Surin's main claim to fame is Elephants - in particular as the home of the Surin Elephant Festival, which takes place annually in November. It is also a good set-off point to visit the Khmer ruins at Phanom Rung Historical Park, or to visit the craft villages in the outlying areas of the province.
Although elephants play an almost sacred place in Thai and Khmer cultures, the 10-day festival appears little more than a massive circus act and an opportunity to commercially exploit these beautiful creatures. You can volunteer at the nearby Surin Project which aims to get elephants away from this way of life, although note that visits to the Surin Project are 7-day blocks.
Outside of the festival period, you will still be bombarded by Surin's famous - or infamous connections with elephants. The metal street signs contain engravings of elephants, and there are a number of silly elephant statues scattered throughout the town. The nearby silk weaving village of Ban Tha Sawang is a nice day trip.
If you’re not heading to the Surin Project, then a full day here is enough to see the sights.
Modern day Surin is a medium-sized city and is the capital of the province of the same name. There is nothing left of the ancient Khmer city, but the city's heritage can still be found in the local population, many of whom are ethnic Khmer and still speak the Khmer language.