Just outside of Jackson, there’s a cute suburb that borders the Ross Barnett Reservoir. While traditionally known for shopping and their huge selection of restaurants, there are so many other fun things to do in Ridgeland, MS that I think this town will surprise you.
The Natchez Trace runs right through the middle of Ridgeland which makes it the perfect place to stay and explore the area for a couple of days.
The Barnett Reservoir, also known as The Rez, draws a crowd as well whether they’re out on the lake or spending the day lounging along the banks.
No matter what brings you to Ridgeland, I hope this will give you a few new ideas on what to do there!
My trip to Ridgeland was part of a larger road trip through Mississippi where I found tons of things to do in Hattiesburg, spent one day in Starkville, and had a great time fishing on Grenada Lake.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through this link, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for keeping Stuck On The Go going! I was hosted by Visit Ridgeland during my time here. All opinions are my own.
17 Best Things to Do in Ridgeland, MS
Watch a Sunrise at The Overlook at the Reservoir
The Overlook is on The Natchez Trace and offers beautiful views of the Rez. The parking lot is at the top of the hill and there is a cluster of pine trees just below the lot.
As I pulled in the parking lot, I could just see the sun coming up through that cluster of pine trees and it was truly stunning.
If you’re a photographer, then it’s a great chance to get some good photos. You can also just bring a chair and enjoy the view and solitude.
The only other people that I saw were there to exercise on the Chisha Foka Trail.
This is also a popular place for picnics in the afternoon and evenings. The pine trees provide nice shade and the view is great any time of day.
The parking lot is a bit small so you may have trouble finding a spot later in the day if you visit on a weekend.
Rent a Kayak from Pearl River Kayaks
If you’ve read any of my other articles then you know I love to kayak whether it’s kayaking in Marathon, FL or through the swamp in Beaumont, TX. Oh and I can’t forget Sea Rim State Park in Port Arthur, TX.
While in Ridgeland you can rent a kayak from Pearl River Kayaks and either paddle on The Rez or make a trip down the Pearl River nearby.
I met the owner Mandy at the Madison Boat Launch near Old Trace Park and paddled out along the left bank of the lake. It does get hot out there as there’s no shade.
If you don’t mind a drive and have two vehicles then one of the most beautiful places to kayak nearby is at Leake County Water Park. You can either stay around the put-in and just explore there or take a trip down river and take out at Coal Bluff Park.
Two vehicles are needed to run your shuttle though so if you don’t have two vehicles you can stay around Leake County Water Park.
The current is typically pretty slow around there so you can paddle up or down river. There are cypress swamps to explore and lots of sandbars to get out and rest or wade in the water.
Make sure you wear the right clothes and have good kayaking shoes.
Eat at Some Amazing Restaurants in Ridgeland, MS
Like I mentioned before, one of the biggest draws to Ridgeland is their selection of restaurants. They have over 140 in the area to choose from!
If you’re in the mood for Mexican then head to Sombra Mexican Kitchen for tacos, tamales, quesadillas, or burritos. They also have good happy hour specials – especially for margaritas.
For Asian cuisine make sure to visit Red 8 Kitchen. They have amazing dumplings and a great selection of sushi. They also serve Thai and Chinese plates.
Pelican Cove Grill is a popular spot for dinner with a view, especially on the weekends. Do not miss The Dapper Doughnut for breakfast. It’s my new favorite doughnut place.
Full Stop Burger Shop is the place to go for burgers and they also have a custard counter where you can satisfy your sweet tooth.
Fusion Coffeehouse made the most delicious mocha I’ve had in a long time on the morning I had to leave. If you’re looking for specialty coffee then that’s the place.
Check out the Bill Waller Craft Center
One of the most popular Ridgeland, MS attractions, the Bill Waller Craft Center is an impressive 20,000 square foot art gallery and classroom space.
The Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi runs the gallery so you can find work by Mississippi artists. You can browse their creations and make a purchase if you see something you like.
You’ll find anything from quilts, baskets, and wood-carvings to sculptures, glasswork, and jewelry.
Walk Along The Old Trace
The Old Trace is a great stop to get out and stretch your legs along The Natchez Trace. It’s also directly behind the Bill Waller Craft Center.
The Natchez Trace follows the Old Trace which was a historic travel corridor used before roads were built.
This is a short section of the Old Trace where you can actually walk where the Native Americans, settlers, and soldiers once did.
While it’s just a scenic walk through the woods, the history here is really interesting. You can imagine what it may have been like when walking that path was the only transportation available.
Visit the Cypress Swamp
The Cypress Swamp is about a 30 minute drive from Ridgeland, but it’s scenic and peaceful along the Natchez Trace.
There’s a short loop trail that you can do but if you take the stairs to the left of the Cypress Swamp sign you’ll go down onto a boardwalk through the trees.
This is the most scenic section of the trail and really is gorgeous. I would recommend staying here and being quiet for a few minutes to try and see wildlife – especially if you come out in the morning.
If you want to walk on the trail in the wooded area behind the swamp then I recommend bringing a walking stick to knock down the spider webs.
You can walk past the boardwalk and turn right then follow the trail out to a bench if you want to hang out for a while. Once you turn right after the swamp just stay left when the trail forks.
Spend the Day Boating on The Rez
Did you know that you can rent a pontoon boat at the Main Harbor Store?
This would by far be one of the most fun things to do in Ridgeland, MS! They have boats with a second deck and slide on them as well as traditional pontoon boats for rent.
If you have a group of friends visiting the area then it doesn’t get much better than a day spent lounging out on the water.
Just note that no pets are allowed. Rentals are available from March until the end of September when they’re open and you can call about availability in October.
Renting a boat is a great way to enjoy The Rez if you don’t have your own.
Have a Picnic at Old Trace Park
With beautiful views of The Rez, Old Trace Park is the perfect place for a picnic or to come watch the sunrise.
I went by The Dapper Doughnut to pick up a dozen mini doughnuts and then brought them out the Old Trace Park to enjoy them in peace and quiet.
There are lots of geese that roam around the park but I ignored them and they didn’t bother me. It was nice that they had restrooms here too.
See a Movie at Malco Movie Theater
Head to Renaissance at Colony Park to catch the latest movie releases at the Malco Theater. The marquee looks like a retro flashback from the past but the interior is sleek and new.
If you need a break from the go go go then this is the perfect thing to do in Ridgeland. I know I try to pack too much into my itinerary sometimes when traveling.
When that happens, I like to take a step back and do something relaxing like going to see a movie or spending an afternoon reading a book.
Stroll Through the Fields at Ridgeland Wildflower Garden
If you visit during the spring or summer then visiting the Ridgeland Wildflower Garden is a must. The field is packed full of beautiful wildflowers and fun sculptures.
When I visited, they had just mowed the fields to get ready for their October installation of the Scarecrow Trail. This is a great spot for family fun throughout the year.
Check their Facebook page to see what fun things are going on during your visit. If you do choose to go here, be sure to stay on the designated paths.
Bike or Walk the Chisha Foka Trail
The Chisha Foka Trail is a 10-mile long paved path that follows the Natchez Trace from milepost 95.8 to milepost 105.6 at the Reservoir Overlook.
There are four places to park that offer easy access right onto the trail – the Choctaw Agency, Parkway Information Cabin, Old Trace and Brashears Stand Site, and Reservoir Overlook.
There are also some spur trails that offer additional parking along those paths. The best time to get out on the trail is early morning, especially if you are interested in seeing wildlife.
Water fountains are space out along the trail if you run out and need a refill. It’s so nice that this trail is super close to the city but it makes you feel like you’re worlds away when you’re walking between the trees.
Browse the Local Shops
Traditionally, Ridgeland has been known for its amazing shopping opportunities. I was able to walk around Renaissance at Colony Park for a couple of hours to see what they offer.
Make sure to stop at Scoop Dee Doo for some delicious ice cream. I wish I had room to eat one of their brownies with ice cream on top because they looked amazing.
Pro Tip: I had a hard time finding Scoop Dee Doo at first but it’s located in Building 9000 between White House Black Market and Soft Surroundings.
Renaissance at Colony Park has a European-inspired design and is home to national brands as well as local boutiques.
For more local options you should check out The Railroad District along Jackson Street (I-55 Exit 105B East) or Highway 51/Trace Station/Oak Place District.
Admire Local Art at the Jackson Street Art Gallery
Do you love checking out the work of local artists? The Jackson Street Art Gallery is filled with beautiful paintings created by Mississippi artists.
You can walk through to admire their art and purchase some if one really strikes you. Between the Bill Waller Craft Center and this gallery, art-lovers will be in heaven.
Ridgeland also hosts the Ridgeland Fine Arts Festival the first weekend in May. Here you’ll find a variety of works from some of the best artists across the US.
Take a Drive on The Natchez Trace
I’ve already mentioned a couple of destinations along the Natchez Trace like the Reservoir Overlook and the Cypress Swamp, but just take a drive and see what you can find.
Ridgeland is a great location to explore the southern end of the Natchez Trace as it’s only a two hour drive down to Natchez, MS where the Trace ends.
There are multiple points of interest along this drive where you can stop, stretch your legs, and learn about the history of the area.
Popular stops include the Rocky Springs area where there is a short trail to a historic town site. A couple miles down the road from there you’ll find Owens Creek Waterfall. The waterfall only flows after heavy rain.
Mount Locust is a restored plantation and the Emerald Mound is a ceremonial mound built between 1200 and 1650 – both are great stopping points as well.
For more information on any of these stops you can check out their brochure. I recommend stopping by a Visitor Center though and getting recommendations.
Then you could spend some time exploring Natchez of course! This would be the perfect day trip from Ridgeland.
Have A Drink (or Two) at Happy Hour
With so many great restaurants in Ridgeland, it’s no surprise that you can find some good Happy Hour deals too.
Sombra Mexican Kitchen has great deals on their margaritas if you want tacos and margs. For cocktails head to Ely’s Restaurant & Bar.
For beer drinkers, Red 8 Kitchen has a good Happy Hour deal for beer. Amerigo and Anjou both have house wine deals when you visit during early bird hours.
Go Fishing With a Guide
Have you ever taken a guided fishing trip? If you love to fish then this will be the highlight of your trip.
As long as you go with the right guide, they know where to go depending on the conditions to catch the most fish. While you aren’t guaranteed to catch fish, you have a lot better chance with a local guide.
Brad Chappell Guide Service is a great option if you want to take a fishing trip out on The Rez. If you love to crappie fish then this is one of the most fun things to do in Ridgeland!
Just note that you are responsible for purchasing your own fishing license.
Ride the Ridgeland Mountain Bike Trails
Just 10 – 15 minutes outside of town, you’ll find 10-miles of mountain biking trails managed by the Tri-County Mountain Bike Association.
A 2-Day pass is only $3 per person so this is one of the great cheap things to do in Ridgeland. Hikers use these trails as well when there isn’t a race going on.
The trails vary in difficulty and they have something for beginners as well as experienced riders. If you’re visiting on a weekend just double-check the schedule because they host events pretty often.
Wrap Up: Things to Do in Ridgeland, MS
Whether you’re driving the Natchez Trace and need a stop-over for a couple of nights or you’re looking to explore the area a little deeper, Ridgeland is a great spot to visit.
It has all the amenities of a big city with outdoor opportunities right outside your hotel room. I also encourage you to take advantage of the beautiful sunrise locations like the Reservoir Overlook.
The amazing restaurants nearby are a huge perk too. No matter what type of cuisine you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it here in Ridgeland.
No matter what you choose to do, I hope you enjoy your time in this Mississippi town!