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.
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.
NickelWorld hosts a selection of more than 100 games to entertain adventurous imaginations and quick-digited game wizards?and they all either cost just a nickel per play, or are free. While meandering through an arcade of more than 20 video games, patrons can slay aliens, henchmen, and the occasional evil cottontail along the way. Classics include Pac-Man, Galaga, and Frogger, in which amphibians halt oncoming traffic through persuasive arguments. After that, they can set off to visit more than 60 redemption games, in which sure-handed prowess translates to great prizes. And for those who just can't get enough of NickelWorld, the arcade also offers parties for up to 40 guests.
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.
Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum is a Victorian-era time capsule, containing within its Swiss-style architecture more than 10,000 objects representing the furniture, artwork, and clothing of the Tinker family. Between the main estate, the barn, the carriage house, and 27 acres of rolling gardens, the museum possesses enough history to attract locals, tourists, and even the producers of Syfy's Ghost Hunters, who recently filmed a segment at the house. Daily guided tours sweep through the grounds, which include a pre-Columbian Native American conical mound, as well as the site where Rockford was founded 4,000 years ago.