During our long weekend to the Quad Cities – a collection of cities around the Mississippi River on both the Iowa and Illinois side – we visited several family-friendly museums and places that I can’t wait to tell you more about. Three things that I want to highlight in this post stand out from the others in one particular way – they are free. If free fits your budget when traveling, read on.
Fryxell Geology Museum
Where: Rock Island, Ill.
Hours: Academic year, Mondays-Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 .m. (plus seven evenings throughout the year)
Tucked in the beautiful Augustana Campus is the Fryxell Geology Museum. This museum is a bit off the beaten path, but it was so worth the stop. It’s one of the largest and finest collections of rocks, minerals and fossils in the Midwest.
It’s a more hands-on museum than you’d expect, which is great for visiting families. The staff has found engaging ways to get your kids excited about the displays.
If you’re doing the self-guided thing, you can pick up scavenger hunt cards. They’re simple cards that encourage kids to look closer at displays to find the item that matches the picture.
There’s also a new iPad app that allows kids (or adults, because you know you’re going to want to try it) to aim the iPad at a fossil and see an image or an illustrated video to see what the creature might have looked like back in the day. This was way cool for the kids.
The highlighted was walking around with a staff member and having her point out cool fossils – like fossilized poop – and answering questions my kids posed.
Things to look for:
- There’s a rock display behind curtains in theback of the museum. Take a peek to see the “glowing” rocks. It impressed myyoungest.
- The Cryolophosaurus. This large dinosaur is one of the first things you encounter at the museum. It’s got a great story– the first dinosaur found in Antarctica AND found by an Augustana professor. There’s a display to learn more about that years-long process of uncovering the bones.
John Deere Pavilion
Where: Moline, Ill.
Hours: Monday–Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Closed major holidays.
This pavilion, to me, is half history museum and half children’s museum. Even the website tells you: “The only requirement for kids inside our doors — BE A KID. Climb on board. Pretend you’re driving…”
So, the history part is fairly obvious. You can see the earliest tractors and how they and other farming equipment have evolved over 180 years. Walking the whole length of the pavilion, you can’t help but be impressed. And, when you reach the other end of the building, you get a glimpse at present time and what innovations are ahead.
What’s great for kids is that they can climb into the cabs of many of these huge machines.
The space that felt like a mini children’s museum part, the Discovery Zone, was the area my kids wanted to spend the most time. There are hands-on displays and train table, as well as a stop-motion table. My son’s favorite was a video he can manipulate, speeding the image up or slowing it down.
There’s a row of screens that you can sit in front of and try out simulations of driving some of the machinery. This appealed to the grown-ups as much as the kids. There were quite a few screens, actually, throughout the pavilion that allowed for a fun way to learn more about the brand and farming.
This one was a fairly quick stop for us, whereas I think the others could spend about an hour or so there. If your kid is really interested in the machines, check out this John Deere website with coloring pages and videos.
Where: Davenport, Iowa
Hours: Daily, 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
I first learned about the Skybridge through pictures, because this hidden gem (or maybe not-so-hidden) gives you a great birds-eye view of the Mississippi River.
Pretty much, it’s a walkway over a highway from a parking garage to the riverfront. But, it’s done in such a cool way, that it’s worth checking out. If the weather’s crummy, it’s also a nice, long corridor that kids can run up and down. When we were there, two women were running laps for a workout.
At night, I hear the lighting inside is pretty sweet, too. We were there during the day, so I can’t vouch for the lighting. But, the view was neat.
The river was at flood-level, so we could see water seeping up onto the Iowa banks.
We didn’t head downtown just for this view. We actually decided to add a visit to the Skybridge at the last minute since we got downtown in record time and the Figge Art Museum wasn’t open yet. The Skybridge is super close to the Figge and killed about 10 minutes.
Plan a Quad Cities Family Trip
I’ll be sharing more in-depth posts about some of the places we visited in the Quad Cities in upcoming posts. Check back to learn more about:
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