Harriet Tubman Auburn NY mural facades cover

Explore Auburn

When I’ve asked people about their favorite things to do in Auburn, NY, they often share things around Auburn in nearby Skaneateles, Aurora, or Seneca Falls. But Auburn has plenty to offer for a full day’s experience. I’m excited to share this guide for those looking to immerse themselves in a day within Auburn’s city limits.

Historic Routes 5 and 20 East West sign

Auburn is the eastern juncture where routes 5 & 20 converge. From Avon, the western juncture, travelers can embark on a scenic 67-mile journey through Canandaigua and Geneva to reach Auburn. This road has historical roots, tracing back to a foot trail used by the region’s earliest inhabitants to connect the Hudson River with Lake Erie.

The city of Auburn is rich in cultural heritage, featuring thought-provoking museums, captivating theaters, stunning architecture, and enticing restaurants—all within a walkable few blocks.

Here, delve into the stories of famous residents like Harriet Tubman and William H. Seward, marvel at a Tiffany-designed chapel, and uncover the origins of sound film, among other highlights.

Additionally, Auburn rests on the northern shore of Owasco Lake—one of New York’s 11 Finger Lakes. Not only does this lake supply drinking water to Auburn and its neighboring communities, but it’s also a beloved destination in its own right. With recreational activities and breathtaking scenic views, Owasco Lake stands as a testament to the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region.

So, why wait? Begin crafting your Auburn itinerary and discover a destination with a charm all its own!

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Plan Your Day Trip to Auburn

New Hope Mills Auburn NY shelves
New Hope Mills

Breakfast

Stop at New Hope Mills or the Auburn Diner for a hearty breakfast, or grab a delicious donut from Camerons Bakery.

(Hunter Dinerant closed in 2022, but I hope to add them back to the list someday!)

NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center Auburn NY Visitor Center entrance
NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center Auburn NY Visitor Center statue of Harriet Tubman
NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center Auburn NY Visitor Center wall
NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center Auburn NY Visitor Center lake-shaped bench
NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center

Morning

After breakfast, make your first stop at the Auburn Welcome Center. From here, you can walk to almost everything—including Wegmans! Free parking is available immediately outside the center or in the parking garage across the street—weekdays, 8 a.m.–5 p.m., the first two hours free; the all-day rate is capped at $6; nights and weekends are free.

The Welcome Center is also home to the NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center—free for visitors to explore. Learn about everything this city offers and its role in the equal rights movement through immersive exhibits and knowledgeable, friendly staff.

Afterward, step outside to follow Harriet Tubman’s Lantern Trail—an immersive outdoor experience that will help you explore Auburn. While you can easily follow the trail to find each lantern and learn about Auburn through Tubman’s eyes, I recommend spending quality time at each stop; you may need to plan several day trips to enjoy each location thoroughly. Lantern stops include:

Seward House Museum Auburn NY
Seward House Auburn NY globe
Seward House Auburn NY original kitchen
Seward House Auburn NY library
Seward House Museum

The Seward House Museum is next door to the Heritage Center. This museum is the historic home of William H. Seward, who served as Secretary of State under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Seward’s most notable achievement as Secretary of State was the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, often referred to as “Seward’s Folly” by his contemporaries, who saw little value in the acquisition. Seward’s family and Harriet Tubman had a supportive relationship, and their lives intersected in their mutual commitment to the abolition of slavery and the pursuit of equal rights.

Willard Memorial Chapel back Auburn NY
Willard Memorial Chapel Auburn NY floor tiles
Willard Memorial
Willard Memorial Chapel alter Auburn NY

Next, drive to Willard Memorial Chapel—a rare example of the work of Louis C. Tiffany and Tiffany Glass and Decoration Company as the only complete and unaltered Tiffany chapel known to exist. You’ll learn so much on a guided tour, including that architect A. J. Warner designed the building. You’ll recognize Warner’s work in Rochester’s Powers Building, Downtown United Presbyterian Church, and Buffalo’s Richardson Olmsted Complex. But I digress.

Lunch

Sit down to a delicious lunch at Mesa Grande Taqueria, Bambino’s Pizza, Seb’s Green Shutters, Wegmans, or Café 108—a community gathering space that provides healthy, sustainably grown, delightful food where every dollar spent in the cafe directly supports the Auburn Public Theater.

Treat yourself to a sweet from Gretchen’s Confections or Moonflower Macarons. I’m happy that someone told me about 3 Leaf Tea before my last visit, where I purchased a few packets of Macha to take home and enjoy.

Afternoon

Auburn is home to exceptional galleries and museums. Explore a few and plan to come back to see more. Some are within walking distance of the Auburn Welcome Center, while others require a short drive. Check out our Google Map at the bottom of this guide to visualize how these are related spatially.

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park tour
Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Negroes
Harriet Tubman National Historical Park introduction
Tubman Home Visitor Center
Harriet Tubman Home
Tubman’s Home

There are three notable buildings at the Harriet Tubman Home site: the Visitor Center, where your tour starts; the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Negroes, which you can enter during the tour; and Tubman’s Home, which is viewable from the outside only. According to the National Park Service website, Harriet Tubman lived in the brick residence on this site from about 1882 until a few years before her death.

The Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. is an independent non-profit organization that manages and operates Tubman’s homestead. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church established it to share Harriet Tubman’s core values with visitors through two 90-minute guided property tours offered Tuesday through Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. by appointment only. The historic building is only accessible through the guided tour. Conversely, the grounds are open until 4:00 p.m. 180 South St., Auburn, Cayuga County, (315) 882-8060.

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church Auburn NY
AME Zion NPS

The National Historical Park’s Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church and parsonage are currently undergoing restoration and rehabilitation. The buildings are closed to the public but are expected to open in 2024. 47 Parker Street, Auburn, Cayuga County, (315) 568-0024.

Fort Hill Cemetery Harriet Tubman Davis gravesite Auburn NY
Fort Hill Cemetery

Harriet Tubman’s grave is across the street from the church in Fort Hill Cemetery.

Cayuga Museum of History Art
Case Research Lab Cayuga Museum of History Art lab
Case Research Lab Cayuga Museum of History Art
Cayuga Museum of History Art curved Tiffany glass window
Cayuga Museum of History Art

Founded in 1936, the Cayuga Museum of History and Art operates three buildings on site—the Willard-Case mansion, where you can view rotating and permanent displays of local art and the history of Cayuga County; the Carriage House Theater, a renovated 1850s carriage house, which now operates as a multi-arts space; and the Case Research Lab where the first successful system of sound on film (talking movies) was invented.

Schweinfurth Art Center Auburn NY
Schweinfurth Art Center

Next door to the Cayuga Museum is the Schweinfurth Art Center. [Galleries closed until Aug. 31, 2024.] This multi-arts facility hosts several exhibitions annually, including the member show in September and Art=Quilt=Art in December. The center features rotating exhibits, art classes, workshops, and other events that promote an understanding and appreciation of the visual arts.

Ward W. O’Hara Agricultural and Country Living Museum offers a glimpse into the region’s agricultural history and rural life. It features antique farm tools, equipment, and household items from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, illustrating the daily lives of the region’s inhabitants during that period.

Moros Table Auburn NY
Moro’s Table

Dinner

Auburn offers many delightful dining options. I recommend trying Moro’s Table, Osteria Salina, Prison City Brewing, Parker’s Grille, or A.T. Walley & Co.

Auburn Public Theater
Auburn NY architecture
City of Auburn Falcon Park
Merry-Go-Round Playhouse Auburn NY

Evening

End your fabulous day in Auburn with a performance at the Auburn Public Theater or the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse. Or head to Falcon Park to cheer on the Auburn Doubledays—the country’s only city-owned professional baseball team.

Owasco Lake Auburn NY pier
Owasco Lake

Alternatively, enjoy a relaxing sunset stroll through Emerson Park down the pier and along the shore of Owasco Lake.

Extraordinary Architecture

I enjoy walking down Genesee, South, State, and William Streets, among others, and admiring the buildings. Here are a few of my favorites.

Auburn NY architecture
Auburn NY architecture
Auburn NY architecture
Auburn NY architecture
Auburn NY architecture
Auburn NY architecture
Auburn NY architecture

Signature Events

Founder’s Day Festival

Mid-August

Auburn’s annual Founders Day Festival is a history-themed event filled with outdoor activities. The festival includes a classic car cruise-in, live music, and a block party featuring downtown restaurants and merchants. These events will be held at various locations in the city.

CNY TomatoFest

Early September

Enjoy an afternoon filled with food, music, and local vendors. Admission is free, and canned and nonperishable food donations are collected for Cayuga County food pantries at all festival entry sites.

Google Map of Locations

View the map here.

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Where are your favorite places to visit in Auburn?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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