With its quaint brick buildings and abundant charm, it’s hard to believe that Aurora is Illinois’ second-largest city.
Just an hour from the hustle and bustle of Chicago, Aurora itself is full of first-rate attractions, from nightlife and entertainment to outlet shopping, fun parks and other outdoor spaces.
Stunningly Beautiful Farnsworth House
For a beautiful confluence of architecture and nature, visit the Farnsworth House, a world-famous masterpiece that represents the ultimate refinement of Mies van der Rohe’s minimalist expression of structure and space. After visitors drive through thick forest along the Fox River, the house comes into view – a beautiful, modern design with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, sitting quietly in the middle of a prairie. Though it was built more than 50 years ago, it looks like something you might see in the trendiest design galleries today. Edith Farnsworth commissioned Van Der Rohe to build a weekend getaway; she got much more. In spring, surrounding flowers burst into bloom. Part of the National Trust for Historical Preservation, this special place is definitely worth a visit.
Prairie Style Architecture by Elmslie
If you’re a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, you’ll definitely want to visit some of George Grant Elmslie’s work in Aurora. A leader of the Prairie style of architecture, Elmslie has several historically significant buildings in Aurora, including the Keystone Building, the seven-story Graham Building, the Healy Chapel and the Old Second National Bank.
Families will enjoy the Aurora Regional Fire Museum, where they can tour exhibits and see artifacts on the history of firefighting. Housed in a historic fire station, the museum has a wonderful old red fire truck. A couple of blocks away, the SciTech Hands-on Museum is a fun place in a historic building that will appeal to families with school-aged children.
Free Outdoor Fun at Phillips Park
The 131-hectare Phillips Park includes a park, sunken gardens, golf course, lake, picnic areas and even a free zoo. Stop at the visitors’ center, where you can learn about the history of the park and zoo as well as the mastodons that used to roam the area. The sunken gardens have a spectacular display of more than 15,000 annuals. At the zoo, get up close to all the animals, from foxes to eagles. It’s also home to many animals that are being rehabilitated from injuries.
Concerts and Festivals at RiverEdge Park
Along the Fox River in downtown Aurora, discover RiverEdge Park, where people take advantage of beautiful weather with a leisurely stroll or bike ride. There’s a kayak launch here as well, but the big attraction is the outdoor concert venue, where a variety of major musical acts entertain locals and visitors. The park hosts the annual Blues on the Fox festival and a variety of summertime events.
A Night at the Hollywood Casino
The Hollywood Casino, located directly on the Fox River, attracts visitors with its promise of a fun night and its collection of memorabilia from well-known Hollywood movies. Marvel at the original World Champion belt that Sylvester Stallone wore in “Rocky 3“ and walk past original cars from “The Untouchables” and “Wayne’s World.” Fairbanks Steakhouse was named “Best Casino Fine Dining Restaurant” by readers of Midwest Gaming & Travel as well as winner of the OpenTable Diners’ Choice Awards. Dine on USDA prime beef and delicious seafood creations, plus rich pastas, fresh salads and an award-winning selection of wine.
Broadway at the Paramount Theatre
The Paramount Theatre, in the middle of downtown Aurora, opened in 1931 and continues to attract crowds with excellent shows, especially its world-class Broadway series. Built in the Art Deco style with Venetian elements, the auditorium holds 1,900 people.
Shopping at the Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora
The Chicago Premium Outlets, a 10-minute drive from downtown, is a shopping paradise, with 120 exclusive shops offering fantastic prices. Pick up a coupon book at the Mall Office to enjoy additional savings on the already low prices on brands including Armani, Boss and Dolce & Gabbana.