Things to do while stationed in Meridian, Mississippi

So one way or another you have found yourself living in (or visiting!) Meridian and are wondering "What in the world is there to do here!?"  While there may not be a Starbucks or a Target for almost 100 miles, the answer is surprisingly a lot!  Looking back on my time in Meridian, we had a blast living here!  Wine Wednesdays, winging parties, spouse club events, weekend getaways, and impromptu neighborhood parties happened more often than not and I can say for sure that having a positive attitude and a willingness to make the most of everything matters.

If your time in Meridian is just starting, I'm kind of envious; make the most of it!  Take advantage of your time in the Deep South and stay involved.  Here are some of my favorite things to do in and around Meridian:
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Geyser Falls Water Park:  Geyser Falls is a 23 acre water park with a wave pool, a lazy river, a "beach" pool with cabanas, 13 water slides, a beach club restaurant, and tiki bars in Philadelphia, MS (about 45 minutes from the base, right past the casinos).  We lucked into hearing about this place, took a drive out to check in out, and were totally obsessed!  We bought season passes that day and highly recommend them!  The summer in Meridian gets HOT and going on a day trip to the waterpark felt like we were on vacation a world away from Meridian.
TIP: Get season passes early-it pays for itself in three trips!  The park opens in March and closes during the week in September so go early in the season to take advantage of your passes!

Pearl River Resort: Two big casinos with tables and slot machines, with normal casino style buffets/bars/restauants, a hotel, and the nicest golf course in the state of Mississippi, Dancing Rabbit.  Pearl River resort is about 45 minutes from the base on the Indian reservation in Choctaw/Philadelphia, MS.
TIP: Sign up for the rewards program (it's free) and they often send out vouchers for free rooms at the hotel!

Neshoba County Fair:  One part state fair, one part party cabins -- the Neshoba county fair is an experience!  Held one week in July, people pour into town from all over to stay in one of the 600 party cabins and 200 RV spots.  While you probably won't be lucky enough to get an overnight spot, it is still worth the trip for the evening!  This fair, referred to as Mississippi's giant house party, has been a staple in Mississippi since 1889 and is the perfect way to immerse yourself into local culture.
TIP: Do not miss the Neshoba County Fair!

Trivia: Tuesday nights trivia is at the Balcony Bar, upstairs in Weidmann's and Wednesday nights trivia is at the Brickhaus Bar, both downtown.  It is free and both give away restaurant giftcards as prizes.  (Brickhaus also gives away free pitchers of beer to all teams who beat the bartender!)  There are always people you know at trivia and it's a fun way to break up the week.
TIP: Weidmann's trivia gets packed so get there early to get a table.

Earth's Bounty Festival: There is a small farmers market held under the bridge near the train station each Saturday morning, June through November, from 8am-3pm.  The first Saturday of each month, there is a larger farmers market called Earth's Bounty.
TIP: The first Earth's Bounty of the season is always the largest and the one I would recommend!  Last year, it overlapped with the Three Foot festival which meant mimosas and bloody marys ;)

Also, if you are a fan of local farm raised meat, eggs and produce, Beaverdam Farms is incredible.  Get on there mail list HERE and every other week you have the option to place an order to be picked up that Saturday.  (No requirements to ever order buy joining the buying club mailing list)  We love getting their bacon and eggs and making a big brunch on Sundays.

Ralph Morgan Rodeo: The rodeo is held multiple times during the summer, right here in Lauderdale county!    
TIP: Dressing in redneck attire and riding in the back of a pickup truck makes it even more fun ;)

Dunns Falls: A beautiful waterfall, just 10 minutes south of downtown Meridian!  This location used to power the Stetson hat factory however now is just a great spot to relax on a hot summer day. 

Eat, Drink, Meridian:  We attended Eat, Drink, Meridian on a whim, convinced that we would grab sushi afterwards because there wouldn't be much food at the event.  Boy, were we wrong!  For a five dollar ticket, we were able to sample food from over 25 local restaurants, everything from Waffle House to Harvest Grill!  On top of that, we were also able to help ourselves to drink samples (in most cases a full beer, cider, or cocktail!) from 5+ bar/distributor stations.  We must have consumed 10x our $5 tickets and had a blast!  The event was held in a hotel ballroom in April so keep an eye out for any advertisements about this!

Bonita Lakes: Great walking and biking trails around the lake near the mall.  Lots of picnic tables and outdoor swings.  4th of July fireworks are also held here!

Blueberry picking at Johnson's Farms:  A fellow spouse, Alyson, passed along this suggestion and it was a great one!  Johnson's Farms is open in season, Tuesdays through Saturdays, for blueberry picking.  The farm is large, the blueberries are plenty, Joe is sweet as can be, and the prices can't be beat.  Go early in the season for the best selection!
TIP: Head out early in the mornings when they open to avoid the crazy Mississippi heat!

Mal's St. Patricks Day parade: When I heard that one of the country's largest St. Patricks Day parades was held right down the road in Jackson, Mississippi, gathering crowds of over 70,000 people, I thought it was a mistake.  Turns out, it is true!  What looks more like a Mardi Gras parade mixed with a college football tailgate, this is the real deal and worth the drive!
TIP: Bring the full tailgate spread: tents, coolers, tables, etc.  We showed up with just an umbrella (it was pouring!) and were shocked to see miles and miles of tailgates set up for hours before the parade!

Binachi Shooting Sports: Sporting clay, skeet shooting, and archery.  The location is pretty, the owner is knowledgeable, and they have guns (and everything else you need to shoot!) to rent if you don't have your own.

SEC Football: Mississippi State and Alabama are both within an 1.5 drive and Auburn and Ole Miss are also both within bounds.  On a long weekend, Knoxville is an option too! It is definitely worth the drive for a football game or at least the tailgating during the fall.  Sometimes, ITT even has free tickets for Mississippi State games!

Looking for more to do in Meridian?
Check out "Where to Eat" and "Where to Roadtrip" while living in Meridian, Mississippi!

Weekend Trips {within Liberty bounds} from Meridian, Mississippi

Meridian has to be in the best location in terms of being in the center of a ton of fun southern cities.  There are places within six different states that fall within a few hour drive and more importantly, within bounds (meaning no leave required to go!)  Here is my favorite getaway in each of those states!
Weekend Roadtrips from Meridian, Mississippi
Pensacola, Florida
Eat: Coffee at The Bodacious Brew, Grits a Ya Ya at The Fish House, or a ramen bowl at Nom
Drink: An Irish Wake at McGuires or a specialty cocktail at 5 1/2 Bar.
Do: Palafox Market, a trip to the beach, and gallery night
Stay: The Gateway Inn on base (can't beat the price!)
See more: here and here

New Orleans, Louisiana
Eat: Three course lunch (with 25 cent martinis) at Antoine's or pizza at Domenica.  And of course, beignets at Cafe Du Monde.
Drink: between all of those sugary hurricanes on Bourbon St, of course!
Do: Drink and Learn cocktail tour
Stay: The Roosevelt (make sure to ask about the military rate!)
See more: here and here
Jackson, Mississippi
Eat: Tacos and tableside guac at Babalu
Drink: A cocktail at the speakeasy, The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs
Do: Check out Livingston Merchantile
Stay: No need--we always just drove home!
See more: here and here

Birmingham, Alabama
Eat: BBQ at Saw's Soul Kitchen, pizza at Post Office Pie's, or sushi burritos at Wasabi Juan's
Drink: A beer at Avondale Brewery
Do: Indoor rock climbing at First Ave Rocks, hiking at Ruffner Mountain, or shopping at The Summit
Stay: Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort
See more: here and here

Memphis, Tennessee
Eat: Rendezvous and The Commissary BBQ, so that you can compare and pick a favorite or anything at SOB, South Of Beale
Drink: A 40oz at Raifords while playing the drumset!
Do: Beale Street, the duck parade at The Peabody, or a Grizzlies game at FedEx Forum
Stay: The Exchange Suites
See more: here and here

Atlanta, Georgia
Eat:  A burger and pimento cheese friends from Farm Burger
Drink:  A cocktail at Top Golf
Do: The College Football Hall of Fame
See more: here and here

Meridian, MS, USA

Where to eat while stationed in Meridian, Mississippi

Meridian, Mississippi has just about every chain you can imagine: Outback, Chili's, BWW, Applebee's, Olive Garden, etc, but it's the local restaurants that I really enjoy.  While there aren't a ton of options, there are enough to try them all and find your favorites.

Where to eat in meridian, mississippi

Gas Stations: Might seem a little crazy but eating at a gas station became a pretty regular experience for us while living in Mississippi.  We even took my family to eat in a gas station (or two!) when they came to visit!

Seafood Express II: some call these the best seafood po-boys in the state!  While your immediate instinct might be "seafood in a gas station? no way." get over it because these po-boys are worth it.  Huge and hot, they are made to order and delicious.  My advice is to go for lunch because it is not the nicest gas station in town and to call ahead your order so that you can just walk in and pick it up (otherwise you are waiting inside for your order to be made and it can get pretty crowded!)

Pappy's BBQ:  This bbq joint is inside of one of the better gas stations in Meridian and also THE CLOSEST food place to the air station.  If you arrive and they aren't out of peach cobbler yet, don't skip it!

Magnolia: Your typical greasy, hangover food diner that just so happens to be in a truck stop gas station. 

Lunch:  While there is McAllister's Delis and Deli on 5th, the only lunch spot worth mentioning is:

Cater's Market:  The best!  Their chicken salad is amazing, their pimento cheese is delicious, and you can pick up a fresh made casserole for dinner or a cake for a special occasion while you are eating lunch.  They also carry a small market of specialty foods (gluten free flours, ezekiel breads, cheese straws, etc).   They are only open for lunch and closed on Mondays so plan accordingly!

Date Night or Girls Night:

Weidmann's:  This is technically THE Meridian restaurant.  Open since 1870,  it is a classic and a must try.  They are also one of the only places that serves Sunday brunch (with mimosas and bloody mary's!)  On the weekends, reservations are recommended however if you did not make a reservation, you can usually get a spot at the Balcony Bar upstairs.  It has a more casual atmosphere but serves the same full menu as downstairs in the main dining room.

Harvest Grill:  Personally, my favorite restaurant in Meridian and the place where we celebrated every birthday, date night, and girls night.   This is the closest thing here to a "foodie" style restaurant you would see in other places.  Try one of their "Mississippi Mules" or split a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  Their brussels are fantastic (I dream about these, I swear!) and you have to do the table side s'mores at least once!

Sake Sushi:  It's pretty much impossible to go to Sake and not see at least one other person you know.  Half sushi restaurant, half hibachi is a typical Friday night spot.  Don't forget to take your receipt next door to Yoo-yoo for 10% off fro-yo.

Taste of Thai: A tiny hole in the wall Thai restaurant downtown if you need to get your pad thai fix.  Don't be scared off by the outside appearance,  the place is clean and the food is good!

Other food options: Squealers (bbq), Mugshots (burgers and beer), El Norte (mexican), and Nick and Al's (pizza).

Christmas Roadtrip: 17 days, 11 states, and over 2,599 miles

If the first half of December could be characterized by celebrations and parties, the second half of December would have to go down in the category of travel.  Because Rob did not receive orders until the very beginning of December (aka we had no idea where we would be moving or when we would need to be there!), we knew that air travel was out of the question.  This meant we would be making the 14 hour drive home to Virginia for Christmas.  While I love to travel, long trips in the car are definitely not my favorite.  Four hours is about all I can handle.

So what is the only logical thing to do?  Break it up and add fun stops along the way!  17 days, 11 states, and over 2,599 miles later -- we survived!
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Our roadtrip started with a tiny leg.  I teach p90x live at the gym on Monday nights so after class we left straight from the gym and drove to Birmingham.  While it's only 2.5 hours away, it jump started our trip and made the next day much more reasonable.  We went straight to sleep and woke up the next morning to make the seven hour drive to Beaufort, South Carolina.  While Beaufort was not truly on the path to Virginia, it was a necessary stop: we needed to find a place to live!
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habersham south carolina
We made it to Beaufort and checked out a few neighborhoods before the sun set.  First impressions of Beaufort -- I think we are going to love it!  It was adorable and quaint, with plenty of local shops and restaurants.  I could not get enough of the spanish moss!  We ended up loving the first place we looked at and signed a lease the next morning.

From there, we drove to Charleston and spent the night at Rob's parents house.  Again, a short 1.5 hour trip but made the next day more do-able.  We woke up the next morning and made the seven hour drive home to Virginia.  We spent a few days at my parents house, eat all of our old Stafford favorites.
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quirk hotel richmond va
Next stop was Richmond for my friend Anna's bridal shower.  It was a beautiful shower and I felt so lucky that I was able to attend.  That night, a bunch of us rented a hummer limo to do the Richmond tacky lights tour.  This has been on my bucket list for several years!  There are tacky lights everywhere but Richmond really does it right!  We loaded the limo with champagne and headed to several of the best houses.  It was a lot of fun.  While in Richmond, we celebrated Christmas with Rob's mom's side of the family, as well as his grandpa's 80th birthday.
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richmond tacky lights tour
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From Richmond, we headed back to Stafford (our home base) and then on to Maryland for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Rob's dad's side of the family.  From there, it was off to Pittsburgh, PA to celebrate Christmas with my dad's side (Christmas night) and my mom's side (the day after).  Ever seen the movie Four Christmas?  Yup, that is our life at the holidays!
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Needless to say, when we started the drive back from Pittsburgh to Mississippi, we felt like we needed a vacation from our vacation.  Our first stop was Charlottesville, Virginia for a night to stay at Rob's parent's condo.  We decided to hit a winery while we were there and I don't know if it was the wine talking or the fact that finally had a minute to relax, but we decided what is the rush to get home?!  What was supposed to be a quick stop in Charlottesville turned out to be a four day vacation in Virginia wine country and honestly, it was exactly what we needed!  We did hot yoga in the mornings, wine tasting in the afternoons, had leisurely dinners at the downtown mall - it was perfect.
review of pippin hill winery
trump winery
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king family vineyards
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oakhurst inn cafe charlottesville va
brunch at oakhurst inn cafe in charlottesville va
We finally dragged ourselves back to reality and started our last and final trek of the trip.  We stopped in Blacksburg for lunch at El Rods and a walk down memory lane before finishing the final painful 12 hour drive home.  While that last leg was rough, it felt incredible to wake up in my own bed the next morning!

VT-7 Squadron Tacky Christmas Party + Marine Corps Ball 2015

Our December calendar was filled with exciting events.  Rob earned his wings the first weekend in December and the second weekend, we had both the squadron Christmas party and the Marine Corps ball.
vt-7 squadron christmas party
Friday night was the VT-7 squadron Christmas party at Mulligans.  We were actually lucky enough to attend the Christmas party last year as well.  While the theme (tacky festive!) was the same, it was so funny to see the difference a year makes.  Last year, we had just moved to Meridian and knew practically no one.  This year, we are on our way out and knew almost everyone!  One thing that did not change -- my inability to lay low!  (Remember last year when I won tackiest costume instead of helping Rob fly under the radar.  Oops!)  Showing up to the party in onesie pajamas -- a no brainer ;)!
fleece navidad tacky christmas
vt-7 vt-9 tacky christmas party
Before the party (and after!), we hung out for a little bit across the street at Blair and Wil's house.  It's safe to say us three couples ranked pretty high in terms of tacky couple costumes -- even if we didn't win the official prize!  Of course, the next morning required a "rally brunch" at Logan's roadhouse to get ready for another big night.
meridian mississippi marine corps ball
flight school marine corps ball
The following night, the Marine Corps ball was held at the Riley Center in downtown Meridian.  The Marine Corps ball is usually held around the actual birthday however the majority of the squadron was gone on detachment for the month of November so the ball was postponed until December.  This turned out to be really fun because Rob was able to wear his gold wings to the ball!  The Riley Center was a gorgeous location and this ball was a lot bigger and more formal than the ball the previous year.
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vt-7 marine corps ball
flight school marine corps ball
After the ball, we grabbed a few drinks at Weidmann's before calling it a night.  It was the perfect weekend to all celebrate together before heading home for the holidays...and in some cases, moving from Meridian and heading on to the next place!

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