While Auburn isn’t at the top of most people’s “Travel Bucket list” it’s still a cool city to explore as part of a road trip, or if you find yourself in the city for a variety of reasons. You could be going as part of a college visit – Auburn University campus is beautiful and there’s plenty to see (and eat) around the town.
Accommodation in Auburn – Courtyard Marriott
This is a new Marriott in a great location near campus as well as the Chewacla State Park, a site I recommend visiting if you’re passing through the town or staying for a few days. There is a fitness center, business center, and a large cafe area in the hotel, and everything is modern and comfortable. It’s also right off the main highway 85 as well as South College Street.
To start the day in Auburn, grab a coffee at Coffee Cat. It’s a popular choice of students of Auburn University. The cafe has wi-fi and plenty of seating. It was relatively quiet in the morning but got busier closer to midday as lots of groups seemed to be meeting for projects. I had a Spanish Latte, an espresso beverage made with sweetened condensed milk, making it rich and the perfect morning treat.
Jim and Nick’s
Jim and Nick’s world-class barbecue is a place to experience while in Auburn. I discovered that this is a small regional chain, but the food was incredible nonetheless. It’s perfect if you want a variety of classic barbecue options, like brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and all the amazing sides. I had the Carolina pulled pork sandwich with collard greens and mac and cheese. To wash it all down, we indulged with bourbon old-fashioneds, which seemed appropriate. They also bring out cheddar biscuits to enjoy after you order, which are mouth-watering and addictive. I could’ve made an entire meal out of just the biscuits.
Right next to Coffee Cat, the Hound in Auburn was the perfect stop for lunch. It’s a big barbecue joint, boasting an impressive menu as well as tons of beers on tap. I had the grilled hot chicken sandwich with a salad on the side. It was delicious while being relatively light – a break from the greasy, fried food I mostly ate during my visit to Auburn.
Chewacla State Park
Just five minutes outside of the downtown of Auburn is Chewacla State Park, an expanse of nearly 700 acres of space for camping, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor recreation. There are plenty of trails to explore, as well as a river and some waterfalls. I’d recommend walking around for a few hours here, or you could camp if you were looking for a quiet spot with spacious campsites. It costs $4/person to enter and park with a vehicle for a day. The park closes at 8 pm.
Take a 12-minute drive northeast of Auburn to the town of Opelika, a historic spot that one MUST visit for a meal if passing through this area of Alabama. I loved the quaint, Mainstreet feels, with historic buildings and lots independently owned businesses. There are great shops, mini-museums, and plenty of food and drink options to choose from. An interesting bit of history I learned about the town is that at one time during the early 1900s, train conductors would advise passengers to duck down when passing through Opelika, as many fights outside the bars and saloons would result in gunfire.
An amazing coffee shop right on the main street of historic Opelika is SideTrack. Not only is their coffee amazing, but I also loved the mission and structure of this company. It’s “pay what you feel” so every drink you order, the price is at your discretion. The staff was super kind, and the wi-fi was stable so it was perfect for getting work done.
This restaurant blew my mind. Not only is Zazu Gastropub in a gorgeous, antique building, but the food and service were also amazing. I went up to the third floor to the outside deck which overlooks the street and had the entire space to myself. It was perfect for a solo lunch break because there was also wi-fi. Working outside, in the shade, with internet and a chicken sandwich that blew my mind was the perfect Friday. I ordered their Fried Chicken Sandwich and while it looks simple, it was anything but. The chicken was brined in sweet tea for 24 hours before frying and it was served with their seasoned fries. All washed down with a Red Clay Halftime Hefeweizen beer on tap, a local brew that was fragrant and perfect for the hot day.
Visiting Auburn and having fun exploring the college town reminded me that there is so much adventure and fun to be had, no matter where you are in the world. Travel doesn’t always have to be to exotic places on the other side of the world – you can see different cultures within the borders of your own country. I am so excited to explore more of the USA this year – any suggestions on towns to visit next?