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Things To Do In Rockford

Rockford is a beautiful city located on both sides of the Rock River in Northern Illinois. With its rich history, the city is known for its many museums, preserved homes, and gardens. Restaurants, shops, parks, and more dot the city streets. Plus, the city is very prideful of its rock n’ roll history. So put on some Cheap Trick and keep reading for a detailed guide of Rockford’s most popular attractions and things to do while visiting.

The city of Rockford boasts an abundance of beautiful outdoor areas, an interesting history, plus a lively local culture. From botanical gardens, nature centers, and numerous hiking trails, you can stay busy outside for your entire visit. As well as the plethora of outdoor activities, you can also enjoy inside experiences at the many museums, restaurants, and antique shops.

The best things to do near Rockford include:

  • See why the Anderson Japanese Garden is said to be one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in the country
  • If traveling with children, the Discovery Center Museum is not to be missed
  • Stroll through the magical atmosphere of the Klehm Arboretum and Botanical Garden
  • Enjoy a meal at local-favorite, Abreo, in downtown Rockford
  • Visit the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens which is an actual Swiss cottage overlooking Kent Creek

A trip to Rockford does not need to break the bank. There are plenty of fun, cheap things to do with friends, family, or whoever you’re traveling with.

Cheap things to do near Rockford include:

  • Catch the world-class Ski Broncs Water Ski Team perform twice weekly all summer long
  • Check out the oldest family owned Harley-Davidson dealership in the world at Kegel Harley-Davidson
  • Explore the Rock River Recreation Path from Davis Park in Downtown Rockford to Loves Park
  • Explore the Cheap Trick fan trail
  • Bite into the “Budokan Burger” at Octane’s, one of the best burgers in town

With a rich history, beautiful parks, and cultural must-sees, Rockford is an underrated tourist destination. Nature lovers will flock to The Atwood Center to feed the birds, and history buffs won’t be able to resist exploring the many historical sites in town. These are the best-of-the-best tourist attractions to see while in Rockland.

Popular attractions near Rockford include:

  • Find that thing you didn’t know you needed with a trip to the Main Street Antique Mall
  • Take part in feeding the Birds of Prey that live in the park at The Atwood Center
  • Learn more about Rockford’s diverse history at The Ethnic Heritage Museum
  • Visit the historic Indian Hill Manor and Farm Historic District famously listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Honor those who served by paying respect at the LZ Peace Memorial

Summer is in full swing, which means plenty of daily activities to experience in Rockford right now. From local theater productions to guided garden walks, you’ll be busy from morning until late at night.

Exciting activities near Rockford include:

  • Check out what theater production is happening at the Starlight Theatre
  • Enjoy free admission to the Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden every first Tuesday of the month this summer
  • Also at Klehm is the Summer’s Coming Tranquility Walk
  • See what’s playing at Movies On Main

Rockford’s nightlife is buzzing with breweries, cocktail bars, plus plenty of venues to experience a live show or music. There are also a plethora of delicious restaurants serving all types of cuisines. Most don’t require a reservation and range in price point from low to gourmet. Treat yourself to a nice dinner and then experience entertainment from comedy, theater productions, and of course, live music. You’re sure to have a good time no matter what your night agenda holds.

Nighttime activities near Rockford include:

  • Sip on various ales, lagers, porters, and wines at the Prairie Street Brewhouse
  • Enjoy some of the best cocktails in town at Social Urban Bar & Restaurant
  • Grab a burger and fries at the 50-year-old burger chain Beefaroo
  • Try all 10-plus house beers at Carlyle Brewing Company
  • Hang out at a Rockford gem, Social Urban Bar & Restaurant, known to make you feel like you’re in Chicago or NYC

Your calendar is even busier in the summer and that’s thanks to the many different things to do this weekend happening in Rockford. So whether you’re a local or visiting for the weekend, take advantage of your time off to explore what this great city has to offer. From breathtaking gardens to historic trolley rides, and of course, local food, you’ll be having a blast from Friday to Sunday.

Weekend activities near Rockford include:

  • Feel like you’re escaping to the tropics with a visit to the Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens
  • Float along the Rock River on the Forest City Queen Riverboat, only available in the summer
  • Ride the historic Trolley Car 36 along Madison Street and the Rock River for scenic views of the city,only available in the summer
  • Eat with local farmers and vendors at the Rockford City Market
  • Catch a local sports game at the BMO Harris Bank Center

Summer is the perfect time for kids to explore new and old favorites in Rockford. Most are inexpensive, even free, activities and places to go that you as a parent can also enjoy. From the sock monkey festival, world-class museums, water parks, plus more, there are numerous things to do with kids that will leave the whole family happy.

Family-Friendly things to do near Rockford include:

  • Attend the Sock Monkey Festival which celebrates America’s most iconic toy
  • Engage in over 250 hands-on exhibits at the Discovery Center Museum
  • Explore the extinct world of dinosaurs at the Burpee Museum of Natural History
  • Beat the summer heat with a visit to Magic Waters
  • Jump start your adrenaline with an adventure at Zip Rockford

Whether you’re going on a first date or have been together forever, a date night is essential for all couples. Depending on your idea of fun as a couple, the date night could be at an intimate restaurant or trip to the movies. For something more casual, a stroll in a garden or meet-up for coffee is also a great option. Whichever you plan, the memories you create will stay with you forever–plus, you might even find a new favorite hangout spot or start a new tradition.

Date night ideas near Rockford include:

  • See a show at the Coronado Performing Arts Center, popular for many couple’s first date
  • Meet for coffee at a cute cafe such as Meg’s Daily Grind or Katie’s Cup
  • Enjoy a romantic dinner for two at Franchesco’s Ristorante
  • You feel butterflies (literally) at the Nicholas Conservatory, named the most romantic spot in IL by Travel + Leisure Magazine
  • Attend a movie night at The Element Film Series “Brews & Views”

Rockford has plenty of group activities to try. Whether you just want to hang out at a local bar for happy hour or try something totally new like an escape room, take the initiative and plan something fun for the group.

Things to do with your friends near Rockford include:

  • Catching a Chicago Blackhawk affiliate Icehogs game and witness the future stars of the NHL
  • Grabbing your squad and reserve brunch at Baci’s Kitchen
  • Going rock climbing at the North Wall Climbing Gym
  • Bowling with your besties at Don Carter Lanes, the Cherry Bowl, or Volcano Falls
  • Challenging your friends with an escape room at MindGames Rockford

While Rockwell is well-known for its many outdoor activities, there are plenty of indoor things to do as well. So find some time to treat yourself to a tranquil massage and/or manicure and pedicure you’ve been longing for. There are plenty of ways to make yourself feel rejuvenated at the end of the day.

Rockford things to do indoors include:

  • For a little culture, visit the Rockford Art Museum which showcase art from ancient to modern
  • Relax and listen to vinyl records at vintage music shops Toad Hall and Culture Shock
  • Say “Om” to yoga at Pranayama Yoga Studio
  • Paint and sip wine at 317 Studio & Gallery
  • Treat yourself to a spa day (think manicures, pedicures, and massages) at WM DaySpa Salon

Rockford has an active community and vibrant ecosystem. Unleash your adventurous side for activities like wakeboarding, ziplining, kayaking, plus more. And if hiking is your thing, you’ll probably never hike the same trail twice if you don’t want too.

Active things to see in Rockford include:

  • Head to Alpine Hills Adventure Park for ziplining and a five-hole golf course
  • Spend a day biking and enjoying great views of the river at Sinnissippi Park
  • Hike one of the several trails at Severson Dells
  • Wakeboard on Levings Lake at West Rock Wake Park
  • Whether you’re a novice or expert on the waters, join the Adventure Club at Rocktown Adventures

Rockford has its share of well-kept secrets. And if you’re only there a few days, it’s important to complete your itineraries with some of these local favorites. Hop in the car and drive to Curran’s Orchard to sample some local produce. Foodies will also love the Swedish cuisine found around town. With so much history, these are things you can only experience in Rockford.

Must-see places near Rockford include:

  • Foodies must drop by the Stockholm Inn for some real Swedish hospitality
  • Sample the local produce with a trip out to Curran’s Orchard
  • See why the historic Lake-Peterson House is one of the most important homes in Rockford
  • Enjoy a guided tour of The Midway Village and Museum Center by an on-site interpreter
  • Hike, bike, ride horses, boat, fish, plus so much more at Rock Cut State Park