Covering the Land of Lincoln

Museums, a pub, and a jeweler among top Rockford attractions

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — If you ask 100 people to name Rockford’s top attractions, they’d undoubtedly list some obvious things to check out.

Rock Cut State Park, the BMO Harris Bank Center, City Market, and Stroll on State would certainly be on the list. Each draws thousands of people each year and seems to be getting better.

But what about places locals drive by every day but may not realize make Rockford a true Midwestern destination? Do they exist? They sure do.

Here are eight places Yelp users say should be on everyone’s Rockford bucket list.

At 737 N. Main St., on the northern edge of downtown Rockford, Burpee was established in 1941 as a Works Progress Administration project. Today, the facility boasts numerous renowned exhibits, including Jane, the complete, skeletal fossil of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex.

Rib tips, pork shoulder, fries, Polish sausage, and chicken highlight the menu at Smokehouse Barbecue. The restaurant is at 432 Harrison Ave., Rockford.

There should be no surprise here. Nestled near the Spring Creek/Illinois 251 interchange, the 12-acre Anderson Japanese Gardens is the highest quality Japanese garden in North America, according to Sukiya Living Magazine. The campus features koi-filled ponds, winding paths, streams, waterfalls, trained pines, and more. Address: 318 Spring Creek Road

The Norwegian is Rockford’s only Nordic-themed restaurant and pub. The establishment is owned and operated by singer-songwriter Emily Christensen, who realized her dream in 2018 when she opened the eco-friendly restaurant that’s also a music venue, gallery, and just a cool place to hang out. TheNorwegian is at 1402 N. Main St.

Yelp users love coming to J Fireplace to check out the boutique jeweler’s fine selection of wedding rings, necklaces, watches, and antique pieces. Address: 250 N Mulford Road

What would a trip to Rockford be without some mouth-watering Asian-fusion cuisine? Yelp said it wouldn’t be a trip at all, and that Rock Pho’d is where’s it at. The restaurant is known for its crab rangoon, dragon fried rice, noodles dishes, and more. Rock Pho’d is at 6551 E. Riverside Blvd.

You can’t have a “best-of” Rockford list that includes Burpee Museum without giving the Discovery Center a nod. Yelp users apparently understand this, which is why the 23,000 square-foot children’s museum is listed here. The facility offers 300 interactive, hands-on science exhibits that makes it one of the best children’s museums in Illinois.

It’s also not a surprise that Thinker Swiss made this list. The historic complex boasts the main house museum, a barn, carriage house, and gardens. The property was the former home of Robert Hall Tinker, a Rockford industrialist who also served as mayor in 1875. Events like “Murder Mystery Night,” paranormal investigations, lectures, and garden tours attract visitors from all over the state.

What do you think? Did we miss any? Shoot us a message and let us know.

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