Founded in 1882, Hattiesburg, Mississippi is full of Southern charm, history, and fun things to do. Here are 9 things to do in Hattiesburg to get you started exploring Mississippi's Hub City.
Named after the second wife of Senator and Judge William H. Hardy, Hattiesburg is located between Meridian, Mississippi and New Orleans. Its location made it an ideal location for the rail industry back in the 19th century.
Today, the city of over 45,000 people has a lot to offer both residents and visitors. From Southern Miss football games to Southern comfort food to unique shopping experiences, Hattiesburg has it all.
What To Do in Hattiesburg
1. Discover Downtown Hattiesburg
Downtown Hattiesburg is a very quaint city center with a variety of architectural styles. In 1893, 26 businesses burned down resulting in the city enacting an ordinance forbidding wood structures.
Guided tours are offered that showcase the city's architecture, art, and history. They last for 2 hours and are only $15 per person. (Visit DowntownHattiesburg.com for more information.)
The city is easily navigable on your own. Just be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
Hattiesburg in a Mississippi Main Street Community. There are events throughout the year that bring the city to life, such as the Downtown Crawfish Jam Music Festival in the spring, the Craft Beer Fest in the summer, the Dearly Departed Walking Tours in the fall, and the Art Walk & Holiday Open House and Olde Tyme Christmas in the winter.
An interesting yet little known fact about Hattiesburg is that in 1898 the city had only two roads, but a 500-seat Opera House. Even today, the emphasis on art is quite visible around town.
2. Explore the Public Art Mural Trail
There are over 20 public art murals around Hattiesburg as well as numerous sculptures. Be sure to check the sides of buildings and search the alleys - you never know where you might find one of the beautiful murals or another type of art on display.
I spotted this mural which is aptly titled, "New Normal Mural." Be sure to snap a selfie in front of it with your own mask on. [While the State of Mississippi is not currently under a mask mandate, the City of Hattiesburg has had a mask ordinance from the onset of the pandemic. #VisitMSResponsibly]
If you're a fan of artist Kelsey Montague, you'll be delighted to know that she has painted #WhatLiftsYou in Hattiesburg which graces the side of the West Pine Street parking garage.
3. Shop at The Lucky Rabbit
The Lucky Rabbit is a self-proclaimed junk shop, but I believe the shopping wonderland could pass as a museum. There are so many vintage collectibles in the store that it is really a taste of Americana. You'll know you have found the spot when you see the old fashioned telephone booth and old Coke machines out front.
There is everything from antiques and collectibles to new handmade items at The Lucky Rabbit.
Underwood No. 5 Black Steel Standard Typewriter, ca 1909 - 1923
If you watch the hit HGTV show Home Town, then you probably have heard of the store. Erin Nappier shops on occasion at The Lucky Rabbit for items to decorate fixer-upper homes in nearby Laurel, Mississippi.
Stop by during the Christmas 2020 season and see the recreated setting of The Office and Home Alone in the store. The sets are a hit with customers and make for great photo opps.
The Lucky Rabbit is not open every day, so be sure to check out their website for updates. You don't want to miss this Trip Advisor #1 rated shopping experience.
4. Visit the Pocket Museum
When it comes to exploring, you'll want to put on your thinking cap and see if you can locate Mississippi's tiniest museum, the Pocket Museum.
The museum changes its collection monthly, so if you have seen it before, you need to check it out again to see what's new. Previous displays have been Tools of the Trade: Serial Killer, The Rubber Duck!, and The Swiss Army Knife.
The museum's location is kept a secret, but if you go to their website and/or explore the Public Art Mural Trail, then you are bound to find it. While in the area, be sure to explore the alleyway to see what other art treasures are on display.
5. Tour the African American Military Museum
The African American Military Museum in Hattiesburg pays tribute to the men and women of color who have served this country, from the Buffalo Soldiers who fought during the American Revolution to today's War on Terror.
The museum is located at the former Camp Shelby in a building that was built by volunteers as a USO club for African-American soldiers in 1942. Today the museum is a Mississippi Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Originally, the building was a place that African American soldiers could relax, play games, or read books from the library.
Because of segregation, blacks were not allowed to go to the main library. Books were shipped to this building enabling black citizens to read.
The building stayed open as a USO during the war and then closed. It later served as a community center for residents of Hattiesburg and then it became a storage facility.
In 2009, the building began a new life as a museum thanks to the efforts of Iola Williams, a native of Hattiesburg.
Ruth Bailey Earl
Admission to the museum is free. Docent-guided and self-guided tours are available and last about 45 minutes.
The African American Military Museum is located at 305 E. 6th Street and is a great place to learn more about the brave men and women who sacrificed so much for our country, such as the Harlem Hellfighters, Jesse L. Brown, and Ruth Bailey Earl.
6. Stroll the University of Southern Mississippi Campus
Hattiesburg is the setting for the University of Southern Mississippi, commonly referred to as Southern Miss.
The campus spans 300 acres in the heart of Hattiesburg and houses the sixth-oldest acceptance-based Honors College in the nation.
Golden Eagle fans and alumni know how beautiful the campus is from "The Dome" to the All American Rose Garden.
One amazing fact about the university is that in 1995, Oseola McCarty donated $150,000 to the university. While on the surface that may seem nice, what is astounding is the benefactor.
Ms. McCarty was a simple laundress. She had childhood dreams of becoming a nurse, but her aunt became ill and she quit school in the sixth grade to help take care of her. Unfortunately, she never made it back to the classroom.
Oseola lived a frugal life and managed to save her money and donated most of her life savings to the university. Today, over 110 students have benefited from her generosity.
"When I leave this world, I can’t take nothing away from here. Whatever I have, it’s going to be left right here for somebody. Some child can get their education, to help them along, because you can’t do nothing now unless you get your education. I don’t regret one single penny I gave to the College. My only regret is that I didn’t have more to give.” – Oseola McCarty
7. Visit the Hattiesburg Zoo
The Hattiesburg Zoo is the number 1 rated attraction in Hattiesburg according to Trip Advisor. The Zoo receives rave reviews from fans for its cleanliness, friendly staff, and how the animals are treated.
The Hattiesburg Zoo may seem small, but there are plenty of attractions to keep visitors both young and old happy. Among the attractions are:
- High Ropes Adventure Course - The course is four-stories of challenging ropes designed for kids and adults.
- Mining Expedition - Guests can purchase bags of mining rough for treasure.
- Train - Nothing beats a train ride through the zoo to see the animals from a different perspective.
- Splash Pad - The Splash Pad is a fun way for kids to cool off at the Zoo during the summer. There are even cabanas for rent!
- Australian Wallaby Walkabout - Kids and adults can pet animals from Downunder such as wallabies, a KuneKune pig, and emus at the Walkabout.
- Touch Africa Petting Zoo - Zoo guests can pet and feed Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Miniature Zebu, and Tunisian Sheep at this unique attraction.
The Hattiesburg Zoo host events that celebrate the season and the animals, such as Lights of the Wild in December. Throughout the zoo, there are large lantern displays of animals and plants. There are also colorful lights, Christmas displays, and even snow!
If you are a sloth lover, then you need to make reservations for the Sloth Experience at the Hattiesburg Zoo. Tickets must be purchased in advance for one of the Thursday or Saturday 45-minute time slots.
Sloth experiences include a tour of the animal kitchen, assistance in helping a zookeeper prepare sloth diets for the day, an opportunity to feed a sloth, as well as an up-close encounter with a sloth (depending on the sloth's temperament).
8. Get Creative at Mohawk Steel & Glass
Located on a Christmas tree farm in Hattiesburg, Mohawk Steel & Glass is a great place to buy and make beautiful glass sculptures, such as flowers, pumpkins, vases, and Christmas ornaments. It is a fun activity for couples, friends, youth groups, etc.
Glass-blowing has been around for over 400 years. This is your chance to see it up close and learn more about how "sand" can be turned into beautiful works of art. No special art skills are needed. Jeremy and his team will guide and assist you through the entire process.
You'll find unique glass works of art in the gift shop on site.
9. Indulge in Southern Comfort Food
In the South, we are all about our comfort food. From fried catfish to creamy shrimp and grits, you will find what your heart craves in Hattiesburg.
Hattiesburg is only an hour and a half from New Orleans and it is reflected on some of the local menus with plenty of fresh seafood and Creole dishes to try.
Be sure to check out my post 11 Delicious Things To Eat in Hattiesburg for mouthwatering dining inspiration.
How To Get To Hattiesburg
Today, visitors can visit Hattiesburg via Amtrak's Crescent Train which runs from New York to New Orleans with a stop at the Italian Renaissance style historic 1910 depot.
Drivers can get to Hattiesburg via I-59 from the North and South or US Highway 98 East and West.