15 Best Things to Do in Opelika (AL)

Written by Lucas Adams
Updated on
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Located in east central Alabama, the city of Opelika is home to rich history and a wealth of activities. When settlers arrived, the city grew quickly as West Point Railroad Company built rail tracks leading from Montgomery to Opelika. The new route was used for raw cotton shipments, and the city rapidly became a regional hub, building warehouses and factories for trade and industry.

Today, this industrial heritage can be seen in Opelika in its buildings, streets, museums and parks.

There’s plenty of outdoor activities too, whether you enjoy hiking, cycling, golfing, exploring local history, or even trying the local craft brew, you can do it all in Opelika.

I’m from Alabama and love to travel, I have visited many places in the state, including the charming town of Opelika. Here is my list of the best things to do in Opelika:

1. Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge

Salem-Shotwell Covered BridgeSource: JNix / shutterstock
Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge

The Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge is located at the end of Municipal Park in Downtown Opelika. The picturesque bridge has been a local landmark since it was first constructed in the early 1900s.

The original bridge was destroyed by a thunderstorm in 2005, when it collapsed into the creek below, however, citizens of the city recovered most of the wood and materials from the creek and stored them until rebuilding began in 2007. The current bridge is almost an exact replica of the original, built with longleaf heart pine, cedar wood and latticework, with exterior wooden sides.

Two lights illuminate the bridge, so you can take a romantic stroll through the park in the evening.

More on Alabama: 30 Amazing Hidden Gems in Alabama

2. Museum of East Alabama

Museum Of East Alabama, OpelikaSource: facebook.com
Museum Of East Alabama, Opelika

Find out everything you need to know about Opelika at the Museum of East Alabama.

The museum details the city’s rich history, with exhibits and artifacts from Native American dwellings and the American Civil War, to details of a German World War II POW camp in Opelika.

The knowledgeable guide took me on a fascinating tour of the region’s history and its people via a selection of displays and photographs, which each link the city’s past to its present and future.

3. Tuskegee National Forest

Tuskegee National ForestSource: JoshuaLee334 / shutterstock
Tuskegee National Forest

Located south-east of Opelika, is Tuskegee National Forest. It may be the smallest national forest in America, but it offers visitors a vast range of outdoor activities to enjoy.

For nature lovers there are horse trails and a wildlife viewing area, or if you enjoy more energetic pursuits I suggest to take a hike along one of the four trails or traverse woodland paths on a mountain bike.

If you fancy spending an evening under the stars, you can bring friends, food and drink, and camp in the verdant forest.

4. John Emerald Distilling Company

John Emerald Distilling CompanySource: www.johnemeralddistilling.com
John Emerald Distilling Company

If you enjoy a ‘wee dram’ of whisky, your next stop should be John Emerald Distilling Company in Opelika. Named after John Emerald Sharp who emigrated to America from Scotland, the distillery in Downtown Opelika is open for tours and sampling.

If you want to learn more about the whisky distilling process you can become a ‘distiller for the day’, perfecting your craft in charming surroundings with a great bunch of people.

Alternatively, if you just want to pop in for half an hour, you can take a distillery tour, which I highly recommend.

Showcasing the entire process from barley grain to bottle, you get to visit the barrel storage room, the storage warehouse, and the production and bottling area, before sampling a glass of the fiery nectar in the tasting room.

5. Chewacla State Park

Chewacla State Park, AlabamaSource: Rob Hainer / shutterstock
Chewacla State Park, Alabama

Immerse yourself in 696 picturesque acres of forest, lakes, trails and recreational facilities at Chewacla State Park. There’s a whole host of activities for all the family to enjoy, from a 26-acre lake, to campsites, picnic zones, hiking, mountain biking and swimming areas.

Anglers can attempt to catch bream, catfish and bass, or there’s the opportunity to kayak around the lake, admiring verdant shorelines as you drift along.

Nature lovers will also enjoy the opportunity to view deer, red fox, chipmunks as they wander through dense woodland.

If you are visiting Opelika and the surrounding area, you might be interested in a Multi-Attraction Pass. With this all-in-one pass you can experience the area’s must-sees, and it includes free park admission to Chewacla State Park.

6. Jordan Hare Stadium

Jordan-Hare stadiumSource: Rob Hainer / shutterstock
Jordan-Hare stadium

If you love sports just as much as I do, and want to experience an American football game during your stay, then head for Jordan Hare Stadium in neighbouring Auburn, Alabama.

This is the home venue for Auburn University Tigers and hosts a capacity of over 87,000 people at any one time.

In addition to college football, the stadium is also used for concerts with legends such as James Brown, the Beach Boys and Blake Shelton having played here.

Don’t leave without visiting the large football murals on the exterior of the stadium, they depict the team’s greatest legends and memorable sporting moments.

7. Mrs Story’s Dairy Bar

Story’s Dairy BarSource: facebook.com
Story’s Dairy Bar

Mrs Story’s Dairy Bar is a long-standing kiosk which has graced the streets of Opelika since 1952. If you’re feeling hungry and fancy a snack on the move, you’ve come to the right place.

They only serve hot dogs, milk shakes and ice cream, a bit like an old American diner, so you can choose sweet or savory depending on your mood.

The kiosk is fourth generation family-owned, popular with locals, and for me it’s a must-visit whenever I’m in Downtown Opelika.

8. Grand National Golf Course

GolfingSource: photogolfer / shutterstock

Surrounding Lake Saugahatchee, Grand National is one of the best golf courses on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. With 54 holes, set over 3 scenic courses, there’s a lot to like about Grand National.

Play the Lake Course, where 12 of the 18 holes stretch along the lakeside, or the Links Course which offers lush woodland, and a superb par-four 18th hole.

The Short Course is 18 holes of undulating terrain which is sure to delight golfers from all over the world.

After you’ve played for the day, retire to the stylish clubhouse for dinner and drinks with new-found friends.

9. Visit Columbus, Georgia

ColumbusSource: f11photo / shutterstock

Just half an hours’ drive from Opelika is the vibrant city of Columbus, Georgia.

Once an industrial city, it’s a fascinating place to visit with museums, riverside walks, rafting and a whole host of historic areas.

Highlights include Columbus Historic District, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, National Civil War Naval Museum, Chattahoochee RiverWalk, and if you wish to delve into Alabama history, you can visit Columbus Museum.

10. Red Clay Brewing Company

Red Clay Brewing CompanySource: www.redclaybrewingcompany.com
Red Clay Brewing Company

Red Clay Brewing Company has roots firmly set in the southern states, as the founders were all born and raised there.

Some of their craft beers are named after a personal memory. ‘Big Swamp Stout’ is so called after the Muskogee word Opelika, which translates as ‘Big Swamp’, and ‘Hop Jubilee’ beer is reminiscent of late night ‘jubilees’ they would attend at Mobile Bay.

In addition to tasty beer, they also serve mouth-watering pizza to accompany your ale, and if you want to host an event here, they can accommodate large or small celebrations with 3,000 square feet of space.

11. University Chapel

Auburn University ChapelSource: Rivers A. Langley; SaveRivers / Wikimedia
Auburn University Chapel

This quaint chapel on Auburn University Campus was originally built in 1851 as a church and served as a hospital caring for injured Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War.

During the early 1900s, it was renovated with classic Gothic style architecture and sold to the college.

Since then it has been a theatre, a YMCA, and now it’s the University Chapel which is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

12. Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve & Nature Centre

Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve & Nature CentreSource: atlnature / Flickr
Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve & Nature Centre

The 120-acre trail comprises several natural habitats which are perfect for bird-watching and wildlife spotting.

Put on your hiking boots and stroll along Wildflower Trail, past Turtle Pond, Butterfly and Vegetable Gardens and the Old Homestead.

Children can enjoy the nature playground with logs, tree houses and beaver lodge.

There are over 30 hiking trails spanning 5 miles, ideal for exploring and stopping for a picnic, plus, there’s a 150-seat amphitheatre for special events, educational talks and activities.

Also See: 15 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Alabama

13. Municipal Park

Opelika Municipal ParkSource: www.aotourism.com
Opelika Municipal Park

You don’t need to venture far for relaxation and recreation in Opelika. Municipal Park on the edge of Downtown features plenty of gazebos, picnic tables, children’s playgrounds and even its own vintage train.

A small creek flows through the park, making it a great place for a day out with family and friends.

Bring the dog, a frisbee or a set of boules and enjoy a day of fun and festivities in the heart of the city.

14. Jule Collins Smith Museum of Art

Jule Collins Smith Museum of ArtSource: hyku / Flickr
Jule Collins Smith Museum Of Art

You don’t have to travel far to appreciate good art. The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn showcases a range of artworks from regional artists and creatives.

From sculptures to art installations and black and white photography, there is much to occupy art connoisseurs.

Free tours for groups are available, and once you have browsed the splendid creations, you can discuss your findings in the museum café over lunch and coffee.

15. CyberZone

Cyber Zone, OpelikaSource: cyberzone334.com
Cyber Zone, Opelika

For a different type of experience, visit the buzzing fun palace called CyberZone in Opelika.

If you’ve completed your sightseeing itinerary for the day, why not bring friends and family for a lively game of laser tag? At CyberZone, you can run around the arena competing for the highest team score, play state-of-the-art arcade games, or tuck into a tasty snack while enjoying retro favourites.

So, whether you want to challenge friends at Atomic Rush, or regress back to your childhood days with a game of Ms Pacman or Donkey Kong, you can do it all at Cyber Zone!

15 Best Things to Do in Opelika (AL):

  • Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge
  • Museum of East Alabama
  • Tuskegee National Forest
  • John Emerald Distilling Company
  • Chewacla State Park
  • Jordan Hare Stadium
  • Mrs Story’s Dairy Bar
  • Grand National Golf Course
  • Visit Columbus, Georgia
  • Red Clay Brewing Company
  • University Chapel
  • Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve & Nature Centre
  • Municipal Park
  • Jule Collins Smith Museum of Art
  • CyberZone