Travel Illinois: Moline
Home to 43,000 people, Moline is known worldwide for its strong ties to John Deere and Deere & Co., which has corporate headquarters in the city. Legendary agricultural inventor John Deere moved his steel plow company to Moline in 1848 to take advantage of the city’s river access and dam and coal deposits, which provided a good source of power.
Moline has grown by leaps and bounds since then, and today it is part of the Quad Cities metropolitan area, which also includes Rock Island and the cities of Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa. Moline has become a model city for progressive urban planning, thanks in part to its revitalized downtown, a hotspot for recreation, business and tourism.
Moline is situated between the banks of the Mississippi River and Rock River in Rock Island County and is accessed by Interstates 74, 280, 80 and 88, as well as the Quad City International Airport.
John Deere Green
John Deere was perhaps Moline’s most famous businessman, and though he died in 1886, his legacy lives on at John Deere Commons. Located near the site of the first John Deere Factory, the John Deere Commons is home to the John Deere Pavilion, one of the largest agricultural exhibits in the world. The pavilion is one of Illinois’ top five tourist attractions and captivates visitors of all ages. Kids can check out the seed table, watch videos in a machine shed and take pictures with a tractor and a six-foot row of corn. Agriculture enthusiasts can see farm implements past and present and engage in interactive exhibits. Best of all, beginning March 1, the exhibit is free.
The John Deere Store next door is a great place to pick up a souvenir – it carries clothing, toys and gifts with the famous leaping deer logo.
A half-mile from John Deere Commons, take a journey into the past by touring the Butterworth Center and Deere-Wiman House. Both are beautiful mansions built in the late 1800s by Charles Deere, son of John Deere. They are maintained by the William Butterworth Memorial Trust and feature elaborate gardens, which are open year round. Tours are available by appointment.
Across from the Deere family homes, immerse yourself in local history at the Rock Island County Historical Society, which includes a house museum, exhibits, research library and patio garden. The museum is open for tours during spring and fall open houses and by appointment. It is housed in an 1870s Italianate home that boasts original woodwork and tile and century-old furniture.
Rollin’ on the River
One of the best ways to see Moline is by water, so climb aboard the Celebration Belle riverboat and let it carry you down the mighty Mississippi River. The non-gaming Celebration Belle docks along Ben Butterworth Parkway and River Drive on the Moline riverfront and offers lunch and dinner cruises, sightseeing cruises and themed cruises. Choose from Big Band, Classic Oldies, Broadway Show Tunes, Fall Foliage, Country Classics, Dixieland and Oktoberfest.
Can’t get enough of the water? You can also board the Channel Cat Water Taxi, a pontoon-style boat that provides daily service across the river to five different ports. The Channel Cat operates from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and for just $6 (children $3), you can ride the boat all day. Bikes are welcome on the Channel Cat, and biking enthusiasts can explore bike trails on both sides of the river.
The nearby Plaza at Bass Street Landing is the perfect place to relax and people-watch. Located along Moline’s revitalized riverfront, the plaza is a gathering place for outdoor events, festivals and live entertainment. It features sculptures of children fishing in the Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn era and a fountain children can’t resist splashing in.
Historic Downtown Moline
Moline’s downtown core has experienced a renaissance in recent years, with more than $250 million invested in bringing it to life. Now known as Moline Centre, downtown overflows with shops, restaurants, nightspots and entertainment venues, all within walking distance of one another.
Pick up a brochure from the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau on River Drive, and take a historic walking tour of downtown. The brochure provides a glimpse of what Moline was like in its early years and architecture styles that were popular a century ago.
While downtown, stop in the i wireless Center, a 12,000-seat arena and conference center that showcases national acts such as Elton John, Tim McGraw, Janet Jackson, Disney on Ice, and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. You can also watch exciting athletic events at the i wireless Center. It is the home of the Quad City Steamwheelers (arena football) and the Quad City Mallards (minor league hockey).