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Oxford: Small, mighty and welcoming
By Tom Adkinson
April 22, 2022

oxford square
The Square – with its collection of locally owned restaurants and retail businesses – is the heart of Oxford; Image by Visit Oxford

OXFORD, Mississippi –- Even if you hate Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin, you still can fall in love with Oxford, the crown jewel of northern Mississippi and a destination with surprises around almost every corner.

It’s the quintessential little college town – a beautiful campus (complete with rolling robots delivering meals to students, staff and faculty), abundant and excellent dining and entertainment, the aura of a great American novelist and a welcome mat that’s always out, even if you hate Lane Kiffin.

rowan oak william faulkner home
William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak, is shaded by a grove of cedar trees; Image by Tom Adkinson

You can have a good time in Oxford if you remember only three things – the Square, the Grove and William Faulkner.

oxford square books
Square Books, and its admonition to “Keep Oxford Square,” is a destination for many book lovers; Image by Tom Adkinson

The Square is the county courthouse square. If you’re lucky, you still can grab a parking space within steps of the Lafayette County Courthouse, which was built in 1872 and now is surrounded by dozens of restaurants, boutiques and one of the South’s most inviting bookstores.

The appropriately named Square Books is a two-level pilgrimage site for book lovers. It is famous for author events, its quantity of books that focus on Mississippi and the South and its casual hospitality. There is a cafe between the history and fiction sections, and you’re welcome to enjoy a tea or cappuccino and a book on the store’s 90-foot-long balcony.

Around the corner on the Square is another retail landmark, Neilson’s, Mississippi’s oldest department store.

“You can’t go wrong” is the likely response when you ask a local for a restaurant recommendation.

oxford catfish restaurant
With more than a hundred restaurants, you have your pick of cuisines, including a down-home plate of fried catfish and black-eyed peas. Image by Visit Oxford

There are almost four dozen restaurants, bistros and specialty food purveyors on or near the Square – and there’s not a franchise in sight – while another 80 or more are elsewhere in town. A foundational figure in Oxford’s culinary reputation is Chef John Currence (a James Beard Award winner and “Top Chef” competitor), who has four restaurants.

oxford chancellors house
The 38-room Chancellor’s House is just of the Square and is Oxford’s popular boutique hotel. Image by Visit Oxford

Two popular lodging properties are just off the Square. The 136-room Graduate Oxford, among the first in the Graduate collection, has an inviting rooftop bar, and the 38-room boutique Chancellor’s House is nearby. Slightly farther away, but still within walking distance if you’re spry, are the 146-room Inn at Ole Miss and the 121-room Marriott Courtyard.

oxford lyceum ole miss campus
The Lyceum, formerly an academic building, is the backdrop for this quiet scene on the Ole Miss campus; Image by Tom Adkinson

The Grove is a 10-acre parcel on the Ole Miss campus that is nicely shaded and crisscrossed with walkways. The scene changes on football weekends when the Grove fills with party tents, some with chandeliers, and becomes a spectacle of good times and Mississippi socializing. For some, being in the Grove is a bigger attraction than going into the stadium.

Locals say that a miracle occurs overnight after the games because the Grove is pristine the next day, waiting for students and visitors to stroll in the shade, have a quiet conversation on a bench or admire the campus architecture, particularly the Lyceum, formerly an academic building that now houses university administrative offices.

The center of Oxford’s literary fame is William Faulkner. His home, Rowan Oak, is open for you to tour. Explore upstairs and downstairs, see Faulkner’s typewriter, inspect movie memorabilia from his screenwriting days and ponder his work system by inspecting the outline of “A Fable” that he scribbled on the wall of his office/writing room.

If you’re feeling energetic, there is a 0.6-mile trail to Rowan Oak from the University of Mississippi Museum.

Find time before leaving Oxford to visit the statue of James Meredith. Military veteran Meredith integrated Ole Miss in 1962 in what was one of the most important events in the civil rights movement. The university’s Civil Rights Memorial, unveiled in 2006, honors Meredith and those who fought for all citizens to have equal educational opportunities in the South. A marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail is nearby.

Trip Planning Resources: and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available on

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