Getaway to Rockford, Illinois | Midwest Living

Getaway to Rockford, Illinois

Illinois’ third-largest city spent years watching travelers whiz by on Interstate-90 on their way east to Chicago. Now, thanks to a revitalized downtown, an emerging foodie scene, new cultural attractions and beautiful public gardens, word is getting out: You’d be crazy not to stop.


Anderson Japanese Gardens.
+ enlarge
Summertime yields house-made pasta with heirloom tomatoes, basil and Parmesan at Social.
+ enlarge
The 12 on-tap beers at Carlyle Brewing Company change with the seasons.
+ enlarge
Can’t decide on a beer at Carlyle Brewing Company? Try a six-beer sampler. (Ours included vanilla cream ale, caramel-chocolaty stout and dark Weizenbock).
+ enlarge

Trip guide              

What to do

Anderson Japanese Gardens This tranquil 12-acre haven transports visitors to Japan through lovely gardens, tea ceremonies, a meditation room and origami classes. Open seasonally. (815) 229-9390;

Coronado Performing Arts Center. This renovated 1927 movie palace hosts touring concerts and musicals, along with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. (815) 968-2722;

Erlander Home Museum The restored 1871 Italianate home preserves Rockford’s Swedish immigration history through original furniture and decor. (815) 963-5559;

Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden A glass visitors center is the gateway to 155 acres of gardens, a labyrinth, a butterfly garden and mature woodlands laced with walking paths. (815) 965-8146;

Midway Village The 143-acre campus includes the Museum Center and gardens representing a rural Rockford community between 1890–1910. (815) 397-9112;

Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens Sinnissippi Park’s crown jewel; a mural in the lobby depicts how the landscape of the Rock River Valley has changed. (815) 987-8858;

Riverfront Museum Park At the Burpee Museum of Natural History, you can view a T. rex skeleton and Native American exhibits. (815) 965-3433; Hands-on science exhibits, tornado demos and an outdoor maze keep kids engaged at Discovery Center Museum. (815) 963-6769; An exhibit at the Rockford Art Museum highlights the destination’s 100th anniversary. (815) 968-2787;

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum A time capsule of Rockford history, the 1865 Swiss chalet-style home preserves furnishings, diaries and collections. (815) 964-2424;

Where to eat

Carlyle Brewing Company You’ll enjoy the brews and tasty pub grub downtown. (815) 963-2739;

Chocolat by Daniel A European-style chocolatier handcrafts 12 flavors of truffles, makes gourmet chocolates and on cold days brews silky hot chocolate served in fine estate-sale china. (815) 969-7990;

Cliffbreakers Riverside Resort Restaurant This Continental fine-dining restaurant serves pasta, steaks and seafood in a dining room decked with museum-quality art and architectural remnants. (815) 282-3033;

Josef-Barbados Restaurant and Oyster Bar An all-white dining room showcases an international art collection, including a piece by Salvador Dali. (815) 282-3400;

Mary’s Market Made-with-care goodness shines in every cookie, pie and bread loaf at this favorite for hearty sandwiches, soups and sweets in Edgebrook. (815) 394-0765;

Octane InterLounge The owners’ album collection gives this funky downtown hot spot a cool vibe; try the homemade soups and vegetarian fare. (815) 965-4012;

Social Urban Bar and Restaurant The food is locally sourced, but the 50 cocktails go global. (815) 708-0877;

Stockholm Inn A longtime favorite, the busy Swedish restaurant dishes authentic kroppkakor (filled dumplings) and Swedish pancakes (you can buy ready-to-pour batter), plus Friday fish fries. (815) 397-3534;

Where to shop

Finials A Scandinavian shop in a 13-room home carries imported goods. (815) 398-4428;

J.R. Kortman Center for Design and Gallery Global design touches tabletop accessories, art glass, toys, jewelry and greeting cards. (815) 968-0123;

Edgebrook Shops at the outdoor mall include B Jones for fun fashion; Annie’s for girly gifts; Infinitely Sweet for designer duds for kids; and Wonderland Books and Toys. (815) 226-0212;

Where to stay

Copperstone Inn A gracious 1858 mansion awaits in nearby Rockton. Guests enjoy luxe rooms and hiking trails. From $199. (815) 629-9999;

For more information or to plan your trip: Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 521-0849;

(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® July/August 2013. Prices, dates and other details are subject to change, so please check specifics before making travel plans.)


Comments (1)

lugnut181963 wrote:
My father was from Rockford and we use to travel there every summer. Being from the south we enjoyed the warm days and cool nights. There was always something to do, even thirty to forty years ago. The last time we were there we visited the Anderson Gardens, it was absolutely gorgeous. It reminded me of my stay in Japan.

Add Your Comment