Vicksburg, MS – a perfect adventure with young children
Winter break is pretty long. The days leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Day are full of excitement and fun preparations. After the holidays, though – well, it’s not as exciting. The new toys aren’t as new anymore, we’ve watched all the Christmas movies and just can’t handle another Netflix show. That’s when getting out of the house becomes a necessity. If it’s rainy and cold, our options are still good, but pretty limited. There are kids’ events and crafts at the malls, libraries, museums, and story reading events in the bookstores. Those are all great. But my husband and I were lucky to get some time off work, so we planned an adventure with our kids! If you need some ideas for a day trip, I’ve got one.
Just a short one-hour drive from Jackson, the city of Vicksburg offers a variety of unique experiences. Hop on the Trolley Express if you’re in town during the week. The trolley operates Monday through Friday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Daily passes are $4 for adults and $0.50 for children. The main stops along the route are the Old Depot Museum on Catfish Row, Cedar Grove Mansion in the Garden District, the corner of Crawford and Washington Streets in the downtown shopping district, the Old Court House Museum, Duff Green Mansion in Old Town Vicksburg, the Southern Cultural Heritage Center and the Outlets at Vicksburg. This is very affordable and a fun way to get a feel for the city and see as much as you can in a short time.
Vicksburg National Military Park
We began our journey with visiting the Vicksburg National Military Park. Park grounds are open sunrise to sunset. It’s a good idea to start at the Visitor Center. Ask about their Junior Ranger program. Your child will get a special age-appropriate activity booklet with questions and puzzles to help him or her find out as much as possible about the park and its history. The booklets introduce park stories and point out things of interest that otherwise might go unnoticed. When a child has completed the activity booklet, he or she is sworn in as Junior Ranger and receives a patch or badge and a certificate.
Our family trips are always extra exciting because we are on a long-term quest to collect as many stamps in our “park passport” as we can. We own a Passport To Your National Parks that we bring with us every time we visit a National Park anywhere in the United States. We get it stamped at every location and it helps us keep track of the places we visited and plan our trips in the future. You can get a passport like that in any Visitor Center of any National Park. Or you can order one online.
Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg in 1863 and features over 1,340 monuments. Guided tours are available and reservations are recommended. We went on a self-guided tour, driving through the park and making as many stops as we wanted along the way. You can walk or bike too, but keep in mind the Tour Trail is 16 miles long. For us, driving was the way to go. The kids enjoyed finding and checking off the monuments in their activity booklets as we found them, and answering questions about the significance of a particular monument or the number of steps in a building. From the top point of the park, the view was breathtaking. We took some great pictures and learned a lot about our nation’s history.
Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum
Did you know it was a small candy merchant of Vicksburg, MS who had an idea that was to shape the American, and later the international, soft drink industry? He took a popular fountain beverage, put it in bottles and shipped it into the rural areas outside the Vicksburg city limits. It was the first time Coca-Cola had been sold in bottles. Mr. Biedenharn created a totally new concept of marketing the beverage and established the cornerstone of the independent network of franchised bottlers who now distribute bottled Coca-Cola all over the world.
The Museum of Coca-Cola History and Memorabilia – the authentically restored downtown candy store and office area – was our second destination. The museum is open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Sunday 1:30-4:30 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for children 6-12. Children under 6 – free.
It was a delightful experience. Of course, after learning everything there is to know about the popular fountain drink of the 1890s, the kids enjoyed some ice-cold Coke from classic, retro, glass bottles. The museum is also a convenient stop for some shopping and dining in the historic downtown district. The corner of Crawford and Washington Streets is one of the best places to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River.
The trip was a perfect one-day adventure for our young children. We feel like we saw a lot, but still only scratched the surface of everything Vicksburg has to offer. We are definitely going back soon.