The Quad Cities of Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, is a charming area about 2.5 hours west of Chicago. There, you can find plenty of fun things to do with kids during an affordable family vacation.
The John Deere Pavilion
The John Deere pavilion in Moline, Illinois, is a popular attraction for families because of its interactive exhibits. There, children and parents can see, climb and pretend to drive some of John Deere’s newest machinery. Giant combines, tractors, and even the “lawn mower of the future” are on display.
There are also educational activities and exhibits, prototype machines, and vintage tractors for visitors to learn about the Quad Cities’ most famous manufacturer.
The pavilion also hosts free events throughout the year. It is open Mondays through Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Rock Island Arsenal Museum
The Rock Island Arsenal Museum first opened to the public on July 4, 1905, making it the Army’s second oldest museum. According to the museum’s website, the Rock Island Arsenal Museum tells the story of the “people, processes, and products” involved in Arsenal Island’s history.
This museum is nationally recognized for its small arms collection. It house more than 1,200 U.S., foreign, civilian, and military small arms. This collection is on permanent display.
There also are many other exhibits that feature photos and artifacts that tell the story of the Rock Island Arsenal.
This museum is best for ages 8 and older. It is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call (309) 782-5021.
Credit Island Park
At this historic island, turned playground and park, you can bike and hike on parts of the Great River Trail in both Illinois and Iowa.
You can also find one of the area’s most popular disc-golf courses on Credit Island. The course is built on what used to be a golf course and has 18 holes, with strategically situated trees and a pond on the backside for added challenges.
There you can also see a 3-D replica of Seurat’s famous painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” It make you feel as if you have stepped into the painting itself.
Playground facilities and picnic areas are available, and the park’s location makes it easy for you to sit and watch the traffic on the Mississippi River. During the spring, summer and early fall, kayak, bike and canoe rentals are available on the island.
The park is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
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Mississippi River Visitor Center
Located on Rock Island Arsenal Island, the Mississippi River Visitors Center gives you the opportunity to watch barges move through the Lock & Dam system at Lock & Dam 15 as you learn about the Mississippi River.
You can also schedule a lock and dam tour during the summer. In the winter, there’s a bald eagle spotting tour, December through February. Educational programs about water safety, wildlife and preservation are offered throughout the year.
The visitor center welcomes more than 30,000 people annually and is handicap accessible. The exhibits at the visitor center are best for ages 6 and older. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Call (309) 794-5338 for more information on exhibits and events.
A simple pleasure of the Quad-Cities since 2005, this glass bridge offers panoramic views of downtown Davenport and the Mississippi River.
The 575 feet long skybridge also serves as a safe walkway across busy River Drive and the railroad tracks, 50 feet above the moving vehicles.
The skybridge is open 24/7, 365 days per year.
Backwater Gamblers Water Ski Show
Each summer, the Mississippi River backwaters on the Rock River become a performance area for the Backwater Gamblers.
The Backwater Gamblers are a non-profit water ski show team that performs free water ski shows. The team is made up of around 150 members, ages 1 to 67. Skiers perform acts such as jumping, barefooting, pyramids, swivel, strap doubles, and others.
The Backwater Gamblers also offer water ski lessons, including a disabled water ski clinic.
The shows last about an hour with a 15-20 minute intermission. It’s free, but donations are accepted. You can catch a show at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, at 44th Street and Rock River, Rock Island. Call (309) 786-8987 for more information.
Nahant Marsh in west Davenport, Iowa, gives you the chance to experience 513 acres of upper Mississippi wetlands and nearly 400 wildlife species.
The location is a great example of the Midwest’s natural wetlands and plains. If you like nature hikes, you’ll find plenty at Nahant Marsh.
You can walk the trails yourself or take a guided tour to learn more about the natural landscape and wildlife.
Tours are typically 60 to 90 minutes. They include a presentation on the history of Nahant Marsh, nature hike, and a viewing of “Resurrecting the Wetlands: The Story of Nahant Marsh.”
Tours are conducted Mondays through Fridays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Saturdays between 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Vander Veer Botanical Park
The 33-acre Vander Veer Botanical Park was established in 1885 and is home to an extensive collection of gardens and trees.
You can stroll down The Grand Allee, a tree-lined walkway that leads to the Stone Fountain when the weather is warm, or you can visit the conservatory and greenhouse throughout the year.
More Free Things to Do in Iowa and Illinois
This post was updated by Alexandra Olsen, a college student intern for TravelingMom.com. Her love of travel began at a very young age–traveling with her family to little beach towns growing up in Brazil. Alexandra also has her own personal travel blog, Trail Mix, which she started while spending a summer studying abroad in Norway.