Antique treasures, quaint cafes and small-town charm
Founded by mostly German immigrants as a Christian communal society in 1856, Aurora, Oregon, was the first area in the state to be designated as a National Historic District. In earlier times, the Aurora Colony was known nationally for its crafts, music and cuisine. Today, visitors can delight in the colony’s original buildings, shop for antiques and indulge in local flavors.
Take a walk through history
Aurora is home to one of the largest concentrations of structures built by German craftsmen in the Pacific Northwest. Take a self-guided “Walk With Emma” tour to see the town through the eyes of Emma Wagner Giesy, a 19th century resident.
The tour covers approximately four square blocks of the Aurora Colony National Historic District. You’ll visit 28 stops along the way, including Emma’s home, the old post office and the site of the Aurora Pioneer Hotel.
Emma’s story is famously told in several novels by Jane Kirkpatrick. The books mention numerous locations and items that can be seen on display along the tour.
Grab a copy of the free walking tour map at the Old Aurora Colony Museum, which is housed in the original Ox Barn. You can also schedule a guided or self-guided tour to explore the museum’s five historic buildings, including the Kraus House, Steinbach Cabin and Tie Shed, permanent artifacts and special exhibits.
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Hunt for antiques
This small town packs a big punch when it comes to antiquing, having been voted several times as a top destination in the United States for antique shopping. The town’s 20 plus antique stores work with nearly 300 dealers to find one-of-a-kind pieces. You may even be able to find a treasure from the colony, which was revered for its beautifully-made furniture, clothing and textiles.
You can spend hours walking through Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage, an ideal place to find home and garden décor and architectural relics. First constructed as a warehouse in 1890, this building sits on the original site of the colony’s horse stable.
Across the street, the 1880s Aurora Depot serves a new purpose. The former railroad depot was moved to its current location in 1990 and has since been repurposed as Aurora Lamp Works, an antique lamp store.
Antique stores may be one of the town’s shining showpieces, but they aren’t the only businesses in the neighborhood. You’ll also find locally-owned boutiques, restaurants and a garden center.
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Travelers came from all over to dine at the Aurora Colony Pioneer Hotel. Known for its outstanding food, the hotel was a popular stop for visitors traveling by stage coach or train on the way to their destinations. The hotel has been gone for many years, but Aurora has several quaint cafes that are worth visiting.
White Rabbit Bakery should be on your list of hidden gems to visit in Aurora. From its popular turkey, bacon and avocado sandwiches to its vegan chai snickerdoodle cupcakes and gluten-free cinnamon rolls, this charming bakery has something for every palate. Find a good read on the community book shelf to pair with your coffee or tea.
If you don’t want to stop your antique shopping to grab a bite to eat, head to Christa’s Café & Antiques. The walls of this cozy café are covered with antique and vintage collectables. Peruse the collection while the kitchen whips up made-from-scratch soups, hardy sandwiches and fresh-baked pies.
Tucked away in the back of the 1865 Jacob Miley House, Scattercreek Junction has a small café with gelato, espresso and paninis. The two-story home is also filled with eclectic antiques, collectibles and goods, ranging from home décor to children’s toys.
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Wine and history collide
If the walls of Pheasant Run Winery’s tasting room could speak for themselves, they’d have quite the story to tell. The tasting room is housed in the Historic Aurora Bank, which was built in 1905 for the Portland World’s Fair. The bank was moved to downtown Aurora after the fair, serving as a variety of town businesses and even appearing in the film “Bandits,” but still contains many of its original fixtures, including doors, flooring and windows. The old bank vault also remains in the building, now storing wine instead of money.
Aurora Colony Vineyards, located just outside of the downtown district, sits on land that was used by the colony for farming and still has an old well house onsite. The vineyard’s red, white and sparkling wines are made in small batches in a traditional European style. Food, including sirloin beef bites, seasonal pizza and cheesy artichoke dip, are meticulously prepared by the winery’s in-house chef to pair with the wine. Friday evenings are a popular time to visit, as the winery comes alive with local, live music each week.
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The colonists of Aurora were fond of society gatherings, many of which were highlighted by music and dancing. To this day, Aurora holds several annual events throughout the year that emphasize the town’s heritage and community.
Revel in the town’s German hospitality at Aurora Colony Days. Each summer this event brings food, music and family-friendly activities to downtown Aurora. In the months leading up to Colony Days, you can catch free concerts in the community park.
Aurora’s annual Wine and Chocolate Walk is held each December. Grab a passport to tour Aurora while tasting local wine and handmade chocolate at businesses around town.
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Situated five minutes outside of downtown Aurora, Fir Point Farms is a family-friendly destination with both sweet treats and seasonal produce. Open year-round, the farm’s country market is known for its freshly-baked bread, pastries and pies. The farm’s 35 acres are enjoyed by its resident bunnies, chickens and pygmy goats and turn into a large harvest festival every fall.
Take a tour of Pacific Hazelnut & Northwest Gifts on select days throughout the year to see how hazelnuts go from farm to packaging. It is one of the largest producers of chocolate-covered hazelnuts and hazelnut products in the Pacific Northwest, an area that is recognized worldwide for its high-quality hazelnuts. The gift store is a great place to stop to sample and purchase roasted, salted or chocolate-covered hazelnuts.
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