Aurora: Outdoor Fun and Urban Amenities


As the state’s third-largest city, Aurora offers visitors a mix of urban conveniences and outdoor recreation opportunities surrounded by natural beauty. From hiking trails with mountain views to a burgeoning local food scene, Aurora is a great place that provides authentic local experiences paired with family-friendly attractions.


  • Aurora is a popular Denver suburb that provides urban amenities and a small-town charm.
  • Outdoor recreation abounds with access to iconic drives like Trail Ridge Road and hiking on Independence Pass.
  • The city offers a range of kid-friendly activities like museums and summer camps.
  • Aurora has a growing local food scene with diverse cuisine.
  • Accommodations cater to different budgets and preferences.

Overview of Aurora

Aurora lies along the South Platte River just east of Denver, putting it close to the amenities of Colorado’s capital city while retaining its own unique identity. Aurora is a populous city, nearing 400,000 people. It provides the benefits of an urban area while avoiding the high costs and congestion of central Denver.

The city offers convenient access to attractions like the Denver Zoo and landmarks such as Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre just beyond city limits. Within Aurora itself, highlights range from wide-open spaces like Cherry Creek State Park to cultural institutions like the Aurora Fox Arts Center presenting theater and musical performances.

Visitors can experience Aurora’s natural side through activities like hiking the trails of Deer Trail Park or taking in scenic views of the Rocky Mountains from stops along the Santa Fe Rail Trail. The city also provides opportunities for mountain biking, golfing, paddleboarding, and other outdoor recreation. Aurora’s diverse terrain allows adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts to explore sandstone rock formations, open prairies, wooded parks, and wetland areas – all within city boundaries.

Local Experiences and Culture

Beyond the natural landscapes, Aurora also offers visitors authentic local experiences through its vibrant mix of cuisine, arts, and community events. The city’s diversity shines through in the array of cuisine options, ranging from longtime Mexican and Salvadoran establishments to more recent additions like Korean barbecue joints, Halal carts, and Ethiopian restaurants.

For those looking to dive deeper into Aurora’s cultural offerings, options include the Vintage Theatre with live comedic and dramatic performances or the Aurora Fox Arts Center presenting musicals and experimental theater. Visitors can also experience local art at venues like the Michael Warren Contemporary Gallery or catch an indie film screening at the Aurora Movie Bistro.

Several community events also showcase local culture, such as the Global Fest World Music Festival held at Aurora’s Central Park in summer or the Aurora Fox’s yearly “Day of the Dead” celebration. Through these events and experiences, visitors can embrace Aurora’s multiculturalism and community spirit.

Seasonal Activities and Events

Aurora provides year-round opportunities to experience the city’s natural surroundings while also highlighting seasonal events and activities.

During summer, popular options include hiking Colorado’s iconic 14,000-foot peaks accessible from Trail Ridge Road or walking the lush wildflower trails of Rocky Mountain National Park, entering from the east through Estes Park. Visitors can also embark on summer family vacations centered around Aurora attractions like Water World water park or the family-friendly dinosaurs exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Fall offers its own allures in the region, with visitors flocking to the mountain towns of Breckenridge and Aspen to take in the golden hues of fall foliage. Aurora provides easy access to drive through the Rocky Mountains via Independence Pass and Guanella Pass Scenic Byway, where travelers can witness the blazing yellow Aspen trees and other fall colors. Locally, Aurora’s parks and open spaces also shine in autumn, with walking paths surrounded by the changing leaves.

As winter nears, Aurora serves as a home base for Denver adventures like ice skating on the 16th Street pedestrian mall or visiting the festive Christkindl Market. Breckenridge transforms into a winter wonderland perfect for skiing and snowboarding, while closer options like Eldora Mountain Resort offer Aurora visitors slopes just a short drive away.

Spring welcomes opportunities for whitewater rafting on the Colorado River accessed via the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Closer to home, Cherry Creek State Park offers sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding as the ice thaws. Whether seeking winter snowsports, colorful fall vistas or warmer-weather water recreation, Aurora provides easy access to quintessential Colorado seasonal activities.

Outdoor Adventures

Surrounded by natural beauty and iconic landscapes, Aurora spoils outdoor adventurers with a long list of trails, parks, and open spaces ready for exploration. Visitors can access an extensive network of hiking and biking paths right from downtown Aurora, including the scenic High Line Canal. For an extended bike ride, the Cherry Creek Bike Path takes cyclists from the outskirts of Aurora through the heart of Denver.

Just beyond city limits, opportunities abound for scenic drives through the Rocky Mountains. Trail Ridge Road, perhaps Colorado’s most famous drive, winds its way through Rocky Mountain National Park for 48 miles of mountains, forests, and alpine tundra. Independence Pass offers another picturesque journey through the mountains, traversing the Continental Divide along Highway 82.

For hiking amongst mountain vistas, options from Aurora range from moderate trails like Maxwell Falls in Evergreen to challenging routes like the path leading to the 14,000-foot summit of Quandary Peak. Rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, and multi-day excursions are all possible, and Aurora provides easy access to iconic Colorado peaks and landscapes. Whether seeking peaceful strolls or heart-pumping adventures, the city’s diversity of terrain guarantees memorable outdoor experiences.

Family and Kid-Friendly Activities

With family-oriented attractions and kid-centric events, Aurora entices visitors of all ages. Interactive museums like the Children’s Museum of Denver and the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum provide hands-on educational experiences. In summer, families can enjoy events like Aurora’s Fourth of July celebration at the Aurora Municipal Center Great Lawn with live music and fireworks.

For outdoor-loving families, the area provides opportunities like horseback riding at Cherry Creek State Park or hiking kid-friendly trails like the Beaver Brook Canyon Loop near Golden. In winter, tubing and sledding hills offer snowy fun at locations like Ruby Hill Park and Adventure Hill within city limits.

With attractions ranging from amusement parks like the Elitch Gardens Theme Park to more educational destinations like the Denver Botanic Gardens, Aurora appeals to kids’ diverse interests. The city also provides the starting point for memorable Rocky Mountain family vacations, whether its summer lake adventures or winter ski getaways. From toddlers to teenagers, Aurora offers activities sure to entertain – and educate – visitors of all ages.

Culinary Journey

Aurora’s dining scene provides flavors from around the world, with authentic ethnic cuisine and contemporary interpretations. Visitors can sample Salvadoran pupusas, Korean barbecue, or Ethiopian injera bread with spicy stews, all within city limits. Aurora’s proximity to Denver also opens up options for farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, and sweet shops.

For an authentic taste of Mexico, long-standing local favorite La Cueva has served homestyle favorites for over 20 years. Salvadorean restaurant Pupuseria y Antojitos Salvadorenos Máizal attracts crowds for its stuffed corn pupusas filled with ingredients like pork, cheese and beans.

Korean BBQ joint Dae Gee Korean Grill sizzles meats and banchan side dishes on tabletop grills, while Lem Ethiopian Restaurant provides a change of pace with spongy injera bread and wats like Shiro stew with chickpeas. Aurora’s diverse culinary options allow visitors to dine their way around the world without ever leaving the city.

Accommodation and Lodging

Aurora welcomes visitors with a range of lodging options to meet different needs and budgets. Nationwide hotel chains provide convenient and comfortable stays at locations near top attractions, while independent hotels and inns give a taste of local charm.

The city’s proximity to Denver International Airport makes Aurora a practical first or last stop for Colorado travelers. Those seeking luxury can choose from brand hotels like the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center with its indoor water park and atrium, while budget-focused visitors may opt for chains like the Hampton Inn Denver-Airport offering free breakfast and shuttle service.

For a local feel, The Fitzsimmons Hotel, situated on the former Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center campus, provides historical character with contemporary amenities. Boutique hotels like LIV Inn Suites combine uniqueness with green building initiatives.

With choices spanning from national hotel flags to cozy inns, Aurora visitors can find ideal places to stay, whether seeking familiar chains, a one-of-a-kind atmosphere, or affordability.

Planning Your Visit

Aurora’s convenient location makes getting to and around the city a breeze, with plenty of options for creating memorable itineraries. The city’s proximity to Denver International Airport provides easy air access, while its transit system includes convenient light rail and bus options. Travelers can also take advantage of ride share services like Uber or Lyft available throughout the area.

Once in Aurora, driving provides freedom to access surrounding adventures with rental cars readily available. Travelers can also utilize the Regional Transportation District (RTD) rail and bus system to navigate Aurora and connect to downtown Denver. Within city limits, the Aurora City Cab provides transportation comparable to ride shares.

Ideal times to visit Aurora depend on travelers’ interests, with mild weather and summer events appealing to many tourists while others prefer fall colors or winter sports adventures. Whenever visiting, travelers can fill their itinerary with a mix of relaxation and sightseeing, enjoying Aurora’s blend of urban amenities and connections to Colorado’s natural wonders.


What are the best outdoor activities in Aurora?

From hiking and biking to scenic drives accessing iconic routes, Aurora provides countless outdoor recreation options. Top picks include cycling the Cherry Creek Bike Path, experiencing views along Trail Ridge Road, and hiking kid-friendly routes like Beaver Brook Canyon.

What is there to do in Aurora with kids?

Hands-on museums, amusement parks, events like 4th of July celebrations, outdoor activities like horseback riding and tubing, and summer family vacations give Aurora wide appeal for families and kids. Top attractions range from the Children’s Museum of Denver to Water World water park.

Where can I find local cuisine in Aurora?

Authentic ethnic restaurants like Salvadorean pupusas, longtime Mexican joints, Korean BBQ eateries, and Ethiopian restaurants showcase Aurora’s culinary diversity. The city also provides easy access to Denver’s farm-to-table and craft beer scenes.

What kind of lodging is available in Aurora?

Visitors can select from major hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott to independent inns and boutique hotels, with options meeting various budgets. Luxury resorts, affordable chains, and unique stays are all readily available.

How do I get to Aurora and get around while visiting?

Aurora is conveniently located near Denver International Airport, providing easy air access. Once in the city, the light rail connects to downtown Denver, buses and taxis offer transportation, and driving allows freedom to access surrounding adventures.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.