Located about 90 minutes from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Rockford, Illinois is a small city offering lots of great things for families to do. Whether you are living in the area or just traveling through on a family road trip, there are plenty of family things to do in Rockford IL. Here are our picks. Did we miss your favorite thing to do in Rockford IL? Leave us a comment.
Disclosure: These activities were complimentary as part of the Travel Media Showcase event in Rockford, IL. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
Things to Do in Rockport, IL With Kids
Just a short drive away from the downtown area is the Anderson Japanese Gardens. Our evening reception was held there on Wednesday night, and it was absolutely gorgeous. We were there after closing, so we were only able to take advantage of a bit of sunlight, and I still really enjoyed this beautiful oasis. It’s a place that I’d love to visit again for a longer stay.
Kids visiting the Anderson Japanese Gardens will especially like feeding the koi fish – just purchase some food in the gift shop and ask a guide to point you in the right direction. The koi love being fed, and the travel by the dozens to any place where they smell food. Get your camera ready for when they swim by!
The primary season for the gardens is May through October, and current rates are extremely reasonable. There are also a number of events that are hosted at the gardens. The restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch, is open year round.
Even if you aren’t staying in Rockford, I’d definitely recommend visiting if you are passing by.
Families in Rockford will really love the convenience of the Riverfront Museum Park campus, which includes the Rockford Art Museum, the Burpee Museum of Natural History, and the Discovery Center Museum. During our afternoon tour on Wednesday, we briefly stopped at both the Burpee Museum and the Discovery Center.
The Burpee Museum of Natural History (no relation to the famous seed company of the same name) boasts two fabulous dinosaur exhibits – Jane the T-Rex and Homer the Triceratops.
Jane is the most preserved juvenile T-Rex anywhere, and it’s so impressive to see her. We spent most of our time in the room with Jane, but I also had the chance to sneak a peek at Homer, who is a sub-adult triceratops also at the museum.
It’s a small museum, but there are some great exhibits, so I’d recommend combining a trip to the Burpee Museum with a visit to the Discovery Center next door. It’s easy to combine a trip to the museums since they are so close.
The Discovery Center Museum is located adjacent to the Burpee Museum, and occasionally shares exhibits with them. It offers a planetarium (costing just $1 a show) along with lots of kid-friendly exhibits. Part children’s museum and part science museum, the Discovery Center offers loads of hands on fun. I wasn’t with my children, but I know they would have loved a visit here. I was also very impressed with how completely spotless this museum is, which is something I am always looking at when I visit kids’ museums.
For visits in the warm weather, you’ll also want to check out the giant play area outside the museum (pictured above). This huge play structure is a great place for kids to get their energy out on a family vacation or road trip.
Rockland, Illinois is famous for the Rockford Peaches, the women’s baseball team featured in the movie “A League of Their Own”. Of course, the Peaches have long been disbanded, but visitors to Midway Village can take a step into the past with an exhibit showcasing some of the team’s memorabilia. There are other indoor exhibits at Midway Village as well.
After checking the indoor exhibits, head outside for a tour of their Victorian Village. Interpretive guides take guides through some of these original and replica buildings made to look like a turn-of-the-century Victorian Village. I especially enjoyed visiting the Kate Chamberlain Hotel, which is now used for weddings.
There are other things to do in Rockford, IL that I wasn’t able to experience during my visit to Travel Media Showcase. This include places right in the city of Rockfort as well as nearby locations. These include:
- The Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens
- The Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden
- Rock Cut State Park (in nearby Loves Park IL)
- Rock River Trail
If you visit Rockford, IL, there are several hotels in the area, including the Hilton Garden Inn, where I stayed (see reviews here). I’d definitely recommend it for a comfortable, relaxing stay. Although there’s a bus that travels from O’Hare to Rockford, I’d recommend renting a car – most places are only accessible via car.