Auburn, Alabama, and neighboring Opelika, make up the hometown of the namesake Auburn University, founded in 1856. Many residents have some connection to the school, but there is plenty to do beyond the academic year. Even if you’re not visiting the campus or catching a football game, there’s plenty to see and do.
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Things to Do in Auburn
No matter what time of year you visit, you’re sure to find plenty to entertain you beyond football. Annual events include Auburn CityFest and Opelika Songwriters’ Festival.
Chewacla State Park– Spread across nearly 700 acres, this state park has a stocked lake for fishing, hiking trails, and mountain biking trails.
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art– Opened in 2003, the art museum has six exhibition galleries with a permanent collection of American and European work. Highlights include pieces by Romare Bearden, John James Audubon, and Salvador Dali.
Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve & Nature Center– Established in 1993 on 120 acres, this green space run by the university has a playground, an amphitheater, and 30 hiking trails.
Museum of East Alabama– Located in Opelika, this humble museum has exhibits on local history including Native American tribes, African American residents, and the World War II POW camp once located nearby.
Southeastern Raptor Center– Run by the university, this conservation center treats birds, including the famous War Eagle. While not open to the public, the center hosts talks and events monthly.
Where to Eat in Auburn and Opelika
First-time visitors might be surprised to learn about all of the culinary delights to be found in Auburn and Opelika. But make reservations for dinner, especially on game weekends. Toomer’s Corner is more of a snack stop, but don’t miss the lemonade!
Big Blue Bagel & Deli– Start your day with a bagel and coffee from this deli, which opens at 7 am and usually has a line. Popular sandwiches include the Tiger Melt and the Cajun.
Bizilia’s Cafe– The restaurant is known as the home of the Muffinini, made with a banana nut or blueberry muffins. Other menu favorites include the breakfast burrito, wraps, and paninis.
Chappy’s Deli– The Auburn classic opened in 1989 and frequently caters for tailgating events. Other times, visitors can enjoy hearty breakfasts like egg platters, pancakes, waffles, and sandwiches.
Side Track– The trendy Opelika coffee shop has coffee and tea drinks as well as pastries.
Bow & Arrow– Alabama barbecue is in a league all its own and this spot is one of the best in town. The restaurant has Texas-style brisket and Mexican options like tacos and enchiladas.
Byron’s Smokehouse– For a more traditional barbecue experience, this restaurant has chopped pork with standard sides like Brunswick stew and fried okra. They’re also open for breakfast, with biscuits and platters.
The Hound– The bourbon bar and restaurant is filled with taxidermy. Menu highlights are the burgers, sandwiches, and meat and three, which changes daily.
Irritable Bao– The wildly successful pop-up now has a brick-and-mortar location in Auburn. Here you can chow down on bao dumplings stuffed with your favorite toppings.
Acre– The award-winning restaurant has been honored by the James Beard Foundation and Wine Spectator. The menu focuses on seasonal, local ingredients. The bar menu is also extensive.
The Depot– Enjoy fresh seafood at this restaurant that places an emphasis on sustainability. The building is an 1847 rail depot and has dishes like Oysters Rockefeller and pork Osso Bucco.
Hamilton’s on Magnolia– Popular with visiting parents, Hamilton’s has something for everyone, whether it be blackened chicken fettucine or the roast beef sandwich.
Zazu Gastropub– Opelika’s best restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Classics on the menu include burgers, shrimp and grits, and pecan smoked brisket.
Where to Drink in Auburn and Opelika
It wouldn’t be a college town without some watering holes, would it? You’ll certainly find the coed-friendly spots downtown, but you’ll also find venues appealing to older visitors.
The Bar at Wittel– The Collegiate Hotel has a lobby bar with Auburn-inspired drinks, along with a rooftop bar overlooking downtown.
Irish Bred Pub– The Opelika pub has Southern-meets-Irish cuisine like crab-topped boxtys, along with Guinness stew and corned beef hash. Or enjoy martinis, wine, Alabama craft beer, and Irish whiskey.
John Emerald Distilling Company– Opelika’s downtown distillery crafts vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey. Tour the facility or sample the spirits in the form of cocktails.
Sneak and Dawdle– If you can find this Opelika speakeasy, you’ll enjoy funky cocktails, live music, and food pop-ups.
Southeastern– While popular with the college crowd, there’s a good reason. The sprawling space in Auburn is one of the best spots to watch games and live music.
Where to Stay in Auburn and Opelika
Despite the area’s small size, hotel rooms are plentiful in Auburn but be sure to book well in advance before a big game or you’ll be stuck out by the highway and driving in.
Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National– The large Opelika hotel with a golf course also has a spa, a restaurant, airy rooms, a fitness center, and an indoor and outdoor pool.
The Collegiate Hotel at Auburn– The colorful hotel is in a former dormitory near the Auburn campus and has a rooftop bar, a lobby bar, and art-filled (and pet-friendly!) rooms.
The Hotel at Auburn University– Run by the university, this hotel is the closest place to stay for visitors touring the school or attending a game. It has an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a lounge with live jazz music on the weekends.
Staybridge Suites– The new hotel near the highway has large rooms with coffee makers and televisions, along with a fitness center and daily breakfast.
Camping- Chewacla State Park also has RV campsites and cabins.