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Field Guide: Oxford, Mississippi

Browsing bookstores, galleries, and historic Rowan Oak make Oxford, Mississippi a warm spot to tuck into for a winter getaway.

Written By:  Jennifer Justus

Photographers:  Supplied

Field Guide: Oxford, Mississippi

Oxford is the kind of town that makes you want to be smarter. Browsing bookstores, galleries, and historic Rowan Oak also make it a warm spot to tuck into for a winter getaway. Small-town charms mix with a Southern quirkiness producing scenes that feel straight out of a Eudora Welty story.

Walk the square in Oxford, Mississippi, on a weekend, and you’ll brush past students heading out for the night. But in this home of Faulkner and Ole Miss, late-night conversations are as likely to evoke a book as they are a bar. “Check out ‘Dispatches from Pluto,’” offered one grad student. It’s a bestseller about the Delta at nearby Square Books, an institution since 1974.

FRIDAY

5 p.m.

Oxford’s highlights can be easily navigated on foot. Leave the car at The Graduate Hotel. Walk across its pink-painted floors to the registration desk wrapped in bookcases and lit by world globes lamps. Book-worm chic at its finest.

Drop your bags and head directly to Saint Leo. Fans of Nashville’s City House will love this lively shotgun space with rustic cuisine. Choose this trifecta on a brisk night: meaty white beans for spreading on toast, heaping chopped salad, and wood-fired pizzas to share.
 
8 p.m.
Listen for live music. Oxford’s proximity to Nashville means you might catch a Music City act with Mississippi roots such as The Weeks, who play The Lyric Theatre, a former livery stable owned by Faulkner’s family in the early 20th century.  
 
11 p.m.
Have a nightcap at City Grocery’s second-level bar, where brass nameplates mark the seats of (in)famous regulars. Then grab a late-night snack at the Chevron. Yes, this crunchy, gas station fried chicken-on-a-stick has even been served at high-style Mississippi weddings.

SATURDAY

8 a.m.
Vacations were made for multiple breakfasts. Begin at Bottletree Bakery, an Oxford fixture for more than two decades. Its college coffeehouse vibes, folk art, and cases of butter-brushed pastries give a bohemian glow. Try the honey cream cheese Danish. Then, take a walk through tree-lined neighborhoods to Oxford Canteen for a second course of Vietnamese coffees and breakfast tacos with chorizo inside a hip, rehabbed gas station.
 
10 a.m.
Don’t miss Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak. Peek into his office where he scrawled the plot of “A Fable” on the walls. Then follow the three-mile Bailey Woods National Recreation Trail, which connects the author’s home to the more modern and art-filled University of Mississippi Museum.
 
1 p.m.
After a short walk back to the Square, you’ll have earned your lunch. Duck into Ajax Diner. The meat-and-three lunch is grand enough for a holiday—scoops of sweet potatoes, squash casserole, and turnip greens cozied up to a slab of meatloaf.
 
2:30 p.m.
Spend the afternoon shopping Oxford’s boutiques and browsing the stacks at Square Books’ three locations. Look for local author John T. Edge’s latest, The Potlikker Papers.
 
4:30 p.m.
After a sunset drink at The Coop, the hotel’s rooftop bar overlooking the Square, head for dinner at Snackbar. The strip mall space transforms into a dimly lit hunt club vibe with raw bar and jazzed up classics, like harissa-spiced roast chicken with cumin-fennel potato puree.

Sunday

10:30 a.m.
Visit Chef John Currence’s flagship space, City Grocery, with its warm brick walls, well-worn wood floors, and classic white tablecloths. Toast the weekend with bloody marys over plates of eggs Sardou.

 

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