Things to do in Aurora Illinois
Aurora was one of the first American cities to implement an electric street light system in the late 1800s. Even though it’s about 40 miles from the city of Chicago, Aurora maintains the nickname, The City of Light. Aurora needs all the light it can get to illuminate its historical architecture with Lloyd Wright buildings and Sears homes, along with all the things to do when in town. Consider this your guide to all the top sights and attractions when in Aurora Illinois.
Despite its location in Wheaton, Cantigny Park remains one of the most visited attractions by Aurora residents with roots in Chicago history. Cantigny Park is on the site of the estate of Robert McCormick and Joseph Medill, who published the Chicago Tribune. It’s home to several botanical gardens, the original estate mansion, hiking trails, and a picnic area with a playground. Cantigny Park also has a couple of history museums about the area and a 27-hole golf course. Tours that all age groups can enjoy are given on a daily basis. Those interested in Colonel McCormick’s military history can learn all about it at the museums and even visit his unique gravesite.
Cantigny Park is located at 1 S 151 Winfield Road in Wheaton, IL, 15 miles from Aurora.
Herrick Lake Forest Preserve
Another nature-orientated attraction around Aurora is the Herrick Lake Forest Preserve. This nature preserve is open year-round with seasonal activities like fishing, boating, even skiing, and horseback riding. Nonprofit organizations and schools often take field and camping trips at Herrick. The Forest Preserve also has picnic areas and hiking trails for hours of a nature promenade. Birthday parties and corporate events are available to book here as well. One of their hourly event packages includes an onsite archery session. The lake’s fish includes largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, sunfish, and carp. Woodland wildlife also comes and goes with the changing of the seasons. For a more swamp-like experience, visit the Herrick Marsh in the center of the Forest Preserve.
Herrick Lake Forest Preserve is located at 3 S 580 Naperville Road in Wheaton, IL, 13 miles from Aurora, IL.
Phillips Park Zoo
Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora predates Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo by 19 years. Since they came along, the Phillips Park Zoo left the exotic animal exhibits to them while they focus on native wildlife like wolves, otters, llamas, and cougars. The bald eagles are a relatively new exhibit. Several birds and avian species make their home at Phillips Park Zoo as well. They had deer exhibits since the day of their opening. In the 30s, they found Mastadon bones buried on the grounds and have been on display in a museum on-site ever since.
Phillips Park Zoo is located at 100 Ray Moses Dr, Aurora, IL.
Blackberry Farm in Aurora is the perfect attraction for families with its humble selection of rides and theming of rural farm life. Of course, Blackberry Farm is an alive history museum with historic farming demonstrations. They’re open seasonally starting in May and see several visitors and riders on their miniature train, hay carts, tractors, and paddle boats. Their pony rides and carousel are other favorite attractions of Blackberry Farm. Schools in Aurora often plan field trips here and they even host weddings. Before they close in the winter, Blackberry Farm also does winter and holiday events. Last year, they did a holiday express with their train.
Blackberry Farm is located at 100 S Barnes Road, Aurora, IL.
Aurora Regional Fire Museum
Vintage old art still exists of Aurora’s old fire station built in 1894 and used until 1980. Not too many firehouses have bay windows and a dome, so it is something unique to see and visit now as the Aurora Regional Fire Museum. The fire equipment and engines they have are more vintage than they are modern. There is a 1918 fire engine along with a much older steam-powered one from 1908. They also offer several hands-on exhibits like their alarms and poles. We’re at the point in time where the Aurora Regional Fire Museum can show you how they fought fires a century ago.
The Aurora Regional Fire Museum is located at 53 N Broadway, Aurora, IL.
Red Oak Nature Center
Red Oak Nature Center streamlines the most beautiful parts of nature. Their nature museum and trails actively encourage interaction and learning about the ecosystem. They also have programs for students in kindergarten to 8th grade to help them unplug and see the world around them. Day camp programs also open in the summer. Red Oak Nature Center’s Nature Play preschool for three to five-year-olds with new sessions on Monday and Wednesday due to high demand. Of course, your visit doesn’t have to be for educational purposes and just a good old nature walk.
Red Oak Nature Center is located at 2343 S River St in Batavia, IL, about seven miles from Aurora, IL.
Blackwell Forest Preserve
Illinois has some rolling hills too, and they’re right in Blackwell Forest Preserve by Aurora in Warrenville. Forests and prairies come together on hiking trails and picnic areas. Two ponds and a lake make for excellent fishing and paddleboarding when it’s open for swimming. Note that some activities like fishing may require a permit or license. Seasonal winter activities include snow tubing, snowshoes, and cross country skiing. Their Urban Stream Research Center can be visited where people can learn how they regulate and handle the invasive freshwater mussels. Family and youth group campsites are also available for booking.
Blackwell Forest Preserve is located on Butterfield Rd in Warrenville, IL, about 12 miles from Aurora, IL.
First Division Museum at Cantigny
On the same property as Cantigny Park is the United States Army First Division Museum. In every armed conflict from WWI and onwards, the First Division was always the first American force in battle. The museum documents their evolution, stories, and exploits during battle. The museum is especially known for its tank park, which showcases artillery vehicles dating back to WWI. See their several (up to 14,000) artifacts of military history, including a piece of the Berlin Wall.
The First Division Museum at Cantigny is located at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL, 15 miles from Aurora.