Panoramic view of the Aurora skyline and snow covered landscape at a park, one of the best things to do in Aurora Colorado

21 Things to Do in Aurora (in 2023)

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. 

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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.

Panoramic view of the spacious backyard playground in Denver
Denver’s spacious backyard playground!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 690-1166 | Cherry Creek State Park Website | Hours: 5 am – 10 pm daily | Entrance: $11 vehicle pass

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.

View of the empty walkway near the shops in Southlands
There are shops, restaurants, and a movie theater at Southlands

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 627-5000 | Southlands Website | Hours: 10 am – 8 pm Mon – Thurs, 10 am – 9 pm Fri & Sat, 11 am – 6 pm Sun

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.

Colorful stickers on the glass window of Beyond the Blackboard
There are tons of toys and games inside!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 627-5791 | Beyond the Blackboard Website | Hours: 10 am – 6 pm Mon – Sat, 11 am – 5 pm Sun

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.

Panoramic view of the landscape of The Plains Conservation Center during winter
The Plains Conservation Center demonstrates the harshness of early life in Colorado

📍 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.

Beautiful sunset in the gazebo area of O’Brien Park in Parker
O’Brien Park is one of many fun places to visit in Parker

📍 Google Maps | Things to do in Parker

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.

The famous vintage sign outside the Aurora Fox Arts Center
You’ll spot the theater easily, thanks to this vintage sign!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 739-1970 | Aurora Fox Arts Center Website | Showtimes Vary 

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.

Aurora Reservoir

Go paddleboarding, jetskiing, or even scuba diving at this local swimming hole.

Thank you signage of Arapahoe Park & Aurora Reservoir in winter
The Aurora Reservoir is very close to Bally’s Arapahoe Park

📍 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.

Exterior and entrance view of Morrison Nature Center in winter
The Morrison Nature Center is open for exploring year-round!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 326-8445 | Morrison Nature Center Website | Hours: 12 pm – 4 pm Wed – Fri, 9 am – 4 pm Sat & Sun, Closed Mon & Tues | Entrance: Free

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. 

Ethiopian Food

Try mouth-watering dishes along Havana Street.

A huge sandwich from Golf 1st Grocery
A tasty (and spicy!) sandwich from Golf 1st Grocery

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 369-3111 | The French Press Website | Hours: 6:30 am – 3 pm Mon – Fri, 7 am – 3 pm Sat & Sun

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.

Façade of the Dry Dock Brewing
Dry Dock Brewing has two Aurora locations

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 400-5606 | Dry Dock Brewing Website | Hours: 11 am – 10 pm daily

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.

A yellow and red vintage trolley in Aurora History Museum
See a trolley and lots of artifacts from Aurora’s history!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 739-6660 | Aurora History Museum Website | Hours: 9 am – 4 pm Tues – Fri, 11 am – 4 pm Sat & Sun, Closed Mon | Entrance: Free

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”.

A colorful and whimsical kids’ playground in Red-tailed Hawk Park
The park has a colorful, whimsical kids’ playground

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 326-8650 | Red-tailed Hawk Park Website | Hours: 5 am – 11 pm daily

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.

View of lots of birds and Canada geese at Barr Lake State Park
Barr Lake attracts many birds including Canada geese and eagles

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 659-6005 | Barr Lake State Park Website | Hours: 5 am – 10 pm daily | Entrance: $10 vehicle pass

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.

Exterior view of the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center
Everything you need is on-site at Gaylord Rockies!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (720) 452-6900 | Gaylord Rockies Resort Website

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.

The author Laura Falin, taking a photo of the exterior of Colorado Capitol
Learn about the Colorado Capitol Building and more! 
View of the intricate interior of the Colorado Capitol

📍 Google Maps | Things to Do in Denver Guide | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

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.

View of the wild animals in the spacious landscape in Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
These guys make odd big-city neighbors!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 289-0930 | Rocky Mountain Arsenal Website | Hours: Sunrise – sunset daily | Entrance: Free

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best day trips from Denver or Aurora. It’s also one of the top free things to do in the Denver area

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. 

Stanley Marketplace

Shop, eat, and drink at this former aviation plant.

View of the retro-inspired exterior of Stanley Marketplace
The Stanley Marketplace is retro-cool, with restaurants and stores inside

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (720) 990-6743 | Stanley Marketplace Website | Hours: 7 am – 9 pm Sun – Wed, 7 am – 10 pm Thurs – Sat

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.

The author, Laura Falin taking a photo of herself at the Bally’s Arapahoe Park with an ongoing horse race in the background
My first day at the races!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 690-2400 | Arapahoe Park Website | Entrance: $5 Sun, Mon & Tues free for adults, free under 18

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.

The author Laura Falin posing with a donut
Am I doing it right?

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (720) 879-0611 | Mochinut Website  | Hours: 11 am – 9 pm daily

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.

Panoramic view of the horses in 12 Mile Stables
There are plenty of horses waiting to whisk you away

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 699-6128 | 12 Mile Stables Website | Hours: 8 am – 6 pm daily | Horse Rides: from $45; Pony Rides: $30

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. 

Stampede Club

Go boot scootin’ at this lively local favorite.

Exterior view of The Stampede Club and a bull statue outside
The Stampede Club is a great place for dancing and music

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 696-7686 | Stampede Club Website | Hours: 6 pm – 2 am Wed, 8 pm – 2 am Fri & Sat, 6 pm – 12 am Sun, Closed Mon, Tues & Thurs | Entrance: from $10

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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