5 Unique (& Free!) Museums in Hattiesburg, MS You’ll Want To Visit

Small white building housing the Hattiesburg African American Military History Museum

This post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, also known as the “Hub City” has so many fun things to do and is a great spot for a family-fun weekend. But if you love history and museums, there’s a lot to love here too. From military history to one of the most creative art installations/museums I’ve ever seen, here are my 5 favorites museums in Hattiesburg, MS!

Hattiesburg Pocket Museum

Hattiesburg Pocket Ally with art and a colorful bridge between two buildings
Hattiesburg Pocket Alley

Location: 201 Forrest Street
Admission Cost: Free
Open Hours: 24/7

We’re going to start with my favorite museum in Hattiesburg, which also happens to be the smallest museum: The Hattiesburg Pocket Museum.

So here’s the story: During the pandemic, the Hattiesburg Convention Commission (who runs the Saenger Theater) wanted to find a way to get people outside and give them something fun. So, they converted a boarded-up window in a downtown alley into a “secret” museum.

And since then, the Pocket Museum and Pocket Alley have grown to be one of the most beloved attractions in Hattiesburg.

The Pocket Museum itself it just a window (I told you it was the tiniest museum). And they have rotating, themed displays each month. They’ve had displays dedicated to everything from vintage McDonalds to the atomic bomb. I think it’s so interesting to see what they come up with and how varied the exhibits are!

Rectangular window display with shelves and showing various objects relating to the atomic bomb
Hattiesburg Pocket Museum

And right next to the Pocket Museum is the Pocket Theater, which is a pair of binoculars mounted to the wall, and when you look through them you’ll find a short film strip related to the display at the museum.

And ALL of this is inside the Pocket Alley which is just SO much fun! It’s full of fun art installations, and my favorite part was looking in all the nooks and crannies for the miniature scenes of people and animals like the “smallest park in Mississippi.”

There’s also the Pocket Art Gallery, which is in an old newspaper box where you can take a leave pieces of art.

And also be on the lookout for Milo the mouse and his family, who “run” the museum.

There are really just so many hidden treasures and fun things to see in the Pocket Alley!

Mississippi Armed Forces Museum

large helicopter on the ground with space underneath it for a tank to be attached to
CH-54 Tarhe outside the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum

Location: Building 850, Forrest Ave., Camp Shelby
Admission Cost: Free
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

If you’re into military history, then visiting the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum is a no-brainer. But honestly, even if you aren’t, it’s still a super fascinating museum to visit.

This museum walks through basically all of US military history, while making a point to highlight famous Mississippians who fought in wars throughout history.

And it’s really well done. I especially loved the WWI section that has trenches built out so you can walk through them. But there are also other life-size exhibits, like a WWII barracks.

And there’s an outdoor vehicle park with tanks and helicopters, including a CH-54 Tarhe which carries tanks and is definitely the biggest helicopter I’ve ever seen (and yes, I had to show my husband a picture of it and ask him what kind of helicopter it was!).

How to Get to the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum: Because this museum is located inside Camp Shelby, you’ll have to get a visitors pass to get on base. On Southgate Road, you’ll turn right just before the gate to enter Camp Shelby (it actually continues as Southgate Road) and you can get a visitor pass from the Visitor Center there.

African American Military History Museum

USO Stage with black and white mural of a swing band playing
USO Stage at the Hattiesburg African American Military History Museum

Location: 305 E. Sixth Street
Admission Cost: Free
Hours: Wednesday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Saturday – 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

While the Hattiesburg African American Military History Museum is a much smaller museum than the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, it’s also worth a visit (again, especially if you are into military history.)

Of course the purpose of this museum is to highlight the local African American military history. But it’s not just about the people who fought in the wars; it’s about the community as a whole.

The museum is actually located in the Historic USO building. And after it ceased to operate as a USO, it became a community building for the local Black community. It’s part of the Sixth Street Museum district, which is in a historically Black neighborhood in Hattiesburg.

And while the military history and achievements were definitely interesting, my favorite part was learning about the history of the building itself and the community it served. (You can still see the stage where they used to have performances!)

Smith Drug Co.

Chocolate milkshake with whipped cream

Location: 606 Mobile Street
Admission Cost: Free ($5 for a milkshake!)
Hours: Saturday – 12:00 pm. – 4:00 p.m.

Smith Drug Co. is a museum like no other. In fact, it’s kind of hard to call it a museum because it’s really a soda fountain. But…we’ll get there.

The Smith Drug Co. was once a pharmacy that sold medicine and household products. It was in the Mobile Street commercial district, and was a mainstay of the local Black community.

After the store closed, it got pretty rundown. But it was restored in 2022 and is now set up as a kind of museum, showing visitors how the pharmacy once was. And the most fun part is that you can get a milkshake at the soda fountain like people used to do!

I loved sitting at the counter drinking my milkshake and talking to the museum docents. One of the women had grown up in the area, and she told me how it used to be a bustling part of town and Smith Drug Co. was the place to be. It’s hard to imagine it, as looking out the window now you see empty fields. But I was so glad for the context of the historic place I was sitting in.

After you stop in for a milkshake, you’ll also want to check out the Generations Strong Wall located just outside, a long display wall highlighting more than 170 notable African Americans from Hattiesburg.

1964 Freedom Summer Trail

large bronze statue of Vernon Dahmer
Vernon Dahmer Memorial on the 1964 Freedom Summer Trail

Location: Throughout Hattiesburg
Admission Cost: Free
Hours: 24/7

The 1964 Freedom Summer Trail is a museum in the loose sense of the definition, because it’s not just in one place. Instead, there are points of interest throughout Hattiesburg you can see where you can learn about the history of 1964 Freedom Summer.

Freedom Summer in 1964 was a huge voter registration drive aimed at getting Black voters registered. And Hattiesburg was the largest Freedom Summer spot in Mississippi.

To visit the Freedom Summer Trail, you can download the brochure or use their Google Map. Then use the website to listen to the audio tour for each stop.

You’ll visit churches, community centers, and even the public library, all of which played a key role in 1964 Freedom Summer.

You Might Also Like

Like this post? Save it for later!