The Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home lets you get a true feel for the 40th president's life as a child. The restored home was originally built in 1891 and was home to Ronald Reagan and his family in the early 1920s. Visitors can take guided tours of the home to see young Reagan?s bedroom and find old the secret hiding place for his pennies or the new secret hiding place for George Washington's ghost. A visitor center contains four rooms of photos and a display of the Reagan presidential timeline, and a gift shop sells memorabilia and T-shirts. Outside, a flower and vegetable garden showcases heritage plants, and check out Bessy, the refurbished Model T Ford that's not unlike the car Reagan's family would have driven.
Since Freeport Art Museum opened in 1975, its collection has ballooned to include nearly 4,000 pieces. The number is apt, since the artifacts – from Hellenistic gold jewelry to 19th-century Italian marble statues – encompass 4,000 years of work from all continents and time periods. The nonprofit museum reserves its remaining gallery space for work by contemporary regional artists, as well as travelling exhibitions.
Said space once belonged to a historic elementary school, a lineage that befits the museum's mission to inform visitors about art's global history and future. Through its educational programs, Freeport continues fulfilling that mission with events such as artists talks and classes on subjects such as graffiti art.
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.
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.
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.
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.