Discover Dixon, Illinois
If you haven’t spent a weekend in Dixon, consider adding it to your list of places to visit. Located in Northwestern Illinois along the Rock River, Dixon (population 16,000) is the seat of Lee County and the hometown of former President Ronald Reagan.
Known as the Jewel of the Sauk Valley, Dixon has a thriving Main Street organization working to revitalize its historic downtown. Established in 1830, Dixon has garnered the titles of official Petunia Capital of Illinois, as well as the Catfish Capital of Illinois, thanks to the Rock River’s reputation for great-tasting catfish.
Stop and Smell the Petunias
During the summer months, the streets of Dixon greet visitors with 30,000 pink petunias, planted each year by more than 200 volunteers. Every July, the Dixon Petunia Festival brings scores of tourists to the city for a week of concerts, competitions, pancake breakfasts, games, food vendors, a parade, carnival rides, a kids’ fishing derby and a 5K run/walk. Visitors can enter the festival grounds for free, though various activities have admission fees. This year’s Dixon Petunia Festival takes place July 2-6, 2014.
10 Places to Eat
Make sure to stop in the Dixon Welcome Center downtown for information on local historic sites and attractions, and visit the gift shop to pick up a bottle of Petunia Wine. An interactive exhibit also details the history of the Lincoln Highway, which runs through Dixon.
Love the outdoors? Dixon claims more parks per capita than any other city in the Midwest. Spend an afternoon at Lowell Park, a 200-acre picturesque green space with hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, a playground, ball diamond, boat ramps and the Lowell Park Nature Center, with exhibits on native plants, live animals and birds of prey.
Visit the blacksmith shop where John Deere developed his original self-scouring plow in 1837 at the John Deere Home & Historic Site in Grand Detour, just outside of Dixon.
Former President Ronald Reagan grew up in Dixon, and his childhood home on Hennepin Avenue gives visitors a peek at how he and his family lived in the 1920s. Take a guided tour of the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home & Visitors Center to discover little-known facts about Reagan, including how he worked as a lifeguard at Lowell Park and saved 77 lives from the Rock River.
Find even more interesting details about Dixon at the Northwest Territory Historic Center, located in a former grade school attended by Reagan. It includes memorabilia from Reagan’s childhood, radio and movie career, presidency and personal life, as well as exhibits on regional Native American life and early American farming.
Dixon’s Victory Memorial Arch
You can’t miss Dixon’s Victory Memorial Arch upon entering the city. Located on Galena Avenue between Second and Third Streets, the arch was built in 1919 over the Lincoln Highway to celebrate the homecoming of soldiers from World War I. Though the town has rebuilt and moved it slightly over the years to accommodate widening of the street, the arch continues to greet travelers as it has for nearly a century. In 2009, history repeated itself as the Dixon Arch welcomed 85 soldiers home from deployment in Afghanistan.