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6 things to know about a football game day at Ole Miss

The Grove has some quirks you need to know if you’re a first timer

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Alabama at Mississippi Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


Oxford, Mississippi is for all intents and purposes a college town nestled in northern part of the state with a population of around 25,000 on any given day — except college football Saturdays. When Ole Miss football kicks off, the population swells to likely the second largest city in the state and becomes home to some of the greatest tailgating in the entire country. If you’re a college football fan, a Saturday in the fall here is truly a bucket list experience.


Its 10 acres of centuries old trees shading thousands of tented parties where some are refined with chandeliers, silver platters and tablecloth and some are more thrown together by college students looking for a good time. There’s no open flames allowed, so catering and electric generator power rules as far as food goes. If you’re visiting for the first time, you can meander and walk through the Grove freely, and maybe you’ll be able to find a tent that will show you some classic Southern hospitality and invite you in for a drink or three. The best plan in my opinion is to try and have a base tent group as you plan your trip. If you know anyone associated to Ole Miss, just ask them if you can join in on the Grove for your visit. It will give you a spot to meet up, drink up and eat as many calories as Mississippi can offer. The Grove offers a central meeting spot for gameday in Oxford, and you’ll want to come prepared for tens of thousands of people partying in one of the more unique tailgating meccas of college football. It’s one hell of a party.


Roughly two and a half hours prior to kickoff the Walk of Champions will begin in the heart of the Grove starting at the student union, which is on the north side of the Grove. This home game tradition has the coaches and team walk through a bricked pathway to Vaught Hemingway Stadium through a sea of fans high-fiving and cheering the squad along the way. You will see some barricades set up in advance for this, so if you want to see this tradition, you’ll want to start finding a spot 15-20 minutes before it begins. Once the team finishes the WOC, the Pride of the South marching band does a pre-game performance in the Grove near the big green stage about an hour and a half before kickoff.


OK, so full disclosure... Vaught Hemingway is kind of a quirky and not great stadium. The four sides of the stadium don’t match, and a good portion of the stadium is more than 100 years old. There’s capacity of more than 64,000 in a one level bowl with luxury suites on three sides of the structure. Most of the seating is metal bleachers, so if you’re visiting, you might want to bring something to sit on, research to see if you have chairback seating, or hope whoever owns the tickets opted to get the temporary chairbacks installed for the season. There’s plenty of gates and lines generally are not long as long as you arrive 45-60 minutes before kickoff. Beer and hard seltzers are sold in the stadium along with your typical concessions food. There are some food trucks being added for the 2023 season, so be on the lookout for those to try something a little different.


Oxford is a small town ultimately, so there’s not a lot of travel options for visiting fans. There’s a small airport in the city where you could charter a private plane to land and hang out during the game. For the SEC home games, it is not uncommon for the airport to run out of space for these planes, however. The next best option is flying into Memphis International Airport and then driving the 80-90 minutes down to Oxford. There’s two state highways (highway 6 and 7) that feed into Oxford, and in my experience, there is some amount of traffic congestion either way once you’re getting close. Parking on campus is all with a permitted pass, so you can check the secondary market for that or look for a church parking lot that is charging $40 for the day.


If you don’t already have a hotel room for the game you want to attend, you’re most likely not going to be staying in Oxford. There’s also home rentals in the city, so there’s a chance there may still be something out there especially if it’s a non-SEC home game. Now, let’s say you’re getting a jump on a future season - check out the Chancellor’s House or the Graduate for close proximity to the historic Oxford square, which is walkable to great restaurants and bars. There are hotels available in Batesville about 25 minutes away, but this is just your typical off the interstate kind of town with nothing overly special to it.


Mississippi is known for many things, some of which are really not great, but the food you will find in this state can absolutely blow you away. Let’s start on the Oxford square where James Beard award winning chef John Currence has City Grocery (get a reservation now) and Boure where you can dine on the famous shrimp and grits. Currence also has the original location for Big Bad Breakfast just a mile or so north of the square for a classic Southern breakfast. If you’d like something more casual, Ajax Diner on the square is a traditional meat and three where they don’t take reservations, you just wait in line for a table to open like good, civilized folks. The pepper jack stuffed meatloaf and hashbrown casserole is the way to start off your culinary journey. For those who want something outside of the norm, there’s Volta Taverna on N. Lamar offering a Mediterranean menu and in a unique twist some of the better margaritas you can find. This section could go on and on, so here’s just a few more options for lunch/dinner — Saint Leo, Proud Larry’s, Grillehouse, Snackbar, and Lamar Yard. There’s bars a plenty on the square of course with it being a college town, so my recommendation would be to hit as many of them as possible and take in as much of the nightlife scene as you can. And finally, there’s the Four Corners Chevron just south of the square for late night chicken on a stick, potato logs, and pizza sticks to absorb whatever alcohol you’ve consumed that day.

Alright, you did it. There’s one thing about Oxford we haven’t mentioned yet — a nickname for the city “The Velvet Ditch”. It’s a place that’s easy to fall into and very hard to crawl out of, cheers!