Halfway down Cayuga Lake ’s expansive eastern shore is picture-perfect Aurora, its houses laid out like beads on a string. Most date back to the mid-1800s; the entire village is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Called Deawendote, or Village of Constant Dawn, by the Cayuga, Aurora attracted its first white settlers in the late 1780s. Henry Wells founded Wells College here in 1868, and the school—a premier liberal arts college for women that only went coed in 2005—remains a focal point of Main Street.
Also in Aurora is MacKenzie-Childs (3260 N. Main St./Rte. 90, 315/364-7123, 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, call for studio tour information), a classy home-furnishings-design studio best known for its whimsical terra-cotta pottery. The studio employs about 100 craftspeople, who design everything from glassware to lamps, and is housed on a 19th-century estate with great views of the lake.
In the Tudor style Aurora Free Library building, the charming, turn-of-the-century Morgan Opera House (Rte. 90 at Cherry Ave., 315/364-5437, May–Sept.) offers musical and dramatic events.
In the center of Aurora presides the lovely 1833 Aurora Inn (391 Main St./Rte. 90, www.aurorainn.com , $200–350). Owned by Wells College, the red-brick inn with its wide white balconies and well-groomed gardens was recently restored. Inside, find 10 luxurious guest rooms furnished with antiques and oriental rugs, a waterside restaurant (average entrée $22) with views of the lake, and a cozy tavern with a fireplace and mahogany bar. On the menu of the highly-thought-of restaurant is classic American cuisine.
E.B. Morgan House (431 Main St., 315/364-8888, $225–325), also operated by the Aurora Inn, rents rooms individually or all seven for larger groups. When the entire house is rented, a private epicurean dinner option ($100 pp) for up to 14 is available via the Aurora Inn’s Executive Chef Greg Rhoad.
For more casual dining, Pumpkin Hill Bistro (2051 Rte. 90, 315/364-7091, $9–14), housed in an 1820s hand-built dwelling, was transported to its current location in 2001. Burgers, paninis, and country favorites are enhanced by regional farm goods. Nightly specials and harvest brunches bring in a steady flow of locals.