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Fun Things to do in Oxford, North Carolina PullOverandLetMeOut
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Anna Marie

Fun Things to Do in Oxford, North Carolina

Oxford, North Carolina is a picturesque small town that exudes southern charm. Take a trip there with PullOverandLetMeOut to learn all about the many fun things to do there.
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Hi, I’m Anna Marie. I’m a wife, mother, Irish dancer, and pug mom living in North Carolina. I also love to travel. Come along for the ride! If you see something you like, don’t be afraid to say, ‘Pull over and let me out.’

Oxford, North Carolina, is the county seat of Granville County and is located a short distance off Interstate 85 about 30 miles northeast of Durham. Established in 1761, this flourishing tiny town boasts a rich history and a scenic setting that entices both tourists and residents to enjoy and experience the pleasures of small-town living. Having spent a few years there myself, I was excited to go back and explore Oxford, North Carolina’s numerous exciting activities and see what had changed or disappeared. This is what I discovered during my travels.

a red brick courthouse
Downtown Oxford is the home of Granville County’s courthouse.

Down on Main Street

As I mentioned, I once called Oxford, North Carolina home. So, when my husband and I were planning to visit a friend there, we decided to make a Saturday getaway out of our trip. We arrived at downtown Oxford a little after 11:00 am on a gray but mild January morning. Fortunately for us, the rain stayed away and we were able to park the car on Main Street and begin our adventure on foot.

Parking along Main Street is abundant and regardless of which end of the street you find a space, you’re still within walking distance of most of the popular attractions.

One of the most iconic landmarks, the Granville County Courthouse is a great starting point. This red brick building dates back to 1840. Over the years it has seen a couple of additions as well as major reconstruction but this stunning building has endured, and is now recognized as an Oxford architectural monument. Still an active courthouse, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and no visit to Oxford is complete until you have spotted the keystone over the main entrance, dated July 4, 1838, and gazed up at the weathervain.

Fun Things to Do in Oxford, NC

I can’t decide whether downtown Oxford reminds me of the quintessential small town or if I feel as if I’ve landed on the set of a Hallmark movie. Nonetheless, the setting is welcoming and it is easy to be swept up into the charming vibe it gives off.

Moreover, just because it is a small town, doesn’t mean it’s sleepy. There are still plenty of fun things to do. To start our day, we stopped inside Strong Arm Baking Co. for a pastry and a cup of coffee.

Strong Arm Baking Co. is housed in a historic building in the heart of downtown. The building was constructed in 1901 and was home to several businesses including the RS Montague Grocery, Fox Department Store, and Granville Furniture Company.

In 2020, Thomas and Julia Blaine, moved their burgeoning baking business into its current location. Their story could be right out of a Hallmark movie script. The pair had been baking out of their rural Granville County home and selling their baked goods at local farmers markets and providing a bread subscription service to the community.

As their operations expanded and demand for their baked goods grew, it was time to set up a brick and mortar operation. Today, this acclaimed bakery is a hallmark of downtown Oxford’s trade.  A veritable beehive of activity, Strong Arm Baking Co. is a wonderful first stop and I can’t say enough about how flaky and delicious my chocolate croissant was.

breads and pastries in a glass case at a bakery.
A cup of coffee and a pastry make a great start to a visit to Oxford.
a building with a sign that says Strong Arm Baking Co.
Strong Arm Baking Co. on Main Street.
a woman with a fork and knife cutting into a chocolate croissant.
They heated the chocolate croissant for me and it was outstanding.

Shop the local boutiques

There are a number of shops and boutiques along the main thoroughfare in downtown Oxford.

From antiques, to vintage thrift shops, to clothing stores, and specialty shops, Oxford provides a variety of unique shopping options. We enjoyed browsing in The Hub on Main.

The Hub on Main is a specialty shop that sells a mixture of items that includes distinctive gifts, picture frames, craft beers, sauces, cigars, fine wine and much more.

a sign over a shop window
The Hub, formerly Stovall's, on Main Street.

Tour Oxford's Historic District

Part of the appeal of downtown Oxford is its distinctive and historic architecture. With many of the buildings and homes dating back to the early 19th and 20th centuries, there is an array of notable architectural styles on display.

Visitors can learn more about these remarkable homes on the Self-Guided Historic District Walking Tour.

A quick picture of a QR code from the website, opens the doors to the history of some of Oxford’s most prominent and visually stunning homes.

The walking tour takes about two hours and includes numerous structures along Oxford’s College and Main Streets and several of the side streets. Tour takers can learn about the architectural styles, the individuals who constructed the houses, and other intriguing facts about the residences and lifestyles of the people who called Oxford home. There are twenty-nine buildings on the tour, and it is possible to drive but walking makes the tour more immersive.

a collage of historic homes
Oxford is famous for its beautiful architecture.

Oxford Historical Marker Trail

Another tour that provides a glimpse into the character of Oxford is the Oxford Historical Marker Trail. This tour is one you can take in your car and true to its name, it takes visitors to the Historical Markers and War Memorials in Oxford.

For readers of Pull Over and Let Me Out, you’ll recall this is how I got the name for my blog. I was on a road trip with a friend and whenever I saw a historic marker, I’d call out, “Pull over and let me out.” So, needless to say, I love reading historic markers. This tour is right up my alley.

With its twenty-eight historic markers, this list gives a general overview of some of Oxford’s most notable locations and residents.

a historical marker that says James Webb
One of the many historical markers around Oxford.

Granville County Historical Society Museum

Oxford and Granville County is steeped in history and consequently has multiple museums that proudly display this illustrious heritage.

The Granville County History Museum is housed in the former county jail. The museum is educational as well as interactive and offers a glimpse into the past as well as the county’s agricultural past. Next door is the Harris Exhibit Hall at the County Museum. This building was once known as the county “freezer locker.” Today, the red brick building is home to ever-changing exhibits with an emphasis on national, state, and local history along with North Carolina Science Networks exhibits for school groups and tours.

Oxford is home to the George C. Shaw Museum, housed in what was the original Mary Potter Academy on McClanahan Street, the museum preserves Dr. Shaw’s accomplishments as leader of this historic African-American educational institution.

Located on the campus of the Masonic Home for Children on College Street, is the Sallie Mae Ligon Museum and Archive. This cozy museum pays homage to the history of North Carolina’s first and oldest operating residential home for children.

Another museum in Oxford is the Oak Hill Heritage House Research Library and Museum on Goshen Street. The multi-cultural resource center is devoted to preserving the local culture and history of the Oak Hill area and sharing the impact it has had on the community overall.

With so many wonderful museums in close proximity, the key to enjoying them is to know the hours of operation prior to arriving in Oxford. Hours of operation vary and not all of the museums are open on weekends.

a red brick building with black shutters
Granville County Historical Society Museum
a red brick building side
Oxford has a rich agricultural heritage.
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Oxford is located approximately forty five minutes north of Raleigh and thirty miles northeast of Durham.The town is a fantastic weekend getaway destination with countless opportunities for outdoor excursions and historical discoveries. Oxford is well-known for being the site of the annual North Carolina Hot Sauce Festival every September.

Dining in Oxford

Enjoy the local cuisine by dining at one of the numerous restaurants and eateries in Oxford. Choose from traditional American fare, Italian, Mexican, burgers, or familiar chains; the selection is substantial, delicious, and certain to suit all price ranges and palates.

Downtown, Uptown 101 American Bistro on the corner of College Street offers a tasty meal in an elegant setting in historic downtown. Additionally, if you’re looking for delicious pizza, George’s offers a casual atmosphere and amazing pizza, pasta, subs, calzones, and more. And a personal favorite of mine for Mexican is Mazatlan Mexican on Industry Drive. The best chicken chimichangas, hands down.

Enjoy a Beverage

Craft beverages are now available in Oxford. New to the landscape since I left, is Tobacco Wood Brewing on Wall Street. This cheerful craft brewery, established in 2018 is the first female, veteran owned brewery in North Carolina.

They also serve outstanding craft beer and mouthwatering food that is perfectly paired. We sampled a flight of five that included a couple of ciders, a pilsner, a lager, and an ale. We partnered our flight with an order of their fried pickles. What can I say, it was out of this world. And that comes from someone who typically picks pickles off of things I order, if that gives you a better idea of just how good it was.

This is a delightful gathering space with a warm atmosphere and comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, weather permitting. The burgers here looked amazing too, so I am certain of a return trip one day soon.

Another craft beverage to be savored in Oxford can be found at Oxford Oaks Distillery on College Street. A relatively new addition to the region, this establishment describes itself as “A one-of-a-kind combination of an upscale restaurant and craft distillery.”

The restaurant, Verdigris, offers and inviting and elegant setting for a lovely fine dining experience enhanced by a great cocktail, glass of wine, or one of their own distilled spirits. This is a special occasion destination to be certain.

a flight of five beer samples
A flight of five at Tobacco Wood Brewing.
The front of a brewery with picnic tables outside.
Tobacco Wood Brewing is a delightful gathering space in Oxford.

Explore the Arts Scene

The arts are alive and well in Oxford. Evidence of this can be found dotting the landscape of downtown on the walls of buildings. We spotted several impressive and colorful murals during our visit.

Likewise, the Granville Little Theater, a member of the American Association of Community Theater, puts on plays that have been enjoyed by the community for decades. Their 2024 season information is coming soon according to their website.

a wall mural with flowers and a bee
A floral wall mural on College Street.

Attend a Special Event

The event calendar in Oxford is full. There is always something happening so it pays to take a look at their calendar before planning your visit.

Oxford draws both locals and tourists to participate in and enjoy events like the Farmers’ Market, the annual North Carolina Hot Sauce Festival in September, the Downtown Spooktacular in October, the Lighting of the Greens and Christmas Parade in December, and Music on Main in June and August.

Planning a visit around one or more of these beloved events adds to the fun of time spent in Oxford. We had a great time a few years ago at the NC Hot Sauce Festival, it was totally hot! 🙂 (Read more)

Durn Good NC Hot Sauce Festival
Durn Good at the NC Hot Sauce Festival in Oxford, NC

Tips for Planning Your Trip to Oxford

Oxford, North Carolina is a terrific destination for a short stay or weekend getaway. There are a number of chain hotels nearby as well as a couple of cozy inns. However, it is also close enough to larger cities like Raleigh and Durham, that you can easily make it an itinerary item as part of a visit to one of the larger cities. Additionally, Kerr Lake is conveniently accessible to Oxford for boating and fishing, just a short drive away.

Oxford is promoted as, “Historic, Walkable, Friendly.”

I couldn’t agree more.

We loved strolling around the town for a few hours, discovering more about its past, getting to know its residents, and experiencing it all over again. We thoroughly enjoyed all the new features that have renewed the charm of this little town and will happily return again.

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Fun Things to Do in Oxford, North Carolina

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