Oxford, Mississippi has always held a special place in my heart.
My husband graduated from the University of Mississippi, also known as “Ole Miss”, located in the heart of Oxford, and we spent the majority of our very short (courtesy of Uncle Sam) dating relationship attending concerts, jogging the trails, and frequenting the local watering holes around Ole Miss.
While the military has taken us many places both in the United States and abroad, Oxford is one of the few places that offers that oh-so-elusive feeling of “home”. Connecting with old friends, enjoying Oxford’s infamous southern cuisine, and getting into the spirit of whatever university athletic event is schedule always leaves me flooded with memories of our pre-war life.
This October, my husband and I had the opportunity to schedule our should-be-annual Oxford trip for Ole Miss Homecoming Week, which meant football, tailgating, and catching up with fellow University of Mississippi alum.
Here are a few of my favorite Oxford must-see’s (and eats) that make it a favorite travel destination:
The Oxford Square
The historic Oxford Square is home to dozens of distinctly-southern boutiques (the Village Tailor is a must), clothiers (Neilson’s been clothing Rebels since 1839), and fantastic food venues to satisfy the hungriest of traveler (between the restaurants and the tailgating, it’s literally impossible to leave Oxford hungry). My favorite Oxford eateries include: Ajax Diner ($), Bouré ($$), and the City Grocery ($$$).
The Lyric Oxford is another Square favorite, as it’s always got an awesome line-up of bands (great mix of local favorites, A-list artists, and Oldie Goldie’s), plus plenty of drink worth imbibing. The horse stable turned movie theater turned office space turned event hall offers a unique atmosphere blending its historic architecture with modern amenities. It was also the location of our third date, so I guess you could say The Lyric holds a special place in my heart.
During city and university events, the iconic red Double Decker bus provides free transport for Square visitors to and from the University campus. The roof-top view is a great way to take in the Oxford-experience like a local. There are also multiple other transportation venues, such as open-air pedicabs and Oxford University Transport buses.
Ole Miss Football & Tailgate
Ask anyone below the Mason-Dixon line – Oxfordites know how to do college football.
The pregame tailgates are insane (you’ve seriously never seen this much fried chicken), the fans are fantastic (alumni come in from all around the country), and the team spirit is enough to shake the entire Vaught Hemingway Stadium. To quote the seventy-something year-ole Greenville resident sitting next to me in the bleachers, “There just ain’t a game like an Ole Miss football game”.
We scored last minute tickets (thank-you StubHub) to the 2017 Homecoming Game and had an absolute ball. Ole Miss has a new football coach (the previous one, Hugh Freeze, had a thing for prostitutes), a fairly new mascot (Rebels, Bears, Landsharks, oh my!), and all the same game day frenzy that makes it a must-do on your Mississippi Bucket List (because we all have one, right?).
Just a few fair warnings to Ole Miss game day rookies:
- Yes, many female attendees don four-inch stilettos for the tailgate and yes, they can scale the stadium in these while carrying a cute tote bag, tailgate appetizers, and rocking still-trending bouffant hair.
- Order a parking pass online, don’t park along the highway, and be prepared to walk a ways and/or have a pocket full of cab money to make into the Grove (Ole Miss’s tailgate hub).
- Don’t worry, the nice tailgater that invited you – a total stranger – into their tent for a tall glass of sweet tea is not trying to con you; Mississippians are all about hospitality.
Here are a few shots from the 2017 Ole Miss Homecoming Game against their northern nemesis, the Vanderbilt Commodores:
William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak
William Faulkner is arguably the literary legend of Mississippi.
He became the only Mississippi-born Nobel Prize (Literature, 1949) winner, and won two Pulitzer Prizes for A Fable (1954) and The Reivers (1962). Other acclaimed Faulkner works include: The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Light in August (1932) and Absalom, Absalom! (1936).
Following World War I, Faulkner attended the University of Mississippi, received a “D” in English class and never graduated. Ironically, the school and state continue to use him as the poster boy epitomizing the peak of Mississippi literary works. In the 1950’s, Faulkner served as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.
Rabbit trail: Mississippi author John Grisham has two residences – one in Oxford, Mississippi and the other in Charlottesville, Virginia – just a literary coincidence or possible clue to Faulkner reincarnation?
Faulkner’s historic residence is a lovely Greek Revival house, named Rowan Oak and it’s another must-see during your Oxford visit. The grounds are home to dozens of towering cedars and majestic magnolias that cultivate an eerily mystic paying homage to its legendary creative. Rowan Oak is open for tours throughout the year and offers visitors some insight into the literary genius of Faulkner.
There’s a fairly short walking trail that runs from Rowan Oak to the University of Mississippi Museum through picturesque Bailey’s Woods. It’s a great spot for family photos, mid-road trip stretch or woodland meditation.
Till Next Time, Oxford
The little southern town of Oxford is a unique destination, and I’m not the only one smitten with it.
USA Today ranked Oxford as one of the top six college towns, and one of the best 100 small towns in America. Named after its British counterpart, with fingers crossed for a state university bid that eventually came through, Oxford offers a variety of cultural events, dining venues, and historic landmarks for today’s traveler.
So check out the Ole Miss athletics schedule (or Ford Center concert line-up, if that’s more of your thing) and bring your appetite to the oh-so-southern Oxford Square. It’s a weekend trip you won’t regret.