Laurel, Mississippi, called The City Beautiful by proud locals, is more than just the inspiration for the popular HGTV series, Home Town, starring Erin and Ben Napier. This place is the real deal. A small town with a boat load of cool history, Laurel, MS, is experiencing a grand revitalization that began before the successful HGTV series launched in 2017.
Now finishing up the 2nd season of Home Town, the show’s growing national audience can’t get enough of the friends and neighbors who come together to show the world how cool it is to live in a small town.
And while I am a loyal fan of a number of HGTV shows, something rang so true to me about this show that I had to go see it for myself. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can binge watch episodes and see for yourself how the Napiers and company restore one house in Laurel each week.
It wasn’t until I arrived that I realized that the TV cameras can’t capture the texture of the old brick buildings and streets, the warm glow of the swag lighting and the lush parks shaded by stately old oaks. And you have to visit Laurel, MS, in person to experience the genuine southern hospitality and generous nature of the residents that make this town so special.
Laurel by the numbers
- 15.8 Square miles
- Population 18,540
- Median age 33
- 6,726 homes
- Median home price of $114,500 ($66 Sq. Ft) up from $84,900 in 2015
- 253 homes for sale
History of Laurel, MS
Founded in 1882 around the lumber industry, Laurel’s initial economy was almost exclusively harvesting the surrounding Yellow Pine forest. Watch this video to learn more about the history of Laurel, MS.
Shopping in Laurel
Unlike many towns where local merchants compete against one another the merchants of Laurel, MS support and promote each other as much as they do their own business, knowing that it takes a community to prosper. Here are a few of my favorites:
New Look Vintage Boutique
Just a few blocks west of downtown I found New Look Vintage Boutique, owned by Suzanne Williams. Her shop features a variety of vintage home decor and beautifully restored and hand-painted furniture. The finishes on her pieces are beautiful and unique. Visit her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/newlookforyouandhome.
One of my favorite places in downtown Laurel, MS, is Hand+Made by the Clairmont Co. They describe themselves as “an interactive retail and DIY experience”. A unique combination of shopping (all products are hand+made in Laurel by local artisans), DIY Studio and a place where locals gather for events, parties and classes. Stop in and see Amy Anding, the store manager.
Visit their website and read their story. Not only are they a personal inspiration to local entrepreneurs, but the messages on many of their products also offer hope and inspiration. Probably my favorite part, however, is their Give Back products where a portion of the sales proceeds go to support a variety of needs worldwide.
A trip to Laurel, MS would not be complete without stopping in to the Laurel Mercantile, to browse the decor items featured on HGTV’s Home Town. Visit them online at www.laurelmercantile.com.
J. Parker Reclaimed
Oh my goodness, I could have stayed in this great store all day. Their custom furniture is made with local reclaimed wood. Do the talents of the local artisans in Laurel ever end? This shop is a must see. Get a sneak peek on www.jparkerms.com.
Also loved visiting:
- Southern Antiques
- Adam Trest Home
- Lott Furniture Company
- Laurel Leaf
Where to eat
There is no shortage of great places to eat in Laurel, MS. During my stay I had dinner at Mimmo’s and The Loft, had coffee at Lee’s and Pause and lunch at Hog Heaven (just outside of downtown). They were all amazing.
This is just a few of the local favorites:
- Estelle’s Southern Cuisine
- The Pearl Diner (Soul Food)
- Mimmo’s Ristorante (Italian)
- The Loft (fine dining)
- Hog Heaven BBQ
- Phillips Drive In (PDI)
- Sweet Somethings Bakery
- Southern Kernels
- Lee’s Coffee and Tea
- Pause Espresso Bar
Where to stay
1. Wisteria Bed & Breakfast
There is no shortage of places to stay in Laurel, MS. But if you are looking for a traditional Bed & Breakfast, check out the Wisteria B&B. Located just across the street from the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art (a must see), this stately home is listed on the National Register of historic places.
Peggy and Earl Schneider, the owners and innkeepers, made me feel like family. I was the only guest on a Wednesday night so after breakfast we sat and talked for more than an hour. They raised their kids in the house and the photographs and art reflect their family’s history. The walls are painted bright, cheerful colors and the art is an eclectic mix of local and personal. I found myself smiling as I browsed through the house. And the breakfast was a true southern delight. No dieters allowed. I ate every bite of the eggs, grits, biscuits, sausage and bacon. And the coffee was divine.
2. Laurel Cottage
After visiting a few shops downtown and having two different shop owners recommend renting a room at Laurel Cottage, a small house owned by “Bonnie”,a short two mile drive from the historic downtown, I pulled it up on my app and booked it. The price was only $58 and it was adorable. While I have rented with AirBnB many times, this was the first time I have rented a room in someone’s house, as opposed to the whole house. It worked out great.
The house was clean, the bed was comfortable and Bonnie, a recent transplant to Laurel, was so excited to drive me around town to show me all her favorite places. It was great getting to know Bonnie and her sweet dog Foxy.
What to do
There is so much to do and see in Laurel and the greater Jones County area.
- Lauren Rogers Museum of Art – the first museum in Mississippi.
- Veterans War Memorial
- Stroll down 5th and 6th Avenue to see the amazing turn of the century homes.
Get all the latest news and events in Laurel, MS at http://www.laurelms.com/ and start planning your visit today. You’ll be glad you did.