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Cheer the Tigers and tour historic treasures in ’Bama

Auburn is a rollicking college town that fuses a youthful love of sports with a rich 19th-century history. Add a budding arts and music scene to the mix, and it’s a fantastic slice of Southern culture. Opelika, meanwhile, shimmers with a rich historical legacy.

Auburn, Land of the Tigers

The most prominent institution in town is Auburn University. Located across from Uptown Auburn, Auburn University’s historic district orbits pretty Samford Park, where revival buildings that date from the 1850s to early 1900s include University Chapel, Samford Hall, Hargis Hall and Langdon Hall.

Downtown Auburn may not be big on sights, but it’s a pleasant place to stroll with an eclectic area of boutique stores, fine restaurants and a nostalgic vibe courtesy of beloved institutions including Toomer’s Corner, a drugstore famed for its traditional hand-squeezed lemonade. The store was founded by Sheldon “Shel” Toomer (a halfback on Auburn’s first football team) in 1896.

Another walk through history can be found at the Tiger Trail, which honors all the athletes, coaches and administrators who have brought fame and gridiron glory to Auburn. Each inductee is presented with an engraved granite plaque to be placed in the sidewalk of downtown Auburn. On game day, sound the “War Eagle!” battle cry and join Auburn’s football fans to cheer on the Tigers at Pat Dye Field before hitting Momma Goldberg’s Deli. First opened in 1976, the deli is the oldest independently owned restaurant in the city and has become a hot spot for fans of the orange and blue.


The Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel

Jule Collins Smith Museum

Located at the entry to Auburn University’s main campus, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is one of Alabama’s top museums, featuring six rotating galleries with an art collection that exceeds 2,000 works of art. The museum’s permanent collection focuses mainly on 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, with crowd-pleasing works by Georgia O’ Keeffe, John Marin and Ben Shahn. Most visitors head straight for the European Art Collection, where big hitters Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir are represented.

For the Birds

The Audubon Collection, which displays 114 prints by naturalist John James Audubon, is universally recognized as one of the earliest and most accurate records of American wildlife and forms a pillar of the museum’s holdings. Besides the world-class art collection, the museum’s English Gardens, crisscrossed with landscaped walking paths, a sculpture terrace and woodlands, are a destination in their own right. There’s also a café, gift shop and an auditorium.

Opelika: History Comes Alive

Just a 15-minute drive east of Auburn, the town of Opelika is in the throes of a Renaissance and is thoroughly embracing its ambitious motto: “Rich in Heritage with a Vision for the Future.” Opelika’s history is certainly colorful. In the late 1840s, Opelika became one of the primary trade lines for shipments of raw cotton from the Southern plantations to the North and burgeoned as a regional hub for commerce. Many of Opelika’s warehouses, built for storing cotton and other goods, were converted to Confederate supply depots during the Civil War. Opelika swiftly gained a reputation as a wild, lawless town. In 1872, the town’s charter was revoked (effectively making it a police district), when dodgy city officials attempted to scam investors by issuing fake railroad bonds.

Packed with saloons and populated with denizens of ill repute, Opelika became notorious as the town where gunfights were so commonplace that railroad officials would advise passengers to duck down to avoid being shot at as trains passed by downtown. Nowadays, a more wholesome vibe prevails. Since the 1980s, the town’s industrious marketers have reinvented the town’s blighted image, and the city council and nonprofit organizations have made valiant efforts to revitalize the city.

Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Opelika’s historic downtown is brimming with new restaurants, boutiques, delis, antique stores and coffee shops. The Opelika Main Street (a program working to gentrify downtown areas) collaborates with shops and eateries to host a food and drink crawl throughout the downtown area.


The Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel

Chewacla State Park

Less than 5 miles from Auburn, this 696-acre state park includes a 26-acre lake, rental boats, swimming area, playgrounds, hiking trails and mountain biking trails. Chewacla State Park’s eight hiking trails traverse the mountain range to the picturesque 30-foot Chewacla Dam Waterfall. Trails range from the short, interpretive Sweet Shrub Trail to the more pulse-elevating mountain biking trails built by the Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers (CAMP).

Along the park’s easy-to-navigate paths, you can get up-close-and-personal with native flora and fauna in the form of squirrels, chipmunks, red fox, deer and turkeys. Highly recommended are the park’s six stone cottages (available for rental year round), built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Each cabin has been thoughtfully renovated to include hardwood floors, stone fireplaces, pristine bathrooms and highly functional kitchens.

Going Golfing

Venerated golf course architect Robert Trent Jones once famously proclaimed Grand National golf course to be the “single greatest site for a golf course” he had ever seen. Given the much-quoted adage, “The sun never sets on a Robert Trent Jones golf course,” he should know.

Lauded by designers, players, media pundits and commentators the world over, there is no shortage of superlatives to describe Grand National. Built along the shores of the 600-acre Lake Saugahatchee, 32 of 54 holes are draped along its filigreed shores. The host of the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship each July, Grand National is open 364 days a year. In addition to the Lake or Links courses, you can try 18 holes of one-shotters on the Short Course. Golfers won’t run out of adventures in this corner of ’Bama.

For More Information

Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau




Alabama Tourism Department