River Town Adventure
Spend a day along the Ohio River Scenic Byway in Southeast Indiana. Explore Aurora, “The City of Spires”, whose architecture and history have been shaped by the community’s Ohio River heritage. Industry and river traffic were the pillars of the town’s 19th century economy. Today the historic buildings and “Windows of Aurora” mural project preserve Aurora’s river city characteristics.
Aurora City Hall & Major Ebersole
Begin your visit at the Aurora City Hall. After a quick comfort stop and peek into the historic jail, meet “Major Jacob Ebersole, MD” portrayed by a local historian. Learn about the town of Aurora, events and his service in the Civil War as a physician with the Union Army‘s Indiana Wisconsin 19th Cavalry (The Iron Brigade.) Visit he second floor Council Chambers where you’ll see evidence of the high water mark from the infamous 1937 Flood. Its raging water collapsed many houses, ripped others from their foundations, and reached the second floor of the sturdy buildings that survived. (Free, Program of the Aurora Public Library District; allow 45 minutes)
Aurora Farm & Garden
Visit a working feed mill within Aurora’s historic downtown. Started in the late 1800s as a flour mill, the mill now provides wild bird and animal feed and supplies. Tour the mill & take home a packet of wild bird seed blended on site. (Tour, $5/person; Escort & Driver Comps).
Windows of Aurora Urban Arts Trail
Explore the Windows of Aurora on a short walk (2-3 square blocks) in the historic downtown. Learn the stories behind the Windows murals with your walking tour guide, one of the primary muralists of this community arts project. Enjoy the painted scenes of life in the early 1900s as you discover the sights and shops of downtown Aurora along the way. (Guide, $50/group)
Hillforest Victorian House Museum
Step into the Victorian era at Hillforest Victorian House Museum. Accompany your costumed guide on a tour of this beautiful National Historic Landmark overlooking the Ohio River and the picturesque town of Aurora. Gather in the double parlors for a relaxing “Linens & Luxury” luncheon or a sumptuous Three-Course Tea. The 1855 Italianate-style mansion’s unique steamboat-style architecture – including its ornate entrance, dramatic third-floor cupola and beautifully decorated rooms – transports visitors back to the mid-19th century, when sternwheelers plied the Ohio River and the thriving river town was a hub of progress and industry. The home was built for Thomas Gaff, a prominent industrialist and civic leader. In addition to launching 33 businesses with his brother James, Thomas Gaff also started the First National Bank of Aurora and served on the school boards, agricultural societies, the board of directors of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, and two terms in the Indiana Senate. (Tour, $8/person; Luncheon/Tea, $20/person; Escort & Driver comps)
Great Crescent Brewery
Kick back and relax in the spacious historic commercial setting of Great Crescent Brewery and discover what’s brewing in downtown Aurora. In the mid-19th century, the Gaff brothers of Aurora (one of whom owned the stately Hillforest manison) launched a beer-making enterprise they dubbed the Crescent Brewery, which over the next 16 years enjoyed a national presence, particularly in the South. Now, Great Crescent Brewery in downtown Aurora continues that tradition with handcrafted beers and ales, plus house-made sandwiches and sides, and an on-site coffee shop, The Brewhouse. Basic Tour includes a tour of the production area with the brewmaster and tasting of a selection of beer samples in the tap room. Souvenir Great Crescent Brewery pint glass is included. ($10/person; Escort & Driver comps) Beer Bread Making Demonstration includes sampling a selection of beer bread made with GCB beers and a demonstration of beer bread making. A quart of Steepletown Gourmet Beer Bread Mix is included for take home. (Mix will make two loaves.) ($10/person; Escort & Driver comps) Dining at the Brewery includes a buffet of house-smoked pulled pork or pulled turkey breast, pretzel and house-made Italian style bun assortment, house-made coleslaw, bag of chips, and choice of GCB’s own seasonal selection of house-made soft drinks, coffee or iced tea. (Vegetarian option available. BBQ Sauces served tableside) ($13.20/person, Escort & Driver comps)
Veraestau Historic Site
Explore the house and grounds of Veraestau and enjoy the incredible view of the river valley below. This estate captures a long sweep of Indiana’s architectural history and exemplifies the historic preservation practiced by generations of two families. Located high on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River, Veraestau was originally built in 1810 by Jesse Holman. Holman helped write Indiana’s first constitution and served as a justice of the state’s first Supreme Court. The property was purchased in 1933 by local industrialist Cornelius O’Brien, an early preservation and conservation leader. He restored the house, constructed a matching addition, and reforested the surrounding acreage. Today it is owned and operated by Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. (Tour, $4/person; Escort & Driver comps)