SUMMERFUN: Aurora Staycation, hotels in the city that may surprise you

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    Aurora has always been known for its hotels, and that rep hasn’t always been a shining one. The line of motels dotting East Colfax Avenue had a well-earned reputation for being some of the seedier locales around town. In the case of a handful of the city’s motels, that reputation still sticks, but Aurora’s hotel scene isn’t defined these days by rough spots like the now-infamous Manor House.

    No, today, thanks to the proximity to Denver International Airport and the way the Anschutz Medical Campus lures out-of-towners, Aurora is home to some pretty swank lodging options.

    And while we have those travelers to thank for the arrival of decidedly-fancy hotels like the Hyatt Regency, Aloft, Wooley’s Inn and Suites and the soon-to-be-built Gaylord Rockies, locals can enjoy those spots, too — whether for a stay in a suite or a drink at a swank hotel bar.

    Any tour of the city’s high-end lodging should start at Aurora’s newest digs: the Hyatt Regency at 13200 E. 14th Pl.

    While it shares a ZIP code with some of the seedier joints that gave Aurora’s hotel scene its reputation, its geography is all the Hyatt shares with those spots. The $90-million hotel and conference center towers over North Aurora, just across Colfax from the booming medical campus.

    Even if you aren’t crashing for the night in one of its 249 rooms, the Hyatt is worth a stop if for nothing else than the Borealis restaurant.

    Chef Tim Freeman packs a résumé that’s as impressive as just about any chef in town, with stops at fine-dining restaurants around the world and a stint at the White House when Bill Clinton called it home.

    The menu offers a wide variety, from a squid salad to a green chile that Freeman insists is the best he has ever had. And you can opt to dine in the swank restaurant, or have your meal on the sprawling patio.

    From there, it’s worth heading toward DIA where several newer hotels offer plenty of dining and lodging options, including Wooley’s and Aloft.

    At Wooley’s, Jardin restaurant offers a dining room in the open-air lobby. And it’s not just the ambiance that makes the trip to the hotel at 16450 E. 40th Circle worth the drive. Jardin’s menu — including the duck confit spring roll and the chicken tagliatelle — would be worth the visit even if you ate it in the janitor’s closet.

    While you’re in the neighborhood, head down the block to 16470 E. 40th Circle and the Aloft Denver International Airport. The modern-styled hotel boasts some pretty chic rooms, but also the always-lively w xyz bar. If you can get past the annoyingly-punctuated name, the bar offers plenty of cocktail, wine and beer choices in a comfy environment.

    And while this summer offers plenty of options for anyone looking to check out Aurora’s hotels, it’s only the beginning. When it opens in 2018, the massive Gaylord project will be one of the biggest and fanciest hotel and conference centers the state has seen. And it’ll be right in Aurora’s backyard.

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