11 Reasons to Visit Rockford, Illinois - Illinois Farm Bureau Partners 11 Reasons to Visit Rockford, Illinois - Illinois Farm Bureau Partners

11 Reasons to Plan a Winter Getaway to Rockford, Illinois

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Rockford Art Museum; Photo credit: Nathan Lambrecht

Even though the global pandemic affected every aspect of Rockford, the city of about 150,000 residents is bouncing back stronger than ever.

“We’ve been impacted heavily, but we’ve still got a story to tell,” says Nick Povalitis, vice president of marketing and sports development at Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. The lede to that story is the revitalization of Rockford’s downtown and riverfront area, which includes a new hotel campus and a smattering of new restaurants and bars.

With a prime location in north-central Illinois that’s within easy driving distance from Chicago, there’s no better time to revisit Rockford when you’re planning a getaway this winter.

To plan your trip, visit gorockford.com.

Discovery Center Museum

Discovery Center in Rockford.

Photo credit: Nathan Lambrecht

Fun for the whole family awaits at the interactive Discovery Center Museum, which has more than 250 exhibits. Among them: Ag-Zibit, which opened in 2010 with 17 hands-on components. Kids can climb into a real tractor, learn to milk a cow, collect eggs in a pretend henhouse and hop on a combine simulator to harvest corn and soybeans. Every year since 2016, the museum has hosted Ag All Around Us (date for 2021 to be announced) to kick off National Ag Month in March. During the daylong event, you can talk with farmers, pet baby animals like dairy goats and lambs, make crafts like worm farms, or try your hand at churning butter. “The goal is to give urban families the opportunity to meet local farmers and see how their food is produced,” says Ann Marie Cain, manager of Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau, which helps put on the event alongside volunteers.

A New Hotel

This summer saw the opening of Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront, which brought 160 rooms to downtown and is a game changer in terms of making the area a destination.

“We’ve never had a full-service property anywhere, let alone downtown,” Povalitis says. In addition to rooms, the property also has an on-site coffee shop, restaurant and pool, along with 22,000 square feet of event space, making it the largest full-service hotel in the county.

See more: 8 Things to Do in Macomb, Illinois

Rockford IceHogs

This AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks has long been a staple in the community, Povalitis says. As the popularity of hockey has grown, most home games have become a near sellout. BMO Harris Bank Center – the multipurpose arena where games are held – serves as Rockford’s live entertainment hub.

Coronado Performing Arts Center

Opened in 1927 as a theater and movie palace, complete with a Grande Barton pipe organ, this historic downtown venue underwent a complete restoration and reopened in 2001. With seating between 1,900 and 2,300 depending on the setup, the Coronado Performing Arts Center hosts everything from concerts to theatrical performances and is home to the Rockford Symphony Orchestra.

Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford

Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford; Photo credit: Nathan Lambrecht

Burpee Museum of Natural History

Meet Jane, the world’s most complete and well-preserved juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex, at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, established in 1942. “Any history or science enthusiast is going to love it,” says Povalitis of the culture center, which also has an on-site fossil lab where paleontologists excavate ancient bones dating back millions of years.

See more: Why You Should Take a Trip to Galesburg

Rockford Art Museum

Founded in the late 19th century and now with more than 2,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the Rockford Art Museum is a must-visit for its American Impressionist paintings, Chicago Imagists works, mixed-media pieces and awe-worthy sculpture, photography and contemporary glass. Through Jan. 31, stop in to see the 76th Rockford Midwestern Biennial, a juried survey exhibition of new works by Midwestern contemporary artists.

The Midway Village Museum; visit Rockford Illinois

The Midway Village Museum; Photo credit: Nathan Lambrecht

Midway Village Museum

Check out the Midway Village Museum’s fascinating exhibit on the Rockford Peaches, one of the first four teams in the professional women’s baseball league that lasted from 1943 to 1954. (You may be familiar with them thanks to the 1992 hit movie, “A League of Their Own.”) Also be sure to visit the 13-acre Victorian Village, which represents Rockford’s history from 1890 to 1910 and features costumed interpreters in period clothing.

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Chicago dog and Beedaroo tees…

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Chuckle all you want at the name, but everybody knows Beefaroo, Povalitis says. What started as a local fast food joint now has seven locations and is famous for its buckets of cheddar fries topped with seasoned salt. “So many Rockfordians will leave town, and when they come back, it’s their first stop,” Povalitis adds.

Behr Den

An old-school diner on the campus of a metal recycling plant seems like an unlikely pairing, which makes this restaurant a one-of-a-kind original to Rockford. It’s literally on the grounds of Behr Iron & Metal and famous for its burgers (known as “Behrgers”). Come for breakfast or lunch Monday through Friday, but hit the ATM first – it’s cash only.

Phone: (815) 987-2799 

Potato Shak

Yes, it’s another diner – but it’s hard to beat the food at Potato Shak in Loves Park, which has been around for generations. Also cash only, its food will take you back to your youth, Povalitis says. “It’s a good one for breakfast enthusiasts,” he adds. Try the biscuits and gravy or breakfast potatoes (of course).


Prairie Street Brewing Co.

Located just north of the main drag downtown, Prairie Street Brewing Co. is part of a historic building that has an indoor restaurant, dockside bar and outdoor deck, all serving delicious American food alongside its namesake brews. The top-selling beer, Screw City Light, is its homage to the classic American lager, while the velvety Irish Stout is a perfect salute to St. Patrick’s Day.

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