Family Neighborhood Guide: Auburn Hills

Discover the best places to eat, shop and play with kids in Auburn Hills on your next family day out.

Known for its many unique retail, entertainment and recreation attractions, the sprawling suburban community of Auburn Hills has much to offer for families seeking a fun day out. 

Over the past few decades, Auburn Hills has grown as an economic leader in the area, home to more than 80 international corporations and 22 technology parks — including the U.S. headquarters of major automotive manufacturers like Stellantis, BorgWarner and Volkswagen — all while establishing itself as a vibrant community for families to live and visit. The city also houses the campus of Oakland Community College — and, partially, Baker College and Oakland University, which sit on the border of Auburn Hills and Rochester Hills — only adding to the area’s diversity and cultural richness.

Getting there

Auburn Hills is conveniently situated along I-75, making it easily accessible from the north and south, as well as along M-59 for east/west travel. Located roughly 30 miles north of Detroit in Oakland County, Auburn Hills is bordered by Orion Township, Rochester Hills, Bloomfield Township, Pontiac and Lake Angeles, and is about a 55-minute drive from Detroit Metro Airport. 

The city is also accessible by bus via the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) Fixed Route service lines 462, 790 and 796, according to smartbus.org.

Eat

Four Korners

This unassuming family diner is a popular spot for locals due to its small-town atmosphere, friendly staff and reasonably priced, yet tasty fare. The extensive menu includes all your typical Michigan Coney Island staples — like Greek salads, coney dogs and gyro pitas — along with its “famous” Reuben (filled with local Eastern Market corned beef), all-day breakfast and daily food specials. 

Lelli’s

Family-owned and operated since first opening the doors in Detroit in 1939, this essential metro Detroit restaurant — originally located at Woodward and West Grand Boulevard, offers the same authentic northern Italian fine dining experience as its landmark location did for more than 60 years. Featuring an upscale menu and specializing in cuisine served in a traditional, six-course European dining style, Lelli’s is sure to impress both families and foodies alike.

Makimoto Sushi Bar & Asian Kitchen

Known for its creative sushi rolls and beautifully adorned sushi boats, this Japanese-inspired spot located in Great Lakes Crossing Outlets has a broad menu featuring more traditional Japanese eats like the chirashi — sushi rice topped with assorted fish, masago and shiitake mushroom — as well as popular Korean dishes like bibimbap, a rice dish served in a sizzling stone bowl, topped with seasoned veggies and a choice of protein.

Rainforest Cafe

Located in Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, Rainforest Cafe is a great spot for families to enjoy American food with a tropical twist and a heaping side of fun. The jungle-inspired restaurant chain has a uniquely entertaining atmosphere — complete with animatronic animals and other jungle sounds that make you feel as though you’ve just set foot inside a tropical rainforest. 

Rangoli Indian Cuisine

Calling Auburn Hills home for more than 20 years, Rangoli is renowned in the area for its contemporary take on authentic Indian dishes. The family- and women-owned business uses only the “freshest, locally sourced ingredients” for its wide range of traditional Indian dishes and daily buffet, which many web reviews have confirmed is worth the drive.

Red Ox Tavern

With 50-plus TVs and more than 40 beers on tap, you won’t have to miss a single second of any game enjoyed at this upscale sports bar. The restaurant is equipped with an indoor fireplace for a cozy indoor atmosphere during the colder months and a covered, open-air patio with heaters and a fire pit for outdoor dining, so guests can comfortably enjoy Red Ox favorites like BBQ Baby Back Ribs or Chicken Pot Pie year-round.

Shop

Ava Lane Boutique

  • Where: Online-only, based in Auburn Hills

This women-owned, online-only retailer was founded in 2019 by a local elementary school teacher with the goal of “inspiring confidence through fashion for women of all ages, shapes and sizes.” Sourcing items as much as possible from local artisans and small businesses throughout the U.S., Ava Lane offers a unique assortment of clothing, accessories, home goods and more on its website and accompanying app, which can be downloaded at avalaneboutique.com.

Great Lakes Crossing Outlets

Boasting more than 185 shops, restaurants and attractions, Great Lakes Crossing Outlets is Michigan’s largest indoor outlet shopping center and entertainment venue. Anchored by popular retailers like Nordstrom Rack, Bass Pro Shops, Burlington, T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s, the shopping center offers an opportunity to shop a wide variety of retailers at outlet prices.

Play

Civic Center Park

From the sprawling nature trails, modern play structures and fishing pond to the multisports athletic field, nine-hole disc golf course, tennis courts and baseball diamond, there is no shortage of things to do at Civic Center Park. The park also offers a covered pavilion and picnic shelter with a fire pit that can be reserved in season.

Riverside Park

Located on the banks of the Clinton River, this popular downtown park makes the perfect gathering place for many community events during the summer months, including Summerfest and the city’s Downtown Music Series on Friday nights, which both take place at the park’s Knight Amphitheater, among many other events throughout the year. The park also features modern play structures, picnic tables, barbecue grills, a walking path along the river for visitors to enjoy, a canoe launch and a splash pad, which opens for the season on May 28. 

Explore

LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Known as “the ultimate indoor LEGO playground,” LEGOLAND Discovery Center features fun, interactive LEGO-themed activities for all ages. Build your own LEGO car and test it out on the test track in the Build & Test Zone or hop on the center’s two LEGO-themed rides, Kingdom Quest and Merlin’s Apprentice. And don’t forget to check out the Detroit-area landmarks, like the GM Renaissance Center and Fox Theatre, made from millions of LEGO bricks in MINILAND.

SEA LIFE Aquarium

Use our family guide and pay a visit to the many species of sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, Jellyfish and the 2,000 other sea creatures that call Michigan’s largest aquarium home. Located at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, SEA LIFE Aquarium has more than 10 interactive zones to explore. Dip your hand in the Touch Pool to feel a rough sea star, smooth crab or sticky sea anemone, or take a plunge into the state’s only underwater ocean tunnel for an up-close view of the aquarium’s largest shark, Florence.

Topgolf

Despite what you may think, you don’t have to be a golfer to have fun here. People of all ages and skill levels come from around the state to check out Michigan’s only Topgolf location, a three-level sports complex featuring a high-tech golf game that can be played year-round with more than 100 climate-controlled hitting bays. Help your child improve their swing by enrolling them in group (ages 6-12) or individual (ages 17 and under) lessons, or just kick back and enjoy the wide selection of games, rooftop terrace and “chef-driven” menu and drink offerings with friends and family.


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