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
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.
enjoy direct trade coffee
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.
kayak the river
107 Spruce St, Aurora
(We enjoyed a complimentary paddle-out.) https://www.rocktownadventures.com/rentals-aurora/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Did Aurora surprise you? Did you learn anything new?
Tell us about it in the comments!
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