To the people at Southern Living magazine, the city of Auburn is one of the best in the South.
In a recent article titled “The South’s Best College Towns,” Auburn finds itself among places like Athens, Ga., Knoxville, Tenn., Chapel Hill, N.C., and Gainesville, Fla.
To be included on the list, towns had to have a population of fewer than 200,000. Other requirements from Southern Living were a “lively local scene with good, affordable restaurants, independent boutiques and a support of the arts.”
There aren’t many places more lively than Toomer’s Corner on a Saturday afternoon. The calls of “War Eagle” and the white streamers from the down-but-not-out oaks give Auburn a feel most towns don’t have or understand.
“It’s the friendliness,” said City Manager Charles Duggan. “When a football team comes to play here, our fans and everyone surrounding the community say, ‘Enjoy yourselves, and leave only a little disappointed about losing the game.’”
Duggan said the people of Auburn make the town what it is.
“Auburn has a reputation of being one of the friendliest places around,” Duggan said. “It includes the people who live here the entire year and the students who live here for most of the year.”
Arguably the most well-known of Auburn’s many landmarks is Toomer’s Drugs.
As one of the main reasons Southern Living included Auburn in the list, Toomer’s is the center of not just Auburn’s downtown, but of the town’s football tradition.
If Auburn is Mecca, Toomer’s is the Kaaba.
“We’re definitely excited that people put us in the same status as an Auburn tradition,” said Toomer’s manager Michael Overstreet. “It’s important to us. It’s great that people feel that way about us.”
Overstreet said he knows why Auburn is a great place to be.
“I believe it’s probably the only place that you can get a small-town atmosphere, but have twenty-or-so thousand students and no telling how many general residents in the area, but yet still maintain this small-community feel,” Overstreet said.
Duggan said it’s football and this small-town atmosphere that draw people to Auburn.
“People really enjoy being in Auburn,” Duggan said. “They enjoy being around the University or going to a game. I was talking to someone the other day who said, ‘The more you live in Auburn the older you get, but you’re always surrounded by young people.’ We’re always being replenished.”
Auburn is more than Toomer’s and football tradition.
The small town is packed with flavor that can be found in places like the Creole Shack, Good ol’ Boys, Mamma Goldberg’s, Hamilton’s and Niffer’s Place.
If you’re looking for a dose of art, head to places like The Gnu’s Room, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn Art and the Jan Dempsey Community Arts Center.
Sally Wright, sophomore in nursing, is from Newport, Wash.
“I made friends really quickly,” Wright said. “Everyone is really nice, much nicer than up North. Even though home is across the country, I always feel welcome here.”