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, there are plenty of family things to do in Rockford IL. Here are our picks. Did we miss your favorite? 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.
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. Kids 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.
The primary season for the gardens is May through October, and current rates are extremely reasonable. It’s free for kids under 5, $6 for students, $7 for seniors, and $8 for adults.
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 seed company) boasts two fabulous dinosaur exhibit – 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.
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.
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.
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.
Rockland, Illinois is famous for the Rockford Peaches, the woman’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.
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.
If you visit Rockford, IL, there are several hotels in the area, including the Hilton Garden Inn, where I stayed. 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.