Dinosaurs. Sock monkeys. Sports arenas. Water parks. Swedish
All these attractions await families during an interesting and
economical weekend getaway less than two hours away from Chicago in
Accommodations range from small bed-and-breakfasts to large
brand-name hotels. When you're traveling in Illinois, an indoor
pool is a must for kids. We chose Clock Tower Resort, which has a great pool
within the hotel, plus it includes CoCo Key Water Resort
with slides, dump buckets, sprayers and a lazy river. If you arrive
before check-in time, you can spend time in the water park while
you wait. Many area hotels have packages with local attractions, so
it pays to do your homework.
CoCo Key and Clock Tower have plenty of food and drink options,
from sit-down dining in the Sun Dial Restaurant to fast food within
the water park, making it easy to never leave the resort. But you
won't want to miss some of Rockford's other unique offerings.
While Chicago is home to amazing museums, Rockford also gives
families the chance to explore local history, science, art, natural
history and even botanic gardens on a smaller scale and better
In fact, the
Burpee Museum of Natural History is home to Jane, the world's
most complete juvenile T. rex. Burpee researchers are so busy in
the Montana Badlands that the museum is currently renovating to
make space for a Triceratops and other important discoveries.
Beyond dinosaurs, families will literally walk through millions of
years of local history in life-size immersive exhibits. Peepholes
and plenty of "Please Touch" signs keep it fun for kids.
We also liked the Native-American exhibits, with their
assortment of full-sized dwellings. Looking for all the hidden
details within each scene became a game and a good excuse to read
signs and information.
If you're traveling with younger kids, your best bet is the Discovery Center
Museum. My sons spent hours in this well-designed children's
museum pushing buttons, playing "arcade" games, building and even
exercising. My oldest loved the sports area where kids can guess
different sport balls based only on feel, learn about arc and
bounce with basketball shots and discover angles in the tennis
game. They felt like pros when they played against a green screen
direct to a live video feed. We also spent a long time in the human
body exhibit, with its many interactive stations to teach kids
about their brains, nutrition and circulation.
To get a real understanding of Rockford's history, you can visit
Midway Village Museum,
which includes a 19th-century village with dozens of historic
buildings in a park-like setting. Start inside the museum with
exhibits on the popular sock monkey and Rockford's own Rockford
Peaches, the women's baseball team featured in the movie "A League
of Their Own." While the indoor museum is primarily "no touch,"
venture outside to experience what life was like in Rockford in the
late 1800s. Costumed docents and interactive activities make the
experience realistic and fun.
Since each of these museums can entertain kids for a couple of
hours, it's easy (and affordable) to visit two in one day. Beyond
watching kids play, parents will find enough to do and read so no
one will be bored. By the end of the afternoon, everyone will have
learned something-and had fun doing it.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner options are nearly endless. Rockford
has its share of chain restaurants if you want to play it safe. But
why not sample some Rockford originals?
Lino's is a very popular Italian option,
crowded and lively. Kegel's Harley Diner is attached to the
world's oldest family-owned Harley dealership and offers items like
Throttle Dog chili dog and Dip Stick cheese sticks. The Stockholm Inn celebrates Rockford's Swedish
heritage with must-try Swedish pancakes topped with lingonberries.
If you spend the day at the Museum Park museums, Beefaroo is a good
lunch option, conveniently located with well-priced burgers, beef
sandwiches, chili, potatoes and salads.
With only a couple days in Rockford, we could not experience all
Rockford's attractions. My sons would have loved to see the Rockford Icehogs
hockey team play at the MetroCentre. We're also looking forward to
a warmer month when we can visit the Anderson Japanese Gardens,
ranked as one of the finest in North America.
With such unlimited options for lodging, food and fun, a good
place to start is the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors
Bureau. Its Web site can help you navigate options, hours and
pricing, allowing you to maximize a weekend getaway. You can also
find information about some of the area's fun family events.
Alena Murguia lives in Berwyn, Illinois along with her husband and three growing sons.
See more of Alena's stories here.
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