Distinctively Decorated Hotel Perched over the Rock River
Between the bronze boar statue, the labyrinthine-like hallways, and the decorative antiques at every turn, Lexington Hotel Cliffbreakers Riverside Resort looks and feels like hotel built for the Old World. Though it was actually built in 1998, Cliffbreakers' designers have placed giant model ships and oversized aquariums to evoke the kind of adventure and whimsy of a hotel with many more years under its belt. Its location in downtown Rockford certainly helps—through floor-to-ceiling windows in the resort's ballroom, you can peer downward to the Rock River as it snakes through the city.
Massive wooden wardrobes, elaborately carved four-poster beds, and other period pieces give each space a distinct personality, and whirlpool rooms feature views of the Rock River rushing below. In a bi-level loft suite, a staircase leads up to a separate sitting area, ideal for napping on a sofa.
At the in-house restaurant, chef Philippe Forcioli crafts creative pasta and seafood dishes, including blackened-scallops rigatoni and crab-stiffed rainbow trout. After dinner, head to the adjoining Fauerbach Tap Room for the Fauerbach family’s own amber lager in a comfortable, wood-paneled pub setting. In the morning, you can dig into a complimentary breakfast before hopping the hotel's free shuttle, which zooms to any attraction up to 5 miles away, from downtown Rockford to the Shrine to the set of The Rockford Files.
Rockford, Illinois: River City with Educational Museums
Named for its dependable ford across the Rock River, Rockford lies within 100 miles of Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee, but has plenty of attractions and outdoor charm to entertain those staying over the weekend. Long stretches of paved paths in the carefully landscaped parks along the Rock River make for excellent strolls—a path from Cliffbreakers leads directly from the property onto the banks. The nearby Rock Cut State Park has 40 miles of trails for hiking and 14 miles of trails for horseback riding around the park's two lakes.
Several excellent art museums, unique gardens, and preserved houses make Rockford a destination for history buffs. A distinctive Swiss-style cottage, the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum, overflows with original furnishings and household items from life as it was in Rockford more than a century ago. For those curious about science, the Burpee Museum of Natural History houses Jane the dinosaur, a fully restored 21-foot skeleton of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex, and the nearby family-friendly Discovery Center Museum features a kids' news studios for aspiring anchors to recreate Tom Brokaw's famous melodic recital of the Dow Jones average.