If you have a Pinterest or Tumblr account, I’m sure you've probably liked, pinned or reblogged at least one exotic vacation destination.
We dream of seeing the Northern Lights illuminate the Alaskan sky or of hiking the famous Rocky Mountains, but as soon as we check our bank account, we are brought back to harsh reality. How can we satisfy the need to explore new, beautiful landscapes without overdrafting our bank accounts?
Fortunately for Auburn students, there are tons of gorgeous places to explore nearby that neither break the bank nor require a plane ticket.
Cheaha State Park
$5 per person
Sitting at 2,407 feet above sea level, Cheaha State Park is home to Alabama's highest point. Located in the town of Delta, Cheaha is roughly an hour and a half drive from Auburn. You can hike the various trails within its 2,799 acres and then enjoy the country cooking-style buffet at the park’s restaurant. The park offers incredible views atop Cheaha Mountain, especially in the fall, so be sure your phone is charged for Instagram pics!
Providence Canyon State Park
$5 parking fee per vehicle
Located roughly an hour outside Auburn, Providence Canyon is a state park unlike any other. Located in Lumpkin, Georgia, its mountainous caverns and ravines are known as one of the Seven Wonders of Georgia and as the "Little Grand Canyon of the South.” The park offers hiking paths for a variety of fitness levels, and several paths lead down to the canyon floor—an awesome place for photography. Providence Canyon also offers some astronomy-related events, since the park has such low levels of light pollution. Grab an old pair of hiking shoes and a selfie stick, and get out there!
Prattville’s Bamboo Forest
Admission is free!
Want to spend the afternoon pretending you’re in a far-off land? Located about an hour and a half away from Auburn is Prattville’s Bamboo Forest. Spread over roughly 26 acres, the bamboo can reach 60 feet high. The park is actually the first U.S. wilderness park to be created inside city limits. It’s a little small, but the bamboo is gorgeous, and it’s definitely worth the trip.
$$ is up to you!
Do you want to go to the beach, but you’re tired of always going to the same place? Then check out Ocean Springs—a quaint little beach town on the coast of Mississippi. Located about four hours from Auburn, this is a perfect destination for a day trip. Unlike the packed beaches in Destin or PCB, the beaches here are quiet and relatively unpopulated—perfect for relaxing while listening to music or reading a good book. Stroll down Washington Avenue and shop at the brightly colored local stores that line the street or enjoy all-you-can-eat catfish at Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant. Bands play live music downtown almost every night, so be sure to take advantage of an free concert, and if you want to spend the night, rental prices for cozy beach cottages start at $95 a night.
$$ is up to you!
Do you enjoy hiking? History? Going to the beach? Struggling to decide where to spend a Saturday? Don’t. Located about 50 minutes from campus, Pine Mountain, Georgia offers something for everyone. Pine Mountain is home to the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park. President Roosevelt personally spent a lot of time in the park, and his Civilian Conservation Corps program built many of the park’s facilities. The park also contains the Pine Mountain Trail, a 23 mile-long stretch that's broken up into many smaller trails—perfect for beginners or advanced hikers.
Callaway Gardens is just down the road from the park and general admission is $20 per day. This garden and resort is home to a butterfly center, zip lines, and many more hiking trails. I recommend taking a two-day trip and hitting them both up—you can rent a campground at Pine Mountain for as low as $30 a night, and the sunsets on the mountain are stunning.
Be well, Auburn.
A native of Opelika, Alabama, Taylor did not have to travel too far to attend the college of her dreams. Taylor is obsessed with anything and everything Disney, traveling, diet orange soda, and driving country roads. She has over 500 songs on her Spotify playlist and is adding to it every day. In her free time you can find her thrift shopping, binge watching Grey’s Anatomy, riding a bike, or sitting in the middle row, center seat at the movies. Her lifelong dream is to work for Disney and travel the world. She plans to visit every state and national park in the United States throughout her lifetime. Look for her someday living in Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom.