December 14, 2018

Winter Day Trips From Omaha

There’s only one thing to do when cabin fever strikes: Bundle up and get out of the house. I recently shared a list of 30+ things to do this winter in Omaha. But if you’ve done it all here, or at least it feels like it, then maybe it’s time to get out of town. Here are some ideas to inspire your next winter day trips from Omaha:

Winter day trips from Omaha, Nebraska - Indoors and outdoor ideas for families #Nebraska #Iowa #familytravel

Council Bluffs, Iowa

You don’t have to go far for your next day trip. Council Bluffs, Iowa, has enough to keep you busy for the day. Visit Union Pacific Railroad Museum for free, or pay a few dollars to see the nearby Squirrel Cage Jail. The city also has Joe’s Carting, for go carts.

Related post: Family-Friendly Outdoor Activities Near Council Bluffs

The historic Squirrel Cage Jail is located in Council Bluffs.  Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Where to eat? 712 is great food but not necessarily a place you’d necessarily want to bring little kids to. Pizza King is an iconic pizza joint (though Pizza Counter nearly won the entire Great Pizza Tournament this year). Quaker Steak & Lube is a chain restaurant, but the decor gives you plenty to look at while you’re there. 

Honey Creek, Iowa

Bundle up and hit the trails at Hitchcock Nature Center. You can rent snow shoes and if you’re feeling adventurous, try a sled down the Chute Trail. Warm up and have the kids play around the great visitor’s center.

Related post: Fall At Hitchcock Nature Center

Where to eat? When the weather’s nice, I usually pack a picnic for Hitchcock outings. However, I don’t picnic in the winter. Crescent is your closest city with restaurants. My favorite restaurant is closed now, so I guess I’ll just recommend the iconic Crescent restaurant, Pink Poodle. I haven’t eaten there in, oh, about 20 years, though, so I can’t tell you if it’s still great or not.

Truthfully? I drive into Council Bluffs if I’m looking a restaurant near there. 

Crescent, Iowa

The area’s only skiing is at Mt. Crescent in Crescent, Iowa. In addition to ski slopes, there are tubes to rent. Best part? You don’t have to walk up the hill each time with the big tubes; Mt. Crescent has a lift for the tube trail, too.

Where to eat? Mt. Crescent has a small lodge that may have some food. It’s near Crescent, Iowa, so see the above suggestion.

Lincoln, Neb.

There’s so much to do in Lincoln in the winter, but our favorites are the Lincoln Children’s Museum and Morrill Hall. We also enjoyed Lost In Fun!, but it is out of the way of most everything.

Related Post: 8 Great Things To Do With Kids In Lincoln

The hall of mammoths at Morrill Hall on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Where to eat? We always end up eating at Lazlo’s with the kids in the Hay Market. Fora good dessert, I recommend The Rabbit Hole Bakery, an Alice in Wonderland-themed café.

Ashland, Neb.

Mahoney State Park is a destination in itself, but you can combine a stop there with a few hours at Strategic Air and Space Museum. Outdoor activities at Mahoney include tobogganing and ice skating. We usually spend all of our time at the Activity Center, which has a huge indoor playground and climbing walls.

The indoor Activity Center at Mahoney State Park is a popular (and inexpensive) destination for families living in Omaha.

Where to eat? – You could eat at the Activity Center, but I wouldn’t recommend it beyond getting a snack. Head into Ashland for Cherri’s, which has some good sandwiches and ice cream, or just get a pizza to go from Casey’s.

If you’re traveling without kids, there’s winery and tasting room to check out, too. Visit Cellar 426 or Glacial Till Tasting Room.

Related Post: Things To Do At Mahoney State Park In The Winter 

Nebraska City, Neb.

OK, I’ll be the first to tell you Nebraska City is better any other time of the year, but don’t dismiss it. For older kids, explore some of the historic sites including Arbor Lodge and Wildwood Historic Center. If you’re ambitious and hearty in the winter, hit the trails at the Arbor Lodge Tree Adventure.

Related Post: Visiting Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure

Going off the trail at the Arbor Lodge Tree Adventure in Nebraska City, Neb.

Where to eat? The last restaurant we dined at in Nebraska City is now closed and, I confess, I’m more likely to pack a picnic visit (and then eat apple pie at the Apple House Market next door to the Tree Adventure). The Keeping Room looks charming, so if I were to pick the one I’d try out, I’d go there.

Your turn: Tell me a great winter day trip from Omaha!

Great, family-friendly day trip from Omaha - Things to see and do in nearby towns like Lincoln, Ashland and Honey Creek #Nebraska #Lincoln #Midwest

Get more day trip ideas by following my Pinterest board dedicated to traveling with kids through Nebraska:

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December 11, 2018

Comparing Hotels In The Quad Cities

When I started planning our first trip to the Quad Cities, I was at a loss on where to stay. The Quad Cities are four cities that are so near each other, you get the feeling it’s just one bigger Midwest city.

We’ve passed stayed in three different Quad Cities hotels now, in three different cities, so now I can at least offer suggestions on where to stay based on your budget or plans. The Quad Cities, for the unfamiliar, are in eastern Iowa and Western Illinois (Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, Moline and East Moline…yes, five cities).

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

Not sure where to stay in the Quad Cities? This post compares three hotels located in Davenport, Bettendorf and Moline. #Iowa #Illinois #familytravel

Related post: Plan a trip to the Quad Cities with the help of this post full of family-friendly things to do in the Quad Cities.

Element Moline

Moline, Ill.

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

You may be familiar with the Element brand – sleek designs with a focus on health and green living. This location is within walking distance of the concert arena, a bike trail, and the John Deere Pavilion, which is a great, free place to visit with kids.

It has a small pool and complimentary breakfast with healthy options. There’s also a happy hour during the week, which may or may not appeal to you when you’re on a family trip.

The complimentary breakfast one morning included an egg white scramble and fresh fruit. I also got a pastry because I’m no diet saint.

There are not a whole lot of shops or restaurants within walking distance.

Kids will like: The pool.

Kids won’t like: Our room only had a shower.

Parents will like: The spacious suites that let a family be a little less cramped. Ours had a kitchen, too. There’s also free Wi-Fi. Parking is comped by the hotel.

Good for: Families that like free breakfasts with healthy choices and families looking for a bit more spacious rooms.

Related post: Read more about Element Moline in this hotel review.

My Place Davenport

Davenport, Iowa

My Place in Davenport, Iowa, is an affordable hotel option for families visiting the Quad Cities.

This is a newly-opened location of the chain My Place. It’s a good option for families on a tight budget.

This location is a short drive from a lot of shopping options and malls. It’s also pretty close to the very fun Family Museum, which will appeal to families with younger children.

The My Place room we stayed in overnight had a full-size fridge and small range.

Kids will like: Comfy beds.

Kids won’t like: There’s no pool.

Parents will like: How budget-friendly and clean it is. We were looking for a hotel for a stopover for a road trip.  We didn’t need much for an overnight, just beds for all of us that were comfortable. Parents might also like the kitchenette with a huge fridge in the room. There’s also free Wi-Fi. Parking is free.

Parents won’t like: There is no complimentary breakfast. You can, however, order breakfast to be delivered to your room. The prices were pretty reasonable, and beat fast food.

Good for: Families on a budget or families making a quick overnight stop.

Hilton Garden Inn Bettendorf

Bettendorf, Iowa

The Hilton Garden Inn was the best fit for our family with amenities we all wanted (especially that hot tub by the pool). It’s in a good location near the interstate so it’s easy to get to places.

The lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn in Bettrndorf, Iowa, was decked for the holidays when we visited right after Thanksgiving. 

It’s within an easy drive–or if you’re feeling up to it, an easy walk–to some restaurants like Pizza Ranch and Starbucks. It’s also not far from one of the breakfast places we went to on our Quad Cities weekend trip, Jimmy’s Pancake.

What kids will like: The pool is the biggest of the two hotels that had them, plus it has a hot tub. Kids will like the fresh, homemade cookies at check in, too.

Nighttime swim in the pool at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bettendorf, Iowa.

What parents will like: The cozy lobby, that hot tub I mentioned, and the free coffee in the lobby. There’s also a bar and restaurant in the lobby.

What parents won’t like: No complimentary breakfast. The hotel restaurant in the lobby looks like it would be included, but expect to pay for that buffet. Kids are half-price, though.

Things to look forward to in Quad Cities in 2019

A bike trail along the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities.

Museum updates: The Buffalo Bill Museum in LeClaire has anew addition housing a replica 1920s interior of a one-room school house. The Putnam Museum & Science Center in Davenport opens “RACE: Are We So Different” in January. The German American Heritage Center in Davenport opens an exhibit on the Schweibert Family in March. The Figge Art Museum opens an exhibit on Tiffany’s stained-glass windows, vases, lamps and accessories on Feb. 16 and running through May 19. The Family Museum has a summer exhibit running June 8 throughSept. 8 called “Run! Jump! Fly! Adventures in Action!”

Drink updates: Bootleg Hill Honey Meads just opened in downtown Davenport, serving a variety of meads and craft drinks. 

Additional things to look out for in 2019: Quad Cities Air Show returns after a two-year break in 2019. The show will be June 29 and 30. The 100th Mississippi Valley Fair is July 30 through Aug. 3. The 2019Grand Stand acts include Brad Paisley, Jake Owen, Tesla and Dan + Shay. Snowstar has a new zipline course, with one zipline that’s 1,300 feet long. The world’s largest truck stop, Iowa 80 Truckstop, is near the Quad Cities and it has recently finished a $10 million expansion and remodel project. Look for the antique trucks added to the main entry. Quad Cities got a new hockey team, theQuad City Storm, in 2018. Playing in the Southern Professional Hockey League, the season runs October through April.

Looking for free things to do with kids in the Quad Cities? Read this post!

Not sure where to stay in the Quad Cities? This post compares three hotels located in Davenport, Bettendorf and Moline. #Iowa #Illinois #familytravel

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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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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 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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September 18, 2018

Where To Eat & Where To Stay In Decorah

Decorah is a town tucked into northeastern Iowa. Found in the Driftless Area, its terrain is rockier than you’d expect for the Midwest. I visited this summer on a girlfriends getaway with the goal of enjoying outdoor pursuits like bike riding, kayaking and climbing a waterfall (not a big one, but still counts). I didn’t expect to encounter an abundance of great food and local beer. You just have to know where to eat in Decorah. I had plenty of tips to build the perfect itinerary for food and beer!

Dunnig Springs Waterfall in Decorah
We went to Decorah for the outdoor activities like seeing the waterfall in town, but it turns out, the food is as big a draw as the terrain.

Disclosure: My visit was hosted by Visit Decorah. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Where to eat in Decorah

For a town with a population of about 8,000, Decorah had too many great choices for dining to fit into one weekend.

Restaurant and brewery suggestions for Decorah, Iowa including pizza at Luna Valley Farm, beer at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co., and two places for breakfast #hosted #dining #Iowa

Decorah is proud of its Nordic heritage. If you want to try some Norwegian dishes, head to Ruby’s Restaurant and Catering.

Ruby's Restaurant in Decorah, Iowa
Ruby’s Restaurant and Catering serves the typical diner food you’d expect in the Midwest plus plenty of Norwegian options.

We went to Ruby’s for breakfast, and decided to turn it into a Norwegian buffet, ordering a variety of small plates to try. It was less breakfast and more Christmas desserts, but I’m not complaining. We tried a rosette, lefse, kringla and sandbakkal.

Plates of Norwegian food in Decorah
Among the Norwegian treats we tried at Ruby’s Restaurant were kringla (top) and lefse.

Ruby’s is also known for the Ronnie Roll. It’s basically a giant cinnamon roll. And yeah, we ordered one of those too. Of course, the typical American breakfast staples are available to order as well.

Ruby's Restaurant in Decorah is home to the Ronny Roll
Ruby’s Restaurant is known for their Ronny Roll, which I had to try because my dad’s name is Ron and I love sugar.

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah, where we could’ve enjoyed a complimentary breakfast each morning. But, with limited time in Decorah, we opted to have breakfast in town. 

On the second day of our trip to Decorah, we wandered into Restauration, the restaurant located in the historic Hotel Winneshiek. My friends enjoyed a mimosa with brunch. I stuck to black coffee. Our filling entrees were delicious.

Restauration's brunch menu
Restauration was located inside the historic Hotel Winneshiek in downtown Decorah.

By far, the most memorable meal in Decorah was on our first night. I was so glad to be tipped off that Luna Valley Farm serves wood-fire pizza on Friday nights. What a memorable meal, dining on pizza, lights strung up from a barn and the green farmland in view! 

Woodfire pizza at Luna Valley Farm
Luna Valley Farm in Decorah has pizza nights every Friday from May through October. The pizza includes ingredients raised or grown on the farm. And there’s beer. And the night we were there, there was live music.

The atmosphere at Luna Valley Farm is welcoming where you get to know the people sitting next to you. It was a rainy night, but under the tents, we dined and chatted happily. There was live music the night we were there. When the rain stopped, we walked just a short distance to look at pigs. 

Luna Valley Farm in Decorah, Iowa
There’s usually a line at Luna Valley Farm – two, actually. You can order pizza and appetizers in one line, and get your beer, wine or non-alcoholic beverages in the other.

If you couldn’t guess, yes, they grow and raise some of the food you’ll consume on pizza night.

Some of the other restaurants we tried that I’d recommend:

  • Rubaiyat Restaurant – This was more of an upscale experience than the others. The food was delicious and served with warm bread. I tried a Kobe hotdog because, why not. It was not the most photogenic of entrees, but it was pretty good and very filling. Their brunch was recommended to us.
  • Pulpit Rock Brewing Co. – OK, not a restaurant. While there was a food truck parked by it the day we visited, this is a recommendation for the beer. With many options on tap to try, from a delicious amber to more unique flavors like an Oreo stout and a cider that tasted like Key lime pie, if you like beer, you’ll find something to like here.
Post-bike ride beers at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co.

We went to Pulpit Rock after our bike ride. It was a short walk from our bike rental shop, Decorah Bicycles. 

There is another well-known brewery in Decorah, if craft beer is your thing. It’s called Toppling Goliath. 

  • – Winneshiek Wildberry Winery – Since we were on a girlfriends’ getaway, we couldn’t resist the draw of a winery tasting room that was near our hotel. We got a flight of wine to taste. In all honesty, the wine was too sweet for my likes. But, that sweet wine was pretty good in a wine slushie, which I split with my sister. It was inexpensive, too. Also, This winery had probably the best photo opp in town – a giant gnome in front of the building. 
  • La Rana – I liked La Rana for its small, but cozy decor and fresh food. We had a few quibbles with the our meal, though, so it’s on the bottom of my suggestions for you.
  • – I had many friends familiar with town offer suggestions for meals, and due to limited time, we couldn’t make it to them. Here are what others say are great places to each in Decorah: Mabe’s Pizza and Whippy Dip (for ice cream).

Where to stay in Decorah

If you know anything about the area, you know there’s an abundance of outdoor activities, including great paved and mountain bike trails, the Upper Iowa River for tubing or kayaking, and even a waterfall. So, you may want to stay overnight.

Hotel and glamping suggestions for Decorah, Iowa - Whether you want a hotel near Trout Run Trail, a historic hotel downtown, or you want to try glamping at Luna Valley Farm, there are options in the small town that fits your needs #hotels #glamping

We stayed in the new Fairfield Inn & Suites, located conveniently near the Trout Run Trail. On the morning of one of days in Decorah, we biked the trail around scenic pastures, up to the fish hatchery, and along the river. If running or walking is your jam, this is a good trail for you, too.

Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah
The Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah, Iowa, was located near the popular Trout Run Trail and just a short drive from downtown Decorah.

Fairfield is a familiar chain for me and my family, so I like knowing what to expect, from a daily hot breakfast bar to a fitness center and pool. 

I’m loving the look of the lobbies in Fairfield Inns these days, too.

The colorful lobby at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah, Iowa.

Our room was comfortable, with two Queen beds and a large bathroom. 

There are, of course, other options for hotels in Decorah, including the historic Hotel Winneshiek in the downtown area. We had breakfast at Restauration, the hotel’s restaurant, and took a quick peek around the lobby while we were there.

It’s a pretty hotel, and I’d look into staying there when we return. It was booked solid the weekend we were there due to Toppling Goliath’s big beer release weekend. Who would’ve guessed?

Another option that, alas, was also already booked the weekend we were there was at Luna Valley Farm. They offer glamping! 

Tips on where to eat, drink and stay in Decorah, a town in Northeastern Iowa known for outdoor adventures and popular craft breweries

More Decorah adventures

If you missed my previous post about outdoor adventures in Decorah, go check it out! I wrote about the bike ride along Trout Run Trail and a moonlit kayaking trip, both experiences were with our local guide, Amber, who recently started up Karst Adventures.

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