Top Ten College Towns

University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi
University of Mississippi, Oxford
REBEL YELL: Ole Miss students treat the Saturday game as ritual (Kate Chandler)

9. University of Mississippi
Oxford, Mississippi

While Athens sometimes bucks Deep South traditions, Oxford, Mississippi, enthusiastically embraces them. Don't go to a Rebel football game unless you're wearing you're Sunday—err, Saturday—best. And ladies, if you plan on barhopping, even at the local dives, make sure your hair is done and you're wearing a slinky cocktail dress and stilettos.

The tiny town of around 17,000 people oozes Southern history. Oxford was nearly burned to the ground by Union Troops during the Civil War. The Civil Rights Movement experienced one of its most dramatic and important moments when African-American James Meredith integrated the then all-white university in 1962—sparking massive riots. His bravery is memorialized in statue form at the university's Lyceum. The great American novelist William Faulkner penned his famous works As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom! in his home Rowan Oak, which is now a historical landmark. Those craving a creepier brand of history might want to visit the Confederate Cemetery, a burial ground for about 700 Rebel and Union soldiers who perished in the battle of Shiloh in 1862. For the musical historian, the University of Mississippi's Blues Archive boasts one of the world's largest collections of blues recordings and materials, including the B.B. King collection. The L.Q.C. Lamar House is another popular attraction. Lucius Lamar wrote Mississippi's ordinance of secession from the Union, but after the Civil War this U.S. Congressman and Senator encouraged the state to accept defeat and rejoin the nation. He later became Mississippi's only United States Supreme Court Justice.

Oxford is so steeped in Southern culture that Ole Miss founded the first of its kind Center of the Study on Southern Culture, which hosts its annual Faulkner Conference in July. After your history lessons, you might be a little hungry or thirsty. Grab a bite at the Bottletree Bakery, which is especially famous for its breakfast foods. For fine dining, try 208 (as in 208 South Lamar Street), which features low-country food with an Asian twist. You won't want to leave without having a beer at Proud Larry's, one of the state's best live music venues. If it's football season, come dressed to impress on game day and hit the Grove, where you'll witness Southern hospitality (and food) in all its glory.

Published: 18 Mar 2010 | Last Updated: 8 May 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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