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Spotlight: Auburn-Opelika

A cozy town meets crazy football fandom in ’Bama

With its collection of tidy tree-lined streets, family-owned shops and small-town football traditions, it’s easy to see why the cozy little city of Auburn is known as “The Loveliest Village on the Plains.” Along with its nearby sister city of Opelika (together they form a combined metropolitan area with a population of of roughly 150,000 people), this hidden gem in eastern Alabama is a treat for anyone on the hunt for a dose of real American nostalgia.

Nestled into the smooth, rolling flatlands of the western Piedmont Plains—midway between Montgomery, Alabama, and Columbus, Georgia—the Auburn and Opelika area is known for its historic homes, raucous college football traditions, great outdoor parks and incredible golf courses.

Start in Auburn with a slice of college life. In Auburn, the university and its football team, the Auburn Tigers, rule the roost.

Auburn and Opelika Tourism

Auburn and Opelika Tourism

College Life

The sprawling (and incredibly historic) Auburn University campus is conveniently situated in the center of town and boasts its own impressive historic district. Revivalist architecture dating from the 1850’s buffer the borders of gorgeous Samford Park, with the can’t-miss highlights including the University Chapel, Samford Hall and Hargis Hall. Anyone with an eye for architecture, whether trained or untrained, will enjoy a stroll here.

If it’s football season (late August to early January) a stop at the country’s 10th largest on-campus football stadium, Jordan-Hare, for a Tigers game is a must. On Fridays prior to home games, anyone interested in soaking up the quintessential college football experience can take a free campus tour that includes a pre-game locker room tour. During the game, the Cafe Jordan-Hare offers a chance to dine on the 50-yard line with unparalleled views of the action on the field.

After the game (especially after a Tigers’ win), football fans converge at nearby Toomer’s Corner.

Named after the family-owned diner and drugstore first established in 1896 at the intersection of College Street and Magnolia Avenue, Toomer’s Corner is the place where locals gather to celebrate big wins. The diner still stands and operates today, and no trip to Auburn would be complete without stopping for a taste of its famous lemonade and a freshly made sandwich. After Tigers’ victories, fans drape the trees and streets surrounding Toomer’s Corner with hundreds of rolls of toilet paper, a quirky tradition dating back to the early 1970’s.

Peaking at Alabama’s Past

Bookending your exploration of Auburn University should be a stop at the campus’ Jule Collins Smith Museum, which is home to more than 2,000 works of fine art, both traditional and contemporary. The collections are regarded as one of the finest in Alabama, so this is a must for art lovers.

Next on the itinerary, venture just a few miles down the road to the east, where the even smaller city of Opelika offers even more history and small-town charm with its buffet of mom and pop shops, cafes and restaurants.

Auburn and Opelika Tourism

Auburn and Opelika Tourism

Opelika’s quaint downtown is a treat to stroll and window shop. Start at the Promenade and the Lee County Courthouse, a striking neoclassical building dating to 1896 (and still serving as the county’s courthouse today). Nearby, the Northside Historic District is comprised of remarkable and fully restored turn-of-the-century homes built in classic Victorian styles. Informative walking tours of the area can be arranged through the Opelika Tourism Bureau and are highly recommended for history buffs.

A similar attraction can be found just a few miles to the west of Auburn and Opelika. The Loachapoka Historic District is home to 14 antebellum-era homes, two churches dating to the 1840’s, a 100-year old schoolhouse and an informative museum showcasing the history of Lee County.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with history and attractions, Auburn and Opelika also offers a rich selection of parks and lakes to enjoy year round.

Kiesel Park offers 124-acres of renowned walking and hiking trails, while Chewacla State Park features a 26-acre lake for seasonal boating and swimming. The delightfully named Hickory Dickory Park is a great picnic area and includes playgrounds for children of all ages. For anglers looking to reel in some fresh catch, the Lee County Public Fishing Lake in central Opelika offers 130-acres of fantastic fishing.

For More Information

Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau
Alabama Tourism Department