Recreation and Arts
Rockford is home to several museums and performing arts venues and its surrounding area is known as an outdoor destination. These include The Burpee Museum of Natural History, Riverfront Museum Park, The Discovery Center Museum, The Erlander Home Museum, the Ethnic Heritage Museumwhich relates the history of the six ethnic groups that settled in early Rockford (Irish, Italians, African-Americans, Polish, Lithuanians, and Hispanics), The Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center, and the New American Theater. "On the Waterfront" is the name of Illinois' largest music festival. This nationally acclaimed event encompasses over 30 blocks of downtown Rockford each Labor Day weekend, bringing together food, fun, and music to satisfy everyone's tastes.
The Rock River, which runs through the heart of Rockford, provides a continuous source of recreation for the Rockford community, including a bike path spanning several miles and water sports such as boating, canoeing, fishing and water skiing. Sports fans have many choices in Rockford including professional baseball, football, ice hockey, soccer, softball.
Quality of Life research shows that Rockford excels as an Arts, Entertainment, and Cultural community. A myriad of concerts, exhibits, festivals and performances fill the entertainment calendar in the Rockford area: opportunities abound!
There are seven community theaters in the area, including Starlight Theatre on the campus of Rock Valley College, and Maddox Theatre at Rockford College.
Opportunities in music run the full spectrum, ranging from the classics played by the Rockford Symphony Orchestra to the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps to our native Cheap Trick. There are concerts by the Kantorei, the Singing Boys of Rockford who are nationally heralded.
Rockford’s Mendelssohn Club is another excellent source for classical music concerts, featuring nationally acclaimed artists as well as the Club’s own Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the newly renovated Coronado Theater hosts performances by the Rockford Coronado Concert Association and Rockford Symphony, and includes top international stars.
The Rockford area hosts an assortment of museums that regularly attract residents and visitors to the community. In all, the Rockford area is home to 10 museums, 12 art galleries, 10 public libraries, and more. Riverfront Museum Park is a cultural focal point and home to the Rockford Art Museum, Rockford Dance Company, Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Storefront Cinema, and Discovery Center Museum. The Burpee Museum of Natural History occupies two historic mansions on the Rock River and is home to “Jane”, the skeletal remains of a recently discovered dinosaur. Discovery Center includes an outdoor science park that gives visitors of all ages hands-on exploration of scientific principles.
Both the Ethnic Heritage Museum and the Swedish-American Museum occupy historic homes as well. The homes containing the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Midway Village and Museum Center features a recreation of a turn-of-the-century village.
Rockford is often referred to as “The City of Gardens”. The 150-acre Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden, once a commercial nursery, now offers a glimpse of nature in its natural state. A new visitor’s center, formal and theme gardens and lovely garden paths make it a great place to stroll. The world-class Anderson Japanese Gardens, once privately owned and now open to the public, offer an elegant teahouse, tranquil waterfalls and winding paths leading to beautiful gardens. In contrast to this is the classic beauty of Sinnissippi Gardens, situated along the Rock River and complete with lagoon and swans.