Established in 1968, Midway Village Museum embodies a sprawling, 137-acre time capsule. Within the museum’s 27 fully functioning, Victorian buildings, exhibits tell the story of Rockford since its incorporation in the early 19th century. Throughout the years, the town has made history as the progenitor of the sock monkey, the launching point for aviator Bert Hassell, and home of the Rockford Peaches—an all-female baseball team fictionalized in the film A League of Their Own, though the real squad neither played in the 1943 championship nor battled a CGI dragon. Other attractions amid the barns, blacksmiths, and general stores include a dollhouse museum and a meticulous archive of Rockford’s long, proud history in the furniture industry.
Beneath the lofty ceiling at Carlson Ice Arena’s year-round rink gleams 17,000 square feet of well-groomed ice. Rented skates clasp guests’ ankles as they slice across its frozen surface during public skate sessions, and pupils in hockey and figure-skating classes learn to deftly maneuver blades to score slap shots, land lutzes, and scrawl cursive love notes for Zamboni drivers. Chilly fingers defrost as guests lounge in the 600-seat spectator stands, and iceless recreation areas such as the soft, three-level Sapora Playworld or the Tiny Tots Playspace host troupes of carousing kids.
Founded in 1884, the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center is among the oldest community music organizations in the U.S., inviting patrons into its halls year after year to support and experience the excitement of live music. The center is home to the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra, which won the 2011 award for Best Chamber Orchestra from the Illinois Council of Orchestras. The group of in-residence musicians keep fans of classical music thoroughly entertained with concerts throughout the year and tag-team wrestling matches between the string and brass sections.
As a member of the National Association of Consumer Shows, Showtime Productions, Inc. has hosted some of the largest and most well-attended trade shows in the Midwest. The Rockford Home Show, for example, has been going strong for more than 30 years, and Showtime partners with Landro Productions to organize boating and fishing and camping and travel shows that have attracted outdoor enthusiasts for more than four decades.
Many of their events are held at the Indoor Sports Center, a 60,000-square-foot complex where visitors have plenty of room to walk past rows and rows of exhibit booths. Convention guests refuel with burgers, tacos, and other casual bites while watching the action below from the second-floor Skybox Restaurant and sports bar.
Magic Waters' vast expanse of twisting slides, heated wave pools, and colorful attractions accessible to all visitors entertains entire families. While swimmers play, troops of lifeguards with extensive certification and training ensure safety, and mascots stand guard to pose for pictures with children and warn against the dangers of going down a water slide in a full-body costume. After careening through the mysterious darkness of the Abyss tube slide, guests drift down 1,200 feet of lazy river or sun themselves on the shores the wave pool. Younger aquanauts puff up their water wings in the interactive complex of Tiki Island or leapfrog over floating lily pads in Little Lagoon.
After exploring the twists and turns of rivers and waterslides, guests refuel with burgers, pizza, and chicken at the Island Grill or indulge in cold, creamy treats at Culver's Frozen Custard. A lineup of upcoming events entertains all ages with contests and giveaways from Disney Radio on Friday Family Fun Nights, or the Herculean shifting of the hemispheres during Christmas in July.
Even with a lot of spare time, it's tough to fit a basketball game, a streetcar race, and an appearance on The Price is Right all into the same day. At Spare Time, however, the harsh realities of a normal schedule doesn't apply—one can fit virtual versions of all three activities into a single afternoon. There, gamers virtually breeze from rounds of Deal or No Deal to the hectic mazes of Ms. Pac-Man or the quiet hunting grounds of Big Buck Hunter. Ensuring a fresh rotation of new experiences, the staff constantly updates the library with new selections of both classic and modern games. Beyond the arcade cabinets and pinball machines, visitors can also play games in pursuit of plush prizes, just like real-life stockbrokers. The arcade also hosts birthday parties and other events in partnership with the attached bowling alley, Don Carter Lanes.