The Best Things to Do in Rockford, IL in 2021

Best things to do in Rockford Illinois

If the name Rockford sounds familiar to you, you might be thinking of the Rockford Peaches baseball team from the famous movie “A League of Their Own.” And indeed, the real Peaches women’s baseball team hailed from this very city. But Rockford’s appeal goes far beyond its unique baseball history. Rockford is genuinely one of the best and more interesting places to visit in Illinois.

In fact, the sheer length of this Rockford attractions list will likely surprise you. If you’re looking for what to do in Rockford, Illinois, you’ll have plenty of options. Visitors from Chicago can easily get to Rockford via charter bus, making it a convenient day or weekend trip for the family. If you’re considering a visit – which we highly recommend you do – here’s a list of the best things to do in Rockford, IL.

1. Anderson Japanese Gardens

Anderson Japanese Gradens Rockford Illinois

Looking for a place to reflect, relax, and absorb natural beauty? The Anderson Japanese Gardens is the perfect place to visit in Rockford. Designed and constructed with elements of stone, water, pagodas, plants, and more in a synergistic way to inspire calm, you’ll notice a change in your demeanor the moment you step on the grounds.

While guided tours for groups of eight or more are available, any guest can tour the gardens on their own to find their own moments of serenity. Open daily, the Anderson Japanese Gardens also hosts events such as classes, concerts, and lectures throughout the year. Worried about getting hungry? Not to worry. Fresco on the Gardens, the on-site full-service restaurant, offers fresh, handcrafted organic meals for breakfast and lunch, along with coffee, fresh juices, and more.


2. Rockford Art Museum

Part of the Riverfront Museum Park, the Rockford Art Museum contains more than 1,900 pieces, including an “American Masters” collection. You’ll discover art from the Impressionist period up through contemporary times. Work from local artists is also displayed on a rotating basis, ensuring this is always a fun place to go in Rockford, Illinois. The museum hosts events and programs, especially during the summer months.


3. Discovery Center Museum

Looking for things to do with kids in Rockford? There’s a perfect place for the young ones inside the same building that houses the Rockford Art Museum. Housing over 250 hands-on exhibits, your kids will absolutely love the ability to play and learn with their friends and family. But this goes beyond being an indoor children’s museum; the Rock River Discovery Park, a giant hands-on science exhibit, is located just behind the museum.


4. Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens

Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens Rockford Illinois

This garden center is the third largest conservatory in Illinois, and it encompasses more than 11,000 square feet of botanical space. Stroll down beautiful pedestrian paths lined with colorful tropical in their indoor sunlit conservatory – or enjoy their annual orchid exhibit in the winter.

Or, wander through their scenic outdoor garden full of sculptures, patio spaces, and even a lagoon. If you’re in Rockford during the holidays, you won’t want to miss their nighttime “All Aglow” exhibit, where the entire conservatory is illuminated with holiday lights. Be sure to pack your group up and head out to enjoy the holiday festivities!

This Rockford, Il attraction has something to do and see year-round.


5. Burpee Museum of Natural History

With fully restored dinosaur skeletons and an immersive carboniferous coal forest, the Burpee Museum of Natural History should be on the list for all explorers, young and old. This is one of the most historical places to visit in Rockford.

The museum also delves deeply into the local area’s natural history, with displays depicting the life and indigenous residents of Northern Illinois. Also located in the beautiful Riverfront Museum Park, the Burpee Museum also has events throughout the year designed to cater to all ages, including a massive Easter Egg hunt, summer concerts, and more. Even if you bring a large group to this museum, everyone will find something that catches his or her interest.


6. Rock Cut State Park

Looking for free things to do in Rockford, IL? This natural playground is the place to go. This state park spans more than 3,000 acres with wooded areas and two lakes, Rock Cut has trails for mountain bikers, hikers, and even equestrians.

Interested in fishing off the shores of the lakes? No problem. Want to do some boating? They’ve got that too. There are even great areas for birdwatchers to explore. In the winter, you can even find some trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, and in the warmer months, there are plenty of campgrounds to extend your stay.

7. Midway Village Museum

Midway Village Museum Rockford Illinois

Travel back in time when you visit the award-winning Midway Village Museum. Prior to obtaining the name Rockford, the entire city was called Midway, and this museum explores Victorian history and life in the 19th century in Northern Illinois. Boasting a 148-acre outdoor campus with a 20,000 square foot museum center, there are ample things to explore for visitors of all ages. Pack up one of our buses and hit the road at this popular Rockford, Il attraction.

Children will love the museum’s immersive nature, as costumed characters can often be found roaming and working the grounds. A major highlight of the year is the annual World War II days, complete with army tents and costumed soldiers.


8. Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens

The Swiss Cottage of the famous 1875 mayor of Rockford, Robert Tinker, is a beautiful 27-acre estate overlooking Kent Creek. If you’re a fan of Victorian architecture, you won’t want to miss a visit to this home, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. As its name suggests, this beautiful home was inspired by a Swiss architecture that Tinker saw while on a trip to Europe.

Visitors can take guided tours of the home and elaborate gardens every day at 1 pm and 3 pm. Still, the museum also has plenty of fun events on the calendar, including themed murder mystery parties and even paranormal investigations.


9. Sinnissippi Park and Golf Course

Another one of the best free things to do in Rockford, IL, Sinnissippi park will be fun for kids to say and spell as it is to visit. A large natural space full of family attractions including a great playground and picnic area, the park is also home to the Sinnissippi Music Shell. This outdoor live music venue allows for more than 3,000 people to enjoy concerts there, including the yearly Music in the Park Summer Concert Series.

Want to hit the links? The Sinnissippi Golf Course, located nearby, is a quick but challenging nine-hole course open to the public. The oldest public course in Rockford, the Sinnissippi Golf Course will entice golfers with beautiful fairways and enormous trees lining the rough.

10. Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden Rockford Illinois

A sanctuary for trees first established as a plant nursery in 1910, the Klehm Arboretum is another relaxing and enjoyable place to explore if you’re looking for places to go in Rockford. Just south of downtown and easily accessible via Rockford charter coach or bus, you’ll be able to find over 500 unique species of trees here, along with beautiful garden space.


11. Erlander Home Museum

There is a rich Swedish culture still found in Rockford today, and the Erlander Home Museum does a wonderful job of telling the story of the history of Swedish heritage in the area and how it is still tightly intertwined with Rockford’s culture.

A guided tour will reveal the beautiful antiques and interesting memorabilia of the 19th century, along with the well-preserved home itself, which was originally built in 1871. Operated by the Swedish Historical Society, the home is available to visit by appointment only. If you’re interested in visiting this Rockford, Il attraction, be sure to schedule your appointment at least a week in advance.

12. Forest City Queen Riverboat

Sometimes it’s best to see a new city from a unique perspective, and the Forest City Queen Riverboat offers exactly that. Available for an hourly guided tour down the Rock River throughout the Summer and Fall, visitors will be able to learn about the history of the town and view some of the more prominent homes and businesses in the area. Throughout the season, special breakfast, lunch, and dinner cruises are also offered.

13. Coronado Performing Arts Center

Coronado Performing Arts Center Rockford Illinois

Also called the Coronado Theater, this beautiful theater and movie palace was constructed in 1927 and was beautifully restored at the turn of the century. Always a fun thing to do in Rockford, Il, this theater regularly hosts touring Broadway musicals, comedy shows, and even local recitals. Regardless of what’s showing when you’re in town, it’s worth spending a night here simply for the beautiful interior ornamentation and design. Check out their website to see what’s playing during your visit, you won’t want to miss a night out at the theater!


14. Volcano Falls Adventure Park

Volcano Falls Adventure Park might top the list of things to do with kids in Rockford. Just South of Rock Cut State Park, this outdoor family fun center features a lava-inspired mini-golf course, batting cages, go-kart tracks, over 50 arcade games to choose from, and even a laser maze. If you’re an adult and getting excited about Volcano Falls too, you’re not alone. You’ll likely have just as good a time there as your kids do!


15. Lake-Peterson House

The Lake-Peterson House, also referred to as Jenny’s by locals was originally built in 1873. This is a particularly historic Rockford, Il attraction as it is a beautiful example of Gothic Revival architecture that isn’t easy to find today. In fact, this is recognized as one of the most beautiful homes in the state of Illinois, quite an impressive feat.

The house was donated by a previous owner to the Swedish American Hospital in 1919. Today, the house serves as an office for the president, senior vice president, and other members of the Swedish American Hospital staff. Be sure to stop at this beautiful location with your tour bus to experience its architecture for yourself.

16. Hurricane Harbor

Hurricane Harbor Rockford Illinois

If you’re looking for friends and family fun in the sun, pack up the bus and head to Hurricane Harbor Water Park! This is an outdoor water park right off of Interstate 90 near the Northern Illinois border. It has over 11 rides tailored toward a variety of ages, including the Little Lagoon, Splash Magic River, Tropical Twisters, and so many more.

This Rockford, Il attraction is also right next to Six Flags Great America so that you can make a full day trip of your adventure! Don’t forget to pack extra sunscreen.


17. Prairie Street Brewhouse

Prairie Street Brewing Company is a local Rockford watering hole serving up delicious local food and drinks. Three brewing enthusiasts founded this company in 2013, and it’s housed in the oldest brewery in the state! While older breweries existed, the buildings burned down during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The iconic red-brick building is now a local destination where you can enjoy unique and delicious beer and food. Prairie Street Brewhouse aims to contribute to the local economy and give both surrounding residents and tourists a friendly brewhouse to enjoy.


18. Rockford City Market

One of the more versatile things to do near Rockford, Il, is to visit the Rockford City Market. This is a multi-purpose space that features various indoor and outdoor uses, including an incubator kitchen that you can rent out, an indoor event space to host parties and weddings, pop-up shops, and more!

May through September, visitors can also take advantage of the Friday Outdoor Market that features local vendors and artisans. This is a unique opportunity to access a wide range of Rockford vendors and enjoy their offerings. Each season brings in roughly 100,000 visitors. Will you be one of them this year? We hope so!


19. Zip Rockford

Zip Rockford Illinois

Adventure sports in Illinois? Yes, you read that correctly. Zip Rockford is a world-class ziplining facility that allows novices and experienced zip liners alike to enjoy a thrilling adventure. The staff will ensure you and your guests have an incredible time and that all safety protocols are in place to help you feel safe.

In addition to ziplining, there are also fun obstacle courses and other challenging adventures that will push you to your limit and help you overcome any fears.


20. Atwood Center

Looking for things to do in Rockford, Il this weekend? Consider making a stop at the Atwood Center, which is part of the Rockford Park District. The Atwood Center sits on 334 acres of land, and it is the perfect destination for both kids and adults. It offers Outdoor Recreation and Education (ORE) programs to give kids a more hands-on experience with nature.

It also hosts team-building courses through the use of its low-ropes course. The indoor facilities on site can also be rented out, and overnight rentals are available as well. This is a great destination to stop at while on your Chicago Motor Coach!



As you can see, Rockford has a rich and diverse history and offers enticing activities for family members of all ages and interests. There is truly no shortage of entertaining places to go in Rockford, and if you’ve got a sizable crowd, the best way to visit this Illinois vacation spot is via charter coach or bus. Visit Chicago Motor Coach to find out how you can book your group transportation to Rockford now!

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