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Free Things To Do In The Quad Cities With Kids

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.

3 free things to do in the Quad Cities that kids will love #Illinois #Iowa #familytravel

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.

Fryxell Geology Museum at Augustana College campus
The Fyxell Geology Museum is a free museum that’s worth a visit for families. Explore fossils, gems and the area’s pre-historic history.

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.

Large dinosaur fossil Inside the Fryxell Geology Museum in Illinois
My family is in the background, learning about the discovery of the Cryolophosaurus, the first (and only) Jurassic dinosaur discovered in Antarctica. It was collected by a team of Augustana geologists led by Dr. William R. Hammer.

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 river town is home to John Deere, and lucky for families, it’s home to John Deere Pavilion.

Inside the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois
The John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Ill., is free to visit. You can climb into the cabs of many of the tractors and machinery.

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.

Antique farming equipment inside the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois
John Deere farming equipment from more than 180 years are on display at the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Ill. You can climb into many of the machines.

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.

Kid's play area inside the John Deere Pavilion in Illinois
My daughter and I made a few stop motion movies set on a farm.

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.

Exterior of the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois
The John Deere Pavilion was a good rainy day stop for my family during our Quad Cities vacation.

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.

Davenport Skybridge

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.

The view from inside the Davenport Skybridge in Iowa
If you’re in downtown Davenport, make a quick stop to see the Davenport Skybridge, which has great views 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.

Exterior of the Skybridge in Davenport, Iowa
The Davenport Skybridge is safe way to cross a highway from the downtown area to the riverfront. 

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.

Flooded Mississippi River
The Skybridge gave us a nice view of how far up onto shore the Mississippi River has flooded.

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.

Fun things to do that don't cost a thing in the Quad Cities in Iowa and Illinois #familytravel #visitquadcities

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:

Fun Things To Do With Kids In The Quad Cities

Where To Stay In The Quad Cities – Illinois Side

The Figge Art Museum And Kids

Exploring The Putnam Museum With Young Kids

Comparing Hotels Around The Quad Cities

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Saturday 4th of September 2021

The Karpeles Museum in Rock Island is also free and a fun place to visit in the Quad-cities!

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