Mississippi is a natural choice for outdoor fun, and the state serves it up in numerous ways, from tennis in Jackson to the rolling waters of the Mississippi River in Tunica. Attendees can chat with a yak in Tupelo, take a dolphin-watching cruise on the Gulf Coast, peep at alligators in the Delta, and go for the burn with bicycling, hiking, swimming, golfing and more all across the state.
While the capital city of Jackson has a rich selection of sporting and outdoor activities, one venue is a standout with groups, according to Jennifer Byrd, convention sales manager for Visit Jackson.
“Providence Hill Farm is a beautiful venue—it has 1,250 acres, spectacular woods, three lakes and lodging,” she said, noting that the property’s shooting club draws in groups with an outdoor range set up for sporting clays, trap skeets and 3D archery.
“We’ve arranged events there, and it’s absolutely gorgeous,” she said.
The property’s lakes are managed, so bass fishing and fly fishing are popular with guests. Also, planners can arrange shooting or archery classes, or hold a meeting on-site.
Another jewel in Jackson is LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, a 305-acre park in the heart of the city that offers nature trails, picnic areas and a nine-hole golf course with a driving range. Tennis is another top pick, with three tennis centers boasting nearly 50 courts, from clay surface courts to hard courts.
Bicycling is the hot ticket in Vicksburg, with several bike races and marathons held throughout the year. Bike riding isn’t just for special occasions, though. Locals and visitors alike can take advantage of the many rides and trails, including the national Mississippi River Trail that goes through downtown, and the challenging 18-mile tour through Vicksburg National Military Park.
In Natchez, a walk is more than exercise when groups visit the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, a 128-acre archaeological and religious site of ancient Native Americans. Visitors can walk the sacred mounds and connect with history, explore the nature trail and learn about the site at the Visitor Center’s interpretive exhibits.
The outdoors is not only a place to play for the Gulf Coast region; it’s their livelihood, culture and history as well. The Mississippi Gulf Coast has been designated as a National Heritage Area, and groups can experience its unique diversity through a variety of activities.
“The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Estuarine Education Center is a wonderful resource for both residents and visitors,” said Janice Jefferson, director of sales for Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. “The center focuses on outdoor learning, using it to develop leadership skills and teambuilding, combining classroom-based learning and outdoor recreation.”
The center’s campus features 33 acres of woodlands and wetlands, so groups can enjoy kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, cycling and ropes courses.
Learning opportunities include courses in natural and environmental sciences as well.
Other unique outdoor opportunities include the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, where attendees can learn about flora and fauna around the largest free-flowing river in the contiguous U.S.; and Gulf Islands National Seashore at Davis Bayou, where groups can fish, bike and hike or take a boat ride to one of the barrier islands and sink their toes into the Gulf Coast’s famed white-sand beaches.
For adventure on the water, planners can arrange a dolphin-watching trip aboard a replica of a historic Biloxi oyster schooner, or undertake a Living Marine Adventure cruise aboard a shrimp boat and learn about how shrimp go from the Gulf to the plate.
No matter what type of activities a group enjoys, the CVB can assist, Jefferson said.
“We at Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast love to showcase the plethora of outdoor activities that this region has to offer,” she said. “Some group activities that we have previously organized include fishing charters, paddleboarding and kayaking our many waterways, Biloxi schooner trips and boat tours. The Mississippi Gulf Coast also boasts 13 award-winning golf courses, which provide the perfect excursion for a group of golf aficionados looking to tee off in South Mississippi.”
Although Tunica is best known for gaming, the area offers opportunities for attendees to go outside and get some fresh air. Tunica National Golf and Tennis features top-of-the-line amenities, including a championship 18-hole golf course and a professional, indoor tennis facility. Groups can choose from a variety of packages for golf or tennis, including setting up corporate tournaments. The property also has meeting space for small groups.
The natural rhythm and beauty of the Delta region shines at Tunica RiverPark, which focuses on the history, heritage and wildlife of the Mississippi River. Groups can tour the Mississippi River Museum, which features two levels of exhibits, from massive aquariums to a diving bell simulator, or head to the third-floor observation deck to watch the river roll past. Planners can arrange for sightseeing or meal cruises aboard the Tunica Queen, a 400-seat luxury paddlewheeler, or a wildlife photo op walk along the three-mile EcoTrail through some of the most pristine forest land in the Delta.
Down river in Greenville, a sportsman’s paradise awaits. Bird-watchers will delight in the Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge, a prime habitat for hundreds of songbirds, or groups can go alligator viewing among the cypress trees and hot springs at Leroy Percy State Park. There are also numerous outfitters and guides for hunting and fishing enthusiasts as well.
In northeast Mississippi, Tupelo is best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley. The area also offers several options for outdoor events and downtime excursions, like a side trip along part of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is headquartered in Tupelo. The Parkway, which follows a historic Native American trail for nearly 450 miles through three states, features hiking, horseback riding and bicycling as well.
Tupelo also has the perfect activity for attendees who want to walk—or ride—on the wild side. The Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo offers bus tours for bison viewing, or open-air trolley rides so groups can see the zoo’s animals up close and personal, from yaks to zebras.
“The Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo offers an abundance of outdoor activities such as trail rides and campouts that could easily be turned into teambuilding activities for groups,” said Neal McCoy, executive director for the Tupelo CVB. “There are also multiple green spaces in town that could be utilized in teambuilding experiences.”
Golf and biking take center stage for outdoor enthusiasts in Oxford; the city offers an 18-hole course and two nine-hole courses, and two sets of mountain bike trails. The South Campus Rail Trail lies adjacent to the Ole Miss campus, just a few minutes from downtown, making it convenient for attendees. Oxford is also a geocaching hotspot, with approximately 50 geocaches hidden throughout the city and surrounding county.
Located in the southern part of the state, Meridian is perfectly positioned amid lakes and forests for outdoor adventures. Planners can arrange events at Bonita Lakes, an urban forestry area with three lakes, nature trails, fishing, biking and a jogging and walking track. Dunn’s Falls, located just a few minutes from Meridian, offers an amazing backdrop of a 65-foot waterfall and the historic gristmill it once powered. The gristmill is available for tours, and groups can hold a picnic-style lunch around provided barbecue grills, or take advantage of hiking and swimming areas.
For a hands-on teambuilding event, attendees can take aim at Binachi Shooting Sports, a state-of-the-art facility. The attraction offers a 12-station sporting clays range through wooded terrain, and a skeet, trap and five-stand overlay course. Equipment is available for rental on-site.
Nearby in Columbus, groups can enjoy the Columbus Riverwalk and Trail, a 2.2- mile walking and biking trail along the Tombigbee River, or tackle the trails at Lake Lowndes State Park. The self-guided, 5.6-mile Opossum Trail gives groups a chance to stretch those muscles while learning about its birds, animals and plants through informational displays.