From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
The third largest city in Colorado and a bustling center for dining, shopping, and cultural exhibits, Aurora is so much more than a suburb of Denver: it’s its whole own thing. With a preponderance of green spaces and sports fields, a wide array of restaurants serving global cuisines, and a thriving theater scene, there are plenty of reasons to dally in Aurora… and we’re here to help you do it as well as possible.
Whether you’ve called Aurora home for some time or you’re just getting ready to arrive, there’s so much to see, do, and explore in this special city. Read on to learn about our favorite state parks, hikes, restaurants, things to do, and more, including wellness necessities like spas, salons, gyms and yoga studios.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Colorful Colorado is considered the adventure capital of America by many — and those lucky enough to call Aurora home base know why. Here are just a few of the amazing state and national parks in very close proximity to Aurora, CO.
A day-use park less than an hour’s drive from Aurora, Castlewood Canyon State Park is known for hosting the remains of the Castlewood Canyon Dam, which burst back in 1933. The historic Cherry Creek Bridge is also located inside this park, and makes for an excellent spot for a photoshoot.
Covering more than 3,800 acres and featuring stunning views of the Rockies and their foothills, Chatfield State Park is named after Isaac W. Chatfield, one of the first settlers to arrive to this area back in the 1850s. Originally attempting to cultivate the land for farming, Chatfield was thwarted by several disastrous South Platte River floods, and so sold the land to the state, which turned it into the park and preserve we know today.
Whether you’re looking to hike, bike paddle, fish, or just plain explore, Cherry Creek State Park is a popular outdoor recreation option for folks from across the Denver metro area. And by the way, summer isn’t the only great time to visit: in winter, this wonderland is perfect for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing!
Clocking in at nearly 4,000 acres of beautiful Colorado wilderness, Roxborough State Park is beloved for its dramatic red-rock formations and wide variety of plant and animal life. The park is an excellent place for day hiking, but camping is not allowed — and neither is mountain biking, rock climbing or horseback riding. These are delicate ecosystems we’re trying to preserve1
One visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, and you’ll understand why John Denver called in the Colorado Rocky Mountain High. Along with the actual, physical effects of altitude, even a simple drive through this epic skyline can make you feel buzzed, let alone all the incredible day hiking and backcountry camping options.
One of the most awesome things about living in Aurora: you don’t have to go very far at all to find yourself in outdoor wonderland. Here are just a few of the best hiking trails in the greater Aurora, CO area.
Cherry Creek State Park is a popular, nearby option for folks in Aurora looking to get away from it all on the double. And the Cherry Creek Reservoir Loop Trail is the perfect place to see it all from your own two feet: running almost nine miles altogether and seeing only 300 feet in elevation gain, this is long, flat, and a great starting place for those looking to get their hiking legs underneath them.
A moderate hike that still offers a serious amount of adventure, the Green Mountain, Rooney Valley and Rooney Trail Loop runs just under six miles and sees a little less than 1,000 feet in elevation gain. Translation: you’ll definitely work up a sweat, but you’ll be smiling the whole way. Located in William F. Hayden Green Mountain Park, just a few miles outside of Aurora.
Long and ambling, the Waterton Canyon Trail runs a total of a little more than 12 miles out and back, seeing a relatively tame 700 feet of elevation gain (which, over that kind of mileage, is pretty gradual). Tucked into Chatfield State Park, this trail is a great option for a hiker looking for something long and leisurely, or for trail runners looking to go the distance.
For serious adventurers only, the Indian Creek and Stevens Gulch Loop runs a grand total of 19.2 miles and sees nearly 4,000 feet in elevation gain — so be sure you’re prepared! If you are, however, this trail is a great deep backcountry option that’s perfect for backpacking, trail running, and mountain biking (if you’re seasoned!).
Ranked “moderate” in difficulty by Colorado standards, the North Table Mountain and Rim Rock Loop runs just over eight miles and sees about 1,100 feet in elevation gain. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with sweeping valley views and beautiful wildflowers (when they’re in season). This trail is dog-friendly, too — just make sure you keep Fido on a leash!
Even the heartiest adventurers have to stop to eat at some point. If you’re ready to get your grub on, we recommend these excellent Aurora restaurants.
Tired of Mexican and Asian, but still in the mood for something a little spicy and exotic? If you’ve yet to try Ethiopian cuisine, you’re in for a treat — and The Nile Ethiopoian Restaurant is the perfect place to treat yourself. It may not have much of an online presence, but once you walk in and smell the delicious aroma of its dishes, you’ll realize that doesn’t matter. (And no, the lack of silverware isn’t by mistake: in traditional Ethiopian dining, food is scooped directly on pieces of a large flatbread known as injira.)
From classic breakfast dishes to handmade milkshakes to a surprisingly vast number of vegetarian options, Rosie’s Diner is the perfect place to take a trip back in time… and a trip to flavortown, all at once. From starting the day with a hearty omelette to enjoying a juicy burger or hot dog, all your favorite traditional diner dishes are available!
Offering both Korean hot pot and Japanese sushi, Seoul BBQ and Sushi offers a vast and varied dining experience, sure to please every member of your party. Lunch is served on weekdays and dinner is available seven days a week, so just about anytime is a great time to give this place a shot!
Sometimes, nothing will do except Italian — and when you’re feeling like something hearty and carby, we highly recommend heading to Bent Noodle. Serving up classics in a simple, yet elegant dining room, this place is all about offering your favorites, plain and simple… and scrumptious.
This little market is my go-to for Indian ingredients. It’s a little cramped and the prices are a tad higher than your average Indian grocery store, but it’s family owned and full of spices, pantry staples, and regional specialties that you definitely won’t be able to get at Whole Foods or King Soopers. They also have some fresh prepared food options and a small dining area – try the pani puri.
Dry Dock is a craft brewery in Aurora with a relaxed yet lively taproom. Their Sour Apricot beer is a crowd pleaser; the perfect balance of sweet and sour with a bright and fruity flavor. If you’re looking to take your love of craft beer to the next level, check out the Brew Hut next door, where they offer supplies and classes on all manner of at-home brewing tactics.
Denver has an unfortunate shortage of good Indian food, but thankfully this gem isn't too far out of the way. Whatever you do, make sure to try the masala dosa, which will make your day for only $7.50. This place is also a really great bet for folks who are vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten-free.
Dining and discovering the great outdoors are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the top things to do in Aurora. No matter what kinds of experiences you’re after, and whether you’re spending a weekend or a lifetime, here are some of the best ways to explore Aurora.
Aurora is a great place to adventure with the kiddos. Here are some family-friendly activities to add to your to-do list.
Show us a kid who isn’t obsessed with horses — or an adult who couldn’t benefit from a relaxing ride through the countryside themselves. There are a variety of awesome spots that will cater to all your trail riding and horseback riding lesson needs in and around Aurora; one of the best-loved and highest ranked is 12 Mile Stables.
Aircraft are fascinating for explorers of all ages, and the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum will give you a comprehensive overview of the history of aviation as we know it today. This museum is also home to one of the most realistic flight simulators in America, an experience that can send you soaring even with both feet planted firmly on the ground.
While we all know there’s plenty to do in Aurora during the daytime hours, what about after night falls? Here are just a couple of date-night opportunities from the many available.
A night at the movies is pretty much always a win — but even more so when it’s accompanied by gourmet eats that far outstrip popcorn and candy. Movie Tavern is known for its comfortable seating, large and luxurious menu, and big screens playing all the have-to-see hits. (And don’t worry, you can definitely get popcorn, too.)
Think bowling is what you do when you’ve run out of what-to-do options? Think again. One trip to Punch Bowl Social and you’ll be singing the praises of all things bowling — not least because the lanes are accompanied by a full-service restaurant serving up everything from brunch to dinner, and other games such as life-size Jenga and shuffleboard to choose from.
Sometimes, it can feel like exploring a city is a big pain in the butt — the butt pocket, that is. Here are some things to do in Aurora that aren’t cost-free, but can be pretty darn cheap.
Whether you’re fascinated with the fossils that lie deep under Earth’s surface or thinking in much broader terms by gazing up toward the stars, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science has a way of showing visitors exactly how it all hangs together in this amazing universe of ours, from the microscopic to the macroscopic. General admission tickets start at $18.95 but do go up slightly during peak visiting times, and special exhibits, IMAX showings and planetarium entry are separate. (Well worth your money, though!)
A sprawling outdoor shopping center featuring all the biggest and best names, Southlands Mall offers almost 200 stores and vendors — many of whom regularly offer incredible deals that will feel more like steals. You can also just head on down to wander around and engage in some people-watching, which is not just satisfying, but also completely free of charge.
It’s true: there are some great things to do in Aurora that are absolutely free! Here are a couple of our favorite options.
Aurora is a fascinating community with an equally fascinating history behind it. The Aurora History Museum allows visitors to get an up-close-and-personal understanding of that legacy — all without charging an admission fee.
Along with the state parks and hiking opportunities listed above, Aurora is chock full of even more regional parks and green spaces. Some community favorites include:
Everyone needs to be pampered now and then. Here are some of the best salons and day spas in Aurora when you need some me time.
Offering relaxing and rejuvenating massage and facial treatments in a warm and inviting atmosphere, Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa is committed to helping guests find relaxation, comfort, and healing. They’ve also got some great introductory offers to help you do it all without breaking the bank!
In need of a massage or facial? Or perhaps it’s time to spice up your hair color, cut, or style? From mani/pedis to waxing to red light therapy, Transformations Spa & Salon has you covered… and yes, you’re going to look as well as feel transformed when you step out.
Hitting the gym (or the mat) is about so much more than what you look like: It’s about how you feel and how you walk through your life. Here are the best gyms and yoga studios for those looking to get their sweat on in Aurora.
If you’re looking for a no-frills, down-to-business fitness facility, Powerhouse Gym Aurora might be exactly what you’re looking for. Offering a wide range of equipment as well as personal training and nutrition coaching, the professionals at this spot will get you to your goals in no time flat.
“Where body meets heart” is where you’ll find yourself at Kindness Yoga Stanley Marketplace, which is a yoga community dedicated to helping guide clients through a kind and strengthening practice. Offering a variety of membership packages as well as a free trial period if you’re not quite sure you’re on board yet, this is a great place to start or continue your yoga journey.
Sure, you won’t be bored if you stay in Aurora, proper… but meanwhile, there are so many other amazing things to see and do in the area! Here are some of the best day trips to take while you’re calling Aurora home base.
Whether you catch a sunset at Garden of the Gods or challenge yourself by scaling the Manitou Incline, Colorado Springs is a wonderful getaway for nature lovers, fitness enthusiasts, and everyone in between. The kind of city where you can’t find a bad view even if you’re looking for one, Colorado Springs is well worth a weekend getaway. (Psst: if you’re not a hiker, you can drive to the top of Pikes Peak… and even purchase a donut!)
If you’re making your way to Rocky Mountain National Park, you have to stop by this beautiful gateway city that is also famous for a slightly spooky reason: its Stanley Hotel was the inspiration behind Stephen King’s famous Overlook in the smash bestseller, The Shining. There’s even a little hedge maze in the front… but we don’t recommend you reenact that scene in its entirety.
Situated in southern Colorado, there’s a bit of a geological anomaly: Great Sand Dunes National Park, where the white peaks stretch back almost as far as the eye can see (on a background of much higher, glaciated mountains). Covering over 100,000 acres, you could easily spend a whole lifetime exploring this unique landscape… but a quick day trip will suffice to start!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Aurora that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Aurora? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.