Head close to the Wisconsin-Illinois border, and you’ll find the city of Rockford. Remember you don’t just have to be in Chicago to be having fun in Illinois. There are interesting things to do in Rockford that will keep you entertained all week. Rockford has a myriad of cultural and historical things to see and do. Despite it being a relatively large city, it still has all the charming characteristics of a small town.
Much of Rockford’s appeal is centered on the fact that you can still access nature despite being in a city. It goes by the nickname ‘The Forest City’ for a good reason, as there are many gardens, such as the Anderson Japanese Gardens and the Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden. Check out these things to do in Rockford next time you are in the city or planning a trip to Illinois.
- Rockford, Illinois
- 20 Things To Do In Rockford iL
- 1- Visit The Anderson Japanese Gardens
- 2- Pay Your Respects At The LZ Peace Memorial
- 3- Cruise Aboard The Forest City Queen Riverboat
- 4- Go Shopping At Main Street Antique Mall
- 5- Eat And Shop At Rockford City Market
- 6- Pick Fruit At Curran’s Orchard
- 7- Visit The Discovery Center Museum
- 8- Admire Art At Rockford Art Museum
- 9- Cook Down At Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Rockford
- 10- Wander Around Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden
- 11- Explore Lake-Peterson House
- 12- Discover Local Secrets At Ethnic Heritage Museum
- 13- Visit Indian Hill Manor and Farm Historic District
- 14- Dine At Stockholm Inn
- 15- Step Back In Time At Midway Village
- 16- Learn About Dinosaurs at Burpee Museum
- 17- Enjoy The Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens
- 18- Learn To Ride At Kegel Harley-Davidson
- 19- Look For Wildlfe At Rock Cut State Park
- 20- Discover History At Tinker Swiss Cottage
- 20 Things To Do In Rockford iL
20 Things To Do In Rockford iL
1- Visit The Anderson Japanese Gardens
As Rockford is known for its nature, it seems only fitting to kick off this Rockford things-to-do list with the Anderson Japanese Gardens.
This garden is one of the most tranquil and relaxing places in Rockford, maybe even Illinois.
Hoichi Kurisu designed this Japanese garden with trickling waterfalls, gazebos, a tea house, pavilions and vibrant plants, with paths that wind through them.
This 12-acre garden oozes Japanese elegance, sophistication and immaculate execution.
After you’ve wandered around the garden, pop into the garden restaurant for a meal of organic and seasonal food.
Anderson Japanese Gardens is at 318 Spring Creek Rd, Rockford, IL 61107.
2- Pay Your Respects At The LZ Peace Memorial
Pay your respects to the United States service men and women at the LZ Peace Memorial.
At the memorial, there is a Wall of Honor, dedicated to those who lost their lives in various confrontations, including the Vietnam War.
It will be a sombre trip but one where you can show respect to those who lost their lives and enjoy a quiet moment to reflect.
LZ Peace Memorial is at 6595 Guilford Rd, Rockford, IL 61107.
3- Cruise Aboard The Forest City Queen Riverboat
Rockford is on the banks of the Rock River, so one of the best things to do in Rockford is taking a ride on the Forest City Queen Riverboat.
This city cruise started offering Rockford water tours in 1979, so they know their stuff.
While you cruise down Rock River, learn about Rockford’s history and future development projects.
Take in all the Rockford attractions and enjoy a relaxing boat ride.
Forest City Queen Riverboat is at 324 N Madison St, Rockford, IL 61107.
4- Go Shopping At Main Street Antique Mall
When you reach Rockford, you’ll feel that antiquing is a suitable daytime activity to enjoy the city’s charm and old-world atmosphere.
If you love antiquing, you are going to love Rockford.
Around Main Street are 15 antique shops full of hidden gems, old furniture and antique must-haves.
You’ll find some local gems when shopping for antiques on Main Street, including furniture, vintage clothes, home decor and jewellery.
Main Street Antique Mall is at 203 W Main St, Rockford, IL.
5- Eat And Shop At Rockford City Market
When visiting a new city, heading to the local market is always a good idea.
The Rockford City Market is perfect for meeting new people and sampling some excellent produce from local vendors.
They’ve got everything you’d expect from a market, fruit, vegetables, fresh flowers, baked goods, cheese and eggs.
They also have food to eat right there and some excellent local wines (perfect if you are looking for a souvenir).
The Rockford City Market is an all-day affair.
Live music begins in the pavilion during the evening to round off the day nicely. But a word of warning, be sure to get there early so you can get all the best and freshest produce.
Rockford City Market is at 116 N Madison St, Rockford, IL 61107.
6- Pick Fruit At Curran’s Orchard
Another culinary activity on this list of things to do in Rockford is to visit Curran’s Orchard. This family-run establishment will provide you and the family with a fun-filled day.
While at Curran’s, you can pick your own apples – both yellow and red delicious.
They also have baked goods (featuring apples, of course) to choose from, including apple pie and apple cider.
Treat yourself to their signature apple doughnut.
Curran’s Orchid’s apple cider is locally famous, having won many local and Illinois-based awards.
It is worth visiting at the weekend because there are hayrides that the kids will love, apple slingshots and a petting farm.
Curran’s is a fantastic place to take the little ones, they’ll love the activities on offer here.
Curran’s Orchard is at 6385 Kilburn Ave, Rockford, IL 61101.
7- Visit The Discovery Center Museum
If you’re travelling to Rockford with children, check out the Discovery Center Museum, where 250 exhibits will engage your kids for hours.
Be warned, they may not want to go home. The exhibits educate young learners about the arts and science through explorative play and games.
It won’t just be the kids enjoying this museum, there are some interesting activities for adults, and you might even find yourself learning a thing or two.
There is also a planetarium and a special TV studio where you can create and present your own news show.
The museum also has a space for toddlers to play and improve their fine and gross motor skills.
Discovery Center Museum is at 711 N Main St, Rockford, IL 61103.
8- Admire Art At Rockford Art Museum
The Rockford Art Museum sits in the heart of the city and displays an abundance of work made predominately by local and regional artists.
The Rockford Art Museum has a collection of more than 1900 pieces from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
A range of mediums is on display at this art museum, from contemporary pieces to photography exhibitions.
Rockford Art Museum is at 711 N Main St, Rockford, IL 61103.
9- Cook Down At Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Rockford
If you are visiting Rockford during summer and the heat is unbearable, head to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Rockford.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Rockford is a big, super-fun water park where the whole family is bound to have an incredible time.
There are slides and water rides, everything you need to splash around in the water for a day.
Smaller children can splash around in the Little Lagoon, while the big kids (and adults) can try the 75-foot Double Dare Drop Slide or the dark tube slide named The Abyss.
There is a wave pool and a river, a bunch of food, drink and concession stands to buy snack at throughout the day.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Rockford is at 7820 Cherryvale North Blvd, Cherry Valley IL 61016.
10- Wander Around Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden
The Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden is more proof that Rockford’s nickname ‘The Forest City’ is accurate.
Klehm Arboretum has eight different gardens to explore, a number of pathways and a beautiful, serene woodland trail.
Take a guided tour or wander around alone, taking in the many elements of the garden.
The Nancy Olsen Children’s Garden and the Rhododendron Garden are beautifully manicured and designed.
The gardens are closed on Sundays during autumn and winter.
Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden is at 2715 S Main Street, Rockford, IL 61102.
11- Explore Lake-Peterson House
The Lake-Peterson House is one of Rockford’s most iconic and important homes and a prime example of the Victorian Gothic Revival architectural era.
It has been listed as one of Illinois State Historic Sites and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
The house was built back in 1873 by Rockford citizen John Lake. Now the house is owned and maintained by the Swedish American Hospital.
The house has served as the president’s office and senior vice president since 1983.
You can explore inside this Victorian Gothic house throughout the weekend.
Lake-Peterson House is at 1313 E. State St., Rockford IL 61104.
12- Discover Local Secrets At Ethnic Heritage Museum
If there are two things that Rockford is good at, its museums and gardens.
This Ethnic Heritage Museum somewhat surprisingly dates back to 1850 and is dedicated to displaying the history of the different ethnic groups that played a role in forming Rockford into what it is today.
These ethnic groups include African Africans, Italians, Irish, Polish, Hispanic and Lithuanian.
You will learn how Rockford became a melting pot of cultures at this heritage museum.
Ethnic Heritage Museum is at 1129 S Main St, Rockford, IL 61101.
13- Visit Indian Hill Manor and Farm Historic District
The Indian Hill Manor and Farm Historic District is another of Rockford’s places on the National Register.
This 1900s estate is a prime example of a country gentleman’s farm.
The manor house was built by one of Rockford’s architects, Charles W. Bradley.
If you want to see a 20th-century manor house, then visit Indian Hill Manor for a tour of the manor house, coach house and dairy farm.
This place is great for history lovers who want to know what life would have been like in Rockford back in the day.
Indian Hill Manor and Farm Historic District is at 6901 Kishwaukee Rd, Rockford, IL 61109.
14- Dine At Stockholm Inn
Foodies will want to try the variety of foods at Stockholm Inn; as you’ve probably guessed from the name, they are Swedish dishes.
Swedish meatballs (Köttbullar), mashed potato, pancakes, shrimp sandwiches (Räkmacka), are some delectable and unique dishes.
This is a go-to food spot in town, with Stockholm Inn having been operational since the 1940s.
It’s almost like having a slice of history while dining at Stockholm Inn.
Enjoy these incredible Scandinavian delicacies, something you may not have tried before.
Stockholm Inn is at 2420 Charles St, Rockford, IL 61108.
15- Step Back In Time At Midway Village
Midway Village focuses on human history, but it’s more than a museum.
With extensive grounds and historic buildings, it’s a historical park that showcases life in the Midwest during the 1900s.
The ‘Many Faces, One Community’ exhibit is one of the most popular at the museum.
Portraits reflect Rockford’s immigration history and how it influenced the city.
There is also a Victorian-era village with 26 buildings that you can explore, displaying Victorian-era artifacts and replica scenes.
See what an old police station, school and supermarket used to look like.
A lot of the time, when you visit, you will find staff in costumes reflecting the 1900s.
Midway Village and Museum Center is at 6799 Guilford Rd, Rockford, IL 61107.
16- Learn About Dinosaurs at Burpee Museum
The Burpee Museum of Natural History focuses primarily on Illinois’s geology and natural history.
This is one of the best things to do in Rockford and one of the most popular attractions for both kids and adults.
The ‘Diary of a Dinosaur’ is one of the museum’s best exhibits. The exhibit leads you through the story of a T-Rex skeleton (Jane) discovered in Montana.
A rooftop garden with a flora and fauna exhibit focuses on species from the Rock River Valley.
Burpee Museum of Natural History is at 737 N Main St, Rockford, IL 61103.
17- Enjoy The Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens
The Nicholas Conservatory is a multifunctional space with gardens, exhibitions and event space.
You’ll find the conservatory in the Rockford Park District. The park covers 11,000 sq feet of space and is the third largest conservatory in Illinois.
There are many tropical plants, an orchid exhibit during winter, peaceful fountains and sculptures, making it an excellent place to enjoy a peaceful afternoon.
Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens is at 1354 N 2nd St, Rockford, IL 61107.
18- Learn To Ride At Kegel Harley-Davidson
If you are into the bike scene, you’ve got to visit the Kegel Harley-Davidson branch.
As well as some of the most impressive bikes you’ll have ever seen, there’s a shop full of Harley-Davidson merchandise and an impressive showroom.
You can even get involved with the Harley-Davidson riding academy, where you can complete a new rider course.
Kegel Harley-Davidson is at 7125 Harrison Ave, Rockford, IL 61112.
19- Look For Wildlfe At Rock Cut State Park
To surround yourself with nature, check out Rock Cut State Park, which is 15 minutes outside the city centre and a nature lover’s oasis waiting to be explored.
You can hike, and there are also biking and horseriding tracks to explore.
There is a large expanse of woodland, meadows filled with flowers, a lake, many creeks and prairies.
Be on the lookout for wildlife like beavers, racoons, deer, foxes and muskrats.
If you fancy a spot of fishing, head to Pierce Lake, a popular area for catching some big fish.
Rock Cut State Park is at 7223 West Lane Rd, Caledonia, IL.
20- Discover History At Tinker Swiss Cottage
Tinker Swiss Cottage sits overlooking Kent Creek and has previously been home to some of Rockford’s most prestigious families.
This cottage was built in 1865 for Robert and Mary Tinker.
It’s hardly a small cottage as there are 27 rooms in the house, which you can now wander around.
Look at original family portraits, 19th-century architecture, and some of the occupants’ personal belongings.