Aurora, Colorado, is ready to step into the limelight. Kind of like the person no one realizes is the coolest guy at the party until halfway through the night, this city isn’t much for bragging — but the nightlife, the culture, and the cuisine speak volumes to everyone who takes the time to dive in.
The sweetest part of any visit is that you don’t have to go out of your way to get here — drive out of Denver International Airport you’ll be in Aurora long before you ever cross Denver’s city limits. This is the anchor of Colorado’s Front Range, the place that stands between the high plains and the mountains and offers the best of both worlds. How do you see yourself experiencing the Gateway to the Rockies?
The aroma of bone broth simmering in the kitchen basically lures the entire neighborhood…
What: Hit up Pho 99 for the best bun thit nuong you’ll ever lay your eyes on. The ca phe sua da runs freely — that’s Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk — and the banh xeo is legit. It’s located right in the heart of town and open earlier than most lunch spots…because the aroma of bone broth simmering in the kitchen basically lures the entire neighborhood. It smells so good they’d pound the door down if they couldn’t get in.
Where: 1080 S Havana St
Hours: 10am-9pm, daily
Learn more: Pho 99
Bent Fork is the place to impress a date in Aurora…
What: Bent Fork is the place to impress a date in Aurora. The kitchen twists familiar favorites like the BLT — they add a perfectly grilled salmon fillet, because why not? — and plates them in a manner that makes the hottest celebrity chefs jealous. The bar is famous for its martinis, so much so that they necessitate an entire menu of their own. Pair one (or three) with the chef’s take on Lobster Mac & Cheese, and the mood is set for an evening of adventure.
Where: 12191 E Iliff Ave
Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri 11am-10pm, Sat 11am-9:30pm
Learn more: Bent Fork the Grill
Korean food is all over the place in Aurora…
What: Korean food is all over the place in Aurora — the city is even working to incorporate the state’s first official Koreatown on Havana Street. Go traditional with a bowl of gomtang at Seoul Korean BBQ, grab a bite on the go at Olleh Korean, or spice up a casual date night at Dae Gee Korean BBQ. No matter where you land, get the full experience by grilling on the tabletop BBQs, and don’t skimp on the kimchi. Expect a round of karaoke and soju at Muse Noreabang and Café to cap the night.
Seoul Korean BBQ: 2080 S Havana St; 11am-10pm, daily
Olleh Korean Food: 2648 S Parker Rd #9; Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 12-8pm (closed Wed)
Dae Gee Korean BBQ: 1910 S Havana St; 11am-10pm, daily
Muse Noreabang and Café: 2222 S Havana St; Tue-Sun 5pm-2am (closed Mon)
Get up early and head to the Plains Conservation Center…
What: Get up early and head to the Plains Conservation Center, a high-prairie eco-haven flush with trailheads for hikers of all abilities. Trails pass through an 1800s-era pioneer village, complete with blacksmith shop and schoolhouse, before heading up away from civilization into 1,100 acres of designated open space.
Length: Up to 5 miles
Secret stash: Get out beyond the Saddle Loop for the ultimate wildlife viewing experience. The Riparian Road Trail offers the best sunset view in the area and loops over Tollgate Creek onto the Rattlesnake Road Trail (don’t be scared) to head back to the entrance.
Learn more: 7 day hikes in Aurora
While the masses follow the call to Green Mountain or farther up the highway…
What: While the masses follow the call to Green Mountain or farther up the highway, find your solitude on the 60 miles of bike trails waiting for you in Aurora. Break out the mountain bike and hit the trails at Cherry Creek State Park, or rent a Pedego e-bikes and cruise to the Aurora Reservoir. Whatever your style, Aurora is one of the most bike-friendly cities in Colorado.
Secret stash: Don’t turn around after reaching the reservoir. Instead, pedal the eight-mile Reservoir Loop, if only because it feels so good to look back and realize the nearest person is standing on the pier way over on the other side of the water.
Learn more: Bike rentals in Aurora
There’s something about this city that just calls to golfers…
What: There’s something about this city that just calls to golfers. The perfect weather might have something to do with it, or maybe it’s the creeks and streams that keep the fairways and greens lush nearly all year. Whatever it is, the forces that be have spoken loudly — there are eight public courses in Aurora, and it seems like there’s always a tournament happening. Keep your wits about you in the clubhouse — you might find yourself seated next to a pro.
Season: Daily, April-October. Year-round, weather depending.
Secret stash: Saddle Rock Golf Course is among the country’s best. Reserve a tee time in advance and show up early to hit their picture-perfect driving range.
Learn more: Saddle Rock Golf Course
If you’ve had an Apricot Blonde in the last three years…
What: If you’ve had an Apricot Blonde in the last three years, odds are it came from Dry Dock Brewery. This beer has earned Dry Dock straight-up legend status on the American craft beer circuit. But it’s far from their only offering — the Colorado Freedom Memorial Blonde is the ultimate crowd-pleaser, and there’s, of course, something for the IPA drinker: the infamous Hop Abomination.
Where: 15120 E Hampden Ave (South Dock)
Hours: Mon-Thu 12pm-10pm, Fri 12pm-11pm, Sat, 11am-11pm, Sun 11am-10pm
Learn more: Dry Dock Brewing
The name might bring to mind an old cartoon…
What: The name might bring to mind an old cartoon, but the wines of Infinite Monkey Theorem are anything but childish. They offer the standards — a Chardonnay, a Sauv Blanc — but for the real experience, make The Blind Watchmaker your first drink of the sitting. If you don’t get enough monkey in you in one visit, grab a four-pack of cans to go. Tailgating at Red Rocks will never be the same.
Where: 2501 Dallas St
Hours: Mon 3-8pm, Tue-Fri 3-10pm, Sat 12-10pm, Sun 12-8pm
Learn more: Infinite Monkey Theorem
Jubilee offers artists and coffee nerds a collective reason to celebrate…
What: Jubilee offers artists and coffee nerds a collective reason to celebrate. This space just off historic Colfax Avenue is an homage to everything craft, and they even throw in monthly BBQ parties in the yard (where they give away their coffee for free) to top it off. It’s a true neighborhood operation — there’s a great chance Jubilee’s founder Peter Wanberg will be there to shake your hand and pour you a cup of joe.
Where: 1452 Kenton St
Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-3pm (closed Sun)
Learn more: Jubilee Roasting Co.
Don’t spend any time wondering about the name. Focus instead on what’s inside…
What: Don’t spend any time wondering about the name. Focus instead on what’s inside…and good things happen anytime the term “foam pits” comes into play. Namely, air dunking, extreme dodge ball, and the epically stimulating Ninja Obstacle Course. It’s possible there’s never been a better place than Spider Monkey to take the kids.
Where: 1400 South Abilene St
Hours: Sun-Thu 9am-9pm, Fri-Sat 9am-11pm
Learn more: Spider Monkey
When your kid feels the call of the jungle…
What: When your kids feel the call of the wild (it’s inevitable), The Wildlife Experience is the place to keep them occupied while simultaneously educating them on the animals seen throughout Colorado and beyond. There’s also Globeology, a 10,000-square-foot exhibit with life-like animatronics and murals set in replicas habitats. It’s so cool even the adults will dig it.
Where: 10035 South Peoria St, Parker, CO
Hours: Sun-Sat 9:30am-5pm
Learn more: The Wildlife Experience
12 Mile Stables serves up 27 miles of horseback riding trails…
What: 12 Mile Stables serves up 27 miles of horseback riding trails and provides the horses for the adventure. Kids ride along with experienced hippophiles (they’re knowledgeable about horses, not hippopotamuses) and learn about the role horses played in the history of Colorado’s Front Range.
Where: 5547 South Parker Rd
Hours: Sun-Sat 7am-7pm
Learn more: 12 Miles Stables
Stanley Beer Hall is the spot when it’s time to chill…
What: Stanley Beer Hall is the spot when it’s time to chill. Pour your own beer from the wall of taps and take a seat outside on the patio overlooking Westerly Creek. Perhaps a game of cornhole beckons?
Where: 2501 Dallas St
Hours: Mon-Tue 12pm-9pm, Wed-Thu 12pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11am-9pm
Learn more: Stanley Beer Hall
Aurora spreads the laid-back attitude around town, and…
What: Aurora spreads the laid-back attitude around town, and there’s no need to rent a car to soak it all in. Two light rail lines traverse the city, with a third heading straight to the terminal at Denver International Airport.
Trains: The R-Line connects south and north Aurora, the H-Line heads into Denver from the south, and the A-Line runs to the airport and into Denver from the north.
Schedule: Check here for station schedules. Light rail service operates from about 4:30am to just after midnight, later on weekends and certain holidays.
Learn more: Getting to and around Aurora
Take the relaxation up a notch with a 60-minute flow class…
What: Take the relaxation up a notch with a 60-minute flow class at Kindness Yoga, then keep it going with a facial and massage treatment at Transformations Spa & Salon. Make reservations and then unplug yourself while everyone else is out doing their thing. And make sure to hang your head at the new Gaylord Rockies Resort — you’ll feel like Alpine royalty.
Kindness Yoga: 2501 Dallas St
Transformations Spa & Salon: 4327 South Buckley Rd
Gaylord Rockies Resort: 6700 North Gaylord Rockies Blvd
Welcome to the heart of the city’s theater scene…
What: Welcome to the heart of the city’s theater scene. Here, you’ll catch Tony award-winning performances such as Passing Strange, and the musically inclined Cabaret Series always gets crowds tapping their feet. Before the show, grab dinner and sample from the 100+ tequilas at La Cueva.
Where: 9900 East Colfax Ave
Calendar: Check here for current showings and ticketing
Learn more: Aurora Fox Arts Center
From serving as a home to military families stationed at the local Buckley Air Force Base…
What: From serving as a home to military families stationed at the local Buckley Air Force Base, to holding down the title of “Sportstown” since being recognized by Sports Illustrated in 2004, Aurora’s history is as vibrant as the booming nightlife on Havana and Colfax. The Aurora History Museum chronicles it all.
Where: 15051 East Alameda Parkway
Hours: Tue-Fri 9am-4pm; Sat-Sun 11am-4pm (closed Mon)
Learn more: Aurora History Museum
Aurora throws down in the summer. Festivals of all stripes…
What: This city throws down in the summer. Festivals of all stripes happen every week, with June’s Buskers, Brews, and BBQ and August’s Global Fest standing as the two most popular among locals. It’s a culture-laden bonanza celebrating modern-day Aurora as we know it — an inclusive place where everyone has a voice.
Weather: Summers are warm and sunny in Aurora, but bring a light rain jacket just in case. Events happen rain or shine!
Calendar: Check here for event dates and information.