Meridian prides itself on its history and authentic hospitality. The city boasts Meridian event venues in its nine historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a downtown that has seen much revitalization in the last several years.
Located at the intersection of two major highways (20 and 59) in east central Mississippi, downtown Meridian is also four miles from Meridian Regional Airport, which is served by American and US Airways with nonstop service to Dallas, TX, and Laurel, MS. The average taxi fare is $8 and the Holiday Inn Meridian East is one hotel that offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport (and within five miles of the hotel, a radius that covers most of town). Complimentary transportation for conventions is also available through Visit Meridian Tourism.
Chief among conference venues in Meridian, the MSU Riley Center for Education & Performing Arts, is built in three adjoining historic buildings. The MSU Riley Center offers groups its 950-seat meticulously restored 1889 Grand Opera House theater, a 200-seat studio theater, and 30,000 square feet of meeting space that includes a 5,200-square-foot exhibit hall, eight break-out rooms, and two boardrooms.
Its opening sparked the arrival of several restaurants, bars, shops, and historic attractions, along with hotels that brought an additional 400 guest rooms to the city. Complementing that facility are such hotel venues in Meridian as the 122-room Hamilton Inn, with 3,700 square feet of meeting space, the 180-room Drury Inns and Suites, with 3,404 square feet of space; the 133-room Hilton Garden Inn, with 1,938 square feet of space; and the 121-room Holiday Inn Meridian East, with 2,380 square feet of space.
Meridian offers multiple attractions within walking distance of its meeting venues. In addition are places and unexpected gems like Dentzel Carousel in Highland Park, a rare two-row Dentzel menagerie carousel with museum-quality artwork that is a National Landmark; the Jimmie Rodgers Museum, where memorabilia of the man many consider to be the father of country music includes the musician's original 90-year-old guitar; and Soule Steam Feed Works museum, an historic industrial complex that includes a blacksmith shop, foundry, steam engines, and a belt-driven machine shop.
Meridian has a good selection of unique venues for offsite functions. Among the most popular are Merrehope, a 26-room Victorian mansion dating back to the Civil War that can handle up to 100 people for a party; Soule Steam Feed Works, which can host as many as 400; Union Station, the city's historic train station and current transportation hub, which has 3,000 square feet of function space able to accommodate up to 250; and Temple Theater, a Moorish Revival, circa-1928 theater that can accommodate 1,600 in its theater and 600 in its ballroom.
Headlining Meridian's culinary scene is Weidmann's, a popular local spot since it was opened in 1870 by a Swiss immigrant who was a chef on a transatlantic steamship. Top on everyone's recommendation list is Weidmann's black bottom pie. Other favorite eateries with local style include Jean's Restaurant, for Southern-style breakfast and lunch; Deli on 5th, famous for its cheeseburger pasta, and The Family Fish Camp, known for its southern fried catfish and desserts. For something a little different, try Sake Sushi, a contemporary Japanese restaurant featuring a sushi bar and hibachi grill tables.
Finally, for outdoor group activities and special events, there is Bonita Lakes, a city-owned 3,300-acre park situated on three lakes that features nature trails, horseback riding, picnic facilities, boat ramps, and fishing.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons user: Dudemanfellabra