Aurora, Colorado, is located near Denver in Arapahoe County and is Colorado’s third largest city. It’s known for its artistic culture, abundance of outdoor recreational activities to enjoy, and for having that relaxing and friendly mountain vibe that you’re looking for in a vacation to Colorado.
Aurora is located only about 20 minutes west from the Mile High City, so it’s the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the peaceful scenery just minutes away from Denver.
In Aurora, visitors can enjoy over 8,000 acres of open space and more than 100 miles of trails. They also have a couple of large reservoirs, which are perfect for summer activities on the water, such as kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, sailing, and more.
Aurora is known as “The Gateway To The Rockies,” and it’s an amazing place to visit. Here are 19 things to do in Aurora CO that you can’t miss!
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN AURORA CO
- Best Family Friendly: Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center features Arapahoe Springs Water Park, an exciting lineup of family-friendly activities and entertainment, five delicious restaurants, bars, the world-class Relâche Spa, and a state-of-the-art fitness center. This one has it all!
- Best for Foodies: Woolley’s Classic Suites Denver Airport features amazing mountain views, an indoor pool and a great restaurant. At Woolley’s Grill & Lounge, enjoy a contemporary dining experience with classic American cuisine made from fresh, local ingredients.
- Best Tried and True: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Denver – Aurora features a 24-hour fitness center, indoor pool, and hot tub. There’s an onsite bar, and the RTD light rail is only a half-mile from the hotel, making for an easy trip to downtown Denver.
WINGS OVER THE ROCKIES
Founded in 1994 and located at the former Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Wings Over The Rockies Air and Space Museum has long stood as Colorado’s official air and space museum. Any travel lover will adore this museum!
The museum features over 50 iconic aircrafts, offers realistic flight simulation, and has many exhibitions and events going on throughout the year. Watch your flight dreams come true as you learn about the past, present, and future of aviation and space travel.
CHERRY CREEK STATE PARK
Cherry Creek State Park encompasses 4,000 acres of open space in Aurora/Arapahoe County, Colorado, and is the perfect destination for a day of fun in the summertime!
This natural prairie features beautiful views of the mountains from every turn, an 880-acre reservoir, hiking trails, bike paths, an incredible dog park, complete outdoor recreation facilities, and more.
Spend your morning going for a hike among the beautiful rolling hills. Take a paddleboard or boat out for the day to go fishing or get some exercise on the Cherry Creek Reservoir. Be sure to book a campsite as well, so you can enjoy a night out under the stars after an incredible day in the great outdoors!
12 MILES STABLES
If you love horses or horseback riding, you have to plan to spend a day at 12 Mile Stables in Cherry Creek State Park. This facility hosts a whole range of tours daily, including a scenic horseback riding tour, hay rides, day camps, birthday parties, and more!
It’s a great place to bring the kids for a fun and unique day in the mountains.
PLAINS CONSERVATION CENTER
The Plains Conservation Center is an 1,100-acre, state-designed natural area located in Aurora, Colorado that allows visitors to experience life on the prairie. This outdoor education center helps educate its visitors about Colorado’s eco-history and nature conservation efforts.
The center showcases many different species of plants and animals, and features a stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. Their mission is to help preserve Eastern Colorado’s prairies and provide education to the community, especially children.
DRY DOCK BREWING CO
Colorado is known for having some incredible beer, and Dry Dock Brewing Co has some of the best!
This award-winning brewery has expanded many times since its opening in southeast Aurora in 2005, as it continues to serve Colorado some of the best brews time and time again. They won their first gold just 6 months after they opened at the 2006 World Beer Cup, won the Brewers Association Small Brewery of the Year award in 2009, and countless awards since.
My personal favorite is their Hazy IPA, but their Apricot Blonde Ale is their most popular brew and the perfect pairing after a day of adventure in the mountains. Stop by the brewery to try a pint, or grab a six pack to go!
ROCKY MOUNTAIN ARSENAL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is a massive nature preserve located near Aurora with a rich history that offers the perfect escape into nature. It’s one of the easiest and best sunset spots, and is an excellent place to spot some wildlife such as deer and bison.
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal was originally Native American hunting grounds, but was turned into a chemical manufacturing facility for WWII in 1942, and then served as an agricultural chemical facility.
It closed down in 1987 due to pollution concerns, but after more than 330 species of wildlife (including the endangered bald eagle) were found on the property, and $2.1 billion was invested in hazardous waste cleanup, it was turned into the wildlife refuge we know and love today.
A visit here is one of the best things to do in Aurora CO!
AURORA HISTORY MUSEUM
To get to know more about the third largest city in Colorado, be sure to plan a visit to the Aurora History Museum.
This community-based cultural center is located in a historical building in downtown Aurora, and showcases artifacts, exhibits, and galleries that teach you all about the natural history, culture, and local art of Aurora, Colorado.
Its most popular attraction is the 610 train, which actually used to run along Colfax Avenue. The museum also has many educational programs and is always free to visit, so I highly recommend making a stop during your visit to Aurora!
If you’re wondering where all the locals are at in the summertime, it’s the Aurora Reservoir. Aside from laying on the beach and enjoying a nice swimming area, this 820-acre reservoir is popular for watersports, such as canoeing, kayaking, jet skiing, and even scuba diving.
The water in the Aurora Reservoir is so clear and clean it serves as one of the best sources of water for the community. Recreational and functional! Plan to spend a full day at the Aurora Reservoir hanging out and having a picnic with the whole family, laying out on the beach, and cooling off in the water.
If you’re into fishing, you must plan a visit to the Quincy Reservoir while you’re in Aurora. Boasting 160 acres of water surface, the reservoir is the perfect place to try and catch trout, largemouth bass, perch, and crappie. There’s a fishing dock here, or you can head out onto the water.
In addition to fishing, you’ll also find a 3.5-mile trail along the shoreline, a picnic table, a boat launch, and boat rentals. Pets are prohibited.
AURORA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
To experience the true artistic and cultural scene of Aurora, you must pay a visit to see the Aurora Symphony Orchestra while you’re in town!
The orchestra is a non-profit organization that focuses on bringing together culturally diverse audiences through the performance of quality music and educational workshops. They really strive to honor their strong Colorado heritage while creating a legacy for the future.
One of their most popular events is their Young Artist Solo Competition, which allows those ages 12 to 21 to showcase their talents as a solo artist. They also host a concert specifically designed for young children, first time concert goers, and their families to create a welcoming introduction to the symphony.
FOX ARTS CENTER
The Aurora Fox Arts Center is an award-winning professional theater company with a rich history and culture of community.
The building was originally built in 1846 as a movie theater after community members, especially the military personnel on Lowry Air Force Base, wished for a “movie palace” after the war. It was an entertainment favorite in Aurora from the very beginning and throughout the 50s and 60s.
After a fire broke out in 1981, different private groups and the city of Aurora funded its reconstruction. Today, the Fox Arts Center is a premier theater company in Aurora, operated by the city’s cultural services division. Stop by to witness a play or show for yourself while you’re in town!
Stanley Marketplace is one of the most unique stops in Aurora, and one of the best! This shopping center is housed in a facility by the airport in a former aircraft manufacturing facility, which now hosts a collection of over 50 independently-owned Colorado local shops and services.
No matter what you enjoy doing, you’ll have an incredible time at the Stanley Marketplace! It’s a community-oriented space, meant to provide a place for people to gather, work, play, have fun, and grow together. Spend an afternoon popping into the different shops and learning more about the local culture and community.
COLORADO FREEDOM MEMORIAL
Aurora is well-known as being proud of its rich local military history and community, thanks to being the home of the Lowry Air Force Base. The Colorado Freedom Memorial was built in the year 2000 as a way to honor the Colorado veterans killed in action and buried at the Normandy American Cemetery.
The memorial has a pretty long history, but now is meant to honor ALL Colorado veterans from ALL wars, and contains the names of all Colorado locals who gave their life for us. It’s definitely a spot you need to check out during your trip to Aurora.
The Southlands is Aurora’s ultimate outdoor lifestyle center. It is the largest non-enclosed mall in the United States, but features so much more than just shopping!
Stop by to enjoy some of the best restaurants in Aurora, enjoy a relaxing but entertaining evening at the movie theater, or stop by the farmer’s market for delicious food from local farmers. No matter what you like doing, you’ll find it at Southlands!
BALLY’S ARAPAHOE PARK
If you love horse racing, you MUST plan a visit to Bally’s Arapahoe Park during your trip to Aurora. This is actually the only horse racing facility in Colorado, and it’s such a fun place to go!
Spend an evening with the whole family, cheering on your favorite horses, and trying to guess who will win. Bally’s Arapahoe Park is the premier destination for fast-paced fun.
HAVANA STREET AND COLFAX AVENUE
There are two areas I recommend visiting in Aurora if you’re looking for more of a downtown vibe: Colfax Avenue or Havana Street.
Colfax Avenue has a lot of good restaurants and cool artwork to admire. Havana Street is a special district that was created in 2007 by various city workers and businesses. It’s a place to find unique local shops, markets, restaurants, and more.
There are plenty of events that take on Havana Street consistently, such as car shows, outdoor concerts, cultural shows, and other community-oriented events.
PRONGHORN NATURAL AREA
Located right near the Aurora Reservoir, the Pronghorn Natural Area is a 848-acre nature reserve perfect for those looking to experience some of the best prairie hikes, and spot some wildlife.
Thanks to its flat land, this area has a lot of scenic and easier hiking trails with gorgeous mountain views to enjoy. It’s also a great place to spot some wildlife, as lots of Pronghorn antelope, coyotes, and other prairie animals frequent the area.
Bring your bike for a nice easy bike ride, take a stroll to admire the scenery, and enjoy a beautiful day outside in the crisp mountain air.
Aurora takes great pride in their local arts scene, and Colfax Canvas showcases the best of the best from the third largest city in Colorado.
Colfax Canvas is a free, collaborative music festival that takes place every Labor Day in the Culture and Arts District in Aurora. Not only is it meant to celebrate local artists, but it also showcases local musicians on the mainstage, local businesses along the main strip, and has plenty of fun games for the whole family to enjoy.
Be sure to plan a visit to the festival if you can, and take a walk to admire the local art during your visit to Aurora, Colorado.
GREAT PLAINS PARK
No matter what kind of outdoor activity or sport you’re looking to play, you’ll find it at Great Plains Park! This 54.5-acre park features a regular playground for the kids to play on, as well as an outdoor water playground to cool off in the summertime.
The park has outdoor exercise equipment, a baseball/softball field, basketball courts, open sports fields, picnic tables, walking paths, and more. Plan a reunion and have the entire family out for a tournament, a picnic, and some fun. Or just bring your dog, enjoy some solitude along the trails, and take in the beautiful scenery.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO COLORADO
- YOUR COLORADO VACATION
- HOT SPRINGS: 17 Best Hot Springs In Colorado You Must Visit
- GLAMPING COLORADO: 20 Amazing Places You’ll Love
- RESORTS: 21 Amazing Colorado Resorts Perfect For Every Type Of Traveler
- SKI RESORTS: 3 Affordable Colorado Ski Resorts Perfect For Out-of-Towners
WHERE TO STAY IN AURORA CO
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