When you think of Illinois, you probably don’t consider things to do in Rockford IL first. In fact, most people probably think about Chicago, and that’s it. But there are lots of excellent things to do in Illinois, whether it’s in a busy city or a suburb. So, if you’re looking for a fun weekend getaway that’s not in a big city, Rockford might be the place for you. What are some exciting things to do in Rockford IL?
#1 – Anderson Japanese Gardens
If you’re looking for a quiet, beautiful place to spend your day, Anderson Japanese Gardens is an ideal destination. The gardens were created using stone, water, plants, pagodas, bridges, water basins, and many other unique designs. The colorful plants and flowing waters will give you a pleasant and tranquil experience. In addition to this popular non-profit garden space, you can also partake in regular events at this location, including classes, lectures, and concerts. There are also guided tours and dining available.
#2 – Rockford Art Museum
Nearly every city has a museum or gallery for art enthusiasts to enjoy. So, Rockford is no different. This museum has been around since 1913, and there are over 1,900 items to look at. It has everything from ancient to modern art, including paintings, photos, and sculptures. It also has many pieces from local Illinois artists as well. The museum even has events regularly, like summer camps and evening socials. It’s within close proximity to the Burpee Museum and Discovery Center Museum, which is very convenient if you’re planning to visit all three.
#3 – Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Rockford
Calming museums and nature parks aren’t for everyone. That’s why Six Flags Hurricane Harbor is on of the best things to do in Rockford IL, especially if you’re feeling more adventurous. Once called Magic Waters, this exciting water park is now owned by Six Flags, who also has a big park in Gurnee IL. A waterpark is a perfect way to get a break from the summer heat and ride some waterslides. There are attractions for all ages, including a small pool for children and a slide with a massive drop for teens and adults. Food, drinks, lockers, and cabana rentals are located throughout the park. It’s the perfect adventure for the whole family, especially if you want to stay busy during your trip.
#4 – Burpee Museum of Natural History
Vacations can also be an opportunity for learning, and the Burpee Museum of Natural History is a great way to experience that. This museum has been popular since 1942, thanks to its wide variety of exhibits, including history displays and interactive science exhibits. It’s most notable for its real dinosaur skeletons, a replicated carboniferous coal forest, and the displays about the native people of Illinois. Researchers are constantly working on new discoveries, and you can even see them working on new specimens, such as dinosaur bones. Like most museums, it hosts lots of fun events, including classes, summer camps, school events, and even concerts.
#5 – Discovery Center Museum
The Discovery Center Museum is a more interactive option that’s perfect for younger audiences. It has over 300 science and art exhibits that are simple and exciting for children. Kids can learn about a variety of concepts including construction, simple machines, electricity, and transportation. Inside, it also has a planetarium show, and outside, there’s a playground with lots of interactive outdoor experiences. It even has a “Tot Spot” to specifically keep toddlers entertained. It might not be on an adult’s bucket list, but it’s one of the best things to do in Rockford IL when you have kids traveling with you.
#6 – Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens
The Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is another peaceful attraction that has 11,000 square feet of botanical gardens. It has a wide variety of plants, including orchids, papayas, and sugarcanes. You might also see some beautiful butterflies roaming around. Outside, it has a gorgeous rose garden, lots of sculptures, and a 500-foot-long lagoon. In the winter, the lagoon is frozen and used as an ice skating rink. There is also an indoor facility with plants that bloom year-round. So, no matter the time of year, you can always enjoy these beautiful sights. There’s even dining and a gift shop on site.
#7 – Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden
If you can’t get enough of nature, you should also check out the Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden. It’s more than just a garden, but instead, it’s a living museum with new exhibits every month of the year. It has 1.8 miles of paved trails and 2.5 miles of woodland trails. You can take a stroll around on your own or you can take a self-guided tour. This attraction is most popular during warm summer months, but in the winter, you can go skiing or snowshoeing there. It even has events for all ages, including a children’s garden and butterfly garden that even kids will adore. There are plenty of events at this location too, including plant sales and story time.
#8 – Midway Village and Museum Center
Midway Village is one of the exciting things to do in Rockford IL because it’s where history comes to life. It’s a 146-acre space with a 15,000-square-foot museum center. It’s a hands-on history experience that shows guests the history of Rockford. It has agricultural, industrial, and some sports-related exhibits. It even has a Victorian Village with 26 historical buildings. In the summer, employees in costumes will take you on a guided tour of the historical sites, which is as close to experiencing history first-hand as you can get. The museum center is open year-round, so even in the winter, you will still have plenty of opportunities to learn.
#9 – Rock Cut State Park
Rock Cut State Park is home to over 3,000 acres of wooded areas and two lakes. It has 40 miles of hiking trails and 23 miles of biking trails. You can go boating, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing in the summer, but you can also go ice skating or cross country skiing in the winter. So, if you’re looking for some outdoor adventures, this is the ideal destination. The park even has a large campground, complete with electricity, toilets, showers, playgrounds, and a boat launch. In the summer, a concession stand by one of the lakes is also open to guests. It’s only about 10 miles away from downtown Rockford.
#10 – Zip Rockford
What beautiful sights would be complete without ziplining? Zip Rockford provides an exciting experience for both kids and adults. It has several ziplines of various difficulties, including climbing courses that lead up to them. There are a few tours to choose from, including an introductory tour, which is perfect for those who are new to ziplining or are afraid of heights. There are also longer tours with faster ziplines, which are made for more experienced guests. It’s only open in the summer, and it’s an exhilarating change from the museums and gardens. However, if you’re deadly afraid of heights, you might want to skip this event.
#11 – Volcano Falls Adventure Park
The Volcano Falls Adventure Park is another one of the best things to do in Rockford IL for all ages. It’s located near Rock Cut State Park, and it appeals the most to families. It has a mini golf course, a laser maze, go karts, batting cages, and arcade games, all with a volcano theme. If your kids aren’t interested in the educational attractions of Rockford, the many exhibits at this park might be more exciting for them. Plus, you can visit the state park before or after this attraction. The best vacations are the ones that are both educational and exciting all at once.
Now do you have plenty of things to do in Rockford IL? Hopefully, this list helped you make your vacation plans great! Most families come to Illinois for Chicago, but many of the smaller cities can be just as exciting. From relaxing walking trails to fun-filled adventure parks, Rockford likely has everything your family is looking for.