Science museums, an arboretum, historic concert halls and a Japanese garden make Rockford an interesting and fun-packed destination in northern Illinois.
Rockford is the “City of Gardens,” a destination of public parks, outdoor recreation, museums and live music venues. The city spreads across the Rock River in northern Illinois. Settled in 1834, Rockford became popular with 20th-century European immigrants, who left their mark on the city’s architecture.
Start your visit at the Riverfront Museum Park on the west bank of the river. This cultural center is home to a museum, galleries and performing arts venues. Have fun with over 250 interactive science exhibits at the Discovery Center Museum. Explore the night sky and the solar system at the museum’s planetarium. Spot North American art from the 1800s to the present day at the Rockford Art Museum.
Enjoy classical and contemporary musical performances at the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. Watch ballet performances, such as the Nutcracker and Alice in Wonderland, at the Rockford Dance Company. Visit the Burpee Museum of National History to see ancient fossils and indigenous artifacts such as canoes and wigwams. Don’t miss the skeleton of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex, which lay buried for over 60 million years.
Spend time exploring the independent boutiques and galleries of downtown Rockford. Take a behind-the-scenes tour or watch live music and comedy shows at Coronado Performing Arts Center. Previous performers include Frank Sinatra and the Marx Brothers. Join a riverboat cruise to experience an alternative view of the city’s architecture.
Rockford is also famous for its parks and nature. Stroll around the manicured lawns, ornamental lagoon and greenhouses of Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. Study the picturesque teahouses and gardens at Anderson Japanese Gardens. Go to Rock Cut State Park for year-round activities such as camping, fishing, sailing, hiking and cross-country skiing. Gaze up at tall trees and spot exotic plants at Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden.
Rockford is less than a 2-hour drive from Chicago, Madison and Milwaukee and connected by intercity bus services. Getting around downtown Rockford is possible on foot although driving a car is the best way to reach attractions outside the city center.