AFTER FORTY YEARS OF BEING A SLEEPY LITTLE TOWN, MERIDIAN, MISSISSIPPI,
A HIDDEN GEM ON THE AMTRAK RAILROAD LINE,
FINDS IT HAS AWAKENED TO A FAIRYTALE-LIKE REALITY.
The story begins when the Threefoot Hotel opened its doors in November 2021 in a festive grand opening in Meridian’s historic downtown. Decades in the making, the 1930 Art Deco building found a new life. A glorious renovation, every architectural element of the 16-story hotel shines with pride.
Imagine a canvas so grand the windows look like a rainbow, each reflection a masterpiece, from the cobalt skies to the cotton candy clouds. Add to that the art deco mosaic tiles, both inside and out, fashioned with vining flowers and tulips. Every element pays homage to the building’s golden age.
The tallest building in Meridian, the hotel provides spectacular views of the city from every room. Sip a glass of wine and watch the sunset from the suite’s spacious walkout balcony. Or invite friends to join you at the Boxcar rooftop bar, a tribute to Meridian’s railroad history. Don’t forget the camera to capture those glorious sunsets and 360-degree views of the city.
But wait there’s more to this fairytale. Imagine Prince Charming whisking you away on a magical horse, one of beauty and grace where dreams come true. The Dentzel Carousel, built by Gustav Dentzel, has been flying children of all ages since 1909. Hop on the saddle and hold on tight as the painted ponies go up and down. Dreamers go round and round inside a tapestry of colors, from the finely etched mane to waves of authentic horsehair tails. Artistry so grand, generations return year after year to a mystical world of animals, from a fierce lion and tiger to deer, giraffes and antelopes, and of course, the galloping horses.
Nicknamed the Queen City, as the second largest city in MS behind Jackson (the King,) visitors enjoy royal treatment from a stunning lineup of arts and entertainment to a full menu of delectable restaurants. Don’t miss the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience (The MAX) and the Mississippi Children’s Museum-Meridian, all recent builds with state-of-the-art exhibits.
And then there’s the MSU (Mississippi State University) Riley Center, an exquisite build that brings tears to your eyes. Inside, the gilded balconies shimmer with delight welcoming all those who enter. Every piece of décor owns a most glorious design, from the balconies to the artwork and that stunning maroon curtain. The theater seems to have a life of its own, and rightly so with many ups and downs. It shuttered in 1927 with the discovery of the movie theaters, but after a hefty donation the center found new life in September 2006.
More affectionately known as the Grand Opera House, the Victorian design brings to mind a legacy of operas and concerts. And it hosted some of the most popular traveling shows such as vaudeville, minstrel shows, and some of the earliest silent movies. In April 2022, Bob Dylan brought his “Rough and Rowdy” tour in what will probably be his last visit to Meridian.
Perhaps the grandest lessons in Meridian are found in the Mississippi Children’s Museum. What a striking gift not only for our younger tribes but the teachers as well. No matter your occupation, color or creed, indulge your curiosity climbing into the clouds or the cockpit of a jet in the Wings of Wonder exhibit. Many of us learned a host of lessons from the grandest teacher of all, Mother Nature. The Fantastical Backyard exhibit focuses on both the physical and mental benefits. Explore the enchanted gardens complete with thriving plants and vegetables. Play in the cool waters, build a sandcastle, and then climb through the tunnels and trellises of the wondering woods.
Don’t miss My Storybook Factory, where children discover their creative spirit and let their imagination fly. The town’s dynamic Riley Center theatre invites guests to perform on stage or be part of the stage crew. Maybe puppets are your forte, make your own and create a puppet theatre. And of course there are tons of books; dress as one of your favorite characters and recite a passage from your favorite scene.
A visit to Meridian isn’t complete without touring the MAX (Mississippi Arts +Entertainment Experience). Heralded as a land of legends, the museum highlights Mississippi artists and celebrates the contributions of art in multiple disciplines. The exhibits move across six galleries featuring Land, Home, Community, Church, and People & Places, along with the Global Community.
Immerse all five senses in the Hall of Fame rotunda, a 360-degree exhibit that soars two stories tall. Witness the greats of Mississippi, from musical icons Tammy Wynette to Margaret Walker, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and don’t forget the actors, James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, and the literary giants William Faulkner and John Grisham. Oh, and an all-time favorite, Jim Henson and his Muppets. Imagine all of them together again sharing their story and music, along with Elvis Presley swiveling his hips. Mark your itinerary and devote a good part of the day at the MAX to see it all. Oh, and bring a tissue or two, there’s going to be some tears.
Grab a local brew at the Threefoot Brewing brewpub. Another new build, the pub serves primo beer with indoor and outdoor seating. They can whip up a mean steak, medallions of beef filet in a red wine reduction. Check out their social media sites for more info on growlers and the latest menu.
Meridian and railroads have worked hand in hand for a good seventy-five years. There’s nothing like train travel. Let someone else do the driving, gaze out the spacious windows and witness streams of backcountry only reserved for train travelers. Enjoy Amtrak meals, snacks or several different beverages.
“The investment in our downtown area has been nothing short of phenomenal, making Meridian an even more desirable place to live and visit,” says Dede Mogollon, Executive Director, Visit Meridian Tourism. “Visitors coming here can now fill an entire weekend enjoying our one-of-a-kind museums, two historic theaters, fine Southern cuisine, craft beers, and a variety of specialty retail, all without moving their car. And, Meridian is now a viable overnight option for those traveling by Amtrak, opening up a whole new market to us.”
Best to check out the online visitor guide before your trip so you don’t miss anything. There’s something for everyone, from a guy’s getaway, ladies’ shopping spree or family discovery vacations. Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau visitmeridian.com
THINGS TO DO WHILE YOU ARE IN MERIDIAN
Jimmie Rodgers Museum • 601-938-742 • jimmierodgers.com
The Mississippi Children’s Museum • 601-981-5469 • mschildrensmuseum.org/meridian/
MAX (Mississippi Arts +Entertainment Experience) • 601-581-1550 • msarts.org
Dentzel Carousel • 601-485-1802 • visitmeridian.com/explore/play/all-play/dentzel-carousel
Rose HIll Cemetery • visitmeridian.com/explore/play/all-play/rose-hill-cemetery11/
Harvest Grill • 601-282-5069 • harvestgrillms.com
Jean’s Restaurant • 601-692-7042 • eatjeans.com
Weidmann’s • 601-581-5770 • weidmanns1870.com
Threefoot Brewing Company • 601-286-3872 • threefootbrewing.com
BoxCar at Threefoot Hotel • 601-581-5770 • thethreefoothotel.com/eat-drink
Crooked Letter • 601-207-5072 • crookedletter.shop
The Liberty Shop • 601-693-5331
Over The Moon Children Boutique • 601-207-5180 • shopoverthemoonchildren.com
Meridian Underground Music • 601-485-1363 • meridianundergroundmusic.com
DC Guitar Studio • 601-453-3867 • dcguitarstudio.com
Threefoot Hotel • 601-207-8700 • thethreefoothotel.com
Century House Bed and Breakfast • 601-479-4291 • missbab.com/inn/century-house
Country Club Cottage • airbnb.com/rooms/618056308201524513?source_impression_id=p3_1658080847_zfgUSD2V3%2B%2Fz6pfb