Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Aurora, IL

  • Published 2022/03/16

Nestled among nature’s majesty and astonishing views of prairies and rolling plains, the city of Aurora in Illinois boasts beautiful stretches of farmland and beautiful hiking and biking trails.

By being one of the United States’ first major cities to use electric lights to illuminate its streets, many nicknamed Aurora the “City of Lights.”

Given its location adjacent to Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway in Interstate 88 and Fox River, Aurora has grown into a prosperous city that extends over 46 square miles, encompassing DuPage, Kane, Will, and Kendall counties.

No matter where you choose to go, if you’re staying in this amazing city, then you have your choices of other green spaces, like the famous Phillips Park Zoo and water parks, and for a little education, you’ll find museums and galleries plus picturesque fountains.

Now let’s look at the 15 best things to do in Aurora, Illinois.

Meet Spectacular Animals at Philips Park Zoo

Cougar resting at Philips Park Zoo

Mythicmeadows, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Phillips Park Zoo is a free zoo located in the heart of Phillips Park, in the north of Aurora, IL.

Founded in 1915, it was once home to exotic animals from around the world, including camels, zebras, and giraffes, but the zoo’s focus had since shifted to native wildlife in 1934 when Brookfield Zoo opened.

The zoo has a great variety of animals from all around the world, including Gray wolves, Pygmy goats, Llamas, great horned owls, and North American river otters.

Phillips Park Zoo is also home to a diverse collection of farmyard animals, including geese, ducks, swans, and even bald eagles.

Two elegant white swan at Philips Park Zoo

Mythicmeadows, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are more than 10 different species of reptiles at the zoo, along with a variety of smaller animals like Elk and Indian peafowl.

Phillips Park Zoo’s Education Center is a place where visitors can learn about animals, ecology, and the environment.

Educational programs offered by ZooCiety cover a variety of topics—from learning about the world’s most beloved mammals to becoming an expert on birds.

Birds at a pond in Philips Park Zoo

Mythicmeadows, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have Fun at Round 1

With over fifty-thousand square feet of fun, an enormous bowling alley, games galore, and private karaoke rooms all under one roof, you can have a blast with friends and family for hours at Round 1.

Round 1 is also the best place in Aurora, Illinois, to go for your favorite machine prizes and anime-themed goods.

From their selection of arcade machines to their inventories of prize machines, you can enjoy a series of entertainment with friends and family.

Their prizes are all imported straight from Japan — and they’re also at one of your top destinations if you’re an anime collector.

You can also hang out here in Round 1 if you want to play darts or ping pong.

Visit the Unique Agritourism of Abbey Farms

In Aurora, Illinois, there’s also Abbey Farms, a lovely and welcoming agritourism farm that likes to think of themselves as an outdoor amusement park.

For over 75 years, they have been growing family fun with their fall festival and its pumpkin patch, outdoor attractions, and corn maze.

In their holiday season, they offer great outdoor attractions, including a Christmas store and U-Cut trees, and in the summer Ramble season, there are specialty cafe menus with live music.

It was the monks of Marmion Abbey who established Abbey Farms when they moved to Aurora, Illinois, for their lifestyle and started growing trees in the 1930s.

Then, their farm opened for public tours in 1949, and since then, it has steadily grown and developed.

Abbey Farms is now a working, nonprofit farm that not only provides farm-fresh produce to visitors but also allows them to enjoy breathtaking scenery as well as spiritual enrichment through its nature walks.

Scream Your Brains Out at the Basement of the Dead Haunted House

The Basement of the Dead is a truly terrifying haunt in the heartland that offers year-round professional entertainment.

Many consider it to be one of the best attractions of its kind in Illinois, but still, others feel it’s one of the scariest haunted houses in America.

Although it is not the biggest attraction this side of Illinois, BotD has made quite an impression on audiences for many years with its innovative designs and talented staff members.

The first experience that they’ll offer is terrifying and immersive, with flickering lights and darkness masking objects that have a strong sense of presence.

Don’t let the lights give you a warm and fuzzy feeling—once you’re on your way to Room 2, prepare to put on 3D glasses—the second experience is going to be even more terrifying!

Catch the Latest Big-name Flicks at Cinemark Tinseltown USA

When you’re looking for a first-class movie theater, Tinseltown USA is a great place to catch the latest big-name flicks.

The Cinemark Tinseltown USA has an extremely nice staff, and the theatres are always clean.

And with their delicious popcorn and their large variety of flavors, you’ll never hate going to the movies again.

Cinema buffs will also love the comfy luxury seats, which are great for making nights at the movies even more comfortable.

The lines here also move fast, so there’s never a long wait for you to get in (and out) of the theater.

Have a Happy Time at the Fox Valley Mall

Fox Valley Mall at Aurora, IL

Ctomsphere Wisington, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on Illinois Route 59, Fox Valley Mall is the premier mall in Aurora/Naperville and a top destination for quality dining, entertainment, and shopping.

Its anchor stores include Macy’s and JCPenney, as well as national brands including Forever 21, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and Express – making it a one-stop destination for meeting friends for a bite before browsing through its retail shops.

Retail shops at Fox Valley Mall

Jauerback, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Full of everything from top fashion apparel to jewelry to home goods to gourmet food offerings, and now Fox Valley Mall features Round 1 Bowling & Amusement, a state-of-the-art entertainment complex offering bowling, billiards, an arcade, karaoke, and more.

And with 8,006 parking spaces, this mall is very accessible to many area communities and boasts plentiful parking.

To keep shoppers coming back for more, they have an in-store karaoke venue and a vibrant community center that hosts classes on everything from yoga to dancing.

Interior view of Fox Valley Mall

Jauerback, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gaze at the Wonder of Swimming Stones

Right in the center of Aurora, in a prominent spot on Aurora’s picturesque and main street, is a fountain that was donated by Christian Tobin back when he was still alive.

This beautiful sculpture features four massive granite obelisks – all weighing 4,000 pounds and 12 feet tall each – swiveling to form an interesting shape creating a rhythmically rocking motion that makes the whole fountain come together.

As you look at it, the kinetic energy of stone seems to playfully emerge from these gigantic rocks as if inviting you to look, linger, and talk about it for as long as you please because this fountain’s mystery truly does captivate anyone who happens to pass by it.

The elemental effect of water moving through each commanding rock pillar as it cascades onto the pedestrian walk below celebrates the union with the laws of nature and Art’s transformational power.

Aurora commissioned the installation of The Swimming Stones to commemorate the grand opening of the Aurora Downtown Art and Science Walk.

This public art piece captures the vibrancy, eccentricity, and spirit of Aurora’s arts and culture scene in one interactive display.

The Swimming Stones marks the first art walk of its kind in Aurora, which will feature more murals throughout the downtown area for public interpretation.

Have Fun at Vaughan Aquatic Center

With a slew of features that cater to almost anyone’s workout or playtime needs, the all-inclusive Vaughan Athletic Center is the perfect place for all ages to have fun, get into shape, and work out.

They offer classes like Fox Fitness training, swimming lessons at the pool with lap lanes and diving boards, sports teams and games with indoor tracks and fields, and playgrounds available for children to explore.

You’ll find three separate water areas here, including one with interactive water play elements and slides, a heated-water therapy pool, and a lap pool with eight lanes.

In Vaughan Aquatic Center, you can also play tennis in its nine courts suitable for different types of players, private matches, and personal instruction.

This athletic club also includes Vaughan Junior Tennis Academy, Vaughan Field House, a 1/8-mile lower level walking track, and a 1/6-mile upper level running/jogging/walking track.

There’s also an indoor playhouse where kids ages 3 to 11 can get their energy out in this 4,000-square-foot funhouse, featuring punching bags to challenge their strength, mazes to explore, and a variety of slides, including one that zigzags from the 2nd story floor down to ground level.

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Mastodon Lake and Trail

Mastodon Lake is a 22-acre Kane County body of water with a depth of 12 feet that’s a great spot where anglers can expect a variety of fish to come their way, including White Crappie, Yellow Bullhead, and Bluegill.

The Mastodon Lake and Trail is a very convenient trail around Mastodon Lake, where bones of a mastodon were found in the 1930s.

This bike path can be traversed by runners, cyclists, and rollerbladers — all with their own separate sections.

And if you want to mix things up, along the path are strength-training stations where you might want to do some cross-training on the machines and then do a short 1 mile run afterward.

Indulge in a Serene Escape at Waubonsie Lake Park

Waubonsie Lake is a picturesque wonder with a winding paved path that circles a sparkling blue lake, bringing the kids for some ice skating or taking in one of the many fun festivals that frequently occur here.

The area of the Waubonsie Park includes a unique waterfall bridge, a picturesque creek that runs through the park, and a short quarter-mile walkway with shade trees.

This park’s path is short but beautiful, ideal for a relaxing stroll to get outside and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of this natural beauty.

The Waubonsie Lake Park also features a large covered picnic area with multiple benches and several play areas dedicated to children of all ages.

You can find swings, slides, monkey bars, roundabouts, and resting benches throughout the park.

Try a Day of Fun and Thrills at BALAXI

At Balaxi, they have many fun activities to keep you entertained from their range of attractions, including an exciting Arcade, ropes courses with zip lines, Laser Maze, climbing walls, and Go Kart racing.

Their vibrant indoor go-karting track is an exciting challenge that will bring out your inner thrill-seeker, and Rope Course with Zipline will test your bravery with a death-defying mid-air adventure, taking you across intricate routes comprising of narrow platforms, rope bridges, winding beams, and more.

Or you could step into the world of amazing games and experience their digital wonderland, where they bring you the best video games laden with so many great gaming features.

And if you want more, you can test your balance with Balaxi’s 18-foot Rubik’s Cube and challenge yourself throughout the rest of the climbing area, such as the Pole Walk and Augmented Wall.

Their Bazooka Ball arms you with paintball markers and a team to protect your home base as you try to eliminate your opponent with only a little bit of fake gun shooting.

And lastly, you have black lights, sinister music, and steamy fog that create the perfect ambiance of their Laser Maze for a dangerous, high-stakes chase amidst a web of glowing lasers.

See Unspoiled Nature at the Oakhurst Forest Preserve

Oakhurst Forest Preserve is a year-round destination that offers adventurers the unique opportunity to explore nature in Aurora.

Boating, fishing, hiking, and sledding are just some of the activities visitors may participate in.

The preserve is home to a 55-acre lake that serves as a flood detention and control system for Aurora’s east region.

Sledding enthusiasts make use of a large mound that was created during the initiation of the lake.

Located approximately half a mile east of Farnsworth Avenue, the Oakhurst Forest Preserve also has a variety of picnic areas and shelters, as well as several historical sites to explore.​

Explore Firefighting History of Aurora Regional Fire Museum

Aurora Regional Fire Museum at Aurora, IL

Leif Rogers, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Aurora Regional Fire Museum you’ll find in the original Central Station of Aurora features exhibits and artifacts that explore firefighting history and community.

Here you can join in one of their walk-in tours, group tours, and scout programs, educational events such as field trips and school outings, and workshops focusing on fire safety.

The museum preserves the firefighting tradition in their region by maintaining its impressive collection of knowledge and materials that demonstrate how their service has evolved over the years.

Inside, you’ll also see a wonderful exhibit on the Woolworth dime store in Aurora, where an unfortunate fire occurred in 1934 and three good men lost their lives.

There’s also the Children’s Discovery Room, a fun space for children that features easily accessible fire and safety equipment that gives young kids the chance to learn what firefighters use on a day-to-day basis.

The Aurora Regional Fire Museum also provides interested visitors with an inside glimpse of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, as well as the tremendous efforts of local firemen to assist in New York during and after the initial tragedy.

Have Fun Defying Gravity at Sky Zone

The weightlessness of jumping and landing in a pit filled with 10,000 foam cubes is the closest thing to flying that you can get.

Sky Zone Trampoline Park makes it possible for you to do so and to have fun and get fit at the same time.

There are structured workouts, or you can just jump around on your own, and the best part is, you’re in a giant room surrounded by trampolines that are built to take your kind of abuse.

They’ve earned the title for the “best party ever,” the best “out of the box” workout, and their patented “fun fitness” classes will give you one of the greatest workouts ever.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Search for Clues in Mind Trap Escape Rooms

The Mind Trap Escape Rooms in 299 Montgomery Road Montgomery is just a stone’s throw away from Aurora, Oswego, and Naperville, Illinois.

Mind Trap Escape Rooms offers an immersive physical adventure game that will challenge your wits and test your mental fortitude.

Each of their room is a different puzzle with a story to tell.

While you must escape the locked room under a set time, the journey is just as exciting as the destination.

Each room has its own theme, background story, and challenges galore.

Their main attraction is their Mafia Heist room, which takes 4 to 10 teens and adults on an adventure through the city streets and local bank to solve an intense 75-Minute heist.

This escape room features moving floors, motion simulators, fog, mild strobe lights, and intense sound effects.

Final Thoughts

As an Illinois destination, Aurora has something for everyone, no matter what time of year it is.

From a charming historic farm to the museum, from challenging games and other outdoor activities to delicious dining options, Aurora offers exceptional experiences that families can enjoy together.

Get your camera ready because you can capture the beauty of this place while you’re here on vacation.

© All rights reserved.