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Rockford rocks!

Midway Village, Rockford, Illinois
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Midway Village, Rockford, Illinois

Rockford was once known as Midway since it was half-way between the mines of Galena and Chicago. It was soon renamed for its ford across the Rock River.

It prospered as a center of industry has became a city known for its history, performing arts, a unique baseball team, a grand movie palace, and an exceptional garden. And now Rockford rocks with arts and entertainment along its new Riverwalk.

Rockford’s Midway Village Museum has galleries featuring artifacts like the chains used to measure the mile-square (640 acre) sections bought by settlers for $1 an acre through the Land Ordinance of 1785.

Rockford Peaches trophies, Midway Village Museum
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Rockford Peaches trophies, Midway Village Museum

There are agricultural, aviation and furniture exhibits as well as uniforms and trophies of the Rockford Peaches, the World War 2 era All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The team was featured in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell. For more this, see our story on the the Peaches.

J. L. Clark Hardware, Midway Village
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J. L. Clark Hardware, Midway Village

Twenty-six authentic and reproduction buildings recreate a Victorian-era village and late 19th century life. In addition to many houses and gardens there’s the first print shop, hospital, hotel, schoolhouse, and a hardware store that grew to be Clarcorp.

The Burpee Museum of Natural History is a place to learn about the Rock River Valley’s prairie, wetlands, and woodlands. JANE the world’s most complete juvenile T.rex is the most recognized exhibit.

Riverfront Museum Park and museum complex
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Riverfront Museum Park and museum complex

Child magazine ranked the adjacent Discovery Center Museum the #4 children’s museum in America. There are over 250 exhibits , a planetarium, a news studio, and an outdoor science park.

Rockford Art Museum is Illinois’ largest outside Chicago.

Coronado Theater, Rockford, Illinois
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Coronado Theater, Rockford, Illinois

The Coronado Performing Arts Center, built in 1927 restored in 2001, is a gilded showpiece of the vaudeville era built in the atmospheric style with a twinkling starry sky.

Grand Barton Theater Organ at the Coronado Theater, Rockford
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Grand Barton Theater Organ at the Coronado Theater, Rockford

This opulent movie palace is home to a wide variety of shows and concerts, including the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. It has one of two remaining Grand Barton Theater Organs with a unique dragon design.

Starlight Theater at Rock Valley College
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Starlight Theater at Rock Valley College

retractable roof of the Starlight Theater at Rock Valley College
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retractable roof of the Starlight Theater at Rock Valley College

In June and July the Starlight Theater at Rock Valley College offers musical productions under a retractable roof in the 1,000 seat Bengt SjostromTheater.

Erlander Home Museum , Rockford, Illinois
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Erlander Home Museum , Rockford, Illinois

The 1871 Italianate home of furniture manufacturer John Erlander, is now the Erlander Home Museum and center of Swedish culture and history. A visit is a good way to gain an insight into Rockford’s furniture industry and the area’s Swedish heritage. For more on the influence of the early Swedish immigrants see Rockford, Illinois: Swede Town.

Tinker Swiss Cottage, Rockford, Ilinois
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Tinker Swiss Cottage, Rockford, Ilinois

After accountant Robert Hall Tinker married Mary Manny, the wealthy widow of John H. Manny of Manny Reaper, he went on became Rockford’s mayor and CEO of the Northwest and IC Rail lines. They built Tinker Swiss Cottage (1865-1870), a rare example of Victorian exotic architecture highlighted by the walnut spiral staircase Robert carved from one piece of wood. After Mary’s death, he married her niece, Jessie, who bequeathed the home and original furnishings, including clothing and diaries, to the Park District as a museum.

Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Illinois
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Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Illinois

Rockford’s John Anderson traveled to Japan and after visiting Portland Gardens hired same architect to build a Japanese garden in back of his home. In 1998 he and his wife, Linda, endowed it to the community. Anderson Japanese Gardens has been named Best in North America by the Roth Journal of Japanese Gardens.

Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Illinois
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Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Illinois

The twelve acre 12th century style “pond strolling” garden includes pagodas, pools. lanterns, waterfalls, and Sukiya-style buildings, as well as original bronze angel statues by Sweden’s Carl Milles. It has been designated one of the 150 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects for its contribution to the community’s way of life.

Ongoing revitalization efforts have created a Riverwalk along the Rock River and a Riverfront Museum Park for all to enjoy.

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