Editor’s Note: Looking for a weekend getaway that won’t cost a fortune with the high price of gasoline? This series, Tank of Gas Getaway, offers up travel locations that Jackson metro area residents can make on a tank of gas.
At the crossroad of I-20 and and I-59 and just 92 miles from the Jackson metro area, Meridian offers a rare combination of entertainment, shopping and dining that few in Mississippi can rival.
The birthplace of the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers, Meridian offers museums, amazing food and one of the most popular women’s clothing stores in the state.
“A lot of the energy that is crackling through Meridian right now comes from looking afresh at what we had taken for granted,” said Dede Mogollon, executive director of Visit Meridian. “We are rediscovering and reviving grand downtown buildings, some of which we once hid decades ago beneath “modern” metal cladding. You must visit the rooftop at the Threefoot Building, a gorgeous Art Deco skyscraper newly reborn as a hotel.”
No matter the arrival time, visit Meridian’s Civil War and Civil Rights Trails. At each marker, a QR code provides access to a short video about the location. Specific details for each trail and a detailed map are available on the city’s website.
If arriving close to lunch, enjoy a traditional Southern meal at Jean’s Restaurant located at 820 22nd Avenue. The fare is simple, the portions generous and no two coffee cups match. This is where you find the locals gathering. The tourism office is located just a few blocks away at 2000 Front Street.
A graveyard may not be the most obvious place for exploring, but Rose Hill Cemetery is unique because the Queen of the Gypsies is buried there. Tributes in the forms of fruits and adult beverages are still left on her gravesite. The various monuments have the names of many of the founding families and prominent citizens.
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Continue to Highland Park with a visit to the Dentzel Park Carousel, in operation since 1909. This National Historic Landmark is the only two-row stationary Dentzel menagerie carousel in the world. Rides cost only 50 cents.
People drive from far and wide for the shopping scene to go to I Just Have To Have It in downtown. It is the flagship store for a burgeoning business with three locations – Meridian, Starkville, Oxford — and a growing online business. It is a contemporary boutique featuring the latest trends in clothing, jewelry, shoes, purses and accessories.
For a taste of generational family cooking, stop for lunch at New’s Restaurant, which began as a café in the back of a Shell Service station in 1942. Today, it is still a popular spot for fried dill pickles and cheeseburgers.
After lunch, check out the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum. The museum is an ongoing project to restore the Soulé Steam Feed Works Industrial site. The turn-of-the-century factory complex built steam engines and included a blacksmith shop, foundry and belt-driven machine shop.
Must-see attractions are the Jimmie Rodgers Museum, with a look to the past. There is also The Max, The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience, a tribute to the state’s creative culture and artistic genius with a mission to fire up new generations’ imaginations. Meridian is also home to a new Children’s Museum.
Before leaving, stop by what is touted to be the oldest restaurant in Mississippi, Weidmann’s, which has been a staple since 1870. The downtown restaurant is famous for black bottom pie and peanut butter crocks on the table.