The South has many beautiful small towns, but it’s hard to imagine that many of them are prettier than Laurel, Mississippi. Stay awhile, and you might even feel like it’s your hometown.
What’s so great about Laurel? Let’s find out!
About Laurel, Mississippi
You might have seen signs for the Laurel exit on Interstate 59 in southeast Mississippi. Stop in and find a small friendly city dating to the lumber boom of the late 19th Century.
Founded in 1883, Laurel, located in Jones County, has a population of just over 18,000.
The native longleaf pine trees used for timber contributed to Laurel’s growth. The community has managed to have a fairly low profile all of these years but has received more notoriety recently, thanks to television.
The place that calls itself “the City Beautiful” is the filming location of a popular HGTV series called “Home Town.” The show follows a young couple, Erin and Ben Napier, as they renovate some of Laurel’s many historic old houses. The show’s success has spotlighted the town and inspired the revitalization of many old buildings.
Laurel is just northeast of the city of Hattiesburg, home to the University of Southern Mississippi. If you plan to visit, keep in mind that Laurel is extremely hot and humid in the summer but has mild winters. It dips below freezing a few times in the coldest months, but snowfall is rare.
Morning in Laurel, Mississippi
They say that if you go around hungry in Laurel, Mississippi, it’s nobody’s fault but your own. Start your day likes the locals do at one of the most popular places for the most important meal.
Breakfast at Vic’s
Address: 804 Chantilly St, Laurel, MS 39440
Menu Options: It’s the big square biscuits that attract the early crowds at Vic’s. The soft and tender and hot from the oven biscuits make a meal to themselves. You can customize them with a choice of fillings like egg, sausage, bacon, or steak. Breakfast platters include pancakes and tots. They serve breakfast from 5-10:30 a.m. Be sure and save room for lunch – if that’s possible!
Reasons to Love It: There’s nothing fancy about this home-style favorite, and we mean that in the best possible way. Vic West started this place over 40 years ago with recipes from his own family. You might even want to come back later for a burger, sandwich, or one of the daily blue plate specials.
Stroll Laurel’s Main Street and Shops
The heart of Laurel is just a mile from Vic’s. Many of these old buildings lay vacant a few years ago, but Laurel’s downtown renaissance is in full bloom. The “Home Town” TV show deserves a lot of the credit, but so does Laurel Main Street.
The pro-merchant preservation group works tirelessly to promote the downtown district and attract more people. These special events include a combination farmer’s market and movie night on Thursdays.
Walk the downtown blocks yourself and discover Laurel’s reborn assemblage of lively specialty stores, galleries, salons, restaurants, and bars. When planning your trip to Laurel, Mississippi, keep in mind that many businesses are closed on Sundays.
Afternoon in Laurel, Mississippi
After experiencing downtown Laurel, you don’t have to stray far to explore some other jewels. All that Laurel offers might surprise you.
Eat Lunch at Cafe La Fleur
Address: 313 N Magnolia St, Laurel, MS 39440
Menu Options: Laurel is just a two-hour drive from New Orleans, and you can taste the influence here. Enjoy Cajun and Creole flavors with their selection of po’boys, pasta dishes, or redfish tacos. Appetizers of boudin balls or seafood gumbo enrich the experience.
Reasons to Love It: It has the feel of a French Quarter bistro. Open for more than 20 years, Café La Fleur is a trusted friend in Laurel because of the food quality and service. The expert staff can handle big crowds, even at mid-day.
Visit the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art
You might not expect to see a 400-year-old Japanese block print in Laurel, Mississippi, but here’s your chance. This is Mississippi’s oldest art museum, established in 1923 in honor of a wealthy and well-connected young man who met an untimely death.
The museum stands on Fifth Avenue in the building that was to become Lauren Rogers’s private home. It contains many American landscapes and portraits but has much more. The 2,000-item collection includes paintings from Europe, ornate silver sets from 18th Century England, and hundreds of Native American baskets.
Spending an Evening in Laurel
How about dinner and a show? Each will reveal a closer look behind the scenes of what makes up the community of Laurel.
Get Dinner at Hog Heaven BBQ
While visiting barbecue country, stop in at Hog Heaven BBQ that carries on the tradition like a boss. The owners and staff never get tired of hearing customers say it’s the best ‘cue they’ve ever had.
Address: 3204 Ellisville Blvd, Laurel, MS 39440
Menu Options: Pulled pork plates and sandwiches and dry-rubbed ribs are the stars, and the brisket earns top marks, too. Side dishes include BBQ beans, coleslaw, and loaded potato salad.
Reasons to Love It: It’s a great place for Mississippi-style barbecue. It’s open and airy, with wooden tables and a casual, friendly vibe. The comfortable covered patio has an outside bar/dining area.
Catch a Show at Laurel Little Theatre
Laurel’s thriving downtown area is also home to the historic Arabian Theatre. It started in 1927 but today plays host to stage productions from Laurel Little Theatre. The theatre group traces its history to 1961 and has put on more than 250 productions over the years.
“Big Fish – The Musical” kicks off this season, followed by the classic “Steel Magnolias” in the fall. “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” is scheduled for early 2022.
Where to Stay in Laurel, Mississippi
After all this activity, you’re going to need a place to rest for the night. We’ve got you covered.
Campground: Sleepy Hollow RV Park
Address: 2920 Highway 11 N, Laurel, MS 39443
About the Park: Sleepy Hollow is a full-service RV park just north of town and convenient to both I-59 and U.S. Highway 11. It has full hookups, paved roads, and concrete pads. The extras include a laundry room, bathhouse, a swimming pool, and even a fishing pond with ducks. You can rent a cabin too.
Why You’ll Love Staying Here: It’s clean and well-maintained with lots of shade. Expect friendly service, too — they’ll escort you to your space. It’s close to the highway but far enough away to give you some quiet and solitude.
A Day in Laurel, Mississippi
With a visit to Laurel, Mississippi, you’ll find out why so many people are proud to call it home. It’s exciting to see how the community has rallied around its history and staged a remarkable comeback. Have you ever spent some time in Laurel? What are your favorite things to do there?
Don’t Miss Out: While you’re here, make your way through the rest of the state and visit the best small towns in Mississippi!