The University of Mississippi, commonly called Ole Miss or the University of the South, is the state’s flagship university. Home to a vibrant food scene, iconic football weekends, and Southern hospitality, Oxford has a variety of attractions and activities for any visitor.
Just east of the university’s main campus is the hub of Oxford culture: The Square. The streets and blocks that surround the Lafayette County Courthouse make up the historic downtown Square area. It is the perfect place to start exploring the Oxford area with its abundance of stores, restaurants, and nightlife.
Just a 15-minute walk from campus, the Square is a great place to go after exploring the beautiful grounds of the university. Whether you are looking for a quick lunch to-go or a finer dining experience, the Square is the best place to find some of the most iconic restaurants in Oxford. For breakfast or lunch try Bottletree Bakery where they serve light sandwiches and pastries or stop by another student favorite, South Depot Taco Shop. After lunch, take the afternoon to explore the shops around the Square including the iconic Square Books, which has been a local favorite for over 30 years or stop by local clothing boutiques like Neilson Company, Hemline, or Hinton & Hinton.
The Best of Oxford: it’s Food
The food in Oxford will most certainly be a highlight of your time in the area. We recommend the Square for most restaurants with dinner favorites include the City Grocery, Ajax Diner, and Bouré, which once housed in the old Leslie’s Drug Store. Each offers a uniquely Oxford dining atmosphere and serves up their own take on Southern classics.
Just north of the Square, you’ll find additional food and shopping. One of the city’s most recognizable breakfast spots, Big Bad Breakfast, serves a hearty breakfast perfect for the morning after a night out or before you leave town. Just next door, you will find the Snackbar, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is a great place to listen to live music on the weekends.
For more restaurant recommendations check out our post here.
Fun fact: The photo below is from the Snackbar. Chef Vishwesh Bhatt from the Snackbar won the 2019 James Beard Award as Best Chef-South.
Football is all about the Tailgating
Rated as the best college tailgating in the U.S. by Sports Illustrated, the Grove is a tailgating masterpiece. From chandeliers in tents to the Walk of Champions, the Grove is the center of gameday activities and indeed is a sight to see. Each home game, over 10,000 students and fans gather on the 10 acres of grassy land in the middle of campus. The area becomes a sea of red and blue tents filled with game day food, drinks, and festivities.
Approaching tailgating for the first time may seem daunting as someone who has never visited before, so we are creating a guide to the Grove so you can make the most of your day. Check back soon for additional detail but for now, understand the rules and regulations.
Want to get off campus a bit?
Beyond the university and the food scene, Oxford is full of exciting history and nature. If you are in town for a few days, we recommend visiting Rowan Oak. Once the home of the late author, William Faulkner, and now a beautiful museum owned by the university, the stunning Greek revivalist style home sits tucked in the woods just a few miles north of the Square. It is the place where Faulkner wrote many of his famous novels about the post-antebellum South with inspirations from the surrounding North Mississippi region. The grounds are open to the public for free daily, and admission to the home is only $5.
If you are looking for a place for a nice walk or an outdoor picnic, Lamar Park is your spot. It is an excellent place to enjoy the outdoors with its abundant green spaces, a lake, and trails. Likewise, if you have children, try Avent Park with its large playground, walking trails, tennis courts, and picnic area.
Explore the Origins of the Blues in Surrounding Areas
If you are in the area for a few days considering taking a day trip to surrounding cities, including Memphis, Clarksdale, and Tupelo, to uncover the musical and artistic history of the region.
Just over an hour northeast is the Home of the Blues, Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis is home to a bustling city with sites like Graceland, Beale Street, and the National Civil Rights Museum. The city is full of music history, exciting food, and a bright nightlife scene. If you are flying to Oxford, the Memphis airport is a great option because of its accessibility and proximity to Oxford.
Other fun day trips include an hour drive east to Tupelo, Mississippi where you can visit Elvis Presley’s birthplace. An hour west will get you to Clarksdale, the capital of the Mississippi, Delta, and home to the Delta Blues Museum. Try restaurants like Ground Zero Blues Club, which is owned by actor Morgan Freedman or grab lunch at Yazoo Pass or Abe’s barbeque while you’re driving through.
By Emily Kruse
Emily lives in Mississippi and is a Class of 2022 student at the University of Virginia