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.
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.
What do kids love more than outer space? Nothing, except maybe learning more about it at Discovery Center Museum, named one of the 10 best museums in the country for families by USA Today readers. The slew of interactive exhibits include a planetarium, where youngsters can learn more about the night sky, and an exhibit on Rockford astronaut Dr. Janice Voss, who went on an impressive grand total of five space missions with NASA. The museum covers more than space, though?those are just two of the more than 250 hands-on exhibits that explain concepts as diverse as how agriculture touches our everyday lives and how airplanes fly without flapping their wings.
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.