Clean, picturesque, and friendly, Oxford Mississippi is the quintessential Southern American town. With a vibrant culture that includes an excellent education system and the intellectual stimulation of Ole Miss, as the University of Mississippi is fondly known, Oxford MS is one of the most interesting towns in the state of Mississippi. The town has many historical buildings and retains an Old South feel, and the nightlife is known for its sophisticated bar and restaurant scene. Oxford’s impressive literary history links it to William Faulkner, who lived in the town, and other prominent writers such as bestselling author John Grisham.
Getting around Oxford Mississippi is easy with its public bus system, O-U-T, but travelers will most likely prefer to navigate the downtown area on foot. Many of the historic buildings are best seen while on a leisurely walk, that gives you time to visit some of the many boutiques, cafes, and restaurants that make Oxford so lively. Located north of Jackson and west of Tupelo, the town is in a lovely part of Mississippi, and the scenic setting only adds to the charm.
Start in the center of downtown at the Historic Lafayette County Courthouse at the heart of the town square. The white antebellum building dates from before the Civil War and is a beautiful structure with a cupola housing a large clock on the roof and white neoclassical pillars. Visitors can tour the building at will, and there is a historic courtroom inside that preserves the period's décor and architecture. Around the square, browse the rows of shops and historic houses, including a historic cobbler's shop, bookstore, department store, several restaurants, large houses built in styles ranging from Victorian-Gothic to Greek Revival, and some historic churches.
Renowned twentieth-century writer William Faulkner lived in Oxford Mississippi for much of his life. Fans of his work can visit many landmarks in town associated with this illustrious author. Rowan Oak is the historic home, built in 1844, where Faulkner eventually settled down with his wife and lived until his death, penning several of his masterpieces in the meantime. The house is much as he left it, and house tours are available throughout the week, highlighting places where Faulkner wrote his books. The grounds and house themselves are worth a visit—there is an elegant tree-lined walk and the white antebellum house is classically Southern. You can also visit the author's grave nearby at the Oxford cemetery, and see some of his manuscripts at the J.D. Williams Library. If you're a true Faulkner fan, you'll want to visit Oxford in late July during the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference where you can swap theories about Faulkner's literary themes with other fans and scholars.
Another prime location for historic architecture in Oxford MS is the campus of Ole Miss itself. The University Museums are comprised of several historical museums housed in a single facility, where you can see artifacts and art collections from Oxford's history, as well as other traveling exhibitions. The Blues Archive on campus has collected an enormous number of blues recordings and supporting material about blues' artists such as BB King, as well as the history of the genre and its folklore. The campus has many historical Southern-style buildings, such as the Lyceum, a stately brick building with Greek columns, and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, which was originally designed as an observatory.
In addition to literary and historical attractions, Oxford is a great place for antiquing, if you're interested in picking up some vintage treasures, and there are several antique malls as well as independent shops to browse. There are plenty of well-appointed hotels and many quaint local inns where you can get a good night's sleep in this charming Southern town.
Image: Abraxas 3d (flickr)