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Hattiesburg, Mississippi is a small Southern town that offers an outsized amount art, culture, and delicious food. From their culinary scene to the Hattiesburg Zoo to the one-of-kind Pocket Alley, there are so many fun things to do in Hattiesburg, MS!
Hattiesburg is an up-and-coming city, so you’ll see signs of its history all around while also discovering brand new initiatives all over the place. Truly, I was so surprised at the amount of things to do in this city relative to its size! So let’s explore Hattiesburg!
A big thanks to Visit Hattiesburg for hosting me for this trip! Of course, all opinions are my own.
Things To Do in Hattiesburg, MS
Explore the Pocket Alley and Pocket Museum
The Pocket Alley is definitely one of my favorite things to do in Hattiesburg, MS! This little alley came about during the pandemic, when people wanted somewhere to go and something to see. It started with the Pocket Museum in a “secret” location, but the whole area has developed into one of the coolest spots I’ve seen in just about any town.
The Pocket Alley is literally an alley in downtown Hattiesburg and there are lots of aspects to it:
- The Pocket Museum — This is Mississippi’s tiniest museum. It’s basically a display window in the side of a building with a museum exhibit that changes each month. Subjects in the past have ranged from “Smurfs” to “Pop-Tarts & Pop Art” to “McDonalds Through the Ages.” And my favorite part? The backstory of this museum is that it is run by mice. I mean, how adorable is that?!
- Pocket Theater — Right next to the Pocket Museum, you’ll find the Pocket Theater. This is a set of binoculars in the wall that you can look through and see a short film that relates to the Pocket Museum.
- Pocket Gallery — This “Tiniest Art Gallery in Mississippi” is a converted newspaper stand that has been converted to display small works of art. It actually operates as a little free library of art; you can take a piece and leave a piece!
- Art in the Alley — The Pocket Alley is FULL of artwork! The centerpiece is a mural on the parking garage entitled What Lifts You by Kelsey Montague. But you’ll also find sidewalk art in 3D you can interact with, a Lego skybridge, and statues of cats that form a kind of scavenger hunt.
- Miniature World — Throughout the entire alley there is a miniature world of people! You’ll find them kayaking, enjoying a park, feeding zoo animals, and more. As cool as everything in this alley is, looking in all the nooks and crannies for the miniature people and animals was my favorite part!
Location: 119 W Front Street
Visit the Hattiesburg Zoo
Hattiesburg has its own zoo and it’s so well done! This is definitely a must-visit for anyone, but especially the place to go if you are coming to Hattiesburg with kids.
The zoo features animals like giraffes, alligators, zebras, sloths, tortoises, and more. They also have a splash pad, a high ropes adventure course, a carousel, and a petting zoo.
When you arrive at the zoo, the best thing to do is to take a ride on the electric train to get the lay of the land. It’s not a huge zoo (you can easily just spend a couple hours here) but it is SO well done. I was especially impressed by all the theming in the different areas. It truly could rival some of the areas in Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
In Spring 2024, the Hattiesburg Zoo will also be opening Serengeti Springs, a water park with slides, a lazy river, and splash pad areas. It was under construction when I visited, but from what I could tell it looks awesome!
Location: 107 S 17th Avenue
Shop at The Lucky Rabbit
The Lucky Rabbit is an iconic Hattiesburg spot! They may call themselves a “junk joint” but what they really are is an incredible antiques/flea market store full of vintage finds and unique home and gift items.
The Lucky Rabbit complex is two buildings located right next to each other, with a green space in between where you can sit at a table and often grab something to eat from a food vendor.
Inside the over 15,000 square feet there are spaces for over 80 vendors. They carry everything from vintage dishes to collectible items to furniture to jewelry. One of my favorite features was a school bus attached to the building that is filled with vintage Pyrex!
They also have some fun interactive elements too! In each building they regularly recreate a set from a popular movie or TV show. When I visit in September they were getting ready for Halloween, and had sets for Halloween and the Netflix show Wednesday. (I really wish I could have seen their recent Schitt’s Creek one though!).
You just really have to go explore The Lucky Rabbit for yourself!
And plan ahead because The Lucky Rabbit is ONLY open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Location: 217 Mobile Street
Explore the Public Art Trail
Hattiesburg has such a great community of local artists, and the public art scene has really exploded in recent years. There are over 100 stops on the HBURG Public Art trail, including over 40 murals, lots of sculptures, and 50 painted utility boxes.
While a lot of the art is in downtown Hattiesburg, you’ll actually find that it’s also sprinkled throughout other parts of the city. And they are commissioning new art all the time in their quest to become “The City of 100 Murals.”
You can find guides and maps on the HBURG Art site.
Ride a Bike On Longleaf Trace
Longleaf Trace is a 44-mile recreational trail that extends from Hattiesburg to Prentiss. It was actually part of a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy project that converted an abandoned railway from Hattiesburg’s once booming timber industry into a recreational trail.
Longleaf Trace is relatively flat, making it ideal for bike riding, walking, and running. It’s also beautiful, and many parts are nice and shady (which is great on a hot summer day!).
You’ll also find art along the trail! Just a couple of miles west of downtown Hattiesburg, you’ll find Hattiesburg’s largest mural, “Together As One” by Ivan Roque which threads through a tunnel.
If you want to rent a bike to ride, you can do so at the Longleaf Trace Gateway at 2895 West 4th Street.
Visit the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum
In nearby Camp Shelby, you can visit the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum. This is perfect for Hattiesburg visitors who are interested in military history or really just history in general.
This museum spans military history from the War of 1812 to the present day, and it’s so well done! While this is technically a museum about Mississippi’s military history, it really does a great job of giving an overview of the history of all the major US wars. I definitely learned some stuff I didn’t know about American history!
There are a couple of cool immersive experiences inside too. My favorite was the WWI section, where all of the displays are actually inside a trench to give you an idea of what it was like to live inside of one.
Outside there is an Outdoor Vehicle Park full of helicopters and tanks you can tour as well.
The Mississippi Armed Forces Museum is located inside Camp Shelby, which is an active military installment. So you will need to stop at the Visitor’s Center located outside the gate to get a visitors pass.
It’s free to enter though, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Building 850, Forrest Avenue, Camp Shelby
Visit the African American Military History Museum
Another great military museum in Hattiesburg is the African American Military History Museum. This is a much smaller museum than the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, but equally well done.
It of course focuses on the service of African American military members, especially Mississippians.
My favorite part about this museum is that it is in the historic East Sixth Street USO, which served as a community center for African American military personnel during WWII. It was decommissioned in 1946, and before it became the museum that it is today it also served as a school and a library.
Admission to the African American Military History Museum is free, and it’s open Wednesday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 12:00-4:00 p.m.
Location: 305 E. Sixth Street
Get a Milkshake at Smith Drug Co.
Just down the street from the African American Military History Museum is the historic Smith Drug Co. This spot is also part of what’s known as the Sixth Street Museum District.
This small pharmacy was once a central hub for the African American community in Hattiesburg. It was founded in 1925 and became an important store for families who lived nearby. And it also had a soda fountain that was popular with the Eureka High School students from next door.
One thing that I think is important to understand is how lively the community was back when Smith Drug Co. was at its height. Looking across the street now you see a field, but we talked to one of the women working there who remembered it from her own childhood and said that there were buildings all around it back in the day. It was a bustling place!
Today, Smith Drug Co. is part museum, part soda fountain. They have replicated how the store was once set up, and you can actually purchase a milkshake and drink it at the counter. It’s truly like stepping back in time, even down to the music!
Smith Drug Co is only open on Saturdays from 12:00-4:00 p.m. So it’s perfect if your in Hattiesburg for the weekend!
Location: 604 Mobile Street
Explore Stops on the 1964 Freedom Summer Trail
In 1964, Hattiesburg was an important part of Freedom Summer, which was a huge voter registration drive aimed at enabling African Americans to register to vote. In fact, Hattiesburg was the largest Freedom Summer site in Mississippi.
The city of Hattiesburg important Freedom Summer sites on a 1964 Freedom Summer Trail that you can take a self-guided tour of. Sites include churches and community centers that all played an integral role in Hattiesburg’s Freedom Summer.
While you can read about each stop on their website, each stop also has an audio tour, many of which feature recollections and memories from people involved in Freedom Summer.
Make Stops on the Mississippi Blues Trail
The Blues were born in Mississippi, and Hattiesburg has several stops on the Mississippi Blues Trail, which features historical markers across Mississippi.
Hattiesburg lays claim to the title of the Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll because of a 1936 recording made by Roosevelt and Uaroy Graves. The key here is the year: 1936! Which is about twenty years before the music genre became popular in the 1950s.
You can find the historical marker for this right outside Smith Drug Co. There’s also a marker in Hattiesburg commemorating the Hi-Hat Club, a Hattiesburg club that saw many famous blues performers.
Visit the University of Southern Mississippi and the All-American Rose Garden
Hattiesburg is home to the University of Southern Mississippi, and when you’re driving down Hardy Street (one of the big thoroughfares in Hattiesburg) you really can’t miss it. They are home to the Golden Eagles and there is a huge eagle statue out front!
Southern Miss really has a beautiful campus, so it’s worth stopping by to explore a little bit. One spot they are especially known for is their All-American Rose Garden at the front of campus. You’ll want to be there for blooming season for the best experience (I was there in late summer which was decided not blooming season), but it’s a cool spot to check out regardless. Plus you can get up close to their giant eagle statue and walk around the campus a bit.
Location: 118 College Drive
Shop Local in Downtown Hattiesburg
Aside from the Lucky Rabbit, there are other locally owned shops you can check out in downtown Hattiesburg. Of course, my favorite was the bookstore (The Author Shoppe), but there are lots of others too!
- Blooms Company — Right next to the public library, this store is a florist that also sells home decor and select books.
- Honey Clothing Co — Women’s clothing boutique.
- Main Street Gallery — This space used to be a bookstore, and is now an art gallery and pottery studio.
- McKenzie’s on Main — An upscale home decor store with different vendors.
- Oddfellow’s Gallery & Antiques — This store is just what it sounds like, an art gallery and antique store.
- Sacks Outdoor — An outdoor store that sells outdoor equipment and clothing.
- Sage Den — This store focuses on health and and natural products. When I visited they had some incredible candles too!
- Savvy Pair — A shoe boutique in downtown Hattiesburg!
- The Author Shoppe — A pet-friendly bookstore! They have become a community center for local arts with regular events. And be sure to notice the actually bookshelves of this store — they are made from reused pallets!
- Walnut Square Gifts & Stationery — This store sells home goods and gifts.
Eat a Burger on the Hatties[burger] Trail
Apparently Hattiesburg is THE place to go for a great burger….they have an entire trail dedicated to it! In fact, Hattiesburg is a great city to eat locally. They have over 200 locally-owned eateries, which I think is pretty incredible for a city this size!
The Hatties[burger] Trail highlights some of the city’s best burgers. You can find a map online, but you can also note the restaurants on the trail from the sticker they will have in their window indicating that they are part of the Hatties[burger] trail.
There are 40 stops on the trail, so obviously you can’t hit them all. But check out the list if you’re in the mood for a great burger.
On my trip I had a fantastic burger at Keg & Barrel (where they also had boiled peanuts on the menu! A Southern favorite I’ve never seen in a restaurant before!). And I also loved my stop at Mugshots Bar & Grill, which has been a favorite of mine since college (they have a couple different restaurants around the South) and where they serve a unique peanut butter burger.
Have a Drink at Hattiesburg’s Largest Brewery
For a great brewery visit, head to Southern Prohibition, also known as SoPro. This is a great spot to hang out and grab some food and beers. They have a super funky and fun room you can sip a beer in, plus their taproom with tables for dining.
There are lots of beers you can try here, including their regular menu and seasonal offerings. Their Imperial IPA Crowd Control really put them on the map though, so be sure to try it!
Location: 301 Mobile Street
Shop For Records at T-Bones Records
T-Bones is THE spot for locals to hang out! Seriously! When I was there it was not only hard to find parking, but it was also clearly full of people on their lunch break from work plus study groups from Southern Miss.
T-Bones is a record store. But they also have a cafe that sells sandwiches and they are so so good! I had a roast beef sandwich on rosemary focaccia (omg) plus a giant cookie and it was all so delicious.
This is also a place where you can buy books! They have just a small number of bookshelves, but I thought their curated selection was fantastic. I spotted several of my favorites for sale on their shelves!
Location: 2101 Hardy Street
Go Geocaching on the Hattiesburg GeoTour
If you are into geocaching, Hattiesburg has over 40 caches to find on the Hattiesburg GeoTour. And it’s actually one of only 100 worldwide official GeoTours!
What is Geocaching? It’s basically like a treasure hunt, where you use a GPS to find hidden caches. If you want to participate, register a username online, download the Geocaching app on your phone, and search for the Hattiesburg Geotour.
Then you can search for caches and note your find in the app. If you find at least 35 of them, you can get an official Hattiesburg GeoTour geocoin.
Go Hiking in DeSoto National Forest
If you want to get outdoors, head to DeSoto National Forest, which is just south of Hattiesburg. This National Forest is full of forests and lakes and streams that make for some great hiking!
The forest has a really varied ecosystem, so you can see everything from Southern Pine forests to cypress swamps. There are lots of areas can you do day hikes in, and there are also recreation areas where you can enjoy a picnic, go fishing, or even play frisbee golf.
Enjoy the Outdoors at Johnson State Park
Another great area to enjoy the outdoors near Hattiesburg is Paul B. Johnson State Park. This state park is actually located just at the northwest edge of DeSoto National Forest, just about 30 minutes from downtown Hattiesburg.
Johnson State Park is especially notable for their lake, Geiger Lake where you can go fishing, boating, and water skiing. They also have cabins, picnic areas, hiking trails, disc golf, and a splash pad that’s right at the shores of the lake!
If you’re in Hattiesburg with young kids, this would be a great place to spend an afternoon, letting them play at the splashpad and explore the state park.
Location: 319 Geiger Lake Road
Throw Axes at Alley Cats Axe Throwing
Looking for something unique to do? Maybe for a fun date night? Go axe throwing at Alley Cats Axe Throwing. It’s located right in downtown Hattiesburg and offers axe throwing plus a bar with snacks and drinks.
Note that all axe throwers must be 10 or older, and you have to wear closed-toed shoes. (They do have shoes you can rent though.)
Location: 220 West Pine Street
Catch a Show at the Saenger Theater
The Saenger Theater is a historic theater in downtown Hattiesburg that was originally built in 1929 to show silent movies. Today, they still have concerts, shows, and movies here! And the crown jewel is their rare pipe organ (with 778 pipes!) that is still used today.
Check the schedule for when you’re in town, and you might be able to catch a show at this historic theater where you can really soak in the feel of 1920s grandeur.
Location: 201 Forrest Street
Attend a Local Festival or Event
No matter what time of year you’re visiting Hattiesburg, this city has festivals and events going on ALL THE TIME. Like, there are so many I can’t even list them all here. But here are a few to give you a sampling:
- Live at Five — Outdoor concert series that takes place on Friday evenings in the Spring and Fall.
- HubFest — A street festival with arts, music, and food in the Spring.
- Craft Beer Festival — Over 100 beers, live music, and food in the Spring.
- ZooBoo — Halloween themed event at that Hattiesburg Zoo on select days in the Fall.
- Great Downtown Duck Hunt — A scavenger hunt in downtown Hattiesburg in the Fall.
- Downtown Candlelit Christmas — A Christmas event with decorations, caroling, shopping, and more.
Where To Stay in Hattiesburg
Most hotels in Hattiesburg are going to be located in the area known as Midtown, along Highway 59. But all of these hotels are just about 10 minutes from downtown Hattiesburg. Here are some good options:
- Holiday Inn Express Hattiesburg West — I stayed at this new hotel and thought it was great!
- Courtyard by Marriott Hattiesburg — Perfect for Marriott fans, and they have an outdoor pool.
- avid hotel Hattiesburg West — Another new hotel, and they have complimentary breakfast.
- Hotel Indigo — Hattiesburg’s best upscale hotel! And it’s right across from Southern Miss’s campus.
- Longleaf Piney Resort — If you want to get out of town a bit, you can stay in a tiny home at Longleaf Piney Resort along Longleaf Trace.
Where To Eat in Hattiesburg
Hattiesburg has SO MANY great restaurants! Like truly. This is a city of less than 50,000 people and they have a culinary scene that can blow some other larger cities out of the water. Here are just a few places to try.
- Grin Coffee — A locally owned coffee shop located in a repurposed car dealership. It’s such a cute place and their cheddar bacon scone was incredible.
- Birdhouse Cafe — This cafe is located inside a hardware store in West Hattiesburg and the chef (Katie Dixon) has been on MasterChef and on Food Network. They focus on healthy, nourishing food.
- The Midtowner — A popular spot across the street from Southern Miss that serves breakfast and lunch.
- T-Bones Records & Cafe — A record store and cafe that sells sandwiches and is a super popular local hangout.
- Keg & Barrel — A Southern spot in a historic home with lots of great outdoor dining space. Also, I loved that they had boiled peanuts on the menu!
- Southern Prohibition — Hattiesburg’s most popular brewery that offers both food and beverage!
- Mugshots Bar & Grill — I have a long love of Mugshots and their burgers, especially that bread!
- Mario’s Italian Eatery — A family-owned restaurant that serves hearty Italian food. Their garlic knots? OMG.
- Crescent City Grill — Owned by local restauranteur Robert St. John, this restaurants serves Cajun dishes. DO NOT miss their bread pudding! I’ve never had anything like it!
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