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Tigers and Southern culture take center stage in ’Bama

Football and fried green tomatoes coexist nicely in this Alabama college community, where fruit-flavored wines, scenic trails and Civil War history make an unforgettable blend of Deep South fun.

Football and Festivities

Auburn is a spirited college town that’s home to Auburn University, where the school’s legendary Tigers football team brings thousands of fans to the Jordan-Hare Stadium. With a history stretching back more than a century, the community also is home to an arts and music scene, along with a slice of Southern history. Opelika, meanwhile, boasts a rich historical legacy.

Auburn’s football season reaches a fever pitch when the team squares off against the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide. The so-called Iron Bowl puts fans in a frenzy as they cheer their respective squads. After the game, the town becomes a scene of fun and festivity. Folks who prefer architecture to athletics should tour of the Auburn University campus. Structures like the Old Chemistry Building, built in 1888, evoke the essence of the college experience.

Auburn Brilliance

Folks who prefer high culture to collisions on the gridiron can check out the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, one of Alabama’s leading art museums. Its collection of some 2,000 works ranges from traditional to contemporary.

The Donald E. Davis Arboretum is also on campus and is free to the public. The arboretum features more than 150 species of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers of the southeastern United States. For Civil War buffs, the university offers a Civil War Digital Tour, a virtual walk back in time on the role Auburn played in the Civil War.

Make time for a visit to Hodges Vineyards and Winery, a vintner outside of the Auburn-Opelika area offering a wide array of fruit-based vintages. Take your pick of selections made from blueberry, blackberry, apple and muscadine. Winery tours and tastings are free on select days, so be sure to call ahead.

Mike Cortez

Lakeside Charm

Located a short drive from the Auburn-Opelika area, Chewacla State Park is spread across nearly 700 acres of scenery. The 26-acre Lake Chewacla is complemented by trails for hiking and mountain biking. Trail visitors may spot red fox, deer and other wildlife. There are also rock formations unique to the park. For fans of rustic architecture, there are a half-dozen stone cottages built in the 1930s that have been renovated.

Lake Chewacla is ideal for anglers looking to catch bass, bream, crappie and catfish. The park also has a pair of creeks.

If you’re a hunter, head to High Lodge Creek or Crooked Oaks Hunting Preserve. At the latter location, former Auburn coach Pat Dye is host. The hunts, conducted by experienced guides, include turkey, quail and deer.

Auburn Sweetness

Celebrating lemonade may be out of the ordinary, but the lemonade at Toomer’s Drugs, a signature Auburn establishment founded in 1896, is worth throwing a party. You can find many Southern staples — some with modern twists — in restaurants throughout Auburn.

Examples include items such as crabcake sandwiches with avocado, cedar plank salmon and fried green tomato and shrimp appetizers.

Opelika Idyll

Just a 15-minute drive east of Auburn, the town of Opelika truly embraces its ambitious motto: “Rich in Heritage with a Vision for the Future.”

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.

In Opelika, try one of Mrs. Story’s chili dogs with a thick, creamy milkshake. Or start off your dining with a seafood lover’s choice, crab and corn bisque.

For the Birds

The Audubon Collection, which displays 114 prints by naturalist John James Audubon, is recognized as one of the earliest and most accurate records of American wildlife. It’s a major part of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art’s holdings. Learn about the artist, who journeyed to Alabama to discover new species.

Cyclists Take a Spin on Looping Scenic Routes

There are several looping scenic routes in the Auburn-Opelika area that are among favorites for cyclists. The 34-mile Auburn to Loachapoka Loop starts in downtown Auburn near the college district, taking in the rolling roads that are west of Auburn.

Another is Tuskegee Loop, a 56-mile trip that follows Auburn’s Wire Road, eventually passing the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, going through Tuskegee National Forest and finally rejoining the shorter, scenic route heading back to Auburn.

Opelika has the Johnny Ray Metric Century, a 34-mile rolling scenic loop around Opelika, starting and ending in north Opelika’s historic district. Along the way, you’ll pass some noteworthy sites, including the Gold Ridge and Oak Bowery areas, the Johnny Ray Rail Line and a signature pair of twin silos. The Opelika Train Depot, originally built around 1920, has been recently restored to its original form. Alabama’s Civil War Trail includes Opelika, which saw some military activity during the conflict between the states.

Southern Grooves

The Auburn-Opelika area has a vibrant music and night scene. One unique locale in downtown Opelika is James Brothers Bicycle Shop, a full-service establishment that also happens to serve draft beers. And, just in case you had any doubt that the Auburn/Alabama rivalry is serious business, how about a bar named after an infamous football score between the two football titans? It’s called 17-16, an actual score from a 1972 showdown (Auburn won that battle).

For More Information

Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau



Alabama Tourism Department