Day trip guide to Auburn: From dawn to dusk, this Bay County city keeps everyone entertained

It’s Friday. The kids are bored. Grandma and Grandpa are visiting. Everyone wants to do something – but no one is up for a long drive. 

Mayor Lee Kilbourn invites you to consider a one-day trip to his hometown: Auburn, Michigan. 

Nestled in the heart of the Great Lakes Bay Region, between Bay City, Saginaw, Freeland, and Midland, Auburn considers itself the “biggest little city” in the area. It’s abundant with shops, recreation options, and places to grab a drink and a bite to eat.

The pavilions, ponds, and playscape inside Auburn City Park, located on Nine Mile Road (also known as South Auburn Road), are visible from US-10.“Auburn is a perfect blend of small-town charm and hard-working people, great local shops and dining options,” Kilbourn says. “There’s something for everyone to enjoy.”
First, a little history.

Settled in 1854 and granted a U.S. Post Office in 1869, Auburn was first known as the village of Skinner. In addition to the post office, Skinner had a blacksmith shop, churches, markets, and several employment opportunities, namely two sawmills and a shingle mill. 

The town was incorporated in 1947 as the city of Auburn. 

When visiting today, you will see several of the original buildings are still standing and in use, namely Stitches in Tyme Alterations, thought to be the oldest building in the city. It is located at the corner of Midland and South Auburn roads next door to the Auburn Clock Park.
To make the most of your quick visit, plan a full day here, beginning with breakfast.

Happily, you have choices: sit-down family dining with “eggs-celent” omelettes and traditional breakfast fare at Nori’s Restaurant, located in the Auburn Plaza at the corner of Midland and Garfield roads. In the plaza, you’ll also find the Rogers Family Market, the U.S. Post Office, and Unique Bridal which has been an Auburn staple since 1983. 

If you are craving a more refined breakfast, visit the Iron Grind Coffee House, 116 N. Auburn Road. Formerly a U.S. Post Office, the Iron Grind offers a kitschy atmosphere, a meeting room and some of the best handmade crepes, baked goodies and beverages you’ll find in the area. From their house coffee to special coffee preparations, hot chocolates, smoothies and flavored iced teas and lemonades, the menu will not disappoint adults or the kids.  

With full bellies, everyone is in the mood for a little recreation and shopping. 

Warmbier Farms has one of the Great Lakes Bay Region’s largest display of indoor and outdoor lawn and garden statuary. Warmbier’s also offers indoor and outdoor plants, art and craft items, lawn, garden and home décor, and more.One of the adults can take the kids to Auburn’s newest hot spot, The Range Multi-Use Park featuring Bay County’s first professional disc golf range. 

This 25-acre property is accessible year-round and can be used for cross-country hiking, running, biking, skiing and snow-shoeing. There’s even a hill for winter sledding and summer climbing, a picnic area, bathroom. It’s fur-friendly, so you can bring your favorite pet for some exercise as well.

If you’re visiting in the summer, the hiking trail offers an educational bend, resplendent with indigenous plants and wildflowers. There’s a birding area where you may see a plethora of Northwestern bird species and other wildlife. 

The adults and older kids will note that this rustic park includes a gun and bow and arrow range. Protected by safety and sound barriers from the main public area, the shooting range is open limited hours on Saturdays.

Meanwhile, the other adults head to Warmbier Farms, located at 5300 Garfield Road. 

Warmbier’s has one of the Great Lakes Bay Region’s largest display of indoor and outdoor lawn and garden statuary ranging from tiny, cute and cuddly, to life-sized options and religious pieces. Warmbier’s also offers indoor and outdoor plants, art and craft items, lawn, garden and home décor, one-of-a kind art clothing, jewelry, and more. 

If you enjoy art, a must-stop is Village Glass Works at 118 W. Midland Road near City Center. Inside the gorgeous showroom, you’ll find a dazzling display of art glass pieces and unique lamps.

Auburn’s newest hot spot, The Range Multi-Use Park, features Bay County’s first professional disc golf range.Want to try your hand at creating something? Village Glass instructors can show you how to blow and fuse glass, or create a traditional stained glass piece. Visit their website for a list of available classes. Instructor Debra VanTol says classes start at $60. 

After those stops, it’s time pick up the rest of the family, and of course, the kids are already hungry. Aren’t they always? 

Choosing which Auburn lunch establishment you want to visit might be tough, especially with the addition of Auburn’s newest enterprise, Grand 50’s Hamburgers.

Formerly a Burger King franchise located at 4907 Garfield Road, Grand 50’s Hamburgers offers just that: handmade, old fashioned, no-frills burgers, just like you’d get “in the old days.” Add a side of fries, sit back and enjoy a hearty meal. 

If something on the spicy side is what your taste buds are craving, you may choose to cool off at The Auburn Hotel Bar and Restaurant. Recently re-opened in 2023, the historic Auburn Hotel features tasty bar-fare including some Southwestern-style items, such as their handmade wet burrito or chimichangas. 

If you’re visiting on a weekend and stay until the evening, the Hotel provides entertainment with popular local musicians and a friendly, hometown atmosphere. 

Auburn City Park also is the home of the Auburn Farmer’s Market, which is open on Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m. from mid-June through the end of September.After lunch, you may be ready to visit the city’s gem, Auburn City Park found at South Auburn Road (also known as 9 Mile Road) and US-10. 

Beautifully appointed with a 1.2-mile hard surface walking trail, trees, flowers, playscape and pavilions, it is the perfect place to spend time with the whole family. 

The park features a pond for catch and release fishing and kayaking.  An ADA-accessible covered aluminum dock simplifies entry and exit. 

Throughout the park, there are beautiful, shaded areas perfect for relaxation. If it’s recreation you’re interested in, you may want to get in a game of basketball under the covered large pavilion. If you can stand the heat, then the outdoor courts for pickleball, volleyball, baseball, and softball, may beckon.

The Auburn Farmers Market features fresh produce as well as food trucks and vendors. Come at the right time of year and you’ll find the Auburn Farmer’s Market fills the park pavilion with vendors, food trucks, concessions, and musical guests.

The Farmers Market is open on Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m. from June 13 through the end of September. Located under the large pavilion, the Market also facilitates some fun, summer events such as Moonlight Market the third Friday in June and August from 6 to 9 p.m. 

The pavilion is also home to Auburn’s newest events: Christmas in July and Chalk in the Park, on Sat., July 27, 2024, featuring a chalk art contest with three money prizes, up to 100 art and craft vendors, music, food and … Santa will be coming to town! This fun, family event will take place in the park from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. – so save the date.

Are you getting worn out? Well, don’t leave town with an empty stomach.

O’s Pub and Grill is making dinner. 

Known for its specialty burgers and unique sandwiches, O’s also features local brews for your enjoyment. Whether you want to “Craft Your Own” single to triple burger with a wide choice of toppings, go for a Classic Cheeseburger, or try something new with the “Californian” containing double-smoked bacon, provolone, and homemade guacamole, you will surely be stuffed before you go. 

You’ll be happy to find that O’s Pub and Grill is family-friendly and has a great kids’ menu. 

As you leave, don’t think you’ve exhausted all that Auburn offers.

You’ll find a complete list of businesses here
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Read more articles by Robin Devereaux.

Robin Devereaux is a Mid-Michigan writer, artist and filmmaker. She is the 2012 winner of the Fabri Prize for Fiction, Renker Writing Award and the 2010 National League for Innovation Prize for Creative Non-Fiction. She works as a grant writer for the City of Auburn.