On our latest Explore Indiana adventure, we visited a 200-year-old city in Southern Indiana along the banks of the Ohio River. While heading to a soccer tournament in Cincinnati, we stopped for an afternoon to explore Aurora in Dearborn County.
A few of the main tourist attractions are closed for winter (dang winter!), but luckily, Aurora is full of historic buildings, beautiful outdoor murals and quaint shops to visit.
Our first stop was Hillforest Mansion. It is closed for the season, but I still thought it was worth a peep. Completed in 1855 and built in the Italian Renaissance style, the mansion is now a national historic landmark and absolutely beautiful. As I love poking around old homes, this will have to be a re-visit next time I get down this way when it’s open for tours.
After snapping a few pictures of this gorgeous tourist attraction, we headed downtown. I parked the car (ample free street parking) to stroll the main street and see what we could discover. River towns are so interesting as they tend to be laid out so that the businesses head down towards the river versus the traditional Indiana downtown square.
Aurora was incorporated in 1819, so they just celebrated their 200 year anniversary. Most of the downtown buildings have been carefully restored and maintained, which makes for captivating architecture. In addition to several large, eye-catching murals, there is a walking tour called the Windows of Aurora that show scenes of life in the early 1900s. Go to their website to print out a map or download an app to help you find the murals. I printed it before we left, but we ended up just trying to spot the paintings as we strolled the main street.
In addition to a few interesting antique stores, there is a darling clothing boutique and a delicious ice cream store next door to it called Wellington’s Ice Cream Palace. Even though it was a brisk, wintery day when we visited, we had to indulge. The ice cream is all from Madison, WI and the vanilla has won #1 vanilla for years. It is super creamy and rich – YUM! The shop has an adorable courtyard in the back of the building perfect for enjoying ice cream while watching the kids play cornhole and basking in the sunshine.
Towards the end of the street near the river is an adorable little riverfront park called Gabbard Riverfront Park. The park has several swings, a grassy yard and a wonderful mural on the building across the lawn.
On the way out of town, is a local winery, but sadly they are closed until April too. I guess we’ll just have to make a trip back!
With a gorgeous historic home, a handful of unique shops, an art-filled main street and decadent ice cream, it is easy to spend an afternoon exploring Aurora’s charms. Add in nearby Lawrenceburg and you can happily enjoy a quick Midwestern family mini-vacation.
Other Midwest Vacation Ideas
Interested in other small towns perfect for a day trip (or even overnight) from Indy? Or you could combine a few of these fun day trips and string together a fantastic long weekend getaway.
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