12 Things to Do with Family in Meridian, Mississippi

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Meridian, Mississippi may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of a family vacation destination. However, this southern city has plenty to offer visitors of all ages. From unique museums and historical sites to outdoor adventures and kid-friendly attractions, Meridian is a great spot for making family memories.

Nestled in east-central Mississippi, Meridian serves as the seat of Lauderdale County. This city of around 40,000 residents originated as a railroad hub in the 1860s. While railroads remain integral to the local economy, Meridian has branched out in recent decades. The area features a diversified industrial base along with a growing arts and culture scene.

Meridian’s rich history combines with family-friendly recreation and entertainment options to create an appealing getaway for households. The mild southern climate makes outdoor activities possible throughout much of the year. And if rain does happen during your visit, there are plenty of indoor venues and attractions to keep the kids smiling.

When scoping out things to do in Meridian, MS with kids and teens, consider these 12 entertaining options.

1. Splash in the Waters at Bonita Lakes Park

For some wet and wild family fun, head over to Bonita Lakes Park. This large community park serves as a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike. The central Bonita Lakes provide the focal point. You can walk the trails around these peaceful ponds and appreciate the Spanish moss dangling from ancient trees. Or get active on the water by renting paddle boats, kayaks and pedal boats from the on-site concession area.

Another family favorite at Bonita Lakes Park is the Splash Pad. This interactive water playground allows kids to splash and dash through spraying fountains and buckets dumping water. It’s the perfect place for toddlers and young children to burn off energy on a hot Mississippi afternoon. The park also features an 18-hole disc golf course, volleyball courts, pavilions and a large playground.

With picnic tables scattered throughout, Bonita Lakes makes an ideal spot for a family cookout or picnic. The natural beauty and variety of amenities will keep parents and kids entertained for hours.

2. Step Back in Time at the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Museum

For an intriguing look at Meridian’s role in music history, schedule a visit to the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Museum. “The Father of Country Music,” Jimmie Rodgers was born in Meridian in 1897. While the city has changed dramatically since his youth, this museum captures the early 20th century period. Permanent exhibits highlight Rodgers’ upbringing along with his meteoric rise to recording star. Many rare artifacts and memorabilia tracing his influential career remain on display in the museum’s galleries.

In addition to Rodgers’ story, rotating exhibits feature other Mississippi musicians and cultural figures. Recent themes have covered Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette and many more. So you may find your kids enamored with the treasures inside this collection even if they don’t know Jimmie Rodgers from Jimmie Walker.

The museum also presents special events and programs for visiting families. Around the holidays, kids can get crafty making old-fashioned Christmas ornaments. And each April, the Jimmie Rodgers Festival takes over downtown. This multiple day event includes children’s activities along with lots of live music on outdoor stages.

3. See Exotic Animals at Lion Country Safari

For an unusual family adventure, make tracks to Lion Country Safari. Billed as Mississippi’s first drive-through safari park, this wild attraction opened in 1971. It provides visitors with an up-close look at exotic animal species from the comfort of their vehicles. Customers follow a five mile tour route through pastures and natural habitats occupied by over 500 creatures.

Lion Country Safari houses chimpanzees, zebras, wildebeests, ostrich and all kinds of hoofed stock. However, the park’s namesake lions tend to steal the show. Numerous lion prides call this drive-through adventure home, from tiny cubs to fully maned alphas. Safari goers can expect to see the big cats lounging, wandering and playing as they cruise by.

In addition to the drive-through safari, Lion Country has a Walk-Through Safari area and petting zoo for visitors. Kids can get within feet of friendly domestic goats, donkeys, cows and more in these sections. Other attractions around the property include fun fair rides, picnic space and animal shows at the Amphitheater.

4. Submerge Yourself in Marine Life at Mississippi Petrified Forest

The Mississippi Petrified Forest might seem like an odd setting for a family fish tank experience. Yet this unique roadside attraction offers visitors just that through an on-site aquatics center. Known as the Gulf Coast Research Aquarium, this facility immerses guests in the marine life of the Gulf of Mexico.

Spread throughout multiple buildings, the aquarium complex houses over 400 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians and aquatic invertebrates. Highlights include a touch tank for getting up close with sea stars, horseshoe crabs and urchins. You can also ponder the giant lionfish and gaze at sharks cruising through suspension. Friendly biologists remain on hand to answer kids’ questions about the fascinating creatures on exhibit.

When you want a breather from the watery wonders, take a leisurely walk through the Mississippi Petrified Forest. This preserve area protects ancient mineral formations and petrified wood dating back 35 million years. Displays illustrate the geologic and natural history behind the fossilized treasures scattered around the property.

5. Admire Artistic Masterpieces at the Meridian Museum of Art

Foster your kids’ creative side with a stop at the Meridian Museum of Art. As the largest museum in eastern Mississippi, it makes an impressive introduction to fine arts for youngsters. The facilities originated as the Carnegie Public Library in 1913 before undergoing extensive renovation. Modern gallery spaces today host exhibitions showcasing regional and national artists.

The permanent collection holds over 1,300 pieces in various media along with decorative arts objects. You’ll find renowned names like Walter Anderson and Marie Hull mixed in with contemporary rising talents. Genres range from Funk folk art to conventional paintings and photography displays. Interactive kids’ stations provide hands-on artistic play within special exhibits. And monthly programs like story time, film showings and craft sessions cater to junior visitors.

Outside, the Art Garden provides families a sunny spot to enjoy public sculpture works. You may also want to browse the Museum Store for some unique Mississippi-made souvenirs from your cultural excursion.

6. Learn Local History at the Merrehope Historic Home

For a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of Meridian’s past economic leaders, visit the historic house museum Merrehope. This imposing 1895 Neoclassical Revival manor served as the residence of prominent businessman William S. Hull and family. Glimpse how the social elite lived during Meridian’s early 20th century boom years.

Costumed interpreters guide guests through the 14 restored rooms, relaying intriguing stories along the way. Kids will marvel at the elegant decorative details from pressed tin ceilings to exquisite wood mantels. Take time to note original furnishings like the 1880s Steinway piano and Duncan Phyfe dining table that came over on a sailing ship. Merrehope also boasts a charming formal garden and carriage house with antique vehicles the family would have used.

In addition to regular tours, Merrehope presents seasonal events and youth programs during the year. Options range from kids’ summer camps focused on early 1900s history to holiday teas. Visitors young and old find inspiration at this historic home museum.

7.Catch a Baseball Game with the Meridian Brakemen

For easygoing family entertainment, watch the Meridian Brakemen minor league baseball team play at Meridian’s historic ballpark. Baseball fans have cheered on various East Mississippi professional teams at Pete Taylor Park since the 1930s. In 2022, Pete Taylor Park welcomed a new club as the Brakemen joined the Southern League of Professional Baseball clubs.

Minor league baseball offers fun for all ages with an exciting yet relaxed game day atmosphere. As you watch the Brakemen take on opponents, kids can chase down foul balls beyond the dugout netting. Between innings rambunctious mascot Rusty entertains the crowds with his silly stunts and dancing. Yield to your little sluggers’ requests for hot dogs, popcorn and snow cones from the concession stands. And be prepared to join in the whole stadium cheering after the belting of home runs.

The Pete Taylor Park schedule runs from May through September annually. Don’t be surprised if you go for a game of baseball and leave with a bit more love for America’s favorite pastime.

8. Solving Challenging Obstacles at Meridian Ultimate Ninjas

Does your kid imagine themselves competing on shows like American Ninja Warrior or Floor is Lava? At Meridian Ultimate Ninjas, children can tackle obstacle courses inspired by those popular programs. This indoor training gym focuses on fun fitness for family members of all ages and abilities.

Upon entering, newcomers can preview the multi-level structures with rock climbing walls, swinging ropes and bars, tilted ramps and more. Padded mats provide a safe landing for inevitable slips and falls. Participants then test themselves seeing how far through the courses they can journey before splatting. With names like Slingshot Alley, Spin Cycle and Stairway to Heaven, each section sounds like a new video game level waiting to be conquered.

In addition to open play times, Meridian Ultimate Ninjas offers kids’ classes, parents’ nights out and birthday party hosting. So if you have an aspiring ninja warrior at home eager to gain skills, check out this entertainment destination. Successfully completing seemingly impossible obstacles builds confidence along with athletic competencies.

9. Pedal Through History on the Hart-Meridian Bike Trail

Combining recreation, transportation and education, the Hart-Meridian Bike Trail makes for ideal family fitness. This multi-use greenway stretches over 5 miles connecting residential neighborhoods to the downtown district. Feel the wind in your hair as you zip along by bike or foot. The paved path contains few road crossings, making it a safe course for kids learning to cycle. And as a Rails-to-Trails route, the rich railroad heritage of Meridian shapes the experience.

Interpretive signs posted along the trail share snippets of local history. Kids will learn how early rail lines enabled Meridian to prosper into a bustling 20th century hub. Other signage highlights community leaders, cultural attractions and architectural structures situated near the greenway. You’ll work up an appetite while pedaling through the landscape of this compelling southern city.

The Hart-Meridian Bike Trail begins downtown at the new train depot welcome center. From there, the pathway winds along Bonita Lakes and passes by recreation facilities like the Frank Cochran Center. H20 hydration stations allow joggers, cyclists and skaters to refresh and refuel en route.

10. Marvel at Monster Trucks at the Angie Avenue Monster Truck Show

For mega-sized, high-octane family entertainment, attend the Angie Avenue Monster Truck Show. These heart-pounding events happen several weekends per year at the Lauderdale County Agri-Center. Get ready as monster trucks like Executioner, Bounty Hunter and Iron Warrior rev up their 5,000+ horsepower engines then lurch into action. These bright behemoths race down the track striving to capture the fastest qualifying time. Then during freestyle rounds, drivers attempt to wow judges and spectators with their crazy tricks and sky-high jumps.

In between the deafening smash-ups, a variety of vehicles show off their horsepower including mud boggers, monster-sized ATVs and tractor/truck pulling. Little girls love when mini monster truck Courageous steps in and struts her stuff. The event organizers also try to feature specialty acts like motorcycle backflip stunt teams at each show. And don’t miss the pre-show party where fans can meet the massive vehicle drivers and take photos.

The unique experience of monster trucks crushing and clambering makes for seriously silly childhood fun. Parents are sure to enjoy the shows nearly as much as their enthralled kids!

11. Discover Hands-On Science at the Mississippi Children’s Museum

For stimulating kids’ brains beyond video game screens, spend an afternoon at the Mississippi Children’s Museum-Meridian. This satellite branch of the renowned Jackson museum opened in 2018 as the first interactive children’s learning space in eastern Mississippi. Designed specifically for younger visitors, the museum aims to inspire through hands-on STEAM education.

Exhibits across two floors immerse children in science concepts through playful engagement. Kids can make waves at a model lock and dam station or move sailboats by wind power alone. Influence direction by reconfiguring tubes on a massive marble roller coaster framework. At the veterinary clinic, children diagnose stuffed critters using toy medical instruments. And kids find loads of ways to tinker in the Invention Studio Maker Space outfitted with real tools and equipment.

Beyond standalone exhibits, museum staff lead story times, live demonstrations and workshops. It all adds up to sneaky learning that feels more like recreation for little scholars. Parents appreciate the valuable educational experience wrapped in captivating enrichment.

12. Sky High in buckets at Escape Meridian

While kids clamor to be the next American Ninja Warrior, parents seek an adrenaline rush of their own. At Escape Meridian, grown-ups can get their thrill-seeking fix alongside their energetic kiddos. This family entertainment center focuses on aerial adventure opportunities suited for a wide span of ages.

The star attractions at Escape Meridian are the sky trail ropes courses set between soaring pine trees. Before heading into the branches, participants strap on harnesses then receive detailed safety instructions. Three tiered courses give climbers options for sticking low or summiting 40 feet up in the pines. Navigating wobbly bridges, tight ropes and swinging logs tests both physical agility and mental courage. Look down through the wooden slats to find your family beaming with pride over conquering the aerial trails.

For a different flying experience, try out the bungee trampolines. After hooking in for security, family members can take running leaps then catch major air. Kids light up watching parents or older siblings rocket skyward thanks to amplification from the super bouncy surface. Just make sure to schedule in breaks between the heart-pounding excitement…and a few nerves!

Conclusion

This sampling of activities revealed some of the many family-friendly things to do around the charming Mississippi city of Meridian. From museums and historic sites to athletics and educational entertainment, Meridian offers variety to engage kids of any interest. Families come away feeling both mentally invigorated and physically refreshed from time spent exploring this unexpected southern vacation spot.

Use the collection of attractions covered here as a launch point while planning your Meridian itinerary. Dig deeper into community events calendars and area tourism websites to find even more options. Schedule in plenty of relaxing downtime to simply soak in the casual small city ambiance as you stroll downtown or unwind in cozy lodgings.

As with any family trip, remember to stay flexible in the face of unpredictable weather or children’s unpredictable whims! Go with the flow and you’re guaranteed to have a memorable, smile-filled visit in a treasured corner of Mississippi.

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