by Rebecca Long and Suanne Strider
Oxford, Miss. (TLV) — In 2012, the Smithsonian magazine named Oxford one of the “20 Best Small Towns in America.” In both 2012 and 2013, Livability magazine rated Oxford as #2 on its Top Ten list of the “Best Small Towns in America,” and Oxford made it on this year’s Southern Living list of “The South’s Best College Towns.”
Oxford Film Festival (held annually at the end of February) was named one of “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” by MovieMaker magazine this year also, and last year, Publisher’s Weekly aptly named Square Books as their “Bookstore of the Year.”
The city is well deserving of these accolades and the others it’s received; however, for people not familiar with Oxford, this utopian wonderland of art, sports, education, and culture can turn quickly into a nightmare if you don’t know the rules. So, in the interest of all you newbies, here are some tips to make sure your time here is as wonderful as it can be.
The amount of residents and vehicles in this town more than doubles when fall, and students, have arrived. And the number of available parking spots dwindles to nearly zero.
How to cope? Well, Oxford-University Transit, O.U.T. for short, is Oxford’s public transportation system. University of Mississippi students and faculty can ride the bus for free after showing their Ole Miss I.D., and the fare for other adults is only $1. Buses run almost all around town, until late evening in the fall and spring, and they’re reliable.
If you choose to walk or ride a bike in town, be cautious. Do not assume that the drivers around you are aware of your presence. Also, do not assume that because your foot is in the crosswalk on the Square that drivers will notice this and stop to let you pass, as they should.
Don’t fear the roundabouts! There are several around town now, and they all help traffic flow better than before they were installed. These are modern roundabouts, with drivers travelling counterclockwise around a center island with no traffic signals or stop signs. The key is to know you have to yield to the traffic in the roundabout before entering it. The only one we’re wary of is the brand new roundabout where Old Taylor Road meets Highway 6; best of luck navigating this confusing piece of work—we hope it will actually help!
Before we talk about night life, let’s say this: Drinking and driving is a very, very bad idea, especially if you live in Oxford. It is not uncommon for road blocks to be set up all over the city on any given night.
If it’s nighttime and you’re on the Square, chances are there’s a taxi at a nearby corner just waiting for a fare like you to walk up. But if you don’t see a taxi, call one! The taxi companies we recommend are Angel Taxi (662-236-5557) and Oxford Taxi (662-701-7310).
Our best advice is to call for a ride at the beginning of your night—that way, you can meet your driver, tell him you’ll need a ride later, and totally avoid trying to park. There are still spots around the Square where you can park for free, but the City has put up meters in other areas, which will be in operation starting September 1st. We’re hoping for a parking garage, but don’t know yet on when/if/where that will happen.
Here’s the low-down on the “blue laws” dealing with alcohol: Monday through Wednesday, bars close at midnight. On Thursday and Friday, bar patrons get an extra hour, with a closing time of 1 am. And on Saturdays, bar hours are as follows: midnight on weekends Ole Miss doesn’t play a home game, and 1 am when the game is in town. Bars here are also open on Sunday, until 9 pm. That might seem a bit early but until this March bars weren’t allowed to sell alcohol on Sunday, so be grateful to our City aldermen and those who spoke up for the law change.
You can now buy beer and light wine to take home seven days a week, though liquor stores are closed on Sunday. That’s a fairly recent change in law, too—until last fall there was no beer sold in Lafayette County on Sunday; honestly, you should be happy you can even buy beer cold at the store, as it was unlawful to sell it in a refrigerated state until last fall also.
Visiting the Square for the first time on a busy night could give a newcomer the impression that it is a mini Bourbon Street. Great live music, a festive atmosphere, and cops on every corner are things that the Square and Bourbon do have in common.
But be aware that this is not New Orleans. Public intoxication citations are given out as frequently as parking tickets—so as you go bar hopping, be aware that if you get too rowdy you might be arrested. Also, be aware that there are cameras covering practically every inch of the Square, and they are being monitored remotely by the minute. So, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to be caught doing in front of a police officer, because you are basically under police surveillance from the minute you walk out of one bar until you enter the next one.
Last thing, don’t try to drive around the Square more than 99 times in a “single session,” as it’s outlawed—but we think you’d get dizzy far before that many go-rounds! And no fortune-telling allowed. True story.
This article originally appeared in The Local Voice #210 (published August 14, 2014). To download a PDF of this issue, click HERE.