Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s bustling ‘Hub City’





Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is known as The Hub City because when the city was first founded in 1882, it was a “hub” of a transportation network for the booming lumber and railroad industries. As the city and the interstate system grew, The Hub City was known as a “hub” that would get you somewhere quickly, given it is only a two hour drive to New Orleans, an hour drive to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and just over an hour and a half to Mobile. So for any Southern road trip, from the bay to the beach or beyond, Hattiesburg is a popular spot to stop and stretch your legs. 

More than a pit stop– stay a while

The Hub City is such an elaborate and eclectic centerpiece of culture in the Magnolia State that to do it justice you need to plan on more than stopping in. Hattiesburg is a true destination city, offering something for nearly everyone.

Camping? There’s Paul B. Johnson State Park. Glamping? Longleaf Piney Resort. Outdoorsy type? Longleaf Trace. Arts? Too many to name, but from regular shows at the Saenger, to major annual events like FestivalSouth…seriously. Hattiesburg is a bustling hub of entertainment. 

Hattiesburg is a two-university college town, with The University of Southern Mississippi greeting you at the corner of Hardy Street and Highway 49, and further south, William Carey University. Both universities attract students and faculty from all over the world, which adds even more to the melting pot of culture and the energy of the city.

“When you look at Hattiesburg, you’ll see that we flaunt our creative economy,” said Marlo Dorsey, Executive Director and CEO of Visit Hattiesburg “We like to tout that we are a melting pot of diversity and creativity, so when you look at our different offerings, whether from a food standpoint or artistic standpoint, or even an outdoor adventure standpoint, we love to say that we have diverse offerings for people of all backgrounds and ages.” 

The varied population means a varied palate, and Hattiesburg does not disappoint on the food. If you’re looking for Southern flair, Crescent City Grill is a longstanding hotspot. If you want a great burger within walking distance of a few spots to browse, Hattiesburgers and Blues has you covered. Bar food? Keg and Barrel. You cannot miss out on a good, locally-owned restaurant if you’re dining in Hattiesburg. There are over 500 places to grab a bite to eat in Hattiesburg, and over half of them are locally-owned eateries— so you won’t find anything like these meals anywhere else.i

Eclectic docket of entertainment and leisure

The Hattiesburg Zoo really is a must-see if a family trip is long overdue. The zoo has added numerous new exhibits and events over the last several years, including a giraffe experience and two other petting enclosures within its grounds. A splash pad makes for a great spot to cool down while the adults head to grab a more grown-up oriented beverage from the bar under the pavilion or under one of the rented cabanas. The ropes course is perfect for those bigger kids who swear up and down they’re just too old and too cool for the zoo, but they won’t be able to deny having fun. The train winding through the park is a perfect way to start or end your zoo experience as it winds through the entire park. 

For those looking to wander about and explore their options, downtown Hattiesburg is the place to be. At the foot of Front Street right along the railroad track is open parking, giving you a place to park the car and head on to Front Street and beyond for dining, shopping, shows and the arts. 

The Pocket Museum is a monumental stop for arts and pop culture lovers despite the pocket size of many of the exhibits. The alley is a walk-through arts experience that has miniatures depicting famous scenes from movies, or making use of otherwise everyday pieces of the landscape (such as a crack in the wall) as a blank canvas for artistic expression. Everything on display is pocket-sized, with the exception of the optical illusions and, ironically enough, the life-size Lego people. 

If you’re looking for something eclectic and nostalgic, The Lucky Rabbit provides a two-story, two-building shopping and exploring experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Here’s the thing… it’s not just shopping. But it’s not just browsing? It takes thrifting to a whole new level as some of the vendors are selling things you miss dearly from Nana’s kitchen. But then turn the corner and you’re taking selfies inside the motel room from the hit show Schitt’s Creek. You can browse and buy anything from vintage collectibles to screen-printed shirts to niche and obscure pop culture reference items, and then grab a glass bottle of Coke and play cornhole in the courtyard. 

The spirit of Hattiesburg’s people 

The spirit behind Hattiesburg is the driving force of the vast success the city has seen. In 2013, a major tornado tore through Hattiesburg, leveling homes, exploding businesses, and causing massive damage to the Southern Miss campus all before heading downtown and causing more destruction. In 2017, it happened again— another massive tornado hit Hattiesburg, this time, further south at the William Carey University campus before heading into Petal. Many homes and businesses were just starting to see the end of the rebuilding tunnel when Covid hit in 2020, which turned the whole world on its side. 

However, not backing down from a fight, many of the Hattiesburg area attractions not only survived, but thrived despite the times. Massive business growth has taken place where twisted piles of rubble were left behind the storms. Restaurants that were emptied and serving to-go only are now bustling and booming better than before. Downtime was seen as a time to make improvements and expansions where possible– things are truly better than before. 

As school has ended and you’re planning out a vacation or even a staycation, you can’t go wrong in Hattiesburg. There’s something for everyone of every age and background, with a welcoming feel that embodies The Hospitality State.