January 18, 2021

The Joy of Visiting Laurel, MS

Greetings from Laurel, MS
Greetings from Laurel, MS!

Discovering Laurel, MS

Getting away for a couple of nights is a big thing for me. I live in New Orleans, and I’m always looking for nearby towns or cities that I want to go discover. Visiting Laurel, MS was completely by chance, but I’ll give you a summary of how the trip came to be. I had originally booked and AirBnb in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi. Being “away from it all” seemed appealing…until we arrived at this double wide. From the gum smashed into the couch to the garage sale sheets to the bed that squeaked and creaked with every turn, I knew I had to leave. I was awake all night, so I put myself to work and found new accommodations not too far from where we were. God willing, Alec answered my call around 8 am, told me I could check in early, and we bid that small piece of discomfort adieu forever.
Grandifloria in Laurel, MS
The Grandiflora in Laurel, MS

Grandiflora - Better than the Plaza

As we drove into Laurel, MS, a calm set over me. I could tell that visiting Laurel, MS was going to fit me like a glove. The quaintness and the cleanliness stuck out as we drove through the streets of Laurel to get to the Grandiflora. As we pulled up to this beautiful white mansion, I knew I had “done good” this time around. The note on the door told me to call Hugh, who turned out to be the owner of the home. He showed us around the downstairs, our room, and we settled in. Our room was the Thomas room, and it was just perfect. It had a king size bed, a large bathroom with a nice size shower (with a head on either side!) and plenty of room to open our suitcases. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, especially after that cabin debacle. The second time I did my solo jaunt, I stayed in the same room. All the feels!
Laurel Mertantile in Laurel, MS
Laurel Mercantile in Laurel, MS

Why Grandiflora is a Special B&B

One of the magical things about this particular B&B is that Hugh, the owner, lets you treat the house like it’s your home. In my most recent visit (because yes, I’ve been twice now - once with my husband and once on a solo trip) I had the pleasure of getting to know all of the guests. We all had an evening of sitting in the living room, drinking wine, and chatting like we’d known each other forever. Each B&B is a little different, and the Grandiflora makes visiting Laurel, MS completely worth it. I don’t even know if you ever have to leave, really. But I’ll get to that later. Walking around town is definitely worth it, so don’t hole yourself up in the house for too long!

The History and Present Day of Laurel

I’ll tell you the gist of why it’s worth visiting Laurel, MS, and understanding its roots, from what I learned from Hugh (who happens to be a fabulous historian and story teller). It was founded as a timber town. Its main industry involved cutting down and selling timber. John Lindsey revolutionized timber trade by making it a year-round business. How? He invented a wagon that could defy the snow and mud and roll right through it so timber could be sold all over. This is amazing, to me at least. Another industry that was born in Laurel was masonite. William Mason found a way to make inexpensive hardboard from the wood paste at the mills. His company is now international. Two more industries Laurel is famous for: oil, which needs not much explanation, and the resurgence of craftsman style homes.

Home Town What?

Full disclosure: I do not watch a lot of TV, so some might say I have been living under a rock because I didn’t know this particular fact about Laurel. There is a TV show called Home Town on HGTV that features a couple who renovate old homes, mainly craftsman style, in Laurel, MS. Who knew? They have a couple of other businesses as well. Ben, from my understanding, has a business called The Scotsman Co, and he and Erin own a retail shop called Laurel Mercantile. A store owner that we visited told us that they have helped bring no less than 50 new businesses to Laurel. That is nothing short of spectacular. People actually started visiting Laurel, MS because of this show. I’ve heard the couple has since moved to the country, but they did live around the corner from the Grandiflora, and you can still pass their house.

Street View from the Graniflora

Laurel is a Chill Town

It seems that any give day of the week you can walk around and there is almost no one out and about. While visiting Laurel, MS, I realized that it’s not a very “busy” town. There is not much hustle and bustle in general. People will talk to you, let you relax, and enjoy your meal and your time shopping. And, did I mention, it is so clean! Store owners were as delightful as could be. They stop and talk about anything and everything, and there was a big sense of pride for “Ben and Erin,” the two HGTV stars from THEIR hometown. Their pictures or cardboard cutouts are literally everywhere. Weird, but hey…they’re a big deal, and the reason people began visiting Laurel, MS, so who am I to judge?
Pearl's Diner in Laurel, MS

Good Eats in Laurel, MS

Aside from Sunday, the town buzzes a bit with out-to-eaters. Lee’s was a fantastic option for soup and sandwich, and I even did takeout one of the times so I could eat my grilled cheese on the balcony. It was counter service, quick, and the food tasted like it had quality. Although we didn’t eat at Pearl’s Diner, it came highly recommended. It is a southern-style, soul food restaurant and we hear it delivers every time. If I can be honest, we did go in but they didn’t have the fried okra so we left. That was the big selling point for me and they didn’t have it that day. Fried okra is my kryptonite.

Dinner options were a no-brainer. While there with my husband, we went to the two most highly recommended restaurants in Laurel: Mimmo’s and The Loft. I’ll start with Mimmo’s. It’s Italian fare and a local Mississippi chain. The atmosphere was different than I expected. When I think of eating Italian food, I think of a small, dark restaurant with white linens and dressed up waitstaff. This place was a big, open space. No linens, no dressed up waitstaff. The food was decent, but 2 things: I’m not used to this style of Italian food; I don’t really love Italian food. Maybe I wasn’t the right person to go here. The Loft was nice. We met another couple staying at our B&B and they planned on going there for dinner as well, so we decided to go together. The experience was perfect. The food was good, and the company was better. We enjoyed it a lot. It seems like visiting Laurel, MS brings good food and good company together. 


J Parker in downtown Laurel

Shopping Galore in Laurel, MS

There is no shortage of good shopping in Laurel nowadays, and I can see why visiting Laurel, MS has become more popular. I hear it wasn’t always the way, but here are a few of my favorites. Laurel Mercantile is cute and has a nice, clean feel to it. The merchandise is anything from art prints, to kids toys, to home decor to apparel. It’s worth a visit, for sure. My very favorite shop is called J Parker. The owner, Jacqueline, is the most wonderful of hostesses. She made the visit so much fun with her amazing personality. She also carries Mark Landis original artwork and gave us a snippet of his life story. Do yourself a favor and watch the documentary on him. A couple of other mentions are Sullivan & Sons. It is filled with little treats that are mostly artisanal, and you feel like you might be in an old-timey store. Southern Antiques was packed with crafty things, but not much in the way of antiques. The Cotton Boll was adorable. This was my second favorite spot. The last place I’ll mention is Patina’s. There were nice pieces of art, pottery, and gifts there. I enjoyed browsing, and my husband surprised me with a vase from there. I love it!

Wrapping up Laurel, MS

One last thing I recommend before heading home from visiting Laurel, MS is a visit to the Lauren Rogers Museum, which is conveniently located next to the Grandiflora. Free to the public, it’s worth an hour or so of your time (although you could spend longer) to see some of the works there. They have the largest collection of Native baskets, plus some beautiful pieces hanging in the various galleries. Upon entering, you feel like you’re stepping back in time. Because Laurel was a timber town originally, what was the main library is all wood. I felt like I was in the library of The Music Man, and so wanted to burst into the song “Marian the Librarian.” Although it was a short visit, I knew I would be back to see it again. 

Laurel is a dreamy little town. I felt more refreshed after visiting there than I have in a long time. People are genuinely kind. The vibe is positive. The residents have a true pride for their city. It’s a great combination. This is a place I would put on the top of my list to visit. It will not disappoint.

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