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Tank Trip: What to do in Meridian, Mississippi

Hands-on activities engage young visitors at the Mississippi Children’s Museum–Meridian. Photo courtesy Mississippi Children’s Museum–Meridian

Once the Magnolia State’s largest city, Meridian might have been surpassed by other metropolises, but now it’s humming like never before with vibrant cultural appeal, highlighted by a slick museum honoring Mississippi artists, writers, and musicians. Hip mixes with history all over town, including in a century-old carousel, an innovative children’s discovery center, and a beautifully restored high-rise art deco hotel crowned by a rooftop bar.

What to do

Encompassing music, literature, food, paintings, and more, Mississippi art takes many forms. The dazzling Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience (The MAX) explores them all with fun and interactive exhibits, honoring everyone from Elvis and Oprah to John Grisham and Morgan Freeman. Adults, $14.

With a grittier ambience, the nearby Industrial Heritage Museum at Historic Soulé Steam Feed Works feels like a time capsule, preserving a steam engine factory that operated for more than a century before shutting down in 2002. Antique equipment in the belt-driven machine shop comes to life during demonstrations. Adults, $10.

There’s also plenty of action for families at the Mississippi Children’s Museum–Meridian, which opened in 2021. Hands-on activities include a climb-through brain, a giant train set, a Goodnight Moon exhibit, and even a teaching garden. Admission, $10.

Lucile Rosenbaum Dentzel Carousel.

The Lucile Rosenbaum Dentzel Carousel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, offers nostalgic trips through time. Photo courtesy Visit Meridian

For old-fashioned thrills, visit the Lucile Rosenbaum Dentzel Carousel, originally built for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and now on the National Register of Historic Places. Its 28 hand-carved animals—including horses, goats, antelopes, and lions—spin past oil paintings inside a historic shed. Open 1–5 p.m. Saturdays from November through March, with additional days the rest of the year; $1 per ride.

Meridian also honors its history on an 18-stop Civil Rights Trail. The city found itself in the global spotlight after the murder of 3 civil rights workers in nearby Philadelphia during Freedom Summer, the voter registration campaign that took place in 1964. At each marker, a QR code provides a link to a video via your smartphone.

You may also like: Discover 10 civil rights sites in the Midwest and South

Where to shop

From biscuit mix to hand-crafted purses, there’s no shortage of Mississippi-made products at Crooked Letter gift shop. Get a literal taste of the state at The Bulldog Shop & Coffee Counter on Mississippi State University’s downtown campus. It stocks products from the school’s dairy program, including cheese and ice cream.

Where to eat

Weidmann’s, said to be the state’s oldest restaurant, dates to 1870 and offers classic Southern seafood and cocktails, along with salads, pasta, and sandwiches. For a modern take on Southern fare, Jean’s serves its standout fried chicken, collard greens, and jalapeño cornbread in an elegant storefront location downtown.

You may also like: Exploring culinary routes in the Southern U.S.

Where to stay

Threefoot Hotel rooftop bar.

Relax on the rooftop bar at the Threefoot Hotel, a renovated 1920s art deco skyscraper. Photo courtesy Ascent Hospitality

Meridian’s Threefoot Hotel is reason enough to visit this comeback town. A masterful renovation transformed a 1920s art deco skyscraper into stylish downtown lodging with a rooftop bar. Rates start at $159. Also downtown, Century House Bed & Breakfast offers Old South comforts and modern amenities. Rates start at $159.

Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.

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