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As a small town in central North Carolina, Oxford served as a tobacco growing center in the 1860s. Like many small towns that suffered from the decline of tobacco production, Oxford has rebranded itself in the last few years into something “Uniquely Carolina.” What makes Oxford different from other towns is that the downtown area is easily walkable – making it a perfect getaway destination for a romantic weekend or girls’ weekend. For those of us in Durham or Raleigh, it is a very short drive. Here are all the fun things to do in Oxford:
1. Buy fresh food at the Oxford Farmers’ Market
McClanahan and Lanier Streets
Looking for fresh produce or homemade goodies? Visit Oxford’s Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings from 7 am to noon from May until the growing season ends (or it gets too cold!). In addition to meeting the grower of your food, you can find items like homemade pies, jams, and jellies.
2. Pick up a souvenir at This ‘n That
125 Main Street – Website
This store on Main Street offers exactly what the name says – a little bit of this and that. Whether looking for antiques, vintage items, a little trinket, or something else, you’ll likely find it here. Christmas decor lovers should check it out too.
3. Look for hidden treasure
Whether you’re a fan of antiques or enjoy perusing through reminders of the past, Oxford provides many opportunities. Visit Remember When for unique home decor, including custom woodwork pieces. The Daniel Flea Mart features furniture, lamps, and many other decor options. Or visit the Art & Antique Gallery, specializing in 18th-20th-century art pieces.
4. Relax with friends at The Hub on Main
100 Main Street – Website
Every town needs a place where friends can hang out. The Hub on Main meets that need, whether you’re looking through their fine selection of wines and craft beer, both on tap and bottled, or unique local artisan items.
5. Drink craft beer at Tobacco Wood Brewing Co.
117 Wall Street – Website
This female veteran-owned craft brewery located downtown offers 34 varieties of craft beers made locally. This family-first brewery has become an integral part of the community and a great place to hang out, with its plentiful seating and central location. And don’t miss sampling something from their kitchen — their sauce has quite the reputation! The brewpub offers a variety of foods, from chopped BBQ sandwiches with their famous sauce, brisket tacos, loaded baked potatoes and even eggrolls. Definitely a fun thing to do in Oxford!
6. Visit the Granville History Museum
1 Museum Lane – Website
A converted county jail, the Granville History Museum pays homage to the area’s rich tobacco history. Manned by volunteers, you won’t need much time to peruse the exhibits but will get to see an old cell and learn about the tobacco process.
7. Enjoy a great meal
Several restaurants are worthy of your visit. Open until 10 pm, Uptown 101 located in the middle of downtown fills bellies with comfort food such as sandwiches and salads. Or try Harvest, a farm to table restaurant offering the freshest local offerings for lunch – so check their Facebook page for the day’s menu.
8. Learn about the Mary Potter Academy
In 1888, Dr. George Shaw from Louisburg established the Mary Potter Academy – one of the first boarding schools for African American children. Known for its strong academics, and Presbyterian roots, black families from the entire east coast applied to give their children this opportunity. The school advanced the education of African American children until it was integrated in 1970. It still serves as a middle school today. The Shaw Museum is open the 3rd Saturday of every month if you’d like to learn more about the founder.
9. See the oldest building housing an operating school in North Carolina
223 College Street
A school was built at 223 College Street in 1901. In 1911, the current Colonial Revival/ Neo-Classical style brick building replaced the original. Housing Credle Elementary School, this building currently serves as North Carolina’s oldest building with an operating school.
10. Enjoy the Hot Sauce Contest
Every September for the last dozen years, Oxford’s downtown hosts North Carolina’s Hot Sauce Contest. Attracting over 18,000 visitors, this event is the highlight of the city’s calendar. Featuring three stages, entertainers of all types of music keep the crowds entertained. Food trucks of all kinds mean there is no need to cook lunch or dinner on this day! Taste as many hot sauces as you dare with several blocks’ worth of vendors from all over North Carolina and the United States. Watch competitors in the hot pepper eating contest battle it out for the $1,000 prize. The 2019 competitors went through 15 rounds alternating between jalapenos, reapers, and habaneros until the last man remained. There are plenty of crafts to peruse and fun things for the kids. This family-friendly event is a huge reason to visit!
11. Plan your special event here
Granville County boasts several special event venues in and near Oxford such as Thorndale Oaks or The Oaks in Oxford. Beautifully set in various farms featuring barns, and even a flower farm, events in Oxford are memorable. Look for the Orpheum, an old theater downtown, to be reformed as a new special event soon. And if you’re a fan of all things Halloween, check out the Granville Haunt Farm, open weekends in October for a scary evening whether in the corn maze or shooting zombies with paintballs during a hayride.
12. Get a lesson in architecture
With its 200 years of history, Oxford’s historic district is a walking, living exploration of various architectural types. The county’s courthouse features a Greek Revival structure and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Homes within the Main Street Historic District run the gamut of styles – 1880’s Queen Anne style Victorian cottages; 1920s Arts and Crafts Bungalows; 1920’s Mediterranean Period Revival Bungalow; 1914 Dutch Colonial Revival Style house and Colonial Revival Houses abound. The College Street Historic District continues the architectural timeline. From a 1820s Georgian/Transitional/Federal-style home to a French Second Empire house dating to 1889, and an 1857 Greek Revival style home have all been well preserved. Take a leisurely stroll using Historic Oxford’s self-guided walking tour.
Granville County touts itself as Uniquely Carolina — and it truly is. Located less than an hour from Durham and very close to Raleigh, Oxford is worth the exploratory trip. Whether you’re considering a day visit or a weekend getaway, you’ll find plenty to entertain you. Let me know what you think!
Annick, The Common Traveler