By Hope S. Philbrick
We spent just 20 hours in Rockford, Illinois—eight of them asleep.
Though a longer visit to this community is in order—Rockford is one of Illinois’ largest cities; it’s smaller than Chicago, but bigger than Peoria or Springfield—if your road trip from Point A to Point B passes through Rockford, heed our advice to make the most of an overnight layover.
Welcome to Rockford!
Check into the Courtyard Marriott, which is easy to find and conveniently located for a quick stay. The hotel is clean and boasts friendly staffers who won’t hesitate to help when you request a quiet room away from squealing bridesmaids or screaming babies. Newly renovated, it boasts a new CYnergy contemporary room design with zones for working, sleeping, relaxing and primping. Ask for a courtyard room for a garden view.
- Free wireless Internet.
- Guestrooms boast docking stations for devices.
- Guestrooms are furnished with cozy lounge sofas and super-comfortable beds.
- 37-inch HDTVs.
- Smoke free.
- No pets.
- Complimentary on-site parking.
- Coffee maker in room with basic coffee/tea supplies.
- Fitness center.
Dinner at Lino’s
Illinois is home to lots of Italians, which makes it an ideal place to feast on authentic Italian fare, and Rockford is no exception. Lino’s is so popular it will probably be bustling whenever you arrive, but if you have to wait for a table, it’s worth it. Family owned and operated, Lino’s is a friendly, full-service, casual restaurant serving pasta, pizza and other classic dishes made in the at-home style of Italian grandmothers. The tomato sauce is thick and rich with sweet tomato flavor. Combo plates let you try two dishes, especially nice if you’ve got a hankering to try a couple things but don’t pass through town too often. Don’t miss the lasagna.
If you’re in town on any Thursday May through August, head to Prairie Street Brewhouse for ‘Dinner on the Dock,’ to enjoy live musical entertainment and drinks on the downtown Rockford riverfront. (Food is available too, but it’s unlikely you’ll be hungry after Lino’s.)
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the taproom at Rockford Brewing Company is open in the evenings. It’s at once historic and brand new. It’s housed in the building that was home to the original Rockford Brewing Company, which was one of the nation’s first breweries and produced more than 75,000 barrels a year in its heyday. This new 15-barrel brewery produces fresh, quality beer in a range of styles, with 16 faucets and two beer engines so there’s something for everyone.
Head back to the hotel whenever you’re ready to snooZZZe.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Odds are this popular eatery will be busy when you arrive, but there are lots of tables so it’s likely you’ll be seated quickly, especially on a weekday. Not feeling quite as perky as the attentive server? Order a cup of coffee and a full pot will be delivered so you can keep your cup filled from the insulated carafe. The menu boasts several pages of options, both traditional and creative. There is something to satisfy your particular craving. The Farmers Market Eggs Benedict, with fresh spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs and potatoes on an English muffin is healthy yet decadent and, most importantly, scrumptious.
Time permitting, stroll around the Edgebrook shopping center before departing for Tinker Swiss Cottage.
Tour the Tinker Swiss Cottage, which is billed as “a rare example of Victorian exotic architecture” and is certainly unique. Circa 1865-1883, this building began as a small cottage and grew through additions and add-ons. Built by early Rockford industrialist and mayor Robert Tinker, it’s constructed in the Swiss chalet style he admired and is furnished with the Tinker family’s original belongings, providing a glimpse into the lifestyle of one of Rockford’s early leading families. Displays are meant to exhibit the family’s life during the 1890-1910 era; during October the home is laid out as if residents are in mourning, in December it’s decorated for Christmas, and an average of 45 special events (including Murder Mysteries, paranormal tours, and local history lectures) are hosted in the home and gardens throughout the year. Friendly, well-informed tour guides share family history and point out some of the home’s unique features as well as some of the more unusual items on display. The gardens are filled with heirloom plants over 100 years old and a bridge over the creek leads to a patch of native prairie.
Stop by the Rockford Art Museum, which has three galleries and exhibits three museum-curated shows a year showcasing a nearly 1,900 works of art. “The museum has five focus areas,” says Sarah Bursley McNamara, community relations for the museum. They are: “Photography, modern and contemporary art, glass, ‘outsider’ art (that is, self-taught artists), and regional art.” Current shows include “The Rockford Midwestern Biennial” (through September 28, 2014), the 73rd presentation of the museum’s juried exhibition of new work by contemporary artists living and working in the nine eligible Midwestern states.
21 Plus Salute! Rockford Art Museum hosts periodic “Cork + Canvas” classes for adults to sip and paint. Wine plus all supplies are provided along with step-by-step painting instruction. Participants must be age 21 or older. There’s also an artist lecture series that’s free for adults. Contact the museum for dates and details, 815-972-2874.
@21plusTravel Tip: If you’re in Rockford during the Greenwich Village Art Fair, don’t miss it. It features 130 juried artists on the grounds of the Rockford Art Museum. Established in 1948, it’s an art shopping tradition.
Remember to buckle up, honor speed limits and never text while driving.
The kind folks of Rockford, Illinois, hope to see you again soon!
– Photo Credits: Greetings courtesy RACVB; Lino’s dining room courtesy Lino’s; remainder © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.