Where to eat, sleep, and grab gifts in Auburn, Alabama

While university spirit permeates this college town, there’s far more to Auburn than just academic and athletic pride
Downtown Auburn

Illustration by Aly Miller

University spirit permeates this college town. A massive tiger paw dominates the main square downtown, sidewalks are adorned with diamond plaques honoring former star athletes and coaches (look for Charles Barkley and Bo Jackson), and it seems nearly every person you pass is wearing navy and burnt-orange Tigers gear. But there’s more to Auburn than its academic and athletic pride. Quirky independent shops line the downtown streets, and the burgeoning culinary scene is making a name for itself nationally. New luxury accommodations and a trendy food hall bring a taste of the big city. But that friendly, small-town feel remains wherever you go.

School Spirit
Established in 1896, Toomer’s Drugs is an Auburn institution. Located on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and College Street, the iconic Toomer’s Corner intersection marks the spot where downtown transitions to campus. The former drugstore now sells university merch and its famous fresh-squeezed lemonade in a range of flavors.

Great for Gifts
For 20 years, Wrapsody has been the gift shop with something for everyone. In addition to a slew of sorority-themed items, the boutique sells funky barware (like Estelle cocktail glasses in rainbow hues), personalized wedding and baby shower gifts, and stylish jewelry—at both high-end and bargain prices.

Snack Central
Hey Day Market is not your average dining hall. Named after a post-WWII campus tradition of a day for greeting others by name, the new food hall houses nine vendors selling favorites from birria tacos to bubble tea and build-your-own bowls. The adjacent lawn buzzes with cornhole and conversation.

Flower Power
The Davis Arboretum feels a world away from the college’s hustle and bustle. Paths branch off and wind around the 13.5-acre botanical garden, which contains nearly 300 species of trees and shrubs and more than 1,000 individual azaleas. The butterfly garden, waterfall, and pitcher-plant bog are worth seeking out.

Book Nook
You won’t find walls of textbooks in this whimsical independent bookstore. At Auburn Oil Company Booksellers, giftwrapped “blind date” books with handwritten descriptions line one shelf, and a coffee bar serves literary-inspired beverages, including the Zelda Fizz (espresso, cream soda, vanilla).

Dinner Spot
Led by James Beard nominee Chef David Bancroft, Acre prides itself on farm-to-table fare, from the locally sourced and humanely raised meats and cheeses that make up the Butcher’s Board to the farmer’s co-op vegetables—think heirloom tomatoes with sweetcorn dressing in the summer and butternut squash gnocchetti in the fall.

Elegant Digs
Sleek and modern, the Laurel Hotel & Spa offers a luxury experience right on campus. Twenty-six well-appointed rooms feature bathroom-mirror TVs, complimentary Bulgari products, and remote-controlled blackout curtains. The on-site tasting menu restaurant, 1856 – Culinary Residence, sources ingredients from the rooftop garden and hosts hospitality management students who learn from a master sommelier and a rotating roster of award-winning chefs.


This article appears in the Fall 2023 issue of Southbound