It’s that time of year again where my husband, Joel, and I gear up with two other couples for an annual get-together. Our tradition began several years ago as an early Thanksgiving feast, a time for us to hang out, eat, and, of course, be thankful for our friendships. Over the years, our celebration has evolved, and today it’s a full-fledged getaway packed with loads of fun, dining, and pre-holiday shopping.
Ridgeland, Mississippi, made the cut for this year’s blowout, and we couldn’t be more excited. Ridgeland is just north of Mississippi’s capital of Jackson. It’s close enough to Jackson to share in some of its big city vibe but maintains a small-town charm. Ridgeland folks support the moniker of Mississippi as being the hospitality state.
We and our friends have a shared love for antique and vintage shopping, so day one in Ridgeland has already been set aside to appease our love of the hunt. More than just finding treasures, it’s a shared appreciation for the past—an acknowledgment that though styles change, the past isn’t disposable, its utility simply evolves. A piece of furniture, for example, that was once top-of-the-line, can now be a charmer that adds warmth and familiarity to a room.
It’s not by luck that we came to Ridgeland, which sits on the Antique Trail and boasts numerous antique shops right in town. The collection at Carter Louise didn’t disappoint any of us. Within minutes of eyeballing the inventory, I had mentally furnished my dream French country estate. My gaze stopped along one wall, and I made a beeline for a beautiful grandmother’s clock that would fit perfectly in the new-to-us but vintage home that my husband and I purchased last fall. I looked around for everyone’s opinion, but they were all out of sight scouting. I knew Joel had scooted off to look for collectible books.
Luckily, it turned out that he was pro-clock because, by the time we had reunited, I was already in love with it and figured out where exactly my new, old charmer would go.
Trying not to waste a minute of our day, we hurried over to the biggest antique store in the Ridgeland area, the 14,000-square-foot Antique Mall of the South. We placed bets on who would score the best find, then scattered about like a spilled bag of marbles among the 70-plus booths. Two of the husbands ended up spying the same bar set of gold-rimmed, pheasant highball glasses at precisely the same moment, and legitimately did rock-paper-scissors to see who got to take it home. The winner ended up garnering the title of “best find” just for getting so lucky.
No trip is complete without plenty of good eats, and Ely’s Restaurant & Bar answered our dinner call. The upscale, locally owned restaurant does nothing but justice to fresh ingredients like beef and Gulf seafood. I greedily sunk my teeth into the divine Blackened Yellow Fin Tuna, which was served with jumbo lump crab. It was a true indulgence, and I could tell Joel was having a similar Cloud 9 experience by the creole barbecue butter running down his face from his Filet Louisiane.
On a mission
Ridgeland also has a retail trail, chock full of boutiques, uniques, and name-brand stores. This was the day we planned on banging out a big chunk of our holiday shopping. Joel reminded me of this—time after time—when I found another pair of shoes for myself. I knew he was right but told him that new shoes made all the difference for Cinderella. I left with a pair of fringed booties. Hemline Ridgeland and Arco Avenue of Township at Colony Park both have lots of cute shoes for sure, but the fringy ’60s styled necklaces made for great gifts. In fact, all the couples bought a necklace for at least one relative. Check!
We headed over to Renaissance at Colony Park, and the ladies and gentlemen parted to make purchases for our respective spouses. I had to laugh—based on the bags the guys later carried, I’m pretty sure they ended up selecting the same gift for each of us. We teased them about it, but they weren’t giving anything away.
We seemed to be on a shopping streak, so we continued on to Kincade’s Fine Clothing, where we got the chance to turn our gents into Prince Charmings. This men’s clothing store is a place of “bests,” with the best clothes and the best service. The store exuded sophistication at first sight—the red brick building in Olde Town Ridgeland was striking. We ladies were enthusiastically suggesting soft, colorful fabrics for our guys as they rolled their eyes. But by the end, they were just as enchanted by the fine fashions—perfect for posing in for holiday pictures.
Memorable bites and libations
Seeking to explore and taste all of Ridgeland, we made reservations for a nice steak meal at Tico’s Steak House. Joel was happy as a clam with his 24-ounce porterhouse, while the rest of us enjoyed our respective seafood meals, including shrimp scampi and Maine lobster. It was fine dining at its finest.
We, of course, had wine with dinner, but our favorite stop for a cocktail was at Anjou, the day we shopped at Township at Colony Park. The guys sipped their Perfect Manhattans while we ladies traded and sipped each other’s drinks to find our favorite. The French 75 with gin, lemon, and champagne was my fave. You know, Charles Dickens once said, “Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life.”
As our trip came to a close, we reflected on all that we had accomplished and marveled at how our shopping trip took away the stress of holiday gift buying. More than that, this trip allowed my group of friends to continue to be involved in each other’s lives and have some fun while we’re at it. I knew that every time I saw my new-to-me grandmother clock in my house, I’d remember this trip and smile.