One of the Coolest Cities You’ve Never Been To: Aurora, Colorado

After more than a century in the shadow of Colorado’s capital city, Aurora is a destination in its own right

Find art, outdoor adventure and plenty of great brews in Aurora, Colorado.


Aurora, Colorado’s third-largest city, may be home to about half as many residents as Denver, its bigger, snazzier sibling to the west, but that certainly doesn’t mean there’s half as much to do. Aurora’s long been thought of as little more than a cow town, but with a world-class medical campus, a thriving theater scene and one of the hippest urban markets in the country, the city is slowly evolving into one of the safest, happiest, most active places in the country, and one of the top tourist destinations in the state. Take a peek at these five things to do in Aurora.

Shop, nosh and play at Stanley Marketplace

Housed in an overhauled ejector seat factory in a rapidly changing neighborhood, Stanley Marketplace embodies Aurora's changing reputation: It's diverse, growing and simply cannot be ignored. The massive retail and food bazaar boasts more than 50 businesses—there are fitness studios and an urban winery—that offer a dash of something for everyone. Need a fresh carton of eggs? How about a quirky get-well card? Looking for a bite out on the town? Stanley has all those and more. First-timers: Rosenberg’s Bagels, Miette et Chocolat and The Infinite Monkey Theorem are not to be missed.

Spend time with Mother Nature

Billed as one of the only parcels of remnant prairie in Colorado—in other words, land that was never plowed for farming—Plains Conservation Center is an underappreciated gem in Aurora’s eastern corner. Recently reopened after a period of dormancy, the facility offers tours and self-guided hikes seven days a week. Visitors are likely to catch a glimpse of some of bald eagles, antelope, sheep and donkeys on the center’s more than 1,000 acres of open grassland.

Catch a live show in the Aurora Cultural Arts District

Just two blocks apart, the Vintage Theatre and the city-operated Aurora Fox Arts Center are the primary beacons of the emerging Aurora Cultural Arts District on East Colfax Avenue. The drama companies that call these theaters home offer productions that stage award-winning musicals, dramas and revues all year long.

Drink local brews

Grab some suds at Ursula Brewery, which quickly earned a stellar reputation soon after its first few years in business

Denver is still the center of the state’s craft beer scene, but Aurora boasts plenty of its own quality watering holes, too. The city’s first and largest brewery, Dry Dock Brewing Company, has top-notch suds and two locations in the city, both of which host an array of events and activities like swing dance nights and yoga classes. In the city’s northern pocket, Ursula Brewery cranks out award-winning pints on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. To the east, Launch Pad Brewery hawks drafts just a growler's toss from Buckley Air Force Base. Cheluna Brewing Co. and Peak to Peak Tap & Brew are more recent additions to the city’s drinking scene.

Check out historic art at Fulginiti Pavilion

World-class art and Aurora typically aren’t mentioned in the same breath, but the little-known Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is working to change that. The quaint gallery has even exhibited paintings by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and other renowned Impressionists thanks to loans from a pair of local art collectors. The gallery is open to the public most weekdays, and admission is free.

Swim, paddle or float at the Cherry Creek Reservoir

Save time for a stop at Cherry Creek State Park, where watersports, camping and horseback riding attract visitors to the prairie playground.

Aurora is landlocked, but Cherry Creek Reservoir makes the city a regional haven for water sports enthusiasts. The Marina at Cherry Creek rents all manner of equipment, such as paddleboards and pontoon boats, by the hour between April and November. If you’re a landlubber, you’ll dig the miles of biking and walking trails that wind around the reservoir and the well-maintained beaches sprinkled throughout the premises.

Ready to travel? Find hotels in Aurora.



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