Open Wide the World


Chicago Hipster's Guide to a Day in Aurora


bike share ⎮ craft beer ⎮ historic district ⎮ outdoor experience ⎮ third wave coffee

Aurora is the ideal destination for Chicago urbanites looking to spend a day outside the City.


arrive by train

Metra's BNSF line runs from the City to Aurora. Aurora-bound trains leave Chicago every 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the day and time. Get the schedule here

Upon arrival, explore the Aurora Transportation Center (233 North Broadway Street). Built in 1856, the building was a pre-Civil War machine shop for the Chicago, Quincy & Burlington (CB&Q) railroad.


get around by bike

Bring your own bike (see Metra's bike policy) or rent a Zagster bike at the Aurora Zagster station in Riveredge Park, across the street from the Aurora Transportation Center

Alternative: skip the bike and walk instead. The whole day's tour is just 3 miles on foot.


enjoy direct trade coffee

Endiro Coffee

Direct-sourced coffee and breakfast at Endiro Coffee, just one of the reasons why Aurora is the ideal destination for Chicago urbanites looking to spend a day outside the City.

29 W New York St, Aurora

from Zagster: a 3-minute (.5 mile) bike ride

Everything you expect in a Third Wave coffee house: a humanitarian backstory (complete with the accidental signing of a 200-women co-op), impassioned and engaged staff, and a great location in a semi-authentically restored building with a tree-shaded patio along the Fox River.

Breakfasts here are simple and well priced, reflective of the company’s Ugandan home culture, as well as that of the Aurora locals whom it now serves.

(Find more suburban Third Wave Coffee here.)


kayak the river

Rocktown Adventures

Kayaking the Fox River, just one of the reasons why Aurora is the ideal destination for Chicago urbanites looking to spend a day outside the City.

107 Spruce St, Aurora

 (We enjoyed a complimentary paddle-out.)

from Endiro: a 1-minute (2 block) bike ride

 From the launch site in Aurora, paddle upstream and look to your left after you pass under the first bridge (Illinois Street bridge). Just up the hill would have been the settlement of Chief Waubansie and about 500 Potawatamies at the arrival of the area's first European settlers. 

Reservations are recommended for Rocktown, especially when weather and water conditions are ideal. Be sure to reserve for Aurora, not the Rockford location.


grab some lunch

Taqueria el Tio

81 S River St, Aurora

from Rocktown: a 2-minute (.3 mile) bike ride

Credit cards accepted.


Dine amongst locals and enjoy this non-pretentious setting serving authentic Mexican food, including tacos for under $2 ($1 on Mondays), breakfasts for $5, dinners for $8 and under.

Beer and margaritas for $3.50.

Authentic Mexican food in a non-pretentious atmosphere, just one of the reasons why Aurora is the ideal destination for Chicago urbanites looking to spend a day outside the City.

bike an architectural district

Tanner Historic District - eastern side

from Taqueria el Tio: a 5-minute (.7 mile) bike ride

The compact nature of the Tanner Historic District means that day visitors can experience ten unique architectural styles and 70 years of architectural history over a short half-mile bike ride. 

Homes in the Tanner Historic District were built between 1856 and 1926. The three most commonly found architectural styles are: Italianate, Queen Anne, and Prairie Style.

    the Italianate Style

    popular from 1840 to 1885 

    State buildings of the day referenced Classical (Greek) Revival; churches favored Gothic (Northern European) Revival. Average citizens preferred Italian Renaissance elements for homes and businesses.

    exterior features:

    roofs: gently sloping rooflines, deep overhangs, decorative corbels (brackets)

    doors: paired or single-hung, large panes of glass, richly ornamented

    windows: tall, rounded, richly ornamented

    entrance/porch: restrained in size and decoration, 1-story with square posts

    materials: brick, stone, stucco

    the Queen Anne Style

    popular from 1880 to 1910

    A bit of a misnomer, the Queen Anne style revived elements from English architecture of the 16th and 17th centuries, rather than the formal, symmetrical style popular in Queen Anne's reign in the early 18th century.

    exterior features:

    roofs: steeply pitched; complex gables, dormers, turrets, towers

    doors: decorations and large pane windows

    windows: bay windows, oriels (projection from the wall) with curved glass, stained glass in upper sashes

    entrance/porch: 1-story wrap-around porch, decorated

    materials: wood, unconventional colors, clapboard (bevel siding), slate, patterned brick/stone, wood shingles

    the Prairie Style

    popular from 1890 to 1920s 

    This nature-inspired style developed as a reaction to assembly line mass production. It made no reference to historic or revivalist architecture, seeking to be uniquely American and honoring its natural surroundings.

    exterior features:

    roofs: low-pitched, hipped (slope on all sides); eves extend beyond structure

    doors: wooden, with glass or art-glass in upper half or third

    windows: horizontal bands of windows with mullions (dividers) decorated in geometric patterns of plants

    entrance/porch: front door partially hidden by an architectural detail

    materials: simple, natural materials with minimal decoration

    architectural tour addresses (numbers in parenthesis indicate numbers on this map):

    • 301 Oak Ave, Hardy House, c.1868, Italiante style (20)
    • 304 Oak Ave, Tanner House, 1856, Italianate style (19)
    • 247 West Park Ave, Foulke House, 1901, Queen Anne style (23)
    • 233 West Park Ave, Malmer House, 1908, Prairie style (22)
    • 411 Oak Ave, Squire House, c.1892, Queen Anne style (24)
    • 450 Oak Ave, Anderson House, c.1912, Prairie style (27)
    • 418 Palace St, Miller House, 1906, Queen Anne style (17)

    Optional: for a .75-mile longer tour covering the west side of this historic neighborhood, complete numbers 1-15 on the map.

    Late Afternoon & Departure

    relax over craft beer

    Two Brothers Roundhouse

    205 N Broadway, Aurora

    from Tanner Historic District: a 7-minute (1 mile) bike ride


    Built in 1855, the former C.B. & Q. Roundhouse (later known as Walter Payton’s Roundhouse Complex, thanks to the former Chicago Bear's vision and investment), today's Two Brothers Roundhouse is the only full-stone roundhouse still standing in the United States. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    The Two Brother Roundhouse is home to The Tap House craft brewery, The Roundhouse Café roastery and coffee shop, a banquet space, and an open-air festival space.

    Craft beer in a pre-Civil War roundhouse, just one of the reasons why Aurora is the ideal destination for Chicago urbanites looking to spend a day outside the City.

    head back to the City

    Bikes can be returned to the Riveredge Park Zagster station before boarding a train at the Aurora Transportation Center, both within .3 miles of Two Brothers.

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