Football, Literature & Everything in Between – Oxford, Miss. offers small-town charm and something for everyone.
Living in Nashville, you’ve undoubtedly met an Ole Miss graduate. While Oxford holds a place near and dear to Ole Miss alumni, it also makes a perfect family getaway.
Ole Miss football is something to behold — co-eds dress in their Sunday finest, while families stake their claim in the picturesque Grove in the wee hours of the morning, filling tables with everything from fried chicken and biscuits, to pate served on antique silver. If the Rebels aren’t on your ticket, meander beneath the thick magnolia trees and visit with families who’ve held court at their spot in The Grove for generations. (Fair warning: Rooms are often booked years in advance for home games.)
The “Real” Oxford
Skip the long lines and the sorority/fraternity set to enjoy Oxford’s charms minus the crowds. From the South’s oldest department store — Neilson’s — to fine art at Southside Gallery and designer fashion that rivals that in New York boutiques, Oxford doesn’t disappoint. Reward your kids for their patience at Treehouse Toys, chock full of traditional and educational toys. The square is also home to one of the finest independent bookstores in the country. Richard and Lisa Howorth have been operating Square Books since the ’70s. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a scoop of ice cream, along with breezy views from the second story porch, or stop in one of their secondary outposts: Square Books Jr. (which boasts a great story time and play area) or Off Square Books for incredible bargains and a great selection of gardening and cookbooks.
Southern Cuisine at its Finest
Oxford has changed significantly over the years and nowhere is that more evident than in the restaurant scene. James Beard Award-winning Chef John Currence has built a small food empire that started with City Grocery and now includes four spectacular restaurants. Don’t miss his latest addition, Big Bad Breakfast. (Read: to-die-for pancakes and French toast.) BottleTree Bakery is your stop for stout coffee and tasty pastries, surrounded by a truly unique collection of owner Cynthia Gerlach’s whimsical folk art. Around the corner, Ajax Diner serves up generous portions of some of the best meat and threes and po-boys in the South. As sun sets, leave the “big city” behind and drive out to Taylor Grocery, where you’ll gather on the porch with the locals, waiting for your turn to savor fresh fried catfish, and if you plan it right, live music.
Strolling in Faulkner’s Footsteps
Oxford is a walker’s town. Visit Avent Park for a fantastic (shady) playground, take a leisurely stroll around town and through the gentle hills of the Ole Miss campus or head out to Sardis Lake for swimming and fishing. Be sure to stop by literature giant William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak. It’s a wonderful place to picnic — and awe-inspiring to see where one of the South’s most lauded writers once penned his famous words. The city is also home to several major festivals and literary events throughout the year, as well as a must-see museum on the University campus.
Rest for the Weary
With so many “second homes” in Oxford it’s not surprising a high-end hotel hasn’t cropped up. There are plenty of chain offerings, as well as recently remodeled rooms on campus at the Inn at Ole Miss. The complimentary breakfast, outdoor swimming pool and prime location on the south side of the square make the Downtown Inn a family favorite. Check with the multitude of local area B&Bs for their policies regarding children.
With so much to see and do, and cooler temps just around the corner, be sure to carve out time for your family to enjoy the old-time Southern charm of Oxford.
Trisha Boyer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant who lives in Nashville with her husband, two children ages 7 and 13 months, and a giant dog, Juliet.