A celebrated American author was born in Oxford, MS and a noted nineteenth-century statesman made his home there. Both left their mark and helped bring the world’s attention to the town. Now, there are prize-winning restaurants, unique hotels, one-of-a-kind shops, the events of the University of Mississippi and a constant stream of musicians and literary greats who entice guests to come and visit.
1. Explore the homes of a celebrated author and an influential statesman
Rowan Oak, home of author William Faulkner, is likely one of the most widely-recognized attractions in Oxford, Mississippi. Although it is now owned by the University of Mississippi, it served as the Faulkner family home from 1930 until Faulkner’s death in 1962, and then remained in the possession of the Faulkner family for another 10 years. Tours through the house are available Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00–4:00 p.m. Hours are expanded in the summer months. Admission to the house is 5 USD, but visitors may stroll the grounds for free.
The L.Q.C. Lamar House was built between 1869–70 but underwent a thorough renovation in 2008, and is now a museum dedicated to educating the public about the life and career of Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar. In addition to serving as a professor at the University of Mississippi and practicing law, he served in the United States House of Representatives, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Confederate Army, was a United States Senator, was Secretary of the Interior under President Grover Cleveland and was appointed to the United States Supreme Court. The extensive exhibits chronicle the accomplishments of this remarkable man. The museum is open Friday–Sunday from 1:00–4:00 p.m., and admission is free.
2. Stroll or drive through the campus of the University of Mississippi (better known as "Ole Miss")
It is possible to drive through the winding streets of this large college campus, but a closer look is possible by parking the car and strolling. A large park dominates the center and is known as The Grove. The Grove serves as the hub of activity when thousands of alumni and fans of the Ole Miss football team gather on Saturdays in the fall to tailgate and cheer on the home team. The stadiums and arenas for football, baseball and basketball are impressive, as is the University of Mississippi Museum.
A monument to James Meredith can be found behind the Lyceum. In 1962, Mr. Meredith was the first African-American student to enroll in the university, making it an important milestone of the Civil Rights Movement.
3. Shop in stores only found in Oxford
Neilson’s on the corner of the courthouse square bears the date 1839 beside the title and is proclaimed to be the South’s oldest store. An earlier building was burned during the Civil War but rebuilt in 1866 and has remained in operation unhindered since that time. Neilson’s is on the National Register of Historic Places and currently sells clothing for the whole family, gifts, cosmetics and accessories.
The End of All Music recently relocated to a corner of the square across from the red telephone booth. It is open seven days a week, buying and selling new, used and reissued vinyl. The End of All Music often partners with Proud Larry’s to bring musicians to Oxford for live performances.
Square Books opened in 1979 and has expanded to encompass three historic buildings on the square. The store hosts frequent book signings and has many signed copies for sale. The upstairs balcony is a popular hangout for students. In this time of online bookstores, Square Books is thriving and successful.
A dozen or more clothing and gift boutiques also line the sidewalks around the square.
4. Dine at exceptional restaurants
In culinary terms, Chef/Owner John Currence has turned Oxford into a foodie destination. He started with a restaurant called City Grocery (which was not in a city, nor was it a grocery store) and then expanded to Snack Bar (an upscale bistro open for dinner), Big Bad Breakfast (a casual, creative option for breakfast or lunch) and Boure (serving upscale Creole and downhome dishes in a two-story historic building with lots of outdoor seating).
Emily Blount caught everyone’s attention with Saint Leo, which was nominated for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation.
Chef Corbin Evans first served lines of diners from a window in a downtown alley, but recently transformed a former gas station into a sleek eatery called Oxford Canteen with plenty of outdoor seating. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and for lunch only on Sunday.
Proud Larry’s on the square describes itself as both “all about the food” and “all about the music,” simultaneously. Pizzas and burgers take top billing on the menu, but Oxford visitors will want to check the music calendar on Proud Larry’s website. The restaurant walls are lined with posters from past performances.
5. Attend one of the frequent special events
VisitOxfordMS.com, its tourism representatives and city leaders maintain a full calendar of activities for locals, visitors and university students. It might be fun to plan your Oxford visit to coincide with one of these special times, such as Double Decker Arts Festival, Summer Sunset Concert Series, Oxford Square Alliance Summer Fest, Oxford Film Festival, Oxford Blues Fest or the wide range of offerings on the schedule at the Lyric Theatre. Music buffs will enjoy following sites along the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be happy to find golf, fishing, biking and camping opportunities galore.
Off Square Books hosts weekly live broadcasts of the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, which is similar to Minnesota’s Prairie Home Companion. It is a fun-packed time of entertainment. Go early to get a good seat. This event is extremely popular.
6. Stay in a unique hotel
Within a block of the square, guests will find two hotels that are exceptional and unique. Chancellors House is Oxford’s newest and most luxurious hotel, where even visiting dogs get preferential treatment. There are only 31 rooms and suites, but each comes with meticulous service and fine amenities. Crystal chandeliers gleam in the public spaces throughout and are no doubt an upscale version of the chandeliers often found in tailgate tents on The Grove.
The Graduate Hotel is a fun reflection of Oxford culture in its vibe, function, decor and furnishings. It provides comfort with a decidedly youthful energy. Considerably larger than Chancellor’s House, Graduate Oxford offers 136 rooms.
Spend time experiencing the many charms of this small town with big impact
In a town with a population of less than 25,000, it would be difficult to find one with as many great attractions and reasons to visit. It is entirely possible to spend several days engaging in activities, visiting attractions or eating in restaurants that can only be found in Oxford, Mississippi. Chain hotels and restaurants and a normal array of big box stores are also present, but in order to sample the true flavor of a region, it is necessary to step into the worlds created by local business owners and entrepreneurs. Plan a visit soon. You will be welcomed with a smile and a greeting tinged with a Southern accent
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