Introduction to Aurora, Illinois
The Illinois city of Aurora is located about 42 miles west of Chicago along the Illinois East/West Tollway Corridor. Although traditionally considered as belonging to Kane County, the city limits of Aurora actually span portions of four counties (the others being DuPage, Kendall, and Will Counties). Nearby communities include Geneva (to the north), De Kalb (to the west), Oswega (to the south), and Woodridge (to the east). Illinois State Highway 31 bisects the city, which is also serviced by State Highway 56 and U.S. Routes 30 and 34.
Founded in 1837 by New York natives Joseph and Samuel McCarty, Aurora was originally named McCarty Mills. When it merged with neighboring West Aurora, the two communities incorporated as one in 1857. Known as the "City of Lights", Aurora in 1881 became the first city in the United States to use electric lights for lighting all of the city's streets. For part of the early 1900s, Aurora was home to six different automobile companies, all of which eventually folded. Manufacturing, however, remained a strong part of the city's economy throughout both World Wars and during the Depression years. It wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that many factories started to close and the city began turning to alternate sources of revenue. A riverboat casino was welcomed into the city's downtown area and development ensued both around the casino and in nearby residential communities. Subsequently, many business parks sprang up on the outer edges of the city and Aurora experienced a large population surge during the last decade of the 20th century. The trend is ongoing as businesses today continue to expand and people continue to move into the area.
Things to do in Aurora
Aurora is replete with attractions, including several museums and theaters, a casino, water parks, and trails for many types of outdoor recreation. The Hollywood Casino, which features over 53,000 square feet of gaming space and includes two restaurants and a robust collection of movie memorabilia, is located in downtown Aurora. Also in the city's downtown area is the Paramount Arts Centre, a large live performance theater built in 1931 in a unique hybrid of Art Deco and French Renaissance. Other year-round theater venues in the city include the First Street Playhouse and the Riverfront Playhouse. Other notable places of interest in the city include the following:
- Aurora Regional Fire Museum: Features displays of vintage firefighting equipment and memorabilia related to the 1871 Chicago Fire.
- SciTech Interactive Science Museum: Offers hands-on exhibits demonstrating the principles of electricity, weather, astronomy and nuclear energy.
- African-American Heritage Museum & Black Veterans Archives: Mixed-media exhibits chronicle significant events in African-American history.
- David L. Pierce Art & History Center: Rotating art exhibits and a large collection of photographs, maps, books, and other memorabilia.
- The Grand Army of the Republic Hall: Originally built in 1878 as a monument to Aurora's Civil War Veterans.
- Phillips Park Zoo: Established in 1915.
- Sunken Garden: A spectacular display of 15,000 flowers and a three-tiered fountain.
- Walter Payton’s Roundhouse Complex: America's first railroad roundhouse originally constructed in 1856 is also home to the Walter Payton Museum.
- Blackberry Farm’s Pioneer Village: A combination amusement park and museum.
- Aurora Historical Museum: Located in the historic William Tanner House, built in 1856.
- Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures.
Minor league baseball in the Aurora area can be found in the neighboring city of Geneva, home of the Kane County Cougars, a Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. The Cougars, who play their home games at Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium, belong to the Midwest League. Major league action is not too far away, as the city of Chicago is within an hour's drive. Included among Chicago's teams are the following:
- Major League Baseball (American League): White Sox
- Major League Baseball (National League): Cubs
- National Football League: Bears
- National Basketball Association: Bulls
- National Hockey League: Blackhawks
- WNBA women's basketball: Sky
- Major League Soccer: Fire
- Major League Lacrosse: Machine
- ABA basketball: Rockstars
- AFL Arena Football: Rush