party does require paid wristbands (this year they were $20) and no coolers are allowed at the after-party!
Binachi Shooting Sports
Sporting clay, skeet shooting, and archery at Binachi Shooting Sports. The location is pretty, the owner is knowledgeable, and they have guns (and everything else you need to shoot!) to rent if you don’t have your own.
David is the owner of Bianchi Shooting Sports and he is awesome! We were the only people (besides a boy scout camp) there so David was more than happy to explain everything to us. He came out to the range with us and gave us pointers and really helped me with my form. The first time I shot the gun, I cried just from sheer nerves about the kickback (not so proud moment!) but in my third shot, I hit the clay straight on and it exploded in midair (proud moment!) After we shot through a box of ammo, David asked us if we wanted to ride around and see a tour of the property and shoot some clays back in the woods. The 400-acre property is gorgeous, and much cooler back in the shaded woods. My husband really started getting the hang of shooting the shotgun, but old habits die hard and he still has to close one eye like he is shooting a rifle. Either way, we had an awesome day shooting. We grabbed burgers at Mugshots before heading home for a long nap.
Road Trips from Meridian, MS
Meridian has to be in the best location in terms of being in the center of a ton of fun southern cities. There are places within six different states that fall within a few hours’ drive and more importantly, within bounds (meaning no leave required to go!) Here is my favorite getaway in each of those states!
Mississippi State and Alabama are both within a 1.5 drive and Auburn and Ole Miss are also both within bounds. On a long weekend, Knoxville is an option too! It is definitely worth the drive for a football game or at least the tailgating during the fall. Sometimes, ITT even has free tickets for Mississippi State games!
- Eat: Coffee at The Bodacious Brew, Grits a Ya Ya at The Fish House, or a ramen bowl at Nom
- Drink: An Irish Wake at McGuires or a specialty cocktail at 5 1/2 Bar.
- Do: Palafox Market, a trip to the beach, and gallery night
- Stay: The Gateway Inn on base (can’t beat the price!)
- Eat: Three-course lunch (with 25-cent martinis) at Antoine’s or pizza at Domenica. And of course, beignets at Cafe Du Monde.
- Drink: Water…in between all of those sugary hurricanes on Bourbon St, of course!
- Do: Drink and Learn cocktail tour
- Stay: The Roosevelt (make sure to ask about the military rate!)
- Eat: Tacos and tableside guac at Babalu
- Drink: A cocktail at the speakeasy, The Apothecary at Brent’s Drugs
- Do: Check out Livingston Merchantile
- Stay: No need–we always just drove home!
- Eat: BBQ at Saw’s Soul Kitchen, pizza at Post Office Pie’s, or sushi burritos at Wasabi Juan’s
- Drink: A beer at Avondale Brewery
- Do: Indoor rock climbing at First Ave Rocks, hiking at Ruffner Mountain, or shopping at The Summit
- Stay: Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort
- Eat: Rendezvous and The Commissary BBQ, so that you can compare and pick a favorite or anything at SOB, South Of Beale
- Drink: A 40oz at Raifords while playing the drumset!
- Do: Beale Street, the duck parade at The Peabody, or a Grizzlies game at FedEx Forum
- Stay: The Exchange Suites
- Eat: A burger and pimento cheese friends from Farm Burger
- Drink: A cocktail at Top Golf
- Do: The College Football Hall of Fame
- Things To Do in Meridian MS