Our name reflects location, but much more than a name puts Meridian, in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, on the map. A rich blend of the arts, history, and outdoor activities makes it a prime vacation destination. You’ll find Meridian located on I-20/59 in East Central Mississippi, easy to reach and even easier to enjoy.
Live performances, from country music to ballet and opera, take the spotlight in the MSU Riley Center for Education & Performing Arts. A stunning downtown renovation, it brings to life again the city’s elegant old Grand Opera House. Plays and concerts also fill the stage at the historic Temple Theater, designed by noted theater architect Emile Weil. The theater houses a rare and magnificent Morton pipe organ.
Look for stars as you stroll downtown: a bit of Hollywood is reflected in the Walk of Fame, part of the future Hall of Fame for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center. The first plaque, with a star honoring hometown music legend Jimmie Rodgers, was unveiled on February 15, 2009, in front of the MSU Riley Center.
Known as the “Singing Brakeman,” Rodgers was also the first artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In historic Highland Park, you’ll find the Jimmie
Rodgers Memorial Museum in what resembles a small-town train depot. Inside are displays of musical instruments, and memorabilia of the singer, who once worked as a brakeman on the railroad. Outside, a vintage steam locomotive recalls Rodgers’ early career, as well as Meridian’s deep historic roots as a railroad and manufacturing center.
Highland Park is also home to the century-old Dentzel Carousel, one of the few surviving two-row stationary Dentzel carousels in the world in its original building. A ride on the menagerie, which includes 28 hand-carved animals, delights children of all ages. Pick your favorite: deer, goat, horse, giraffe, lion, or tiger.
Ten minutes from downtown, Bonita Lakes Park covers 3,300 acres and includes three lakes for fishing, and 20 miles of pathways for biking, hiking, and horseback riding. It’s the perfect spot for having a picnic, or for spreading a blanket and listening to an outdoor concert by the Meridian Symphony Orchestra.
Okatibbee Reservoir adds another 3,800 acres of water to the menu of outdoor options. Here you can spot bald eagles and alligators, fish for bass, and camp overnight. Commune with nature, listen, and relax as the historic 65-foot Dunn’s Falls spills into the Chunky River. The water at the falls was once used as a power source for a gristmill and a factory that manufactured Stetson hats.
Meridian and Lauderdale County also dish up history with ice-cold Coca-Colas and fresh peanuts warm from the old-fashioned roaster at the Causeyville General Store. At Merrehope, listen to tales of how the 20-room Victorian mansion was used as headquarters for Confederate General Leonidas Polk during the Civil War, and why Union General William Sherman spared it from destruction.
Don’t miss the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum and the nearby Meridian Railroad Museum. When the two let go with sounds from the past during Whistlestop Weekend in November, bring your earplugs – it’s a blast!