Just east of Denver, the city of Aurora, Colorado, isn’t overshadowed by the state’s nearby capital city. With nearly 400,000 residents, Aurora is Colorado’s third-largest city, and it offers visitors plenty of places to see and things to do.
From its 1900s roots as a small farming town, Aurora’s economy was spurred a few decades later by a massive military presence in the World War II years, and in the 1970s, it was, for a time, America’s fastest-growing city.
Read on for a look at things to do in Aurora when you visit.
Arts and Culture in Aurora
If you like to explore the cultural life of places you visit, you won’t be disappointed with all of the things to do in Aurora. The city boasts a burgeoning arts district, museums and a symphony orchestra.
1. Aurora Symphony Orchestra
Formed in 1978, the Aurora Symphony Orchestra presented its first performance the next year and has maintained an impressive schedule ever since.
An all-volunteer organization, the Aurora Symphony Orchestra is an integral part of the city’s cultural life, and in the coming months, will be presenting works by Francis Poulenc, César Franck, and Antonín Dvorak.
2. Art in Public Places
Art in Public Places is a city initiative to get art in front of the public, including visitors to Aurora. Comprising 300 individual pieces, seeing the artworks in the city’s public spaces represents one of the more interesting things to do in Aurora.
Works include sculptures, murals and pieces integrated into the city’s architecture. For visitors, a map detailing the locations of the city’s public art pieces is available online.
3. Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
Just a few miles from the center of Aurora, in a hangar that had been part of the former Lowry Air Force Base, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is a must-see among things to do in Aurora.
The museum comprises more than 100,000 square feet of exhibits featuring aircraft, space vehicles, and other artifacts. Among the exhibits is a mock-up of the Apollo moon rocket’s command module, which was used in the 1960s for flotation tests.
Other exhibits include a moon rock from the Apollo 15 mission, a B-52 bomber, and a Douglas DC-3. For pre-planning your visit to the museum as one of your things to do in Aurora, tickets are available online.
Places to Tour in Aurora
As is to be expected in a diverse community, there are plenty of things a visitor can do to get a sense of what Aurora is all about. Read on for a brief look at three of the things to do in Aurora to learn about the community.
4. Aurora History Museum
The Aurora History Museum includes a collection of more than 30,000 photographs detailing the development of the city. Many of those photos are on display in the museum’s East Hallway.
But photographs aren’t all you’ll see. A centerpiece exhibit is a fully restored 1913 trolley that had trundled along the city’s streets.
Admission to the museum is free, and it is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays and holidays.
5. On Havana Street
The 4.3-mile stretch of Havana Street between 6th Avenue and Dartmouth Avenue called On Havana Street is the very definition of an inviting public space and must be on your list of things to do in Aurora. Visitors will find a variety of ethnic restaurants, along with international food markets and coffee shops.
On Havana Street hosts activities throughout the year, from car shows to outdoor concerts to cultural festivals. For a full sense of what you can expect from a visit to On Havana Street, check out the website.
6. The Colorado Freedom Memorial
Dedicated in May of 2013, the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Springhill Community Park is worth a visit to pay respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States.
The memorial is an abstract set of panels designed to invoke the Rocky Mountains and is inscribed with the names of the veterans it honors. Thousands of people have come to visit, taking time to pause and remember the veterans honored there.
Exploring Nature in Aurora
While Aurora features a vibrant city life, it also offers visitors some opportunities to connect with the natural world around them. Take a look at some of the things to do in Aurora to experience the outdoors.
7. Morrison Nature Center at Star K Ranch
Morrison Nature Center at Star K Ranch provides an opportunity among things to do in Aurora for young and old alike to see wildlife, including mule deer, turtles, coyotes, and a number of bird species while walking along the trail system at the ranch.
The Morrison Nature Center, on the other hand, provides a relaxed way to learn about the area’s natural history by curling up in a comfortable chair and reading one of the center’s many field guides and reference manuals and its selection of children’s books.
The Star K Ranch trail system is open daily from dawn to dusk, but hours at the Morrison Nature Center vary from season to season. Call (303) 326-8445 for the latest information on nature center hours.
8. Plains Conservation Center
The Plains Conservation Center covers more than 1,000 acres, featuring replicas of a homestead village and a Native American settlement from the late 1800s.
There is no admission charge for visiting the settlement replicas, hiking the trails, or touring the visitor center at the Plains Conservation Center, but there are charges for guided programs at the facility.
Hours at the center vary by season, so go online to check the schedule, and put it on your list of things to do in Aurora.
Youthful Things to Do in Aurora
If you’re bringing children with you to Aurora, there are plenty of things for them to do. Read on for some ideas on where to take the kids while you’re in Aurora.
9. Great Plains Park
An outdoor water playground is sure to make Great Plains Park a hit with youngsters needing to burn off some energy.
Other kid-friendly amenities at Great Plains Park that make it one of the things to do in Aurora include its playground, half-court basketball court, and fitness stations.
10. Bounce City
Bounce City is an indoor playground filled with a bounce house, slides, ride-on toys, and interactive games for youngsters up to 10 years of age.
All-day passes for children up to 2 years of age are available for $8.49, with all-day passes for older kids available for $10.99.
11. The 12 Mile Stables
Operating out of Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, 12 Mile Stables offers horse-riding experiences on 27 miles of trails and 3,000 acres of open space.
At 12 Mile Stables, you can take rides of varying duration, and youngsters can get an introduction to horses with a 20-minute pony ride. More information on making this stop one of your things to do in Aurora is available on the 12 Mile Stables website.
Shopping in Aurora
For many people, visiting a new place includes sampling its shopping opportunities. As with its other enticements to visitors, Aurora does not disappoint in terms of places to shop.
12. Stanley Marketplace
Stanley Marketplace comprises more than 50 independent businesses providing a variety of places for shopping, eating, drinking, and playing, and visiting is definitely one of the things to do in Aurora.
Among the unique shops you’ll find at Stanley Marketplace are Abstract, a streetwear and casual clothing store, the Goose & the Goat shoe and accessories store, and the Tattered Cover children’s bookstore.
Dining options at Stanely Marketplace include Chook Charcoal Chicken, Rolling Smoke BBQ, and Elita Specialty Market & Kitchen.
13. Southlands Shopping Center
Southlands offers great shopping and dining experiences among all the things to do in Aurora, along with a full slate of special events and programs throughout the year.
Southlands gets great reviews on Tripadvisor, including one visitor who called it “a fantastic place to go on a beautiful day to grab some ice cream or a coffee and just wander around.”
Dining in Aurora
If one measure of a great place is its restaurants, Aurora should be on your list of places to visit. Read on for a look a just a few of the places to dine in this Colorado city.
14. Rosie’s Diner
For an old-fashioned diner experience among things to do in Aurora, Rosie’s Diner is the place to go. Open daily from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., with breakfast served all day long, Rosie’s Diner offers a full menu of authentic diner fare.
Just a quick look at the menu shows everything from burgers and sandwiches to pork chops to spaghetti and meatballs to pot roast, with desserts including classics like peach cobbler and bread pudding.
Annette Scratch to Table was founded in 2016 by award-winning chef Caroline Glover, whose philosophy is to treat people who come in as if they were guests in her home.
The impressive menu at Annette includes a Wagyu beef burger, grouper bouillabaisse, and a roasted half chicken, while the wine list is both expansive and impressive. In terms of fine dining, a visit to Annette’s is definitely one of the things to do in Aurora.
Wrapping up Things to Do in Aurora
We hope this post has given you some idea of things to do in Aurora, Colorado. For more on exploring this country, check out Life in the USA.