Town of Aurora
Families seldom agree on how to spend their time, so it’s a plus when your community offers enough variety to keep even the most finicky members engaged – be they sports buffs or culture seekers.
But an abundance of things to do is only one reason the Town of Aurora makes Canada’s ‘top places to live’ shortlist. This growing community of approximately 58,000 residents, which celebrated its 150th birthday in 2013, was recently ranked 19th out of 219 cities according to MoneySense Magazine.
A quick drive through town shows how Aurora evolved from its historic downtown core, clustered around Yonge Street, to a thriving urban/suburban centre with big-city services and amenities, and continued small-town charm.
Moving westward from Yonge, you’ll find leafy, established neighbourhoods with bungalows and larger homes.
To the east are Aurora’s newer neighbourhoods – a mix of townhouses, semis, single-detached and condominiums that are just steps from an abundance of stores, restaurants and services that continue to emerge along Bayview Avenue.
Still further east towards Leslie Street (and north to St. John’s Sideroad), new homes seem to be popping up overnight. Here, a varied mix of housing will cater to people in all stages of life, and will account for most of Aurora’s residential growth.
Which should take the population to 70,000 by 2031.
There’s plenty of big-box shopping here as well. And with ample employment lands adjacent to Wellington St./Hwy. 404, Aurora will continue to attract businesses. Good news for people wanting to live near where they work.
Where does this leave the character-rich downtown area? Ripe for transformation.
Aurora’s Cultural Precinct Study envisions a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly destination that includes unique shops and dining, and a hub for creative businesses and the arts. This vibrant, people-focused district will take shape over time, but you can already see glimmers in the redevelopment around Yonge and Wellington Streets, and in the restored Aurora Cultural Centre that houses the museum, art galleries, performance space and more.
Aurora is truly family friendly in terms of education. Its 10 public elementary schools include three with French immersion, and its five Catholic schools include one. Secondary education comprises two public and two Catholic high schools – visit yrdsb.ca and ycdsb.ca for more information.
If a fully Francophone educational experience is for you, there are both elementary and secondary schools to serve your needs. See csdccs.edu.on.ca, esr.csdccs.edu.on.ca and www.csviamonde.ca for details.
Private education is also available. Founded in 1899, St. Andrew’s College has become a town landmark, but families can also explore Aurora Montessori, Aurora Preparatory Academy and Lighthouse Learning and Development Centre.
The Nokiidaa Trail consists of gravel, pavement, compacted soil and boardwalk in sections and is ideal for cycling, walking, hiking and running. (MICHAEL BARRETT/YorkRegion.com file photo)
One of Aurora’s most noticeable features is its abundance of greenspace.
The Nokiidaa Trail system follows the Holland River, winding through neighbourhoods and connecting residents to ball diamonds, recreation facilities, parks and playgrounds, not to mention abundant natural features like the Mackenzie Marsh.
There are other trails as well: Willow Farm, Lakeview and Wimpey, as well as the Oak Ridges Moraine Trial to the south. In total, there are 57 km of pathways and trails maintained by the Town, offering walkers, joggers, cyclists and even cross-country skiers a great way to see the community.
How much greenspace, you may ask? There are currently 46 parks, encompassing 780 acres, which include tennis courts, soccer fields, lawn bowling, basketball courts and splash pads.
If you want to stay fit, Sheppard’s Bush has 14 exercise stations along its forested trails; Ada Johnson Park has four. And there’s the newly-renovated Aurora Family Leisure Complex, which offers a running track, well-equipped gym, squash courts and “The Loft” youth centre.
Adjacent to this facility is a permanent skate park, but not the only one in town as Hickson Park offers numerous ramps, runs and transitions for skateboarders and BMX bikers.
Skating is another great way to stay fit, and the Town offers year-round public times at the Stronach Aurora Recreation Complex. Check www.aurora.ca/arenaprograms for details.
Alternatively, there’s nothing quite like gliding around the rink in the crisp winter air. In season, there are four large outdoor rinks: Ada Johnson Park, Confederation Park, Machell Park and Town Park. All are lit until 11 p.m.
Adults 55 years and older will find no shortage of opportunities to stay active and get social at the Aurora Seniors’ Centre. There’s a games room with billiards table, reading and computer room, woodshop, outdoor bocce court, and deck overlooking the Aurora Arboretum. For more info, visit www.aurora.ca/seniors.
Click to view the list of community and recreation centres in Aurora
The Aurora Street Festival boasts over 500 vendors and attracts thousands to Yonge St. (YorkRegion.com file photo)
Programs and facilities aside, Aurora is well known for its many community events that bring residents and visitors together.
In February, take your family to the Arctic Adventure, and in early spring the annual Easter Egg Hunt. The Aurora Chamber of Commerce presents their Home Show in April, and the Street Festival (500 vendors, live music) on the first Sunday in June.
The Outdoor Farmer’s Market and Artisan Fair takes place early May until the end of October, featuring local produce, delicious foods and unique artistic creations. Summer kicks off with family activities and a spectacular fireworks display on Canada Day, leading up to weekly concerts and movies in Town park.
Ribfest is a late-summer “must attend,” as is the Magna Hoedown. The Haunted Forest is a Halloween favourite, and the year wraps up with the Santa Under the Stars Parade (late November), followed by the annual tree-lighting at Town Hall, and Family First Night on December 31st.
Getting around town, or travelling to and from Aurora, is made easy with excellent highway access and reliable transit. Highway 404 connects commuters to the rest of the GTA, as does GO Transit, with trains and buses running to and from downtown Toronto. Future plans will see train service expanded to every 15 minutes, all-day between Aurora and Union Station.
Indeed, the future is sunny and growing brighter for those who call Aurora home.