Oxford, Alabama was founded in the early 1850s, and was so-named Ox-Ford due to the narrow crossing of the local creek.
The petite city spreads itself between Calhoun and Talladega Counties, surrounded by lush forests, mountainous hiking trails and tranquil lakes.
Oxford boasts a wealth of amenities with museums, performing arts centers and galleries, and outdoor activities to rival larger cities with superb golf courses, hiking trails, mountain biking and river rafting.
I’m an Alabama local and love travelling around the state, exploring all it has to offer. I really enjoyed visiting Oxford and especially its beautiful surroundings. I’m sure you will like my list of the best things to do in Oxford, Alabama:
1. Choccolocco Park
Choccolocco Park, in the area now known as Oxford, has been inhabited for around 12,000 years. This historic park features an interpretive trail which tells stories of early settlers throughout several different time periods.
Down by the lake, you can find information detailing artifacts and structures found by archaeologists following the Civil War and Industrial eras.
The park also serves as a modern recreational space for residents and visitors.
With sports grounds boasting cutting-edge amenities including well-kept softball, baseball and soccer fields, there’s plenty to entertain all ages. If you’re travelling through the city, you can take in a university baseball game, or stroll by the lake and discover more about Oxford in this pretty city park.
2. Cheaha Mountain
Surrounded by verdant Talladega National Forest, Cheaha Mountain is the highest point in the state of Alabama.
At over 2,400 feet above sea level, it is named “Cheaha” after the Creek Indian word “Chaha” which translates as ‘High Place’. Set on the edge of the forested mountain is a charming lodge with a restaurant, where visitors can enjoy countryside and sunset views from a balcony and picture windows.
The mountain is also home to historic buildings, including a Bunker Observation Tower constructed from rubble stone which dates back to 1934. With an abundance of hiking trails, cave networks, babbling creeks and mountain biking areas, it’s easy to spend a full day, or even longer in Cheaha Mountain State Park.
3. Tubing or Kayaking on Choccolocco Creek
Choccolocco Creek is a pretty creek, perfect for a scenic float or a spot of kayaking.
I spent a few hours floating down the lazy river, admiring the scenery from a different perspective, but you can also head for the rapids in your trusty kayak.
The banks of the river are abundant with wildlife, trees and trails, which are also great for fishing. Sit along tree-lined shores and try to catch yourself a redeye bass which frequents the creek.
4. Oxford Lake
In the heart of the city, Oxford Lake is a great place for family and friends to kick back, relax and enjoy recreational activities.
With walking trails picnic pavilions and children’s playgrounds, there’s much to entertain the family.
If you’re into local history, I highly recommend a stroll to Coldwater Covered Bridge, an historic wooden bridge dating to the 1850s. The rare bridge is designed with Multiple King-post truss with Town Lattice and is listed on the U.S National Register of Historic Places.
Also see: 15 Best Lakes in Alabama
5. J C Morgan Art Gallery
When I was walking around downtown Oxford, I brought a visit to J C Morgan Art Gallery, an eclectic space which sells and displays colorful hand-blown glass ornaments, jewelry, crafts and paintings.
A multitude of impressive artworks are created by Alabama artists, allowing you the perfect opportunity to find a souvenir or unique piece as a reminder of your trip.
6. Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge
Located on the former site of Fort McClellan, Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge boasts 9,000-acres of land on which you can discover a variety of birdlife.
On my visit to the refuge I spotted Brown-headed Nuthatches, Black-throated Green Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos.
There are also several protected wildlife species within the park which include grey bats and cougars.
The park has hiking trails which allow visitors to discover rare flora and fauna and indulge in some superb photo opportunities too.
7. Classic on Noble
You can’t visit the state of Alabama without trying a few dishes of delicious Southern cuisine.
Less than 4 miles drive from Oxford in the city of Anniston, Classic on Noble Restaurant tempts visitors with mouth-watering, home-cooked delights in an elegant atmosphere.
Some popular restaurant dishes include jumbo white gulf shrimp and grits, Catfish Tostadas with black bean salsa, or the Fried Green Tomato Salad.
Their Sunday brunch is legendary, so if you’re staying for a few days or simply passing through, don’t miss out on this unique dining experience.
8. Berman Museum of World History
Berman Museum of World History in nearby Anniston was created by Farley Berman, an American GI who spent years globe-trotting while serving his country during the Second World War.
While stationed in North Africa, Farley Berman met and married a French spy, and in the years that followed, they accumulated weird and wonderful antiques, artifacts, and historical weaponry on their travels.
The museum showcases items which date back to Chinese dynasties, there’s elegant sculptures, and even a silver tea set which is rumored to have belonged to Hitler.
9. Oxford Performing Arts Center
Set between historic churches, Oxford Performing Arts Center has existed in many forms over the last one hundred years.
It was a county high school and then Oxford City Hall, before it finally became Oxford Performing Arts Center in 1981. Although the interior has changed, the brick exterior remains the same as it was all those years ago, and today, visitors to the center can enjoy live music concerts, theater shows and Broadway musicals.
If you seek a fun evening out in Oxford, go onto the website and book your tickets in advance, as this is a popular city venue and you don’t want to miss out!
10. White Oak Vineyard
You can sample some of the best wines in Alabama at White Oak Vineyards.
This charming winery near Oxford, grows all its own fruit, producing delicious wines for their Southern Oak Wines label.
The first vines were planted in 1998, and now they have 11 acres filled with wine grapes, including the regional favorite Muscadine grape.
I had a tour at this winery, which was really interesting and highly recommended. Afterwards you can purchase a bottle of Sparkling White Muscadine or Southern Gold and sample a vast range of fragrant fruit wines ranging from peach, to blueberry and blackberry.
11. Cider Ridge Golf Club
This mountain-style golf course sits at the base of Alabama’s tallest mountain, Mount Cheaha.
Nestled on the edge of Talladega National Forest which offers incredibly scenic views, Cider Ridge Golf Club is surrounded by dense hardwood forests, creeks and rolling hills.
Named one of the ‘Top 50 courses under $50’, this Alabama golf course appeals to both locals and visitors, offering a great day out for beginners, intermediates and seasoned golfers.
12. Salt Creek Falls
Twenty-five miles southwest of Oxford, on the periphery of Cheaha State Park are Salt Creek Falls.
Known as one of the best cascading waterfalls in Alabama, the falls offer superb opportunities for amateur and experienced photographers.
With hiking trails, picnic areas, and a swimming pool area below the cascades, Salt Creek Falls offer a relaxing day out for friends and families.
Related reading: 15 Amazing Waterfalls in Alabama
13. Talladega National Forest
If your imagination conjures up visions of dense forests, ancient trails and scenic waterfalls, you must be thinking of Talladega National Forest.
The forest was purchased by the federal government back in the 1930s, and following a period of extensive logging, it now hosts a diverse eco-system.
The region is home to black bears, white tailed deer, coyote, flattened musk turtles, and a variety of rare plant and flower species.
With several access points throughout Alabama, a day out in Talladega National Forest for me was a great experience and I think it should be on every visitors ‘to do’ list.
14. International Motorsports Hall of Fame
If you’re into motor racing, and fancy making a pit stop of your own during your Alabama travels, head for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
IMHOF as it’s more commonly known, is home to myriad historic vehicles from the motor racing world including motorcycles, stock cars and road racers.
You can experience an exclusive tour of Talladega Superspeedway, the most competitive track in NASCAR racing, and explore three exhibit halls and research libraries filled with everything you need to know about this adrenaline pumping sport.
Hall of Fame members include racing legends who have made solid contributions in the fields of design, engineering and driving.
The inductees to IMHOF include Mario Andretti, Enzo Ferrari, Nigel Mansell and Niki Lauda.
15. Freedom Riders National Monument
In Anniston in 1961, a group of ‘Freedom Riders’ arrived into the city by coach.
Freedom Riders were inter-racial community groups who rallied against segregation between blacks and whites on public transport in the southern states.
A bill had already been passed to de-segregate, however some Southern states ignored the policy of change.
Freedom Riders were attacked on their arrival by white segregationists who threw a firebomb into the bus.
Although the Freedom Riders survived, this terrible incident caused locals of Anniston to rethink their stance, and together they began to move towards change.
The Freedom Riders National Monument signifies this change, telling the story of how one town came together to fight the powers that be, for the good of all.
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