Why You Should Visit Oxford in the Summer

Plan a summertime trip to one of the South's most charming cities.
Photo by Steve Jones

Looking for the perfect summer getaway? Consider visiting Oxford, commonly called the “Cultural Mecca of the South” – and for good reason.

Home to the University of Mississippi, the community lays claim to a vibrant creative group of musicians, writers and artists (and was once home to famed author William Faulkner), along with a downtown core filled with can’t-miss restaurants, nightlife destinations, shops and historic attractions. Plus, Oxford offers ample opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with parks, hiking and biking spots, and proximity to lakes perfect for boating, fishing and swimming.

“Many people are surprised at just how much Oxford has to offer,” says Kinney Ferris, deputy director of Visit Oxford.

“It’s a great place to spend time no matter what you’re interested in. Oxford is fun, laid-back and family-friendly, and there’s always something to do.”

The End of All Music Record Store in Oxford. Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

Hit the Square

Start your Oxford experience on the square, which has served as the community’s cultural and economic hub since the city was incorporated in 1837.

Located in downtown Oxford, the square has its fair share of incredible restaurants, including several owned by James Beard award-winning chef John Currence, including City Grocery, Bouré, Snackbar and Big Bad Breakfast. Travel + Leisure recommends going to the latter first thing in the morning.

“A visit to Oxford isn’t complete without a trip to a John Currence restaurant,” Ferris says. “City Grocery, his flagship restaurant, has a seasonal menu that’s always changing as well as an incredible upstairs bar with a balcony that overlooks the square. The restaurant is a great place for lunch, dinner or a quick drink.”

Ajax Diner. Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

The square is also home to Ajax Diner, a popular meat-and-three-style restaurant that’s known for its sizable portions and has been featured in Mississippi Magazine as a top spot for down-home soul food.

Once you’ve had your fill, Ferris recommends exploring the square’s many shops, including Neilson’s – the South’s oldest department store – and Square Books, an independent bookstore that comprises three locations just 100 feet apart. There’s the main store, Square Books, that has an entire section devoted to Mississippi authors, and down the street, there’s Square Books, Jr., a children’s bookstore complete with toys, puzzles and games. Finally, there’s Off Square Books which is filled with books on travel, cooking, art, photography and fashion, along with a selection of magazines and gifts.

Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s Oxford home. Photo by Michael D. Tedesco

Oxford’s square is within easy reach of historic destinations, too, such as William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, a primitive Greek revival house that became the Nobel Prize-winning author’s family home in 1930. It’s where he wrote novels such as As I Lay Dying; Absalom, Absalom!; Light in August; and A Fable. Open for guided tours, Rowan Oak – where Faulkner lived until his death in 1962 – gives visitors a glimpse into his library, parlor, bedroom and more.

Other nearby attractions include the Burns-Belfry Museum & Multicultural Center, situated inside the Burns Methodist Episcopal Church, home to information on African-American history from slavery through civil rights, as well as the Mississippi Blues Archive, located in the J.D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi.

Oxford, MS, Rowan Oak. Photo by istock.com/Kirkikis

Go Beyond the Beaten Path

Of course, the square isn’t all that Oxford is known for. Just outside of the community is the small town of Taylor, known for Taylor Grocery which serves up Southern favorites like fried catfish, country-fried pork, and chicken and shrimp gumbo.

“Oxford residents and visitors alike love Taylor Grocery,” Ferris says. “It’s open beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s a great spot for families because there’s live music and plenty of space for kids to run around. The delicious food and community atmosphere make it a must-visit spot, especially during the summertime.”

The University of Mississippi. Photo by Ken Wolter/Alamy Stock Photo

In addition, the Oxford area delivers when it comes to outdoor recreation as it’s home to a portion of the 156,000-acre Holly Springs National Forest that includes four recreation areas – Chewalla Lake, Puskus Lake, Tillatoba Lake and North Cypress Nonmotorized Trail – and it’s near John W. Kyle State Park which includes Sardis Lake which is particularly popular among swimmers, boaters and anglers.

Enid Lake, part of George P. Cossar State Park, and highly regarded for its large quantities of largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and bream, is also nearby, along with Grenada Lake, which is the site of Hugh White State Park and the nationally known Dogwoods Golf Course.

“Oxford is in a great location, easily accessible from most places in Mississippi, and there’s something for everyone,” Ferris says. “Whether you want to catch a show downtown at The Lyric, enjoy a fantastic meal or embark on an outdoor adventure, we’ve got you covered.”

Learn even more about Oxford and plan your trip at visitoxfordms.com.

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