November 17, 2018

Exploring Putnam Museum With Young Kids

When we went to the Quad Cities this fall, our kids were 7 and 9. Fun ages, but in the window between enjoying children’s museums (which they still love) and starting to appreciate science museums geared toward older ages. We went to Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa, and found a place that catered both to the children’s museum fans and science center fans in both of them (with a good dash of history and natural history thrown into the mix).

Things to know about visiting the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa (one of the Quad Cities) - What kids like, how long to expect to spend there, and what's not to be missed #Iowa #familytravel #museum

Disclosure: Our visit to the Quad Cities was hosted by Visit Quad Cities. Admission to the Putnam Museum was free thanks to reciprocal memberships I have with my Omaha Children’s Museum membership. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

What to expect at Putnam Museum

The museum is rather large, and at first, may feel a little overwhelming. Where to go to first, was our question. We asked the lady at admissions what she’d recommend for kids and she pointed us toward the science center area, the Egyptian room and said not to miss out on the dinosaur augmented reality screen.

Testing out a simple machine at the Putnam Museum in Iowa
Putnam Museum has a lot of hands-on activities for kids to explore STEM concepts.

Those were good tips. The science center was the first spacein the museum you walk into, so that was easy to find. In it, kids and adultscould explore 45 hands-on stations. Some were loud, like really loud.

Putnam Science Center inside the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa
This was a magnetic exhibit that I wish I knew better how to explain. There were 45 areas in the science center and I’ve already forgotten how half of them worked.

My son was drawn toward exhibits with touch screens, like ones where you could compose music or edit a video.

My daughter probably could’ve spent the entire afternoon “playing” with the dinosaurs. In this room, you could stand in front of a screen and watch dinosaurs walk, crawl or fly by you. It entertained the kids for a long time.

Augmented reality exhibit at Putnam Museum
The exhibit “Back to the Jurassic” is an augmented reality experience that thrilled my kids. It’s a 5-minute program with dinosaurs that you can interact with on screen.

And me. I’ll admit it.

The museum is also part natural history museum, so like I mentioned earlier there’s a room with mummies and artifacts from ancient Egypt. That was an impressive room.

Ancient Egypt exhibit at Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa
Learning about mummies and Egyptian hieroglyphs at the Putnam Museum in the Quad Cities.

But there were may other areas to see that explore history,especially history as it related to the Quad Cities.  In that space, you walked through the history of these rivertowns, all the way back to the time of Native Americans. There’s a kids spacetucked in the back of this exhibit that allowed for dress up and pretend play.

If you have a kid interested in animals around theworld, you’ll encounter displays of animals throughout the museum. The exhibitthat featured river creatures and plants was very well done and interactive.The one with more exotic animals like a polar bear and rhino appeared a littlemore dated.

Things to know about Putnam Museum

We arrived at the end of the day and had about an hour and a half to explore.  We saw and played with quite a bit of things in that short period of time. I’d recommend allowing at least two to three hours here.

My son tested a robot’s “vision” during our visit to Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa.

While we didn’t get to watch anything, there’s also an IMAX theater in the building.

Tip: Putnam Museum is part of the Association of Science &Technology Centers. If you have a membership to another ASTC museum (and inOmaha, that would be Omaha Children’s Museum), you can get free admission for up to four people. This is a great deal! Learn more about reciprocal membership benefits like the the ASTC program here.

Can any kid resist playing with air pressure? Kids can put a scarf in a tube and wait for it to shoot out the top. This area of the Putnam Museum entertained my youngest for a long time.

If you go

Putnam Museum

Where: 1717 W. 12th St., Davenport, Iowa

Website

Things to know before visiting the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa - It's part science center, part history museum and a lot of fun. Tips on what to see and how much time to expect to spend there #quadcities #familytravel #museum

Plan a Quad Cities Family Trip

Want to visit Putnam Museum along with some other great family-friendly attractions in the Quad Cities (which are Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline and Rock Island)? Read on for some of my favorite places:

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

Free Things To Do With Kids In The Quad Cities

Comparing Hotels Around The Quad Cities – Dec. 13

What’s At The Family Museum in Bettendorf? – Dec. 26

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Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

November 4, 2018

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 – Nov. 22

Comparing Hotels Around The Quad Cities – Dec. 13

What’s At The Family Museum in Bettendorf? – Dec. 26

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Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

October 28, 2018

Figge Art Museum And Kids

Our family trip to the Quad Cities was had an itinerary of kid-friendly attractions. One stop I hadn’t anticipating being as big of a hit as it was, was the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa. I wanted to peek at the temporary exhibit, so it was more of a stop for my enjoyment than my kids. But, it turns out, there’s one particular room in the Figge that won the kids over.

Things to know before you take kids to Figge Art Museum in the Quad Cities, including which room they'll love the most. #Iowa #Davenport #familytravel #tips

Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by Visit Quad Cities. I received complimentary admission to the museum so that I could tell you about it. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Leaving the Figge Art Museum with some of our kids’ artwork.

Taking kids to an art museum

Don’t let the name “art museum” scare you off from including one in your family vacation plans. I’ve been taking my kids there since they were little. It takes a little prep work, but it’s well worth it. Here are some tips for taking kids to any art museum or gallery

We’ve been taking my oldest to art museums since he was an infant. Can’t say it’s always been stress-free, but after 8 years of practice, he’s a great and attentive museum-goer. He enjoyed the galleries at Figge Art Museum as much as the Family Activity Center.

When you’re at the museum, there’s really no wrong way to view art with kids (except for the “touching the art” way). We like to ask the kids to pick out their favorite piece in the room and then explain why they like it. 

We pick out our favorite, as well. 

Things for kids to do at Figge Art Museum

Kids are going to love the newly-refurbished Family Activity Center. My kids were 6 and 8 when we visited and they found so much to do there. I think a preschooler on up to early teen would enjoy the space.

The Figge’s Family Activity Center was my children’s favorite space in the museum. They could create art, perform, read and be a little louder than they normally would be in a museum.

The Family Activity Center allows kids (and grown-ups, because really, I’m not just going to sit and watch) to explore different mediums. They can draw, construct, perform, and do a number of other self-directed projects. 

There were props and costumes in the Family Activity Center at the Figge Art Museum. It made for some interesting improvised productions during our visit.

We went home with a few of their masterpieces after our hour spent in the room. 

I’d recommend going to Family Activity Center after you’ve explored some of the other galleries, because your kids are not going to want to leave.

Temporary exhibits

Figge Art Museum has many temporary exhibitions on its calendar, as well as a robust permanent collection. When we visited, the museum was preparing to open “French Moderns: Monet to Matisse, 1850-1950.” We were fortunate to attend a preview of the exhibit.

“French Moderns: Monet to Matisse, 1850 -1950” is at Figge Art Museum through Jan. 6, 2019.

I love French impressionists and this exhibit had a few that were well worth the drive from Omaha. 

We asked the kids to pick out their favorites in the exhibit, and their selections and reasons were impressive. 

The inspiration for our visit to Figge Art Museum was to see the traveling French Moderns exhibit, but the large museum is worth a stop with or without a stellar traveling exhibit.

If you get the chance, I recommend fitting in a visit to Figge Art Museum before the exhibit ends on Jan. 6, 2019. It’s included with regular museum admission.

If you go

Figge Art Museum

Where: 225 W. Second St., Davenport, Iowa

Admission (2018): $7 adults; $6 seniors and students with ID; $4 children ages 4-12. Admission is FREE every Thursday evening from 5-9 p.m. and FREE to Figge members.

Check the website for hours and special events. 

Things to see and do at the Figge Art Museum with kids, including visiting the newly renovated Family Activity Center. #Davenport #Iowa #QuadCities #familytravel #artmuseum

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

Free Things To Do With Kids In The Quad Cities

Exploring The Putnam Museum With Young Kids – Nov. 22

Comparing Hotels Around The Quad Cities – Dec. 13

What’s At The Family Museum in Bettendorf? – Dec. 26

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

October 21, 2018

Where To Stay In The Quad Cities – Illinois Side

If you’re traveling to the Quad Cities and you’re planning on visiting attractions in several of those cities, you be wondering where best to stay. Good question since there are four cities making up this region. This post is looking at staying in Moline, Ill., and staying specifically at the Element Moline.

Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by Visit Quad Cities. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

The Element hotel chain is a sleek brand, with airy and modern décor. This particular location was a brick building with gorgeous loft-style rooms, blending brick walls, cement, and modern furniture.

With cement floors and unique light fixtures, Element Moline didn’t look like a typical hotel.

Our room was spacious, with a small kitchen, two beds, a fold-out couch bed, and a second mystery room that was empty. The bathroom was modern with a large glass shower.

Our room at Element had the look and feel of a chic loft – brick walls, concrete, and a kitchen.

As a parent, I appreciated the room had blackout curtains. My youngest occasionally takes naps still and it was very helpful being able to darken our room enough for her to sleep.

The room had blackout curtains to help with an impromptu nap one of my kids needed during our trip.

The hotel had one of the best complimentary breakfasts I’ve seen at any hotel when traveling. There was someone preparing hot food made-to-order (pancakes on the weekend and two egg white options on the weekday).

Element Hotel in Moline had self-serve breakfast food plus someone making hot food to order. On the weekend, she was making pancakes and on Monday, she was making two different egg white dishes.

The fresh fruit and yogurt bar were healthier options I appreciated. My kids, on the other hand, liked the cereal bar and pastry varieties.

The breakfast crowd on a Monday morning was decidedly more business than families.

If you stay during the week, there’s a happy hour with complimentary beer and wine in the comfy lobby.  

For traveling families, the most important feature is that it has a pool. It’s a small rectangle of a pool, but my kids didn’t care.

There’s also a workout room and complimentary bikes to rent. There’s a nearby trail that runs along a river.

This trail is within walking distance of Element Moline. You can borrow bikes from the hotel to explore it.

The hotel is within walking distance a few restaurants. Some that we tried that were nearby included Lagomaricino’s and Bent River Brewing Co.

It’s also near to the John Deere Pavilion, a good place to take the kids that’s free to visit. It’s also next to the TaxSlayer Center, with a lot of good concerts and performances coming up.

If you go

Element Moline

Where: 316 12th Street, Moline, Ill.

Website

Looking for a place to stay in the Quad Cities? Here's a recommended hotel on the Illinois side - Element Moline. The healthy breakfast, loft-style rooms and location will appeal to most travelers.

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

Taking Kids To The Figge Art Museum – Nov. 1

Free Things To Do With Kids In The Quad Cities – Nov. 8

Exploring The Putnam Museum With Young Kids – Nov. 22

Comparing Hotels Around The Quad Cities – Dec. 13

What’s At The Family Museum in Bettendorf? – Dec. 26

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

October 16, 2018

Fun Things To Do With Kids In The Quad Cities

Our trip to the Quad Cities in eastern Iowa and western Illinois was supposed to be a fun getaway, including some beautiful fall scenery. Think autumn things like pumpkin patches, nature hikes, and changing leaves along the Mississippi River. Due to rain — so much rain — our weekend was spent mostly indoors, though. No problem since there are plenty of fun things to do in the Quad Cities that are indoors, including exploring kid-friendly museums and eating an embarrassing amount of ice cream and pancakes.

Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by Visit Quad Cities. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Exploring the Quad Cities in Iowa & Illinois with kids - Fun things to do in the Quad Cities, including family-friendly museums, restaurants, breweries & hotel

The Quad Cities, if you’re unfamiliar, consists of Betterndorf and Davenport in Iowa and Moline and Rock Island in Illinois. The Mississippi is the natural divider for the states and cities. They’re proximity to each made it feel like one large city with small-town atmospheres.

For a family-friendly getaway to the Quad Cities, here are some of my suggestions:

Where to play

My kids are 7 and 9 years old, so they they’re starting to age out of children’s museum-type experiences (hands-on) but still love anything that’s play-based. Here’s where we went in the Quad Cities.

Learning about mummies and Egyptian hieroglyphs at the Putnam Museum in the Quad Cities.

A mix between science center and natural history museum, Putnam Museum in Davenport was a big hit for my kids. It’s large and families could easily spend an entire afternoon here. My kids enjoyed the science center, mummies, and walking through the river exhibit featuring the animals, flora and fauna found along the Mississippi River.

Putnam Museum has a lot of hands-on activities for kids to explore STEM concepts.

I loved playing with the kids in the augmented reality room where you could see yourself on screen with dinosaurs.

Where: Putnam Museum, 1717 W. 12th St., Davenport, Iowa

Tip: If you’re a member of Omaha Children’s Museum, you get admission for four FREE at the Putnam Museum thanks to the ASTC reciprocal membership program!

I was impressed with the massive Figge Art Museum in Davenport. We were there to see the new traveling exhibit, “French Moderns: Monet to Matisse,” as well as glimpse at some of the permanent collection. Catch the traveling exhibit while you can, as it was impressive.

The inspiration for our visit to Figge Art Museum was to see the traveling French Moderns exhibit, but the large museum is worth a stop with or without a stellar traveling exhibit.

The museum also is known for having one of the largest collections of Mexican Colonial artwork outside of Mexico City and is one of the first U.S. museums to have a Haitian art collection.

The Figge’s Family Activity Center was my children’s favorite space in the museum. They could create art, perform, read and be a little louder than they normally would be in a museum.

My kids spent most of their time in the newly remodeled Family Art Center on the second floor of the museum. It was a space to draw, build, and try on costumes. It’s perfect for all ages.

Where: Figge Art Museum, 225 W. 2nd Street, Davenport, Iowa

If you go to Figge, you’ll be block away from the Davenport Skybridge. It’s a walkway from a parking garage that leads you to a neat lookout over the Mississippi River.

If you’re in downtown Davenport, make a quick stop to see the Davenport Skybridge, which has great views of the Mississippi River.

We went during the day, but I’ve seen pictures of the Skybridge at night and the interior is lit up with colorful lights.

Family Museum in Bettendorf was one of the museums we were not originally planning on visiting, but rain washed out our outdoor plans so this became our substitute. I’m glad we did!

The Family Museum in Bettendorf, Iowa, appeals especially to younger kids.

Consider this museum like a children’s museum with a very creative and fun pretend space filled with a farm, grocery story, Mississippi bridge replica, veterinarian clinic, post office and more, plus a large water table and maker space.

The Family Museum in the Quad Cities had so many opportunities for make believe play.

Its total exhibit space is small compared to Omaha Children’s Museum, but you can easily spend a few hours playing just in the one room I mentioned above. And if your kids love the role playing, the Family Museum is hard to beat.

Playing with clay in a studio at the Family Museum in Bettendorf.

We went upstairs to the clay studio before leaving (there is also a separate art studio upstairs). The make-and-take air-dry clay is free to play with and take home. For a few dollars, though, you can make something on the pottery wheel. It’s not a great option for visitors like us since that clay needs to be fired in a kiln and picked up a week later.

Tip: If you’re a member of Omaha Children’s Museum, you get admission for four FREE at the Family Museum thanks to the ASTC reciprocal membership program!

Where: 2900 Learning Campus Dr, Bettendorf, Iowa

On the Illinois side of the Quad Cities, we went to two other attractions that happen to be FREE. Both could be about an hour-long visit depending how into tractors or rocks & fossils your family is.

The Fyxell Geology Museum is a free museum that’s worth a visit for families.

The Fryxell Geology Museum is a few museum on the beautiful Augustana College campus in Rock Island, Ill. Leave a few minutes on your visit to explore the campus before or afterward.

The museum’s small but it’s easy to spend an hour here. See if your family can get a guided tour because the enthusiasm of the guide is going to be contagious with your family. 

There’s a surprising amount of hands-on opportunities at Fryxell Geology Museum in Rock Island, Ill.

Susan brought out fossils for the kids to touch like fossilized poop and a shark’s jaw.

They’re testing out an augmented reality app, too, and my kids loved seeing the fossils “come to life” in pictures and video with the museum’s iPad.

We got to test out an app at Fryxell Geology Museum where kids can “see” what a fossil may have looked like millions of years ago.

If you’re exploring on your own, there’s a scavenger hunt card game.

The museum’s biggest draw is the Cryolophosaurus, a 22-foot-long dinosaur fossil discovered by an Augstana College professor. It’s the first-ever dinosaur fossil found in Antarctica and it was a previously unknown dinosaur – so a doubly exciting discovery.

Don’t skip the small exhibit in back behind the black curtain. There are fluorescent stones back there.

Where: Fryxell Geology Museum, 820 38th St., Rock Island, Ill. Just a note: Finding a parking spot near the museum was difficult as we went when college was in session.

Moline is home to the world headquarters of John Deere, and so it’s no surprise there’s a place to learn about the history of the company and glimpse at the future. The John Deere Pavilion is a great place to explore with kids as there are several huge farming equipment for them to climb on, as well as an interactive kids area.

Antique and modern John Deere farming equipment are on display at the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Ill. You can climb into many of the machines.

The kids area is small but it held my kids’ attention for a long time, especially video editor and the stop-motion video table.  

Adults even got in on the fun, especially with the simulators.

Where: John Deere Pavilion, 1400 River Dr., Moline, IL

Where to eat in the Quad Cities

This weekend getaway to the Quad Cities was extremely over-indulgent and if you’re on a diet, skip this part.

Breakfast is my favorite meal on vacation. The two I’d recommend are local institutions, and expect a wait if you go.

QC Coffee and Pancake House in Rock Island, Ill., is known for their cinnamon roll pancakes. So, we had to get one, right? We also tried the specials there – both plates were heaping with food. Mine was particularly colorful with a variety of fresh fruits and prepared vegetables. It’s all about balance when you also order a large pancake.

QC Coffee and Pancake House is known for their cinnamon roll pancakes.

The kids got Mickey Mouse pancakes, and again, too much for one kid to finish.

Jimmy’s Pancake House in Bettendorf, Iowa, is again, known for pancakes. They were fluffy and prepared just the way I like them. The perk of this restaurant, if you ask my kids, is the toy they gave them after the meal.
This restaurant is very close to the Family Museum.

Lagomarcino’s is a family-owned confectionery and soda fountain that’s been in business in Moline, Ill., for more than 100 years.

Lagomarcino’s has two locations in the Quad Cities and we went to the quaint original in Moline, Ill. You could walk to it from our hotel, Element, which is convenient.

Logamarcino’s is a century-old confectionery and ice cream shop with a deli thrown in for good measure. We ordered sandwiches, fully knowing we’d be splitting one of their famous sundaes afterward. They make their own ice cream and hot fudge.

This place is pretty charming and you’ll be tempted to buy candies and treats before leaving. I promise.

The homemade ice cream and hot fudge at Lagomarcino’s is legendary.

There are two locations. We dined at the downtown Moline, Ill., one. The second location is in the Village of East Davenport in Iowa, and that little area is absolutely charming.

Our other lunch was at Steel Plow Burger Co. You’d think you’d go here for the burgers (and those are good), but you’re really going because you want one of the over-the-rim milkshakes. These things are monstrous concoctions that must be shared.

So we did.

We split a brownie shake, which had little brownie bites and donuts on skewers, M&Ms and marshmallows along the bottom, and delish fudge dropping from the top. Four of us could not finish it.

How could we go to the Quad Cities and not have one of the pizzas that Food & Wine wrote about this year? We went to Harris Pizza (there are several locations, so we went to the one in Rock Island). The pizza is sliced in long strips rather than your typical triangle slices. Crisp bottom, thick crust and ample toppings, with just the right amount of sauce. All around, it was a great pizza.

There are several breweries in the Quad Cities, and I asked around for a few suggestions of family-friendly breweries so that I could try local beer without feeling out of place while on a family vacation. Bent River Brewing Co. in Moline was short walk from our hotel, so we decided to have dinner there one evening. While we were the only ones with kids there, we were welcomed.

Bent River Brewing Co. in Moline, Ill., is a local brewery with a kids menu and games to help pass the time while you wait for a meal.

There was a kids menu and several games to choose from while we waited for our dinner. We played Sorry and Jenga. The food was typical pub food, and the beer was exceptional. I tried their most popular beer, Uncommon Stout, and my husband ordered a seasonal sweet potato beer. The seasonal was so good, we bought a growler to take home.

Where to stay in the Quad Cities

Our hotel, Element Moline, was on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities, but given the proximity of the cities to each other, I don’t know if you can choose wrong when deciding which city to stay in.

Our room at Element had the look and feel of a chic loft – brick walls, concrete floors, and a kitchen.

I’ll be visiting a few more Quad City hotels in the next month and can report back to you on why you’d choose one of the Quad Cities over the other depending on your itinerary.

But, back to talking about Element. You may be familiar with the hotel chain by Marriott. It’s a sleek hotel, and this one in Moline has such a cool look. It reminded me of loft apartments in Omaha’s Old Market, blending brick walls, cement, and modern furniture.

The hotel had one of the best complimentary breakfasts I’ve seen at any hotel when traveling. There was someone preparing hot food made-to-order (pancakes on the weekend and two egg white options on the weekday). The fresh fruit and yogurt bar were healthier options I appreciated. My kids, on the other hand, liked the cereal bar and pastry varieties.

Element Hotel in Moline had self-serve breakfast food plus someone making hot food to order. On the weekend, she was making pancakes and on Monday, she was making two different egg white dishes.

Most important to traveling families, it has a pool. Our room was shower-only, so that was a drawback for my kids. I’d say, overall, this hotel would appeal more to business travelers than families, while still being pretty family-friendly.

The hotel is within walking distance to the John Deere Pavilion, as well as the TaxSlayer Arena. It’s also near a bike trail along the riverfront, and the hotel has complimentary bicycles if you have time to explore.

Where: 316 12th Street, Moline, Ill.

Website

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:

Where To Stay In The Quad Cities – Illinois Side

Taking Kids To The Figge Art Museum

Free Things To Do With Kids In The Quad Cities

Exploring The Putnam Museum With Young Kids – Nov. 22

Comparing Hotels Around The Quad Cities – Dec. 13

What’s At The Family Museum in Bettendorf? – Dec. 26

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October 10, 2018

Things To Do In Excelsior Springs

A trip to Excelsior Springs, Mo., was a long-time coming for me. I’d first heard about the town in reference to the famous historic hotel, The Elms Hotel & Spa. It seemed to be a destination in itself, an epic Midwest spa destination. I knew friends and in-laws who went as a couples getaway. So, I wanted that kind of getaway, too. But, I also knew there were other great things to do in Excelsior Springs, so we ventured out into town.

Things to do in Excelsior Springs

If you’re curious, here are things to do in Excelsior Springs as well as a few things to do just outside of tow:

What’s there to do in Excelsior Springs?

Excelsior Springs is a town of about 11,000 people, and it’s a shell of a town it once was. It used to attract tourists seeking the supposedly healing spring waters. The spring water wells are no longer flowing into bath houses, and now it’s a lot quieter in Excelsior Springs. There is a lot of potential and as we walked around, I couldn’t help but wonder why this place didn’t have even more shops, what with the proximity of The Elms.

The Elms Hotel & Spa is an easy walk to downtown Excelsior Springs, Mo.

I could see a hint of a comeback downtown, though. There was a cafe, a few restaurant and bars, a few boutiques, as well as thrift stores.

If you stay at The Elms, you can easily walk to the downtown area and all of the things I’m going to tell you about in this post. First up, is the new kid on the block: Dubious Claims Brewing Co. We got a tip to visit this brew pub from a hotel employee.

Dubious Claims Brewing Co. opened in April 2018 in downtown Excelsior Springs.

Dubious Claims opened in the spring of 2018, and got its name from the history of the city and poking fun at the “health properties” of the spring waters there. We went to Dubious Claims for dinner (try the Final Gravity Chicken) and some beer. There were seasonal brews and their standards. I recommend the popular Kolsch there. 

I tried a beer flight at Dubious Claims Brewing Co. My favorite, by far, was the kolsch.

Another fun place to visit for food and, if you luck out, live music, is Wabash BBQ and Blues Garden. The restaurant is in an old train station. In the summer and into early fall, there’s live music on some Saturday nights. We caught the last concert of the 2018 season and it was a packed event outdoors.

Wabash BBQ on a live music night.

We saw some kids there, in case you were wondering if it was kid-friendly, but it was primarily an adult audience enjoying the beer garden atmosphere. The barbecue was pretty good, too, incidentally.

We picked up a complimentary, self-guided walking tour brochure from The Elms front desk to learn about Excelsior Springs’ past and see some of the sites where spring water wells once stood.

The Hall of Waters was once a water bar where people could sample different “healing” spring waters.

One of the big stops on that tour that I’d recommend taking a look at is The Hall of Waters. It’s now the visitor’s center for the town, so you can double up on the stop to learn about the history of the town and what’s going on there now. 

Hall of Waters & Excelsior Springs Visitor's Center
The Hall of Waters is on the Excelsior Springs self-guided water springs walking tour. It’s also a pretty easy walk from The Elms Hotel & Spa.

It’s a beautiful art deco building with a fascinating history behind how it got built. Go inside to see the well-known water bar (no water to be sample there now, alas).

The Hall of Waters is on the Excelsior Springs self-guided water springs walking tour. It’s also a pretty easy walk from the hotel.

The tour took us down the main strip of downtown Excelsior Springs, and that time of morning, there weren’t a lot of shops open. Actually, there wasn’t a lot of retail going on at all downtown. I stopped in a cute women’s clothing boutique called Style By Ry.

Storefront of the clothing boutique Style By Ry.

Things to do near Excelsior Springs

It was a gorgeous fall weekend when we visited, so my husband and I spent a lot of time outdoors. You’ll need a car to get to these places from The Elms.

Our first stop was Watkins Mill State Park. The park has a scenic lake to walk around or bike the paved trail. If you bike, it’s a quick loop around the 100-acre lake with a large portion of it shaded. 

Taking a break from our bike ride at Watkins Mill State Park to check out hte scenery.

There were quite a few families there fishing and enjoying an easy bike ride.

There is a beach that’s open seasonally there, but to be honest, it didn’t look appealing to me compared to other Midwest lakes.

Watkins Woolen Mill is a national historic landmark located near Excelsior Springs.

Adjacent to the state park is the national landmark, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site, is an interesting visit if you’re into ag history. The historic site is actually a national historic landmark.

The visitor’s center dives into the area’s agricultural history as well as the significance of the mill.

The visitor’s center is a good place to start to learn about the significance of the family that once lived there.

Then take the short walk to the family’s home and the mill. It’s a peaceful place.

Posing by the Watkins house at the Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site. If you take the tour, you can enter the house and learn more about the Watkins family.

There’s an option to take a guided tour for a small fee. I heard it was worth the small fee, but we had a winery to get to. 

The treelined path to the mill at the historic park.

Before heading to the winery, you may want to stop at a nearby waterfall. But, word of advice, if it’s a dry season, it’s going to be disappointing. I’ve seen pictures of Tryst Falls and knew it would be a small waterfall, but when we stopped to look, it wasn’t a waterfall at all. Don’t make a special trip just for the waterfall.

Anyway. Back to the winery. There are three wineries in the area to choose from. We opted to go to Van Till Family Farm & Winery in Rayville, Mo., after a hotel guest told us about their delicious wood-fire pizza. It sounded a lot like my experience at Luna Valley Farm in Iowa, so I wanted to check it out. 

The garden patio is adjacent to the tasting room at Van Till Family Farm & Winery.

We sample some wine first inside the tasting room and then ventured to the outdoor wine garden. It was a busy place that afternoon. Luckily, it was a beautiful place for a leisurely-paced lunch with some chilled wine.

We ordered the chef’s pizza special that afternoon – pork belly and fig pizza. It was so good, there were no leftovers.

Where to stay in Excelsior Springs

I’ve written all about a stay at The Elms, including what their famous spa experience is like and dining at the hotel. You can’t beat the location and beauty of this hotel.

The Elms was first built in 1888, though this current structure is the third incarnation of the historic hotel. The first two suffered fire damages. This building opened in 1912.

You don’t have to be a guest to explore the hotel’s first floor. It’s also a stop on the walking tour for the natural springs.

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Weekend getaway to Excelsior Springs, Missouri - Fun things to do including bike ride, visiting a national historic landmark, trying local beer and wine, and seeing The Hall of Waters
Guide to a weekend in Excelsior Springs - Where to eat, where to try local beers and wine, and details on a mineral springs walking tour and a scenic bike trail