Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens transports visitors into the verdant heart of the tropics when they enter the 11,000-square-foot greenhouse, which bristles with leafy ferns and towering palm trees amid the flagstone walkways, wooden benches, and rippling ponds. Within these serene confines, the conservatory's staff seeks to educate the public by hosting workshops and lecture series for all ages, as well as hands-on activities that change with the seasons. These events espouse the importance of plant life across the world while teaching visitors how to identify the edible parts of a corsage.
The caring staff at the YMCA of Rock River Valley fosters healthy habits with personalized fitness programs, family-centric recreation, and more than 50 group exercise classes at both Rockford-area locations. Equipment orientation helps new members feel at home by helping them set workout goals and meet other members with similar goals. After teaming with a certified coach to build a full-fledged fitness plan, guests may follow up with an electronic advisor that suggests changes to the plan based on input from the Y’s human fitness experts. Unlimited access to group classes such as yoga and pool-based aqua Pilates challenges muscles under water. Zumba’s Latin-inspired dance moves get heart rates delightfully elevated, and cardio madness continues the trend with weighted bars and free weights. The Y also sets aside time for families to connect over basketball, movie showing in the pool, or competing in an inflatable obstacle course
In addition to showering members with classes and coaching, the Y bathes them in discounts when they sign up for specialized classes such as triathlon training. Complimentary childcare allows parents to focus their mental energy on physical feats, and a handful of free guest passes lets members show their friends where they climb the climbing wall.
After traveling to Japan in 1966 and to the Portland Japanese Garden soon thereafter, John Anderson found himself inspired by the country's lush landscape and tranquil gardens. In 1978, after returning to his home in Rockford, he partnered with expert designer Hoichi Kurisu to begin constructing Anderson Japanese Gardens?12 acres of paths, plants, and streams, as soothing as those John visited in Japan.
The gardens still encourage a sense of calm and thoughtful reflection, as guided and self-guided tours stroll past undulating waterfalls, trickling across colorful flowers, beneath arched bridges, and over lily pads. Fruit blossoms on trees and bushes, sculptures stand very still, and koi fish flit about in a pond. On Thursdays, participants read from scripture, listen to music, and meditate during worship services, and a series of classes held onsite, such as origami and tai chi, impart Japanese traditions.
Swim-N-More transforms dog paddlers into water wolves via fun, personalized swim instruction. Certified as lifeguards, Swim-N-More's wave wizards guide schools of three to six tadpoles from basic skills, such as how to break down the molecular structure of water, through more advanced kicks and strokes. Small fries, aged 6 months through 3 years, can tow their guardians to the Bubble Club, where parents utilize pool games to give their spawn the support necessary to eventually swim free.
Each facility in the family of Rockford-Area Bowling Centers enlivens the classic game of bowling with its own signature amenities. On Friday evenings, the staff at Don Carter Lanes temporarily extinguishes its warm, vintagey glow and replaces it with a dimly lit club atmosphere as DJs from 97 ZOK descend upon the alley, pumping out beats that mingle in the air along with a light and fog show. For supplementary entertainment, the Don Carter location also offers a gaming center, and the Park Lanes alley recharges guests with beer and deep-fried fuel at its onsite pub. The Cherry Bowl location keeps serious bowlers properly outfitted with a pro shop, saving them the hassle of paper-mâchéing their own heads to form makeshift bowling balls.
The Rockford Art Museum has more than a century of creativity hanging from the walls in its galleries. It acquired its first piece in 1913 and has since collected more than 1600 pieces from local and international artists. Glass sculptures, 20th century American photography, and impressionist paintings vie for attention alongside the dynamic images of the American southwest from the Taos Society of New Mexico. The collection houses the detailed work of regional artists trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Royal Academy of Arts and the earthy, meaningful paintings of outsider art, such as Richard Burnside’s untitled painting of a cat made from paint and pinecone pieces.
Standing apart from the main collection, the museum’s RAM Art Annex houses educational programs and the museum store stocks an inventory of jewelry and glass pieces by local artists. The annual Greenwich Village Art Fair also shares art appreciation with the community. The fair gathers more than 100 artists in an atmosphere filled with live music.