In spite the fact that my husband is a home builder and I am a real estate agent we don’t watch many of the home decorating remodeling shows.
There is one exception.
HGTV’s Home Town set in Laurel Mississippi
We LOVE HGTV’s television show Home Town. The young hosts of the show, Erin and Ben Napier, are a breath of fresh air in this arena. They are fun without being absurd. She is an artist with a great eye for color and he does woodworking.
Best of all, their remodels don’t all look alike because Ben and Erin actually pay attention to and respect the history and style of each home.
Most of the season’s of Home Town have been set in the small town of Laurel, Mississippi which happens to be Erin Napier’s true home town.
History of Laurel Mississippi
Laurel is located in an area of Mississippi known as the Pine Belt. It has a plethora of lovely old homes because it was a logging and lumber town back in the day and once had a much larger population than it does now.
It was called the “yellow pine capitol of the world” and during the time that the lumber industry was thriving many beautiful houses were built in Laurel in a variety of architectural styles. Many of these older homes are well built with stunning woodwork and gorgeous wood floors.
In addition to the lovely old homes, the lumber barons thoughtfully planned and designed Laurel with wide streets and a series of parks and amenities that you wouldn’t normally find in a small Mississippi town.
Unfortunately, like many once thriving small southern towns, Laurel began to fall into disrepair. By the 1990’s once thriving downtown shops were mostly shuttered closed and many of the lovely old homes were empty and neglected.
In the last decade or so, well before the HGTV show Home Town was aired, a grass roots movement began…a movement to transform Laurel. People worked together to get grants for their town, to entice new business to the area, and to use social media to create a buzz about Laurel.
Between the hard work of people who loved and believed in Laurel and the new-found fame brought by the HGTV show Laurel has become something new…something unique.
It is a small southern town that manages to honor but not idolize its past. Laurel appears to be working hard to hold onto the good old joys while learning from the bad old mistakes. They are embracing a different and hopeful future.
Laurel is a beautiful place to visit. It is a dream of a small town.
My husband and I recently found ourselves with an upcoming free weekend. “What do you want to do?” I asked. His response? “Let’s go to Laurel!”
So…we did. And we loved it.
If you are also a fan of the show Home Town I highly recommend taking a trip to Laurel, Mississippi.
Where to stay in Laurel Mississippi
First of all where should you stay? There are chain hotels round and about Laurel, but none actually in the downtown area. If you want to stay in or near the historic district then AirBnb is the way to go. It will allow you to live in Laurel like a local.
Check out The Laurel Cottages in the historic district. This place is absolutely charming!
Check out these other AirBnb options right in Laurel!
We actually stayed about 30 minutes outside of Laurel at Dragonfly Ridge. It was a lovely, spotless, little cabin in the woods. The hosts were great and we enjoyed our time there. This would be perfect for anyone who wants to be a little bit out in the country.
Where to eat in Laurel, Mississippi
I have written an entire post about the restaurants in Laurel MS. You will be surprised at how many options that you have in such a small town. Pearl’s Diner was one of our favorites. If you have watched the show then you might remember “meeting” Pearl. This is home cooking at its finest.
The Loft is known for steaks and they also have a great old timey bar. Cafe La Fleur has delicious Cajun food. Lee’s Coffee and Tea is an excellent coffee shop as well as a great place to grab some lunch.
Those are just a few of the restaurants that we enjoyed in Laurel. Check out our post to find even more.
Things to do in Laurel MS
You will find plenty of things to do in Laurel MS!
The highlight of Laurel, Mississippi is the town itself. Wide brick streets, old but spiffed up store fronts, and new businesses define the downtown area. Grab a map at the Laurel Welcome Center to start your explorations!
Basically just wander around, pop into shops, look at the murals, the pretty flowers, the old buildings, and enjoy small town life.
While you Wander Downtown – Visit with the Locals
Honestly, one of the highlights of our visit to Laurel was talking with the locals in the shops. Everyone was friendly and kind and chatty and – like most southerners – full of stories. Even people that we met walking down the street would talk to us. We asked questions about the town and the show.
My favorite question to ask was how the citizens of Laurel felt about the changes to their town. Of course, the shop owners and restauranteurs and those who worked downtown were thrilled, but they admitted that not everyone was happy.
I found the answers very interesting.
You can imagine it, right? It’s a small town and there will always be people who don’t like change. Then there are those who are just grumpy, who don’t like the cameras being around, who don’t like the cars and crew blocking up their streets when the show is being filmed.
Worst of all are the ones who don’t like the new people coming in – especially those who are different from themselves.
In spite of the few that were crotchety about Laurel’s new found fame we got the impression most of the residents were generally happy and proud of their small town.
One other thing that was mentioned, like, often, not only by the residents of Laurel, but also by others that we met in different areas of Mississippi was that they felt the show was helping the state of Mississippi to have a better reputation. Mississippi is typically at the top of every bad list and the bottom of every good one. Bless their hearts. I’m from Arkansas…I can SO relate.
Shopping in Laurel MS
If you have watched the show you will definitely see some familiar faces as you stroll around. There are a lot of stores and I am going to highlight some of our favorites. You will have fun just popping in from place to place in the pleasant downtown.
You walk in to the faint smell of sawdust, surrounded by gorgeous furniture, paintings hanging on the walls that are reminiscent of the old masters, original tiled floors. We loved this store and spent a lot of time chatting with the proprietor.
All of their furniture is handmade right in Laurel. You can actually have anything made that you want. Everything was beautiful! I am seriously considering having them make me a desk one of these days.
If you have children or grandchildren in your life you will definitely want to stop in here. It is a fun store with high quality children’s clothing and toys. My husband and I were most impressed with the merry-go-round made of K-nex. We couldn’t imagine how long it must have taken to build that thing.
I think we must still be children at heart because we never can resist a good toy store.
You will definitely want to make a stop at the Laurel Mercantile. The original Mercantile opened in 1901 and this new version was reimagined by Ben and Erin Napier and friends. They carry the Ben and Erin’s signature collection of goods, Erin’s artwork, and a variety of other American made products.
The Scotsman General store is where you can take a peek at the workshop where you have seen Ben and friends building items on the show. Grab a cold drink from the walk in refrigerator. Pick up a T-shirt to advertise that you have been to Laurel. Bring home a hefty butcher block made right in the workshop. Select an old-timey candy…or just enjoy the atmosphere.
This was one of my favorite stores in Laurel! I could have spent hours in here. Southern Antiques is a big place with way more than just antiques. They have all kinds of furnishing and home accessories and throw pillows and jewelry. So much to see!
They had dishes and glasses and flatware which are things I can never resist. My favorite part was the bridal registry. This was a section which displayed the choices of the various local brides and it was just so southern. I loved it!
HAND+made was a fun place that was a combination gift shop, arts and crafts store, and an art studio with classes. For a small town Laurel has a large variety of things to do!
Guild and Gentry is a combination barber shop and men’s store. It feels cool and sophisticated, yet also somehow casual and homey. Perhaps a good description is elegant masculinity. The owners of the store have been featured on the show.
There are many other shops to browse from furniture stores to clothing boutiques!
Learn the Story of Mark Landis
Have you ever heard of Mark Landis? I hadn’t. But when we walked into J Parker which I mentioned above I noticed some of their lovely art work that reminded me of some of the masters that I have seen in the best art galleries. It was there that I heard this fascinating story.
Mr Landis is a local celebrity with a notorious past. He is famous for forging famous art work and then donating the pieces to various art museums. He considered himself a “philanthropist” rather than a con-artist. A museum art curator eventually realized that these works were fakes.
However, due to the fact that Mr Landis had never received compensation for his works he was basically just asked to please stop forging great works of art.
I recommend you watch the fascinating documentary on Netflix about him called “Art and Craft.” Mr. Landis has also been featured on the show Home Town. You can purchase one of his paintings at J Parker, but he will also do commissioned work from your own photos.
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art
Within easy walking distance of downtown Laurel is the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art. It was opened in 1923 as a memorial to Lauren Eastman Rogers, the only son of one of the town’s wealthy lumber families. Lauren was building this space as a home for he and his new bride when he died at the age of 23.
His father and grandfather created the Eastman Memorial Foundation “to promote the public welfare by founding, endowing and having maintained a public library, museum, art gallery and educational institution, within the state of Mississippi.”
The Lauren Rogers Museum is the result of their desire to have something good come from the tragedy. It is free to the public and has a variety of interesting collections. There is a gift shop and you can also pick up a walking map there to understand more about the stately homes which surround the museum.
Walking tour of the area around the Lauren Rogers Museum
This walking tour that will tell you about the stately homes that used to be owned by the elite families of the town. You can pick up a map at the Lauren Rogers Museum which will explain who owned or built the homes and churches are that you are viewing on the streets around the museum as well as give you some details about the structures.
It is a pleasure to wander under the huge trees that line the streets as you look at the homes.
Look for the Home Town Houses
The locals aren’t allowed to tell you where the houses from Home Town are located, but if you have watched the show then it’s not too hard to figure out. It is a small town and if you take a drive through the neighborhoods you will immediately recognize some of the homes from the show.
Drive around or park somewhere you won’t be in the way, peruse the the lovely neighborhoods and enjoy spotting Home Town remodels!
But don’t bother the owners. Haha! These are people’s homes not stage sets!
Check out the lovely parks in Laurel MS
Right away you will notice the gorgeous parks in Laurel. If you watch Home Town you will have seen many of the homes that have been remodeled in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Pinehurst Park is just near downtown. It is the one with the pretty fountain that is often featured in the credits of the show. It also has a nice little gazebo.
You will immediately recognize the lovely Gardiner Park which is featured so often on Home Town. In person it is even more of a stunner.
Mrs Catherine Gardiner, the wife of one of the lumber barons, engaged the firm of Fredrick Law Olmstead to landscape a city parkway system for tiny Laurel. Mr. Olmstead only happens to be the same guy who designed New York City’s Central Park and the grounds surrounding the U. S. Capitol!
You will definitely want to take a stroll around Gardiner Park and the other amazing parks which are part of the designed park system in Laurel MS.
Take in a show at the Laurel Little Theatre
You should check to see if anything is playing at the Laurel Little Theatre while you are in town! The Little Theatre began in 1961 and plays are currently performed in the old Arabian movie house which was built in the 1920’s. Many of the actors in the plays are locals.
Go to a party!
One of the many things to do in Laurel MS is attend an event!
Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook-off
We happened to visit Laurel Mississippi the weekend of the Magnolia State Bank Chili Cook-off. We ate until we were ridiculously full.
You had better believe that we took this thing seriously, y’all! We wanted to try ALL the chili. Tip: start slow! There are tons of chili options so if you want to be able to try a bunch of them only have a bite or two at each chili stand.
Besides the chili cook-off Laurel has a variety of other community activities.
During the summer the downtown area hosts a farmer’s market along with a series of family friendly events on Thursday evenings.
Wine Down Downtown
This is a monthly wine tasting in downtown Laurel with extended shopping hours.
Other festivals in Laurel MS
You might want to be there for the crawfish festival, the loblolly festival, or many more!
If you happen to show up in Laurel when they are celebrating something you should definitely join in the fun!
Closing thoughts about Laurel Mississippi
Well, I loved it.
Laurel is endearing, stately, fun, and festive.
The town has a fascinating history which you can read more about here. It was once located in “The Free State of Jones” which considered itself an independent republic during the Civil War.
But it is modern Laurel that charmed us.
This wasn’t a group clinging to a faulty vision of the past or trying to restore some imagined former glory. No. This was a town and it’s inhabitants in metamorphosis. Laurel is becoming something new. These are people with no desire to tear down what was – they just want to make what is a little better.
Like Erin and Ben when they renovate houses Laurel seems to realize that a little hard work can make a place more livable, happier, better for all.
It can make a place a Home Town.
Thanks for stopping by,
Another small town in Mississippi that you might enjoy visiting is Greenwood. A small town that is up and coming in Arkansas the town of Wilson.
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