Even though we are surrounded by tall buildings and tons of people, kids still love to play with tractors. Maybe it’s because John Deere is in our blood in Illinois. So when cabin fever hits this spring, pack up the family, grab their toy tractors and take a John Deere-themed trip.
Start at Deere’s roots in Grand Detour, Ill. Located about 15 minutes off I-88, this is where Deere opened his blacksmith shop and built his first plow. Today it’s home to the John Deere Historic Site. Open May-October, the site includes Deere’s house, some beautiful grounds, and a working blacksmith shop. Kids 11 and under are free, adults $5.
The next stop is just about an hour away in Moline. Here you will find two more John Deere attractions, both free: the company’s world headquarters and the John Deere Pavilion. Both spots offer displays of antique and modern equipment, but at the Pavilion, the equipment is not just to look at. Kids and adults are encouraged to climb on-board and touch everything. Plus, there is a special area for younger Deere fans to play and pretend, videos to watch, and a large John Deere store where you can buy anything with the classic logo on it. One Saturday a month, they even host a free Kids’ Craft Day at the Pavilion.
The newest John Deere attraction is also the farthest from Chicago, but if you are interested in history, this is your stop. The Tractor and Engine Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, opened just this past year and is filled with vintage tractors and engines. They also have several exhibits with young visitors in mind, including one that takes you through the process of making a John Deere tractor from concept and design to assembly. For anyone 13 and older, there are factory tours in both Moline and Waterloo. Details on the museums and tours are at deere.com.
Being around five hours from Chicago, your trip to Waterloo would be best enjoyed if you stayed the night. Aside from the Deere Museum, Waterloo is home to a great children’s museum and Iowa’s largest outdoor water park. For details on attractions and accommodations, head to travelwaterloo.com. Moline is closer, at only two and a half hours from Chicago, so you could make it a day trip, but in case you decide to stay, get information for the Quad Cities at visitquadcities.com.