As Colorado’s third-largest city and one of the best Denver suburbs, it’s no surprise that you’ll find fun things to do in Aurora. However, Aurora is often overlooked by tourists due to its proximity to the state’s capital.
But Aurora is full of hidden gems which I uncover in this article. Learn where to find outdoor recreation, historical sites, delicious food, and much more.
Table of Contents
- 21 Best Things to Do in Aurora
- Cherry Creek State Park
- Beyond the Blackboard
- Plains Conservation Center
- The Aurora Fox Arts Center
- Aurora Reservoir
- Morrison Nature Center
- Ethiopian Food
- Dry Dock Brewing
- Aurora History Museum
- Red-tailed Hawk Park
- Barr Lake State Park
- Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center
- Day in Denver
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
- Stanley Marketplace
- Bally’s Arapahoe Park
- 12 Mile Stables
- Stampede Club
- FAQs About Aurora Attractions
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21 Best Things to Do in Aurora
Cherry Creek State Park
Go boating, hiking, horseback riding, or ice fishing at this large state park.
Cherry Creek State Park is one of the best state parks in Colorado, and there is so much you can do here! In the winter, you can hike, cross-country ski, ice skate, sled, or ice fish. In summer, you can swim or paddleboard in Cherry Creek Reservoir, or bring your pup to the dog park.
There is also camping available at the park year-round. Proximity to the city and modern amenities make it some of the best camping near Denver.
Enjoy the variety of attractions at this open-air mall and lifestyle center.
Southlands in southeast Aurora is one of the nicest malls in Denver. You can spend time browsing the shops, grabbing coffee, or enjoying seasonal activities. There’s ice skating in winter and concerts in summer in the open spaces of the mall.
Beyond the Blackboard
Browse a toy store that’s loved by teachers and kids equally.
This local Colorado store at Southlands was started by two sisters. They’ve filled their store with games, science kits, art projects, and other educational toys that kids will love. It also has products for teachers to use in the classroom. The staff is happy to help both adults and kids find games and toys that are so much fun.
📚 Related Reading: 23 Fun Things to Do in Denver With Kids
Plains Conservation Center
Learn about life on the plains throughout history.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 326-8380 | Plains Conservation Center Website | Summer Hours: 6:30 am – 4:30 pm Mon – Thurs, 6:30 am – 6 pm Fri, 8 am – 6 pm Sat & Sun; Winter Hours: 6:30 am – 4:30 pm Mon – Fri, 8 am – 4:30 pm Sat & Sun | Entrance: Free
Although most people think of the Rocky Mountains when they think of Colorado, a large part of the state is plains. At the Plains Conservation Center, you’ll learn how Native Americans survived and lived in the area. You’ll also learn about the local plants and wildlife that make the flatlands their home.
Visit this city south of Denver with a small-town feel.
Parker has preserved its small-town feel, and you can spend a fun day exploring all that Parker has to offer! Shop downtown, take a hike, or skate the Parker Ice Trail in winter. There’s also a great dining scene in Parker, including restaurants, breweries, wine-tasting rooms, and more.
The Aurora Fox Arts Center
See a play in a historic, post-WWII theater.
This vintage theater was built as a movie theater in 1946, and the 61-foot neon sign makes it an iconic Aurora spot. Today, you can see plays, musicals, and other live shows at the Aurora Fox Arts Center.
Go paddleboarding, jetskiing, or even scuba diving at this local swimming hole.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 326-8425 | Aurora Reservoir Website | Summer Hours: 5 am – 9:30 pm daily; Fall Hours: 6:30 am – 7:30 pm daily; Winter Hours: 7 am – 6 pm daily; Spring Hours: 6:30 am – 8 pm daily | Entrance: $10 vehicle pass weekdays & non-peak season; $15 summer weekends & holidays
The Aurora Reservoir is one of the best lakes near Denver where you can cool off on a hot summer day! After the ice thaws, boats with electric motors (no gas) and non-motorized boats are allowed on the reservoir until the end of November. You can also swim, fish, go scuba diving, and visit the archery range.
Morrison Nature Center
Meet a bull snake and salamander and wander the Star K Ranch area.
The Morrison Nature Center has hands-on activities to help kids learn about the local wildlife. There are field guides and exhibits to educate adults as well.
The surrounding Star K Ranch area features trails and a self-guided history tour. When visiting, be sure to stop by the observation area overlooking the wetlands.
Try mouth-watering dishes along Havana Street.
Aurora has a large Ethiopian community, and there are several great restaurants along Havana Street. Here, you can sample some of the cuisine’s most iconic foods. Try Addis Ababa, Megenagna, Eatopia, Cozy Cafe, or Golf 1st Grocery (which is also a restaurant) for a delicious meal.
👉 Pro Tip: There are also incredible restaurants in nearby Denver — check out our complete list!
Dry Dock Brewing
Wet your whistle with a delicious craft beer.
We take our beer seriously here in Colorado, and Dry Dock is no exception! Head to South Dock to try a few beers, get a tour, or play shuffleboard and board games near the fireplace. North Dock has a tasting room, indoor patio, pizza, and an 18-hole disc golf course.
🍺 Love Craft Beer? Bookmark Abigail’s guide to the best Denver breweries!
Aurora History Museum
Learn about the history of Colorado’s third-biggest city.
The Aurora History Museum has interesting exhibits that describe the area’s past. The museum overviews women’s contributions to Aurora, as well as Aurora’s Ethiopian and Mexican communities. Head here to learn what makes one of Colorado’s best cities unique.
📚 Related Reading: 17 Best Museums in Denver, by a Local (in 2023)
Red-tailed Hawk Park
Play horseshoes, walk the Piney Creek Trail, or cool off at the “sprayground”.
This local park has access to the Piney Creek trail, plus sand volleyball courts, a baseball backstop, bocce courts, and horseshoe pits. In summer, kids can cool off at the splash park for a fun afternoon.
Barr Lake State Park
Spot nesting eagles and other wildlife at this nearby state park.
Barr Lake State Park is about a half hour drive from Aurora, and is worth the trip! You can walk or bike along the lake, go fishing or kayaking, and visit the nature center.
But here, the real draw is the many bald eagles that winter at the park. One couple stays to nest and raise its eagle babies at Barr Lake each year! If you have binoculars, you’ll want to bring them along.
🥾 Love the Outdoors? Bookmark our guide to the best hikes near Denver!
Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center
Stay and play near DIA.
This resort and convention center is close to Denver International Airport. It’s a great place to stay just after you arrive or before you leave Colorado.
Swim in the year-round indoor and outdoor pools, float the lazy river, or hop on the waterslides in summer! You can also get pampered at the spa or relax by the campfire. There are also shows and seasonal entertainment throughout the year.
For more unique accommodation options in Aurora, see my guide to the best places to stay in Aurora.
👉 Don’t Miss: If you’re visiting the Denver area, bookmark Nate’s guide to the best Denver hotels.
Day in Denver
Make the short drive to the Mile High City and spend the day exploring.
Aurora is next to Denver, so it’s definitely worth setting aside a day or two to explore Colorado’s biggest city. Venture into various Denver neighborhoods to enjoy the local culture, and check out top area attractions. These include Wings Air & Space Museum, Meow Wolf Convergence Station, and the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Check out a unique natural area just minutes from the Big City.
This was a chemical weapons manufacturing site for 50 years before becoming a refuge for bison, birds, deer, coyotes, and other wild animals. Take the 11-mile Wildlife Drive or explore the many hiking trails at the park.
Shop, eat, and drink at this former aviation plant.
The Stanley Marketplace is housed in an aviation manufacturing building and has kept its 1950’s feel from when the plant was opened. Now, it’s full of trendy shops, restaurants, gyms, a marketplace, and more.
Bally’s Arapahoe Park
Spend a day at the races.
Head to the horse races at Bally’s and spend a day cheering (and perhaps betting) on the ponies as they run. Kids under 18 are always free but must be with an adult. Fancy hats are not required, but come on — wouldn’t they be fun?
Pop in for a little dessert.
Mochi donuts are a combo of mochi (Japanese rice cakes) and donuts. To try this tasty dessert hybrid, pop into Mochinut. This shop is in a strip mall with several great places to eat.
Drop by for dessert after dinner at Addis Ababa, or grab a cup of coffee at the attached coffee shop to go with your treat.
12 Mile Stables
Horseback ride through Cherry Creek State Park.
12 Mile Stables is located inside Cherry Creek State Park. Enjoy a 1-2 hour ride through the scenic park, or bring the kids for pony rides in the stable area. A sunset dinner ride includes beef brisket and tasty sides… along with an awesome view.
Go boot scootin’ at this lively local favorite.
This nightclub features West Coast Swing on Mondays, country music Wednesdays, and Latin music on the weekends. Learn to swing dance and line dance, or simply head to the Stampede for live music.
FAQs About Aurora Attractions
Is Aurora a nice city?
Aurora is a nice city. However, Aurora is very large, so while some parts have high crime, other areas of Aurora are very safe. Aurora features great outdoor parks, as well as areas for dining and shopping.
What is interesting about Aurora, Colorado?
What’s interesting about Aurora, Colorado is that it’s the state’s third-largest city. Given its size, it offers plenty to do, including outdoor activities and cultural attractions.
Cherry Creek State Park is in Aurora, with spots to swim, boat, hike, and even scuba dive. The Stanley Marketplace and Southlands mall are great places to shop. There are also fantastic places to eat or grab a drink in town.
Hopefully, this post has helped you to discover many things to do in Aurora! This city often gets overshadowed by Denver, but as you now know, there are activities in Aurora for every interest. Happy exploring!
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