The destination of Auburn-Opelika, Alabama is one steeped in history, one where the offerings of the rich earth and temperate climate are inspiring local chefs and artisans to prepare some of the best food in the South. Built around the deep-rooted traditions of Auburn University, the strength of the destination grows from its diverse population of young families, retired and spirited alumni, and of course, the endless churn of students passing through the hallowed spaces of campus, many so inspired by the community’s rich heritage that they ultimately become permanent residents.
In addition to the endless availability of sporting events at the university, there is a full calendar of opportunities for family, food, and fun across the sister-city destination. Many of the events are inspired by the abundant culinary offerings in the community such as the annual Auburn Food & Wine Festival, Opelika’s On the Tracks food & wine event, the Auburn Downtown Family Summer, and Opelika’s bi-weekly Food Truck Fridays.
Strolling the two very distinct historic downtowns of Auburn and Opelika, you are sure to find surprises that will make you want to stay a while. It’s the coolest college town in the South, and his hip older sister, where you’ll find more than 50 independent and chef-owned experiences, distilleries and breweries, vinyl and art shops, concert and gathering spaces, rooftop bars, and more. Perfect for comfortable gatherings with friends and family, you’re never underdressed in a college town; go as sophisticated or as casual as you care to get, and do the same for your palate.
Fresh, innovative and artistic interpretations of Southern fare are available at a variety of chef-owned restaurants. Inspired by local farmers and fish markets, bison and blueberries and vineyards, the culinary scene is an eclectic and surprising intersection of heritage and creativity. Iron Chef winner and James Beard Foundation award finalist David Bancroft operates two of the can’t-miss opportunities on the list, Acre–casual yet sophisticated, featuring stylishly modern food with roots deep in southern soil – and Bow & Arrow – the chef’s interpretation of a South Texan smokehouse paying homage to the influences of his youth. Both restaurants offer warmth and welcome, through their atmospheres as well as their menus, and both celebrate the fresh flavors of the season’s harvest incorporating the offerings of local meat, fish, produce, and grain purveyors.
No mention of this bustling small town would be complete without inclusion of the new Rane Culinary Science Center. Opened in August of 2022, the university complex is a blend of cutting-edge education and unparalleled hospitality where the culinary labs, exhibition kitchens, and classrooms meet a high-end teaching restaurant, two-story wine room, luxury hotel and spa, and rooftop garden and lounge. The1856 Culinary Residence features an annually-rotating, acclaimed Chef in Residence to teach and work alongside students, creating a one-of-a-kind, ever-changing culinary experience for guests. Also on hand is one of only 168 Master Sommeliers in the United States. After 34 years in restaurants, Thomas Price achieved the prestigious certification in 2012 and is now teaching the art of the industry to Auburn hospitality students while curating the wine selection of the 1856 Culinary Residence. The restaurant’s dinner menu is a nine-course tasting experience, elevated by Thomas’ expert pairings of a wine perfectly suited to each course. Complete your evening with a nightcap on the rooftop bar and the best view you’ll find anywhere this side of the coast.
Auburn-Opelika is a spirited destination, distinctive for its warm hospitality and surprising mix of activities, made for travelers who are seeking an authentic experience. It gets into your belly. It gets into your heart. Auburn-Opelika gets into your soul.