Family Fun in Ridgeland, Mississippi
Words by Ashley Locke
Photos provided by Visit Ridgeland
Ridgeland, Mississippi might not be on your top 10 list of places to visit, but it should be–especially if you have an active family. Nestled right next door to the state capital, Ridgeland is rich with history, hospitality, and fun for all ages.
Everything is slower in Mississippi, traffic included. It’s easy to drive around the city, and parking is always available and always free, a perk you won’t find in many vacation destinations. Even though the driving is easy, you can ditch your car when you arrive.
Renaissance is a shopping center that neighbors several hotels. It features local boutiques like Libby Story as well as brand names like Anthropologie and Brooks Brothers. They have restaurants that serve breakfast (Another Broken Egg and Panera Bread), lunch (grab a sandwich from The Fresh Market or sit down at Local 463), and dinner (Seafood Revolution is a must visit). The center also houses Aqua the Day Spa, a full service spa that offers facials, massages, and more. Depending on when you visit, you can also attend one of the many events hosted by Renaissance, like the Magnolia Flower Festival, the Art Festival, and many others. A boutique movie theater is also on its way–another draw for the already enticing center.
Ridgeland is a bicycle friendly community, which means there are easy access walking and biking trails that can get you to all parts of town. Local shop Bicycle Revolution will deliver bike rentals to your hotel, or you can pick up a rental from their nearby Gluckstadt storefront that features a cafe.
If you choose to pick up a bike, visit the close by Ridgeland Trails. It’s 10 miles of mountain biking with loops that attract serious bikers as well as beginners. The wooded trails are also great for hiking, taking you through gorgeous trees and natural rock formations that make you forget the city is just a few miles away.
If you want something a little more easy-going, the entrance to the Natchez Trace Trails is a short distance from Renaissance. The paved trails make it easy for kids to bike along, and there are several fun stops in a short distance.
Right off the trail is the Bill Waller Craft Center. It offers art from more than 400 artisans, including baskets, pottery, and quilts from the native Choctaw tribes. The center also offers classes. You can sign up to learn to work with natural dyes, knit, or make a pendant with natural clay.
Just a few minutes from the Craft Center sits one of Ridgeland’s highlights–the Ross Barnett Reservoir. It covers over 30,000 acres that locals use for fishing, kayaking, and drinking–it’s the city’s main source of water. It’s surrounded by parks, perfect for picnicking, as well as restaurants with water-front views. If the view isn’t enough, it’s easy to get out on the water too! Kayaks are available for rent, or you can take a tour on the Sweet Olive Tour Boat. Captain Jason offers daily tours as well as private charters, but he’ll give you more than a tour of the lake–he happily shares his knowledge of Mississippi history as you float on the water.
On your way back to the hotel, stop by Old Towne Ridgeland for lunch at the casual Greek restaurant, Krilakis, then grab a drink at M7 Coffee House before you explore the other shops on the strip.
If you make your way a few miles south on the interstate, you’ll hit Jackson, Mississippi. There, you can spend a full day touring museums. From the Children’s Museum to the Museum of Natural Science to the brand new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, there’s something for everyone.
The Children’s Museum features three stories of interactive fun for kids off all ages. Children can play a life-size game of Scrabble, build and race a foam boat, and explore how a car engine works. The Museum of Natural Science has indoor and outdoor fun with nature trails, fish tanks, fossils, and more.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is unlike any you’ve seen. You can learn about famous Mississippians involved in the Civil Rights Movement like Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer. There’s a light sculpture, immersive theaters, music, and other gallery features that make the tour stand out.
Though Ridgeland is a small town, it offers everything you need for a rewarding, relaxing vacation without the cost of a big city. Next time you’re planning a trip down south, make a visit. It’s more than worth your time.