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Wisconsin Parent

Midwest Travel: Summer in Rockford, Illinois

Apr 06, 2014 08:34PM ● By Julie Henning
Home of the sock monkey and Mrs. Fischer’s potato chips, Rockford, Illinois may seem like an unlikely destination for a road trip. Less than a two-hour drive from Milwaukee, Chicago, Madison, Dubuque, and the Quad Cities, Rockford offers many of the amenities of the “big city” without the  big price tag.

From a ride down the Rock River to a hike at Rock Cut State Park, here are some ideas for a summer road trip to Northern Illinois.

Forest City Queen Riverboat

A unique way to get a feel for the region, the Forest City Queen Riverboat takes passengers up and down the Rock River on an hour-long sightseeing cruise. From parkland to nature, stately homes and views of downtown, the riverboat ride ranges in price from $3.50 to $5.00 depending on your age and residency.

forest city queen

Trolley Car 36

Departing from the Trolley Station in Riverview Park, the historic Trolley Car 36 carries passengers up and down the scenic Rock River trail, past sixteen unique sculptures and making a brief stop at the Sinnissippi Gardens. Depending on your age and residency, a trolley ride ranges from free to $4.00 per person.

trolley rockford illinois

Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens

A year-round respite in a four-season climate, the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is the third largest conservatory in the state of Illinois. Featuring tropical plants in an 11,000 square-foot exhibition area, the grounds also feature a newly remodeled lagoon (a popular location for ice skating in the winter months) and nearby rose garden. Rates range from free to $8.00, with a Tropical Tuesday discount at $3.00.

klehm arboretum

Discovery Center Museum

One of our all-time favorite Children's Museums, the Discovery Center Museum is worth planning a trip around. In summer months, plan to spend hours in the Discovery Outdoor Science Park (pack grubby clothes and plan to get sandy and wet—your kids will love this!). Admission is $8.00 per person (kids under age one are free; check for museum reciprocity).

Marie Rockford CM

Anderson Japanese Gardens

A fourteen-acre authentic Japanese Garden, Anderson Japanese Gardens is a place for peace, meditation, and contemplation. Offering patrons a break from the stresses of the modern world, the garden truly is a hidden gem. Admission ranges from free to $8.00 depending on age and financial need.

anderson gardens koi pondanderson japanese gardens rockford illinoisanderson gardens tea house

Midway Village Museum

A 19th century village, the Midway Village Museum is set on 137 acres and features 26 historical buildings, many of which you can explore (ranging from a school, to a fire station, police station, general store, and pump house).  The Old Doll’s House features doll house displays from around the world and is a perfect way to pass a rainy day. It's here you'll feel a bit nostalgic.