Aurora is the second-largest city in the U.S. state of Illinois, located about 35 miles west of Chicago. It's at the very edge of Chicagoland and, situated on the Fox River, has many opportunities for urban, suburban, and rural recreation. Often overlooked, Aurora in fact has many surprisingly interesting attractions and a downtown unlike that of a typical suburb. It is probably best known for being the setting of the "Wayne's World" movies.
Aurora is just off the East-West Tollway (I-88) in Illinois. Take the Route 31 exit south for downtown and most other things, and take the Farnsworth exit south for Phillips Park Zoo, Aurora Transportation Center, and Walter Payton's Roundhouse.
Aurora is part of Chicago's Metra commuter rail system, the last stop on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line which leaves from Union Station in the Loop.
Greyhound makes a stop at the Aurora train station on its Chicago-Des Moines-Omaha route, but the express buses will not stop there. Also, the Aurora train station is a local hub for PACE, the Chicagoland suburban bus service.
Aurora has a small municipal airport of its own, but the best way to go is to fly into one of the Chicago airports (O'Hare or Midway) and just take the train or a taxi to Aurora.
As is commonplace in the suburbs, the easiest way to get around is by car. However, PACE Bus also has extensive service in Aurora (it being Illinois's second largest city, after all), and multiple routes connect the Aurora Transportation Center with the rest of the city as well as Elgin, Geneva, St. Charles, Batavia, and Naperville.
The Sunken Garden in Phillips Park
The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall
African-American Heritage Museum & Black Veterans Archives, 126 S. Kendall St., . Hundreds of sculptures of figures from African-American history displayed in the yard of Dr. Charles Smith's former home.
Aurora Regional Fire Museum, Corner of New York & Broadway, . A collection of unique firefighting memorabilia set in Aurora's old Central Fire Station, built in 1894.
Blackberry Farm, 100 S. Barnes Rd., . A living history museum of 19th century life spread out over 54 acres with a lake, ponds, a stream, and an arboretum.
David L. Pierce Art & History Center, 20 E. Downer, . The Aurora Public Art Commission hosts eight to 10 rotating exhibits displaying a full spectrum of innovative arts. The History Center has a collection of photographs, books, maps and other memorabilia. There is also a gift shop.
The Grand Army of the Republic Hall, 23 E. Downer Place, . Built as a monument to Aurora's Civil War veterans in 1878, it's now a small structure next to the library that sticks out in its antiquity.
Paramount Arts Center, 22 E. Galena Blvd., . Home to "Broadway in the Burbs," this lovingly restored Art Deco movie palace presents live entertainment by world-class performers, plays, touring musicals and other special events.
Phillips Park, 1000 Moses Dr., . There's a golf course, a lake, some neat gardens, and a small free zoo filled specifically with North American animals.
Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures, 347 S. Gladstone Ave., . A museum on the campus of Aurora University with 4 major exhibits on native peoples.
SciTech Hands-On Museum, 18 W. Benton St., . An engaging museum for kids that's rarely crowded. You can park in the nearby garage for free if the museum stamps your ticket.
Sri Venkateswara Swami Temple of Greater Chicago, 1145 W. Sullivan Rd., . A breathtaking example of whitewashed Indian temple craftsmanship. Don't worry about going and taking pictures - everyone else is doing it too.
The Walter Payton Museum, 18 W. Benton St., . An exhibit of Payton's entire life, from his football career (high school to pro, including his Super Bowl XX ring) to his auto racing and music interests.
William Tanner House, Corner of Oak & Cedar, . Built in 1857, this Italianate-style house was the home to prominent merchant William Tanner and his family. The house features high ceilings, oak grained woodwork, ornate plaster decoration, and antique furnishings.
The Sri Venkateswara Swami Temple of Greater Chicago
Hollywood Casino is a decent gambling experience on the Fox River downtown. Offers table games such as blackjack, craps, and roulette, as well as a variety of slot machines. Friendly staff and an expensive buffet.
An iPod Tour downtown is a unique way to get acquainted with the brown stone architecture. Tour brochures are available at the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Raging Waves Waterpark in nearby Yorkville is an Aussie-themed park with 18 water slides, a wave pool, lazy river, 20 private cabanas, and more.
Farmers Market Saturday mornings 8am-noon June through October at the Aurora Transportation Center.
Summer Music Festivals downtown such as Rock on the Fox, Jazz on the Fox, Summer Jam, and Fan Favorites.
Oakhurst Forest Preserve, near Phillips Park, is a pleasant oasis from the suburbs, with a large hill, an even larger lake, and plenty of paths for walking, running, or biking.
Chicago Premium Outlets is an impressive outdoor mall with 66 designer clothes stores, 23 shoe stores, 17 accessories and jewelry stores, 9 gifts and specialty items stores, 7 childrens' clothes stores, 5 leather and luggage stores, 2 housewares stores, 2 electronics stores, and 10 restaurants.
Westfield Fox Valley Mall, at the eastern edge of Aurora, is one of the larger indoor malls.
David L. Pierce Art & History Center Museum Store is small but has many unique items related to Aurora and crafts, jewelry, and art made by local Aurorans.
Goody's, 1250 N. Farnsworth. This all-American restaurant has a seemingly endless supply of food, and for dirt cheap. Get Chicago-style hot dogs, Po Boy Sandwiches, fish fillets, pizza, Italian Beef; you name it, they probably have it
Jake's Bagels and Deli, 220 N. Broadway. Bagels are their specialty, with at least one unique flavor always available with the rest of the regulars. Their coffees (they have Green Mountain) and sandwiches also shine.
America's Brew Pub, 205 N. Broadway, . at Walter Payton's Roundhouse, is an international award-winning brewery with good American regional cuisine and pub food.
River's Edge Cafe, 18 W. Downer Place, . A nice homestyle cafe along the Fox River downtown with gourmet coffee, fresh food, an outdoor patio, and a fireplace.
Nikarry's Family Resurant, 803 N. LAKE STREET, ☎ 630-260-2055.
Aurora University, 347 S. Gladstone Ave., . A private 4-year university with its main campus in Aurora, Illinois and the George Williams campus in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Approximately 4000 students have a wide range of majors to choose from. The campus is also the home of the Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures.
Comfort Suites Aurora Hotel City Center 111 North Broadway. 630 896 2800. About 50 minutes away from the O'Hare International Airport and Chicago's Midway Airport, and 10 minutes away from the Aurora Municipal Airport. Has meeting facilities.
Hampton Inn & Suites Aurora 2423 Bushwood Drive. 630 907 2600. 127 hotel guest rooms equipped with microwave and refrigerator, free internet, a 6,000 square feet Indoor Pool Complex, and five Meeting Rooms with Video Conferencing capability.
Quality Inn Aurora O'Hare Airport Hotel. 4005 Gabrielle Lane. 630 820 3400. 25 miles from O'Hare International Airport, 2002 Silver Hospitality Award winning hotel.