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Aurora is probably most recognized by contemporary society as the homestead of the wacky Wayne's World characters in the popular early-1990s comedy, which stemmed from a Saturday Night Live skit with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. But, as you may have guessed, there's more to Aurora than a goofy movie. it's actually one of the most sought-after communities west of Chicago.
Aurora got its start in 1834 when Samuel and Joseph McCarty, brothers from New York, chose to build a mill at a bend in the Fox River. It was a prime site for settlement because the river served as both a power source and a means of transportation for the area. The growing colony was incorporated a decade later in 1845, as other mills and factories sprung up along the waterway. At the same time, a separate settlement formed on the opposite side of the river, but by 1857 the two were combined, creating a single community. Unfortunately, the union wasn't as simple as building a quick bridge and calling it a day. In the following year there was constant jockeying for municipal power as both sides vied to establish themselves as the central core. So it was finally determined the town hall and other official offices would be situated on an island in the middle of the river, which still remains Aurora's city center to this day.
After the marriage of the river's two sides, Aurora quickly developed into a bustling manufacturing town that provided, among other things, building materials for that little boomtown directly to the east (Chicago). Construction and repair shops for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad were also located in Aurora beginning in the mid-1850s, and they became the largest employer in the city. In the following decades, Aurora attracted thousands of European immigrants who crossed the Atlantic in search of jobs and to escape the war-torn continent. The new wave of residents joined the ranks of blue-collar workers who thrived in Aurora's deep-seated industrial hotbed.
Aurora remained a manufacturing mecca until the 1980s, when many of the town's plants closed down. Aurora was forced to think creatively and to find another economy on which the city could operate. As result, downtown Aurora was redeveloped and populated and business parks and new residential communities were built to attract new residents to the area. The town also added riverboat casinos to boost city revenues, which have become some of Aurora's most popular tourist attractions.
Now, Aurora is one of the more diverse communities located outside of Chicago. It has attracted thousands of Mexican-American immigrants over the past couple of decades, and the town has experienced steady growth since the 1990s. The one thing that Aurora grapples with is its identity in relation to Chicago ... Some call it a Chicago suburb, but most Aurora residents will tell you Aurora is an independent city, distinct from Chicago.
The first stop to make when touring Aurora's public lands is a no-brainer: at 325 acres, Phillips Park (1000 Moses Dr, 630-978-4774), on the southwest side of town, is the largest park in Aurora, and it offers everything you might hope to find in a community recreation spot. Start off at the Phillips Park Visitors Center, which offers small exhibits and general information about the park. From there, make your way to the Phillips Park Zoo (630-978-4700). It has year-round exhibits that include bald eagles, predatory cats, llamas, turkeys, and reptiles, to mention a few. Phillips Park also features a family aquatic center, which has public swimming pools and water slides. In addition to the swimming facilities, the aquatic center has sand volleyball courts and concessions with a small picnic area. The other big draw to Philips Park is the public golf course, but we'll get to that in due time...
For most recreation purposes Garfield Park (100 N Central Park Ave, 312-746-5092) has you covered. At 28 acres, Garfield Park has enough space for two baseball fields, tennis courts, an outdoor basketball court, a roller hockey rink, an ice skating rink in the winter, and a playground. Gather up the team or the family and make a trip to this fun outdoor Aurora destination.
In addition to Aurora's public parks and green spaces, many area residents are devoted golfers, which accounts for the popularity of Aurora's several golf courses. The first on the list is the Phillips Park Golf Course (1001 Hill Ave, 630-499-0670). It is a public course located in the middle of Phillips Park on Aurora's southwest side. The 18-hole course features USGA Greens, excellent drainage and a computerized irrigation system, in addition to dozens of sand traps, water hazards, and golf cart paths. The course also accommodates players of different abilities, with different tee-off points for each hole. The driving range features a new "all weather surface" that makes practicing in the off-season a possibility as well.
Another world-class golf course can be found at the Orchard Valley Golf Course (2411 W Illinois Ave, 630-907-0500), one of the top courses in the Chicagoland area. The par 72, 18-hole course has a championship layout and it's open to the public.
Aurora is one of the most desirable places to live in northern Illinois because it offers excellent parks, schools, and most importantly, excellent home values. Like most of the blue-collar counties surrounding Chicago, the majority of properties found in Aurora are detached, single-family homes. About 60 percent of the available properties in Aurora are single-family homes, while about 10 percent are attached townhomes and condos. Many of the homes in Aurora are relatively inexpensive when compared with some of the other western suburbs of Chicago, but there are also a selection of very large, luxury residences and mansions that give Aurora a touch of elegance and blood-blue allure.
On average, two-bedroom, detached real estate in Aurora, Illinois sells for around $145,000 and three-bedroom homes go for about $205,000. There is a good range of architectural designs found in this section of the state, so whether you are looking for a traditional farmhouse-style or a modest, wood-frame house, you're sure to find just want you want in a dream home. There are a large number of classic, mid-century ranches and single-story brick houses that offer sturdy, lasting construction and affordable price tags. But Aurora also has its share of older residences-the kind with big front porches, ornate exterior embellishments and a vintage character that oozes small town charm.
The residential real estate in Aurora offers homebuyers attached living options, in addition to the sizeable inventory of detached, single-family homes. Condominium units here start at around $65,000 for a one-bedroom with a selection of two-bedrooms available for under $100,000, too. On the upper end, you'll get pristine, upmarket condos and townhouses with two-car garages and fully upgraded amenities and finishes for anywhere from the high $100,000s to $600,000. The average sale price for a two-bedroom unit in Aurora is around $170,000 and for three-bedrooms, the average sale price goes up to almost $200,000.
Aurora Residential Real Estate Info for Single-Family Detached Homes
|Average Sale Price 2005-2006||Average # of Days on the Market||Number of Sales 2005-2006||One Year Price Change||Price Change Since 94|
Source: Multiple Listings Service of Northern Illinois
One of Aurora's biggest draws in the dining arena is a large complex that is owned by Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton. Walter Payton's Roundhouse (205 N Broadway, 630-892-0034) is a massive complex that includes a restaurant, microbrewery, music and comedy venue, banquet hall, and a Walter Payton museum and store.
A roundhouse, as anyone who has ever seen Thomas the Tank Engine ought to know, is a circular structure that was used to store and service locomotives. In the center of the open courtyard, rail lines meet at a large turntable wheel, which was used to reverse train directions and change tracks. The Aurora Roundhouse was built in 1856, and it served as a major rail depot until the 1960s, when rail service experienced a major decline. The building was finally abandoned in 1974, and it remained in a state of neglect for the next 20 years. This is until Payton and his business partners proposed to rehab and develop the old complex.
America's Brewpub is the main attraction at the roundhouse campus, serving five world-class craft brews that range from lagers to wheat beers and stout. Four of the beers always remain on tap, and one typically changes with the season (or the brewmaster's whims). The menu in the restaurant offers a variety of good eats, from chicken wings to lobster tails and filet mignon.
Another popular dining destination for casual, post-golf wind-down is the Orchard Valley Restaurant (2411 W Illinois Ave, 630-907-0600), which is located in the clubhouse of the Orchard Valley Golf Course. The menu features classic steaks, pasta dishes, and a seasonal selection of seafood dishes. For a more low-key fare, burgers are offered along with a handful of other classic American sandwiches (the rib eye sandwich is a must).
Pizza is always a crowd pleaser when it comes to favorite foods, and thankfully there's no shortage of options to choose from in Aurora. Ach-N-Lou's Pizza Pub (1592 N Farnsworth Ave, 630-898-2626) always attracts a crowd, if not for its sauce and 'za, then for the adjoining bar. Another popular pizza joint is the old Chicago standby, Bacci Pizzeria (29 W New York, 630-896-4200), which originated more than a decade ago on Taylor Street in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood. Bacci specializes in jumbo slices of thin-crust pizza, but they also offer a decent range of other Italian dishes.
In addition to the slew of American and Italian restaurants established in Aurora, the town's sizeable Hispanic American population has prompted a rapidly developing industry of culturally inspired eateries. One of the best local options for Latin-American cuisine is Cazadores Restaurant (110 N Lake St, 630-264-2100), a traditional Mexican restaurant that serves your typical taqueria fare along with some more upscale and intricate steak and seafood dishes. It's a good cross-section of Mexican cuisine, with prices ranging from about a dollar to just under $15 per meal.
- Aurora Central Catholic High School - 1255 E Edgelawn Dr - (630) 901-0095
- Fearn Elementary School - 1600 Hawksley Ln - (630) 301-5001
- Freeman Elementary School - 153 S Randall Rd - (630) 301-5002
- Goodwin Elementary School - 18 Poplar Pl - (630) 301-5003
- Greenman Elementary School - 729 W Galena Blvd - (630) 301-5004
- Hall Elementary School - 2001 Heather Dr - (630) 844-2617
- Herget Middle School - 1550 Deerpath Rd - (630) 301-5006
- Hill Elementary School - 724 Penn Ave - (630) 301-5007
- Holy Angels School- 108 S Russell Ave - (630) 897-1194
- Jefferson Middle School - 1151 Plum St - (630) 301-5009
- Lincoln Elementary School - 641 S Lake St - (630) 301-5011
- Marmion Academy - 1000 Butterfield Rd - (630) 897-6936
- McCleery Elementary School - 1002 Illinois Ave - (630) 301-5012
- Nicholson Elementary School - 649 N Main St - (630) 301-5013
- Smith Elementary School - 1332 Robinwood Dr - (630) 301-5015
- St Joseph Elementary School - 706 High St - (630) 844-3781
- St Rita of Cascia - 770 W Old Indian Trl - (630) 892-0200
- Washington Middle School - 231 Constitution Dr - (630) 301-5017
- West Aurora High School - 1201 W New York St - (630) 301-5600
- Colonial Caf? - 1961 W Galena Blvd - (630) 844-2444
- Orchard Valley Restaurant - 2411 W Illinois Ave - (630) 907-0600
- Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill - 4435 Fox Valley Center Dr - (630) 236-9630
- Thai Spice - 1234 N Lake St - (630) 264-9904
- Jumbo Buffet - 900 N Lake St - (630) 897-7788
- Bambina's - 5 E Downer Pl - (630) 906-6700
- Luigi's House - 778 N Route 59 - (630) 375-6400
- Cazadores - 110 N Lake St - (630) 264-2100
- La Cabana Mexican Caf? - 835 S River St - (630) 859-8885
- Son Risas - 13 N Broadway - (630) 896-5130
- Tecalitan Restaurant - 35 S Broadway - (630) 892-8059
- Ach-N-Lou's Pizza Pub - 1592 N Farnsworth Ave - (630) 898-2626
- Amato's Pizzeria - 3150 N Aurora Rd - (630) 236-0055
- Aurora Pizzeria - 149 S 4th St - (630) 966-1930
- Bacci Pizzeria - 29 W New York St - (630) 896-4200
- Rosati's Pizza - 310 W Indian Trl - (630) 892-2662
- Fox and Hound English Pub & Grille - 4320 E New York St (630) 236-9183
- Star Bar & Grill - 2150 Ogden Ave - (630) 236-0900
- Walter Payton's Roundhouse - 205 N Broadway - (630) 2364-2739