For southern charm with collegiate vigor, consider Auburn. This diamond on the eastern Alabama plains has a population of just under 58,000 and is home to Auburn University. On football Saturdays, when die-hard fans arrive in droves to cheer their beloved Tigers, Auburn swells to the state’s fifth-most-populous city. And as Auburn’s largest employer, the university also plays a starring role in the local economy.
With mild winters and hot summers, the city offers no shortage of outdoor recreation opportunities. Find a nice hiking trail in the 696-acre Chewacla State Park before cooling off with an afternoon swim. Take a stroll through the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, located on the Auburn University campus.
Golfers can head to nearby Grand National golf course and wend their way through the state along the beautiful Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. “Once you have been there, you just want to come back,” says John Cannon, president of SunBelt Golf Corp., which manages the trail.