By Carmen Cristo | Photos by Sarah Tyner
Although Laurel has recently gained national attention as the setting of HGTV’s “Home Town,” starring locals Erin and Ben Napier, the picturesque South Mississippi town has long been known as “The City Beautiful.” With its charming main street, resurgence of locally-owned businesses and oak-lined drives, Laurel has all the makings for a weekend getaway. It’s a quick trip from the northern part of the state, and the Southern hospitality that awaits is worth the drive.
WHAT TO DO
Take a drive through Laurel’s historic neighborhoods. There are many beautiful homes to admire in a variety of styles — craftsman, Southern traditional and midcentury. “Home Town” fans will likely be able to spot a few fixer-uppers from past seasons.
The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art
Visit the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, surrounded by turn-of-the-century homes and towering trees. The museum was founded in 1923 by the Rogers family as a “living monument” to Lauren, the only son and grandson of one of Laurel’s founding families. The museum is home to a variety of collections — art, documents and relics of bygone eras. It also offers educational courses.
H A N D+made
This downtown store combines shopping and making for a unique experience. The shop has items available for purchase as well as a variety of DIY projects you can make on-site.
Laurel Little Theatre
If you’re lucky, the Laurel Little Theatre will have a show during your stay. It has been creating community through art for 57 seasons. If nothing else, it’s worth it to see the historic building in person.
The Shop Co.Work
This hip downtown co-working space features a mid-century modern meets industrial vibe. The Shop Co.Work offers members a place to meet, share and create in community. Stop in to admire the building’s exposed brick walls and get a feel for what it’s like to be a local in Laurel.
SHOPS TO BROWSE
Laurel Mercantile Co.
This modern general store is a treasure trove of new and old finds, co-owned by the Napiers. The original Laurel Mercantile closed in the 1930s. In 2016, the “Home Town” couple, along with Emily and Josh Nowell and Jim and Mallorie Rasberry, partnered to restore the building and business to its former glory. With a focus on selling American-made items, you can feel good about shopping at LMCo.
This award-winning downtown shop features home wares, gifts and antiques in a 100-year-old, three-story building. It’s also home to the area’s largest bridal registry. Owner and Laurel-native Andrea Milham uses her design background and retail experience to keep the shop stocked with unique finds and quality products made by local artisans.
For the vintage shopper, this antique and vintage market is a must-see. It’s full of antiques as well as artisan wares and also features an upscale boutique where shoppers can find trendy jewelry and clothing.
WHERE TO EAT
Vic’s Biscuits and Burger
Vic’s is a no-nonsense joint specializing in, you guessed it, biscuits and burgers. If you want a classic Southern blue plate lunch, this is your spot.
The Loft on Central Avenue
The Loft is a dinner-only restaurant in Laurel’s historic downtown with indoor and outdoor seating. They specialize in steak and seafood, but have a range of other menu items from pasta to sandwiches.
The Knight Butcher
While you might not be able to take the meats home to cook, you can still pick up some local treats from this butcher shop while in Laurel. The Knight Butcher carries everything from honey to soda to salsa. Don’t miss their jerky or fudge, both made in-house.
You can’t experience a small, Southern town without sampling their drive-in fare. Phillips is a longtime local staple (known to locals as ‘PDI’) serving the classics — burgers and shakes.
Lee’s Coffee and Tea
For a pick-me-up, visit Lee’s, located conveniently in downtown Laurel. Lee’s is known for gourmet coffee, teas and their made-from-scratch soups and paninis.
Sweet Somethings Bakery
A locally-owned downtown bakery that serves all sorts of sweets. Try their cinnamon rolls and sticky buns, foldovers or traditional homemade cookies.
Shug’s Cookie Dough & Candy Bar
A bakery and candy store on Main Street specializing in cookie cakes, milkshakes and other sweet treats.
WHERE TO REST
Wisteria Bed and Breakfast
This charming bed and breakfast features antique furniture, comfortable rooms, a sitting porch and an outdoor courtyard.
There are homes all over Laurel to be rented on Airbnb. You can even stay in one of the homes renovated on “Home Town.” For convenient accommodations, look for the listing for the downtown apartment above Sweet Somethings Bakery.