An illustration of the bustling buildings in Aurora

Aurora Shines With Fun, Food and Art

An illustration of the bustling buildings in Aurora

Illustration byJakob Hinrichs for 5280 Magazine

Denver often gets the headlines, but the city just to the east of Colorado’s capital shines as well, and is a worthy destination in her own right. With a population approaching 400,000 (making it the third most populous city in the state), Aurora is luring visitors and residents with both new developments as well as a revitalized downtown that celebrates its history and its rich cultural diversity.

And what a diversity it is! Immigrants and refugees from around the world have found a welcoming home in Aurora, and now more than 90 languages are spoken in its public schools.

This diversity is particularly on display in Aurora’s lively food scene. Along the bustling Havana Street corridor, hungry visitors can find Ethiopian, Eritrean, Mexican, Salvadoran, Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants, along with more than 20 international markets.

Art, food, and Colorado craft beer rub shoulder-to-shoulder on historic Colfax Avenue. At Mango House, international tastes like Burmese tea leaf salad and Swahili BBQ are on offer at the food court located inside the refugee resource center. Just down the street, woman- and queer-owned Lady Justice Brewing Company supports nonprofit partners with sales of Sandra Day IPA, along with other tasty brews. And on the street itself, dazzling colorful murals celebrate the spirit of the city’s people. The Aurora Cultural Arts District plays host to the Colfax Canvas Festival. Since its launch in 2020, the annual event has added nearly 30 world-class murals representing the work of 60+ artists to the neighborhood.

Lovers of public art and public transportation will want to take a tour along the RTD R Line. Each of the installations at the light rail’s 13 stations explores the theme of color, light and motion through art in a unique way.

In northwest Aurora on the border of Denver’s Central Park neighborhood, more than 50 independent businesses now operate from the lively Stanley Marketplace. The former aviation manufacturing facility — once the city’s largest employer — is now the hub for a revitalized area that includes housing, retail, recreation and award-winning restaurants like Annette, where chef-owner Caroline Glover regularly racks up accolades. And after a great meal — and maybe a show at the Aurora Fox Arts Center or the Vintage Theatre — there’s no lack of places to spend the night. Check out the grandiosely oversized Gaylord Rockies Resort (which really goes all-out on the holiday decoration) or the newly opened Benson Hotel & Faculty Club. Home to the state’s second-largest collection of Western art, the boutique hotel is located at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.