Exploring historic Oxford
Oxford, Mississippi’s a small town with a whole lot of enjoyment. You’ll want to spend at least a long weekend in this Ole Miss haven to have enough time to follow in the footsteps of William Faulkner, dine your way across town at the incredible culinary options, visit historic sites and hopefully catch live performances, such as the Thacker Mountain Radio broadcasts, when they welcome back audiences.
Plus, in these uncertain times, you never know what may happen.
“We are working with our arts commission and chamber to plan smaller pop-up events that are pretty short notice like Tunes Around Town, local live music in four to five locations around town,” Kinney Ferris, executive director of Visit Oxford, said about summer plans.
If you plan to head up to Mississippi’s (arguably) favorite college town, check the “Visit Oxford” website or social media (@VisitOxfordMS) for COVID-19 restriction updates.
Check in to Graduate Oxford and receive your hotel room key in the form of an Ole Miss ID. Look closely and discover it’s one of Ole Miss’s many famous alumni. You’ll feel like a student yourself once you enter your guest room, complete with Ole Miss memorabilia and photographs, side tables resembling college trunks and fun items such as old-fashioned phones (the kinds with cords). The lobby is equally hip, walls adorned with local artwork and photos of Mississippi beauty queens and seating areas spacious and inviting — students are always welcome whether they stay in the hotel or not.
Cabin 82 café is equally charming, inspired by the popular Neshoba County Fair of Mississippi and a great spot for Southern fare. Head up to The Coop for cocktails, small bites and a view of downtown on the hotel’s rooftop lounge.
Oxford resembles New Orleans in its dining options: The big question is not where to eat but how do you choose? New this spring and summer is the addition of outdoor dining.
“We are starting construction to improve our sidewalks to include eatery space around the downtown square,” Ferris said. “Many restaurants like Snack Bar and Oxford Canteen have added places to eat outdoors.”
We recommend Oxford Canteen or Chef John Currence’s “Big Bad Breakfast” (pictured) to start the day right. Saint Leo, a 2017 Beard semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant, cooks up Italian entrees and fine pizzas on its wood-fire stove. Currence’s flagship restaurant, City Grocery, and his Snack Bar, are other favorites, always winning accolades.
For an overview of Oxford, guides on the Double Decker bus, imported from England, teach visitors about the town’s role in the Civil War, Faulkner and other writers/artists who have called Oxford home, and the gorgeous Ole Miss campus with a stop at the James Meredith statue, the man responsible for desegregating the campus.
A lesser-known attraction is the L.Q.C. Lamar House, residence of an Oxford resident and major 19th century political figure. Lamar served in both houses of Congress, as Secretary of the Interior and as Supreme Court Justice and was mentioned in John F. Kennedy’s 1955 “Profiles in Courage.”
GET YOUR READ ON!
Some claim there’s something inspiring in the water at Oxford, at least for those with a literary bent. William Faulkner spent much of his life at his Greek Revival home in Oxford, penning some of America’s finest fiction. He titled his house Rowan Oak after the rowan tree, popular in ancient folklore. Visitors to Faulkner’s estate may enjoy the 29 wooded acres as well as the house filled with Faulkner memorabilia and history.
In town, Square Books sells Faulkner novels along with other Mississippi authors’ works, which is quite extensive (again, is it the water?). It’s one of the South’s finest bookstores so take your time exploring.
Grab some Four Roses whiskey and visit Faulkner at his gravesite in St. Peter’s Cemetery. Writers routinely toast his memory here and leave behind remnants of his favorite beverage.