College towns are often more notorious for party culture than cultural attractions, but in many cases, the youthful, innovative energy of a college campus, combined with an influx of highly educated folks coming to work at the university as well as graduating from it, create the perfect groundwork for a lively artistic and culinary scene.
In many college towns in the South, such as Charlottesville, Virginia, home to the University of Virginia, which was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, this climate has been percolating for so long that these destinations are brimming over with award-winning cultural institutions.
College towns such as Oxford, Mississippi; Columbia, South Carolina; and Asheville, North Carolina, offer a host of historic highlights such as the Biltmore Estate, James Beard Award-winning restaurants pushing culinary boundaries and high-tech museums like the South Carolina State Museum. These and many others such as the following have class to spare.
Home of Mississippi’s flagship University of Mississippi, founded in 1848 and lovingly called Ole Miss by locals, Oxford is in many ways your quintessential cultured college town: easy to get around, full of great food and shops, and once home to one of America’s greatest writers.
“The perfect day in Oxford starts with breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast, one of five restaurants from James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence that we have here in town,” said Kinney Ferris, assistant director of Visit Oxford.
Lauded by Travel + Leisure as one of the best breakfasts in the world, it’s an expected highlight of a visit to Oxford but just the sort of surprise you come to expect after a day in town.
Once the food coma of a big, bad breakfast starts to set in, groups can hop on a double-decker bus gifted to the town by Oxford, England, for a guided tour with a local historian that ends at William Faulkner’s palatial home Rowan Oak.
From Rowan Oak, it’s a half-hour walk through the woods, where Faulkner used to wander and contemplate his next page, to Ole Miss. Ferris recommends groups visit the blues music collection at the library, one of the largest in the country, or the Southern folk art collection at the museum.