The Most Beautiful Parks and Gardens in Aurora, Illinois

The Fox River and Aurora, Illinois
The Fox River and Aurora, Illinois | © Cbradshaw / Wikicommons

Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois, lies just 40 miles (64.3 kilometers) west of Chicago. Green scenery, lush gardens, and beautiful views of nearby rivers and lakes make the “City of Lights” worth visiting. Explore any of the following beautiful parks and gardens during your next outing.

1. Phillips Park Sunken Garden

Botanical Garden, Natural Feature, Park

Spring in Phillips Park Sunken Garden
© Cheryl Schroeder Basile

The Sunken Garden is the only formal public garden in Aurora and lies within the city’s 325-acre Phillips Park; park superintendent Ray Moses designed it in the 1930s. It features breathtaking seasonal flower displays, such as the 10,000 tulips that bloom in April and May. Stroll the paved multi-level walkways, stopping at the garden’s four corners to study the Greek statues representing the four seasons. Relax on a concrete bench overlooking the three-tiered bubbling fountain in the center of the garden. This picturesque garden is a popular location for wedding and special occasion photography.

2. RiverEdge Park

Hiking Trail, Music Venue, Natural Feature, Park

Open-air concerts are just one of the popular uses of RiverEdge Park
© Thomas J. King / Courtesy of RiverEdge Park
RiverEdge is a popular park nestled along the eastern bank of the Fox River in downtown Aurora. This multi-use park includes a canoe/kayak launch, in addition to biking and hiking paths that connect to the 32-mile (51.4-kilometer) Fox Valley Trail system. Picnic, relax and enjoy scenic views on the green lawn by the river. RiverEdge is also noted for its open-air amphitheater which hosts the Blues on the Fox festival in mid-June and summertime concerts by artists such as OneRepublic, Gladys Knight, and the O’Jays. Although admission to the park is free, visitors must purchase tickets for most of the amphitheater’s concerts.

3. McCullough Park

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Park

gazebo and Fox River views in McCullough Park
© Cheryl Schroeder Basile

Adjacent to the Fox River, McCullough Park is ideal for picnicking, hiking, biking, or an impromptu game of football. Kids can slide, swing and climb on the playground at one end of the park. Bikers and hikers can use the paved path adjacent to the river, which is part of the 44-mile (70.8-kilometer) Fox River Trail. The park hosts the annual Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race, Aurora’s Independence Day celebration, and occasional free summer concerts.

4. Waubonsie Lake Park

Hiking Trail, Park, Natural Feature

Walk around Waubonsie Lake Park in summer, and you might discover boys fishing in its feeder creek, preschoolers playing hide-and-seek around a T-Rex “fossil” on the playground, families grilling hamburgers in the pavilion, and couples leisurely strolling. Prefer water activities? Launching a kayak or canoe from the floating dock is easy. In winter, the pavilion’s fireplace is a favorite spot to warm up after cross-country skiing or ice skating on the lake. Although Waubonsie Lake Park feels secluded, it’s near U.S. Route 34 (Ogden Avenue), which means that it’s easy to get to from almost anywhere in the Aurora-Naperville area.

5. Lippold Park

Forest, Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Park

Lippold Park boardwalk and nature trail, North Aurora, Illinois
© Cheryl Schroeder Basile
Lippold’s 30 acres encourage visitors to interact with nature through play, touch and observation. Its tree-house playground tempts children to climb walls, nets, ropes and ramps. After exploring it, they can relax on tree stump chairs or in the bark-covered wigwam. A few steps away, the half-mile boardwalk meanders through a marsh where you can observe waterfowl nesting or study aquatic plants. Follow the boardwalk’s curve to the Fox River and watch flocks of Canada geese gliding on the water. End your visit with a stop at the fire pit where you can enjoy a snack on its rock ledge seating.

6. North Aurora Riverfront Park

Bridge, Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Park

© Cheryl Schroeder Basile

If you want some photos for your Instagram feed, head over to Riverfront Park, where you can enjoy some of the best views of the Fox River from the gazebo. Then tuck that smartphone into your pocket and walk, run or bike on the paved Fox River Trail, which runs along the east side of the river. The park is especially pretty in spring when crab apple trees add pink dots of color to the green landscape. North Aurora Riverfront Park is open 365 days a year from dusk to dawn.

7. Spring Lake Park

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Park

walking trails and picnic areas at Spring Lake Park, Aurora, Illinois
© Cheryl Schroeder Basile

Tucked away in a residential neighborhood east of downtown Aurora, Spring Lake Park invites visitors to take in the beauty of its 23 acres. The lake itself is a popular fishing spot, with anglers frequently hooking bluegill and largemouth bass, and occasionally sunfish and black crappies. Want to spend some time on the water? Launch a non-motorized boat (kayaks or canoes only) from the ramp near the pier. Prefer land-based sports? Head over to the half-court basketball area and an open field often used for soccer games. Dog walkers and joggers enjoy using the park’s paved path, which circles three-quarters of the lake. Children can play at the maritime-themed playground, and families can rent the park’s pavilion for parties and gatherings.

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