Peek at its romantic side
By Hope S. Philbrick
Once upon a time, when I was a senior in college, I thought Rockford, Illinois, was very romantic indeed.
On Spring break my friend and I had met two cute guys, and sometime between that vacation and graduation we rendezvoused with them in Rockford since it was a midpoint between our locations. While the situation was all much more innocent than it may read—my ‘relationship’ took place primarily in my imagination—it seemed the stuff of movies: This guy and I had met and now he only needed to ditch his girlfriend so we could live happily ever after.
When planning the Rockford meet-up, the guys had suggested a specific hotel bar—which seemed naughty on several levels including the fact that I’d only recently turned 21—explaining that the location would be easy to find because its iconic clock tower is easily spotted from I-90. We did find the location with ease and, as you may have predicted, ‘my’ guy ultimately dumped me, though the other couple eventually got married, had two kids and then bitterly divorced. So my tale is arguably the happier one.
The lingering surprise is that whenever I see that clock tower my heart jumps at the memory of romantic anticipation.
Rockford is a less obvious choice for romance than, say, Paris, but a recent visit proves that it does have potential for a memorable romantic getaway even if you’re a grownup not blinded by the innocence of youth and wishful thinking.
The Hilton Garden Inn Rockford, located across the highway from that iconic clock tower, served as the official accommodations for attendees of a conference that recently lured me to the city. If you’ve ever attended a conference you may understand that, in general, hotel hosts are often ho-hum at best. This is a stunning exception. My guestroom was furnished a notch above the typical roadside chain hotel and sparkling clean. The quality of food served at the on-site restaurant was above average. And the staff excelled at customer service. I’d stay at this hotel again without hesitation. If staying with my husband, I’d try the romance package.
The heart of Rockford is the Rock River. Get better acquainted with it aboard the Forest City Queen Riverboat, huddled up to your sweetie under a blanket if the weather requires. From the water you’ll get a glimpse of some of the most stately homes in town and hear about Rockford’s early days as well as current happenings.
Located on the river in the heart of Downtown Rockford, Prairie Street Brewhouse was originally built as the Peacock Brewery in the 1850s. This spring the renovated mixed-use building (which already features an event space, a 60-slip marina with fuel, loft-style apartments, and more) will house the new 15-barrel Rockford Brewing Company, sure to become the city’s hottest destination for handcrafted beer and food. The location offers photogenic views of the river and the city skyline.
With more than 10,000 acres of parks and forest preserves, outdoor recreation options abound in Rockford. Bike, hike, roller skate, or walk 25 miles of interconnecting trails. Prefer to save your energy for something else? Then ride some of the trails aboard Trolley Car 36, which departs from a station of historic design in Riverview Park and travels along Madison Street, beside the scenic Rock River Recreation Path (which is ten miles long and a great place to run or stroll hand in hand), stops briefly at Sinnissippi Gardens (a linear park that’s home to over 2,000 plants and an operating floral clock), then returns to the station.
Relax and reflect at Anderson Japanese Gardens, which has been named the highest-quality Japanese garden in North America by Sukiya Living Magazine since 2004. The 12-acre award-winning landscape is a tranquil place to wander around and admire beautiful landscape design. You’ll find winding paths, gentle streams, plunging waterfalls, meticulous gravel gardens, 16th Century-inspired architecture and spectacular loveliness.
Rockford has been named the “Best Mid-Sized City for Golf” by Golf Digest and Fodor’s. Among the area’s dozen courses is the Aldeen Golf Club, where you can experience championship-quality golf at rates under $50. The 18-hole course boasts manicured greens, tees and fairways, subtle elevation changes, water hazards on 12 holes, 62 sand bunkers (including three Dick Nugent-designed “beach bunkers”), roughs and trees, and the signature eighth hole with a replica of the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews.
There’s more to explore, from venues for performing arts, museums that appeal to a range of interests, restaurants galore, special events, shopping districts and natural wonders. Whatever your interests as a couple, you’ll find something to make your hearts race in Rockford.
Where To Stay…
The Hilton Garden Inn Rockford
7675 Walton St.
Rockford IL 61108
— Waterfall photo courtesy Anderson Japanese Gardens; trolley and boat postcards courtesy RACVB; 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.