History, industry, agriculture, and the arts all converge in Rockford, Illinois. Rockford is a beautiful historic city located on both sides of the Rock River in Northern Illinois. Though Rockford’s history is primarily industrial, the city has a reputation for preserving and promoting the arts. Visitors to the “Forest City,” as it is sometimes called, will find many museums, preserved homes, and gardens as well as shopping, restaurants, parks, and more. The following list contains some can’t-miss destinations for those travelling to Rockford.

We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.

1.Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Illinois

Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Illinois
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The Anderson Japanese Gardens provide a quiet place for reflection and relaxation for visitors to Rockford. The gardens have been carefully designed and constructed using elements of stone, water, plants, pagodas, bridges, water basins, and more. All elements work together to inspire calm and tranquility in guests. The gardens are open daily, and guests may tour the gardens at their leisure. Guided tours are also available for groups of eight or more. In addition, special events such as classes, lectures, and concerts are held throughout the year. The on-site restaurant, Fresco on the Gardens, serves breakfast and lunch daily.

318 Spring Creek Road Rockford, IL 61107, Phone: 815-229-9390

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2.Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford, Illinois

Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford, Illinois
© Burpee Museum of Natural History

The Burpee Museum of Natural History provides four floors’ worth of interactive science exhibits. Their mission is to educate and inspire both children and adults to learn about the natural world. Exhibits include real dinosaur skeletons, a replicated carboniferous coal forest, and displays depicting the life of the indigenous residents of northern Illinois. Workshops, summer camps, and special events for school groups, homeschool students, and scouts are provided by the museum. Auditoriums and classrooms are also available for rental.

737 North Main Street Rockford, Illinois 61103, Phone: 815-965-3433

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3.Discovery Center Museum, Rockford, Illinois

Discovery Center Museum, Rockford, Illinois
© Discovery Center Museum

The Discovery Center Museum is often regarded as one of the best children’s museums in the country. The museum contains over 300 science and art exhibits, most of which are hands-on. Kids can learn about air and flight, electricity, simple machines, transportation, color, and light. They can explore the universe at the museum’s planetarium show or play outside on the adjacent Rock River Discovery Park playground. The museum offers many special events such as classes, teacher workshops, and summer camps and is available for rental for parties and group events.

711 North Main Street Rockford, IL 61103, Phone: 815-963-6769

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4.Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Rockford, Illinois

Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Rockford, Illinois
© Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Visitors to the Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden will find more than just flowers. The property contains eight separate gardens, 1.8 miles of paved trails, and 2.5 miles of easy woodland trails. Guests can stroll through the grounds at their leisure or take a guided tour aboard the Klehm shuttle bus. Gardens include the Nancy Olsen Children’s Garden, the Rhododendron and Azalea Dell, a water fountain garden, ornamental grass garden, and a peony garden. There is even a large vegetable garden that provides food for local food pantries. The gardens are open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day and are closed Sundays during the fall and winter.

2715 S. Main Street Rockford, IL 61102, Phone: 815-965-8146

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5.Things to Do Rockford, IL: Lake-Peterson House

Things to Do Rockford, IL: Lake-Peterson House
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Built in 1873, the Lake-Peterson House is one of the most important homes in Rockford. This two-story structure is considered one of the best examples of Victorian Gothic Revival-style architecture in the state of Illinois. It is listed as an Illinois State Historic Site and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Lake-Peterson House is owned by the Swedish American Hospital in Rockford and was preserved by the Jenny Lind Society in 1973. It can be viewed from the outside, but inside tours are prohibited at this time.

1313 E. State Street Rockford, IL 61108

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6.Magic Waters, Rockford, Illinois

Magic Waters, Rockford, Illinois
© Magic Waters

Magic Waters is the perfect place to beat the summer heat in Rockford. This large water park offers a variety of slides, water rides, and attractions for children to adults. Young children can splash and play in the Little Lagoon, while older kids and adults can get their thrills on the 75-foot Double Dare Drop slide or zoom down The Abyss, a dark tube slide. A large wave pool and a relaxing lazy river are also part of the park. Food and drinks are available at any of the park’s four concession stands. Locker and cabana rentals are also available.

7820 Cherryvale North Blvd Cherry Valley, IL 61016, Phone: 815-966-2442

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7.Midway Village and Museum Center, Rockford, Illinois

Midway Village and Museum Center, Rockford, Illinois
© Midway Village and Museum Center

History comes to life at the Midway Village and Museum Center. This 146-acre campus contains the 15,000-square-foot Museum Center, which showcases the history of Rockford and the surrounding area. Exhibits are dedicated to the agricultural, industrial, and sports history of the city. Also on the property is the Victorian Village, which contains 26 historical buildings that depict life in Rockford at the beginning of the 20th century. During the summer months, on-site interpreters in period costumes take guests on guided tours of the village. The Midway Village and Museum Center is open all year round. Hours vary by season.

6799 Guilford Road Rockford, IL 61107, Phone: 815-397-9112

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8.Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens, Rockford, Illinois

Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens, Rockford, Illinois
© Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens

Visitors to Rockford can experience the tropics at the Nicholas Conservatory. This 11,000-square-foot facility contains exhibits of orchids, butterflies, papaya, sugarcane, and more. Outdoors is the large Sinnissippi Park Rose Garden and the 500-foot-long Eclipse Lagoon. The gardens are the perfect place for a leisurely stroll in the summer. During winter, the lagoon is frozen and public ice skating and ice hockey are offered. Lunch is available at the on-site restaurant, the Hibiscus Bistro, and souvenirs can be purchased in the gift shop. The conservatory is open all year round, Tuesday through Sunday, and is closed on Mondays.

1354 N. 2nd Street, Rockford, IL 61107, Phone: 815-987-8858

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9.Things to Do Rockford, IL: Prairie Street Brewhouse

Things to Do Rockford, IL: Prairie Street Brewhouse
© Prairie Street Brewhouse

Housed in the original home of the Rockford Brewing Company, the Prairie Street Brewhouse continues the tradition of bringing fine brews to Rockford. The brewhouse serves a variety of ales, lagers, and porters as well as wines, specialty cocktails, and a full lunch and dinner menu featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients. Live music is available outside on the docks on Monday and Thursday nights during the summer months. Special events such as yoga, pinball, golf, and special five-course dinners, all paired with the perfect brewhouse beers, are held throughout the year. More weekend getaways from Chicago

200 Prairie Street Rockford, IL 61107, Phone: 815-277-9427

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10.Things to Do Rockford, IL: Rock Cut State Park

Things to Do Rockford, IL: Rock Cut State Park
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Located approximately 10 miles northeast of Rockford, Rock Cut State Park is an excellent place to enjoy nature all year round. The park covers over 3,000 acres and contains two lakes, 40 miles of hiking trails, and 23 miles of bike trails. Equestrian and cross-country skiing trails are also a part of the park. Boating, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and ice skating are all available on Pierce Lake and Olsen Lake. The park also boasts a 270-site campground with electricity, showers, toilets, playground equipment, and a boat launch. A concession stand and a small café at Pierce Lake are open seasonally.

7318 Harlem Road Loves Park, IL 61111, Phone: 815-885-3311

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11.Rockford City Market, Rockford, Illinois

Rockford City Market, Rockford, Illinois
© Rockford City Market

Every Friday afternoon during the summer, the Rockford City Market is held along Water Street in the downtown area of Rockford. This open-air market showcases locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as locally produced meats, cheeses, eggs, and herbs. Other vendors sell fresh-baked goods and snacks. Arts and crafts produced by local artisans are also available. Live music is played under the pavilion, and guests who stop to listen can also sample local coffee and beer. Demonstrations for children are also a part of the market.

Water Street between State and Jefferson Streets Rockford, IL , Phone: 815-977-5124

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12.Things to Do Rockford, IL: Tinker Swiss Cottage

Things to Do Rockford, IL: Tinker Swiss Cottage
© Tinker Swiss Cottage

The history of Rockford began at the property now known as Tinker Swiss Cottage. The complex includes the founding site of the city of Rockford, a Native American mound, and the Tinker Cottage. The cottage was the home of the Tinkers, a prominent family in Rockford’s early history. The cottage has been preserved as a museum and contains original furnishings, household items, clothing, and artwork from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The grounds also contain a barn and carriage house original to the property.

411 Kent Street Rockford, IL 61102, Phone: 815-964-2424

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13.Things to Do Rockford, IL: Zip Rockford

Things to Do Rockford, IL: Zip Rockford
© Zip Rockford

Zip Rockford provides fun and adventure for children and adults. Five different zip lines, in varying degrees of difficulty, can be found here. All zip line tours are guided by experienced guides who put safety as their top priority. The introductory tour lasts approximately 1.5 hours and is perfect for those who have never ridden a zip line or who might be afraid of heights. Longer tours on faster lines are also available for the more experienced or adventurous. Zip Rockford is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day. All riders must weigh at least 60 pounds and stand at least 42” high.

4402 Larson Ave Rockford, IL 61108, Phone: 815-397-6185

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14.Rockford Art Museum

Rockford Art Museum
© Rockford Art Museum

The Rockford Art Museum is dedicated to fostering creativity amongst its visitors and working to build a strong community through visual arts. Celebrated for its diverse, and yet very precise, collection of art, the Rockford Art Museum’s permanent collection is comprised of over 2,000 works. The museum primarily focuses on modern and contemporary American art from the 19th Century onwards, with impressive pieces within the American Impressionist genres to the African American Art of the Black South. The Rockford Art Museum, or RAM for short, also has a growing collection of regional art with an emphasis on works by Illinois artists.

711 North Main Street, Rockford, Illinois 61103; Phone: 815-968-2787

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15.Skateland Rockford

Skateland Rockford
© M-Production/stock.adobe.com

Family-owned and operated, Skateland is Rockford’s premier indoor roller-skating destination. This public skating center welcomes guests to its doors, no matter how long they’ve skating, to enjoy great music and lights while zipping around a well-kept rink. Guests who miss skating but want to keep their experience to their own bubble can also rent out the venue for special events or private gatherings. Meanwhile, first-time skaters are welcome to book skating classes. Classes last for six weeks and include skate rentals, free admission to Skateland’s weekly Sunday afternoon open skating sessions, and lessons from seasoned skaters.

4843 Stenstrom Road, Rockford, Illinois 61109; Phone: 815-874-6500

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16.Erlander Home Museum

Erlander Home Museum
© Swedish Historical Society

Celebrate and learn all about Rockford’s Swedish ancestry community at the Erlander Home Museum, a cultural icon, and the centerpiece of the Swedish Historical Society. The museum building was once the home of John Erlander and was built in 1871 inside the historic Haight Village. Entering the museum is much like traveling back in time as the bulk of the museum’s collection includes Rockford-made furniture used by the home’s previous inhabitants, as well as restored and preserved artifacts from the Swedish immigration into the northern Illinois area. Due to its small size and the precious artifacts that lay within, the Erlander Home Museum may only be visited by appointment. Tours of the home are also available provided the museum is given a week’s notice.

404 S. 3rd Street, Rockford, Illinois 61104; Phone: 815-963-5559

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17.The Stone Eagle Tavern

The Stone Eagle Tavern
© The Stone Eagle Tavern

Delicious food awaits at The Stone Eagle Tavern, a popular restaurant promising great deals and even greater dishes. One-of-a-kind and truly hospitable, The Stone Eagle Tavern is a community favorite thanks to its high-energy oyster bar and its insanely delicious wood-fired pizza. Enjoy friendly gatherings and meet other diners at the oyster bar while tucking into your share of freshly shucked and succulent raw oysters. The Stone Eagle Tavern also offers a more traditional dining area where families and friends can gather over belly-warming and tantalizing lunches or dinners. Be sure to order at least one pizza for the table as the restaurant utilizes Renato Ricci Italian Ovens to make their pizzas which start with a base of freshly baked dough and a delicious San Marzano tomato base.

6445 E. State Street, Rockford, Illinois; Phone: 815-316-3636

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18.815 Escape

815 Escape
© 815 Escape

Entering 815 Escape is easy, getting out is the hard part! If you’re brave enough to take on the challenge of breaking out of some tough escape rooms, then head over to 815 Escape, a premiere and highly-rated challenge in the Rockford area. Promising experiences that won’t soon be forgotten, 815 Escape will require strong teamwork and problem-solving skills to beat the clock and secure freedom. With just sixty minutes on the clock, players will have to beat the wits of 815’s diabolical game designers, who have thrown everything they’ve got into confounding players. 815 Escape features three different room themes including Bio-Genesis, an X-Files Escape Room, Mysteries of the Orient: The Emperor’s Challenge, and The Game is On: The Illustrious Flat.

4249 E. State Street Suite 103, Rockford, Illinois 61108; Phone: 815-209-7444

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18 Best Things to Do Rockford, IL

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