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How Erin Napier helped Laurel become “The City Beautiful” once again.

You know Erin Napier from Home Town on HGTV, where she renovates once-beautiful historic homes in Laurel, Mississippi with her husband, Ben. But did you know that she also played a significant part in returning Downtown Laurel to its former beauty?

Years ago Erin, and others like her, began to see a beautiful future for Laurel. And they set out to make it a reality.

Downtown Laurel, 1980’s

Their challenge? To repair the damage done during the period of Urban Renewal from the 1950’s to 1970’s, which turned inviting, historic downtowns throughout the United States into ugly, covered “shopping-malls” and destroyed their historic facades and charm.

Laurel After Urban Renewal - A Ghost Town

Restoring Downtown Laurel, MS

Throughout Downtown Laurel, buildings were transformed with Erin’s stunning design work – not only to hide the empty buildings but also to give folks like you a glimpse into our culture and history.

Famous People of Laurel Murals by Erin Napier

Famous People of Laurel Murals by Erin Napier

Erin told us:

“A big step in erasing urban renewal would be making it seem it had never occurred at all. I designed “ghost signs” and murals that would point to an era predating the aluminum facades and remind people of the beauty hidden underneath.”

– Erin Napier, Star of Home Town on HGTV

Visit Laurel Mural by Erin Napier

Visit Laurel Mural by Erin Napier

As local folks saw Downtown transforming into something beautiful, they started to have beautiful ideas of their own. Buildings began to fill with new businesses, foot traffic increased and soon – a certain TV network came to call.

Laurel-Jones County Library Mural by Erin Napier

Laurel-Jones County Library Mural by Erin Napier

Now, we see tourists gather every day for photos in front of Erin’s iconic “Welcome to Downtown Laurel, MS” mural to commemorate their trip to a city reborn.

And it all started with the ideas of a few, creative folks who set out to love on our little hometown.

When to plan your trip to Laurel, Mississippi

There are so many fun things to do in our home town throughout the year, but if you aren’t a local like us – it can be hard to know when is the best time to plan your trip to visit Laurel.

We’ve collected a few of our favorite activities that are best enjoyed at specific times throughout the year. Read on to find the perfect time for your trip!

Planning a Spring trip to Laurel, MS

Springtime is quite possibly the very best time to visit Laurel. We will start to see warmer temperatures as early as February (some days even get up to 80 degrees), much sooner than most of the United States. Come thaw out with us and enjoy shopping in downtown boutiques with their doors opened wide to the breeze, and attend a variety of spring events and happenings throughout the city.

HGTV Home Town Season Premier & Finale Parties · Laurel Mercantile

FREE · HGTV HOME TOWN

The first essential tourist events are the outdoor parties held by the Home Town team for the season premiers and finales of the show. These events are open to the public and are a great opportunity to meet the folks behind the show, including Erin and Ben Napier! Join us for these uniquely-Laurel celebrations each year!

LOCAL’S TIP: Bring a chair and a big appetite! Thanks to local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, these events feature a variety of awesome local food trucks and fare from our downtown eateries!

The Gardens of Laurel’s Historic District · 5th, 6th, 7th & Euclid Avenues

FREE · ACCESSIBLE

We love our gardens in the South, and we want to share their incredible beauty with you! Enjoy a walk under the towering oaks or simply take a drive through Laurel’s historic district to experience a variety of carefully tended gardens and flowering trees.

Visit Laurel, Mississippi for great family-friendly activities and gorgeous views!

Euclid Avenue and Park is one of the most featured areas on HGTV’s Home Town, and one of Laurel’s most darling neighborhoods.

LOCAL’S TIP: Stop by the Laurel Welcome Center at 401 Central Ave. to pick up the official “Walking Tour” brochure with step-by-step directions.

Touch A Truck · 2nd Saturday in April · Downtown Laurel

KID-FRIENDLY · SENSORY-FRIENDLY

Kids of all ages stand in awe of big, hard-working trucks and vehicles. Touch a Truck is a perfect activity to get up close and personal with all manner of tough giants. Looking for an activity for those with sensory sensitivities or children with autism? TAT features a special “quiet hour” designed to allow them to enjoy the fun, without the worry of loud horns or flashing lights.

LOCAL’S TIP: Buy your tickets early for a special discount. Click here for more info. Ticket sales go back into the community to fund restoration projects and to help make Downtown even more beautiful.

Downtown Crawfest · 3rd Saturday in April · Magnolia & Front St.’s

FAMILY-FRIENDLY · FREE ENTRY FOR KIDS UNDER 5

Have you ever experienced a southern crawfish boil? Here is your chance to get a taste of this fun experience as cooks of all experience levels go head to head to see who comes out as the official champion. Enjoy great local beverages, live music, and delicious food at this new Laurel event!

LOCAL’S TIP: This is a great opportunity to tour Downtown and visit local merchants such as Laurel Mercantile (Erin & Ben’s shop as featured on HGTV Home Town) and Lott Furniture on Front St, and the boutiques on Magnolia Street.

Day in the Park · 1st Saturday in May · Mason Park

FREE ADMISSION · KID-FRIENDLY

Every local kid grew up looking forward to that warm spring day where the whole family would load up in the car and drive down to Mason Park for a day of fun kids’ activities, local art, awesome arts & crafts vendors and great local music. Day in the Park is the perfect event for those planning an early May trip, where you and your family can truly experience Laurel like generations of local families have before.

LOCAL’S TIP: Bring a folding chair or blanket to sit in the grass under the pines and enjoy great food while listening to local artists and productions.

Visiting Laurel in the Summer

Headed down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, or the Florida beaches? Stop into Laurel for great summer fun and amazing shopping. If there’s anything we know in South Mississippi, it’s how to do summer right!

Kids’ Activities & Playgrounds

KID-FRIENDLY

Let the littles stretch their legs and get out their wiggles with a stop in a Laurel. Click here for a full list of kids’ activities and playgrounds in Laurel, many within easy walking distance of downtown!

Fun in the park

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LOCAL’S TIP: Mason Park has the best shade cover for warmer summer days, and the Laurel Sportsplex splash pad is easily accessible and free for a truly cooling experience.

Blues Bash · June · Lauren Rogers Museum of Art

LOCAL MUSIC · FAMILY-FRIENDLY

No trip to Mississippi is complete without experiencing the uniquely-southern sound of the blues. This annual event is a showcase of the best blues musicians Mississippi has to offer and a celebration of our long history of supporting America’s music.

LOCAL’S TIP: Click here to purchase tickets online before your trip.

4th of July Fireworks Shows · July · Downtown Laurel

FREE · FAMILY-FRIENDLY

The 4th of July Fireworks have long been a childhood staple in Laurel. Held each year at both the Sawmill Square Mall, and more recently, Jones Family Medicine Clinic – both shows are free and open to the general public.

Happy 4th of July from all of us in #downtownlaurel! // Photo by Andrea Milham. ??

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LOCAL’S TIP: Watch the Sawmill Square show from Pinehurst Park in Downtown Laurel for a truly local experience, complete with refreshments!

Should you visit Laurel in the Fall?

After a long summer, Laurelites always welcome the cooler temperatures of the Fall. You’ll see lots of locals out and about, walking through the historic district, shopping in downtown shops, exploring their hometown and looking forward to the fun of festival season! Join us for these great fall events in Laurel!

The Loblolly Festival · 1st Saturday of October · Downtown Laurel

FREE · FAMILY-FRIENDLY

The Loblolly Festival is an absolute must for any trip to Laurel in the fall. Laurel’s biggest festival celebrates our history as a lumber town, complete with our beloved mascot – The Loblolly Lumberjack – played by the star of Home Town himself, Big Ben Napier! Make a special trip for this one, folks!

Are you a #loblollylover? We are!

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LOCAL’S TIP: Park in the exterior parking lots around downtown, and be sure to leave some room in your car – you’re sure to leave with some great finds!

Deason Home Ghost Tours · Ellisville

HISTORY

The Deason Home holds secrets of one of the most interesting parts of Jones County’s history. Visit our neighboring town of Ellisville for this fun historical experience, and you might just meet a ghost while you explore our counties’ storied past.

The Deason Home is the oldest home in Jones County (1845). On October 5, 1863,, Confederate Major Amos McLemore had been sent to the area to round up deserters and had been using the house as his headquarters. Newt Knight charged the house that night, shooting and killing McLemore. Blood still stains the floors of this home and it is considered one of the most haunted houses in the state. #tourism #southernliving #oldstuff #downtown #deasonhome #jonescounty #ellisvillems #freestateofjones #hauntedhouse #hauntedplace #haunted #newtknight #civilwar #amosmclemore #travel ##traveller #travelgram #travelwriter #travelblogger #travelphotography #ghosts #ghoststories #explore #explorethesouth #exploremississippi

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LOCAL’S TIP: Click here to learn more about the story behind The Deason Home, and why our home county is called the “Free State of Jones.”

The South Mississippi Fair · HWY 11

FAMILY-FRIENDLY · ARTS & CRAFTS

Laurel’s historic fairgrounds are never put to better use than when the fair comes to town! Folks travel from all over Mississippi to attend the 2nd largest fair in the state each fall. Enjoy the fun of the rides (check for unlimited armband nights for the best value), incredible local and traveling fair food, arts & crafts, livestock shows and live music!

LOCAL’S TIP: Visit during lunch hours for that delicious and addictive fair food, without an admission fee or the nighttime crowds.

Even winter is a great time to visit Laurel!

Have you ever experienced the holiday season in the south? You’re truly in for a treat if you are here for some of our most cherished annual events!

Kiwanis Pancake Day · 1st Saturday of December · YWCO & 1st Baptist

FAMILY-FRIENDLY · GREAT FOOD

Get ready for one of the quintessential local experiences! Pancake Day is a sign and symbol of what it is like to say #iliveinlaurel, as locals of all walks of life gather together for a meal before or after the annual Christmas Parade. Locals and visitors alike will line the sidewalks in anticipation of a delicious meal of pancakes with butter and syrup served with sausage and cooked up just right.

LOCAL’S TIP: Due to its popularity, the event is now held at two separate locations to accommodate the crowds. Check out the YWCO on Oak Street in downtown, or First Baptist Church on 6th Ave.

Sertoma Christmas Parade · 1st Saturday of December · Downtown Laurel

FAMILY-FRIENDLY · FREE

Did you know Laurel hosts the longest Christmas parade in the state of Mississippi? Join us the first Saturday in December for this morning parade that loops around the Sawmill Square Mall and through Downtown Laurel. You might even spy a jolly, white-bearded fellow with treats for the littles.

Pancakes. Parade. Warm fuzzy feelings all around.

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LOCAL’S TIP: Come to downtown early to claim a spot, visit the shops and grab a hot coffee at Lee’s Coffee & Tea!

Christmas at the Village · Landrum’s · HWY 15 S

FAMILY-FRIENDLY · HISTORY

Landrum’s Homestead and Village, or “Landrum’s Country” to the locals, is a great attraction any time of the year, but it is most perfect during the holidays. Take a walk through a recreation of a historic southern town, complete with cabins, blacksmith demonstrations, and the most quaint little chapel all decorated for Christmas. This is an absolute must-visit for holiday tourists!

LOCAL’S TIP: Admission is $10 and walk-ins are welcome year-round.

Want to find out about more local Laurel events and happenings? Sign up for updates and follow us on Instagram for daily posts about our home town.

Our Downtown Laurel merchants are rolling out the welcome mat for you with beautiful decor, charming shops and big smiles. Stop by and say hey y'all!

Why #iliveinlaurel: A Local’s Perspective

If you spend any amount of time in Laurel, you’ll quickly see the allure of our affectionally called, “City Beautiful”. There are many reasons why #iliveinlaurel, and hopefully–I can convince you to do the same.

Laurel’s History & Beauty

If you browse the #iliveinlaurel tag on Instagram, you’ll find many photos of our parks, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, blooming gardens, porch gatherings, and walks through the Historic District.

Because we have such rich history built by innovators, artisans, and entrepreneurs, our buildings and homes are awe-inspiring to look at. (And live in!)

I’m lucky enough to live in the Historic District in a very old home with tall ceilings and windows, a huge wrap-around porch, and plenty to look at right outside my door. And when I’m wanting to get out, everything is in walking distance. I’ve got a tennis court across the street, and can walk to work and Downtown in less than 10 minutes!

  • Historic Buildings

    The Arabian, now Laurel Little Theatre is celebrating their 57th season this year. Their building is one of my favorites. I recommend you try to catch them on a good day to go look inside!

  • Historic District

    Laurel’s historic district is incredibly beautiful. Long walks in any season are to be cherished. You might even see some homes you recognize!

  • Laurel in Bloom

    Laurel’s Springtime is the best for flower finds! We’ve got several types of azaleas, Japanese magnolias, and plenty more to enjoy.

Food & Fun

One of the best parts of Laurel is the culture. Our city is a central hub for creatives, musicians, artists, and foodies of all kinds.

We have great events like Open Mic Night at Lee’s Coffee & Tea, weekends at Slowboat Brewing Co., and festivals sponsored by Laurel Main Street.

And one thing you can’t miss in Laurel is the food. 

We’ve got authentic Italian, home-style cooking, a steakhouse, a coffee shop, and more!

Need refreshing after a long walk through Downtown? Stop at one of our local restaurants or coffee shops for delicious treats!

Need refreshing after a long walk through Downtown? Stop at one of our local restaurants or coffee shops for delicious treats!

Downtown Laurel during Loblolly Festival in the Fall. We have several great festivals worth getting Downtown for!

A Tight-Knit Community Who Are Proud to Say: #iliveinlaurel

Trust me when I say that I’m not the only one who loves living in Laurel! One of my absolute favorite things about my city are my friends and neighbors.

The people who live here are huge cheerleaders of each other and for our Downtown. We collaborate, we meet for lunch, and we know everyone by name.

And most of all: we are proud to say #iliveinlaurel.

Sprang #iliveinlaurel

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Sweet, untouched wedding day bliss ✨

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Oh Lucy, your momma sure does love you. #iliveinlaurel

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These blue skies + Laurel ???

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Laurel, you sure are pretty. #iliveinlaurel #notreallybutkinda

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I hope that after reading this, you’ll consider becoming a Laurelite or at the least just paying us a visit! There’s just too much here to enjoy to keep it all to ourselves.

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