Find your zen at Rockford’s Anderson Japanese Gardens

Photo Credit: Go Rockford


Looking for a relaxing way to spend some time outdoors with your family this summer? The tranquil beauty of Anderson Japanese Gardens is calling your name.


Located just an hour and a half from Chicago, Anderson is widely regarded as one of the top Japanese gardens in the country. Twelve acres filled with gorgeous plant life, koi ponds, bridges, pagodas and waterfalls will transport you to another place and time, and you’ll be left wondering why you haven’t made the trip before.


I grew up in Rockford and have attended numerous concerts, events and weddings at the gardens. It’s hard to find a more picture-perfect place to spend the day, and although it is slightly more relaxing to visit sans kids, the gardens are ultra family (and stroller) friendly. Here are a few tips for making the most of your visit to Anderson Gardens.


What to know before you go


General Admission cost: Adults $9, Senior (62+) $8, Child $7, kids under five are free. Donation days for the rest of the year: July 19, August 16, September 20 and October 18.


Tours: Anderson offers private guided tours for groups at a slightly higher admission rate, as well as public docent-led tours. Reservations can be made online here.


Hours: Monday-Friday (9 a.m.–6 p.m.), Saturday & Sunday (9 a.m.–5 p.m.)


Fresco at the Gardens


If you get hungry after touring the gardens, on-site restaurant Fresco is ready to serve up a tasty brunch or lunch to your crew. Imagine sipping on a blackberry mimosa while overlooking the lush garden landscapes… does it get any better? Their menu includes breakfast sandwiches, salads, flatbreads, freshly squeezed juices and artisan cocktails.


Fresco is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Kid’s events


Garden Explorers: Every Thursday at 9 a.m., kids can enjoy a special storytime and create a craft at Anderson’s pavilion.


Spook-Tacular Haunts: Saturday, Oct. 27 from 3-5 p.m.. Participate in a unique trick-or-treating experience throughout the gardens. There will be Halloween crafts, candy apples, a spooky graveyard photo opp, wildlife education activities and Haunted Rockford garden tours.


Special events this summer and fall


Tuesday Evening in the Garden: 5:45 p.m. every Tuesday night through Aug. 28. Enjoy a concert from local and regionally known musicians while lounging on the garden grounds. Guests are welcome to start setting up chairs and blankets near the pavilion stage at 5 PM. Outdoor food is permitted, but food (and beer) trucks will be on hand if you’d rather not pack a picnic.


Japanese Summer Festival: Saturday, July 28 from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.  According to Anderson’s website, the festival “features exhibits, demonstrations and unique performances that appeal to all age groups and helps foster a better understanding of the Japanese culture.” Special tea ceremonies, hosted by a professor of Japanese Arts and Culture from the University of Illinois, will also take place. The festival is included with the price of admission, but there is an extra fee for the tea ceremony.


On Tap Craft Beer Event: Saturday Oct. 13 from 1-4 p.m. Plan an adults-only day at the gardens and taste samples from some of the top breweries in Northern Illinois, including Rockford Brewing Company, Generations and Crystal Lake Brewing. Food will be available for purchase as well.


Want to explore Rockford a bit more after your chill day at Anderson Gardens? Downtown is just a few minutes away, and offers plenty of great dinner options, breweries and scenic views of the Rock River. Enjoy your time in my hometown!


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