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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December 6, 2018

Chicago Holiday Weekend With Kids

I’ve been wanting to take the kids to Chicago for years, and finally, the opportunity arose to take them on one of the first big holiday weekends of the year: Thanksgiving Weekend. So, I knew it was going to take some planning (it all started with this Chicago Holiday Bucket List). Here’s all that we did during three days in Chicago:

Things do do in Chicago at Christmas - Kid-friendly restaurants decked out for the season, holiday displays and more festive things to do in the Windy City #Chicago #Christmas #familytravel

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, if you click the link and/or make a purchase, I may receive a small payment for referring you. 

Trees & caroling in Chicago

There were three places we had planned on seeing Christmas trees. For a meal under a giant Christmas tree, you’ve got to head to Macy’s Walnut Room. Many people go just to take a picture. We went on a Friday night and expected a terribly long wait (it was Black Friday), but got in pretty quickly.

The kids posing with a fairy princess at the Walnut Room inside Macy’s department store in downtown Chicago.

Fairy princesses strolled the room during the meal, granting wishes and handing out wishing stones. It was an unexpected experience that my daughter particularly loved. The service, by the way, was fantastic.

Tip: You cannot make a reservation for The Walnut Room during the holidays. We did not have much of a wait, but plan accordingly. They will not seat your party unless everyone is there.

And what should you try at the Walnut Room? Get the famous chicken pot pie. 

To see trees with an around the world theme, head to the Museum of Science & Industry. Their Christmas Around The World and Holiday of Lights display is full of impressive details. I liked looking at festive trees, but my kids were not interested (due to the fact that the rest of the museum was so stinking amazing). On the weekends, there are performances I wish we could’ve seen.

The four-story Grand Tree is located inside the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.

There’s also a gorgeous, giant tree that’s the centerpiece of it all. On the hour and half-hour is a “snowfall.” We hung around to see it once. It’s not too exciting, at least not for a 7-year-old.

Tip: If you have a membership to Omaha Children’s Museum, you get reciprocal free admission to the Museum of Science & Industry. This is a HUGE savings.

The extra exhibitions and experiences are a considerable add-on. We did the coal mining experience and it was OK (not totally sure it was “$40 OK,” though).

The extra I do think was worth it was the $5 toy building assembly line. The tops the kids made work great. The machine did have a few moments of not working, so it wasn’t a smooth process, but still, I’d recommend it.

On Friday nights during the holiday season, you might catch live holiday music being performed in front of the iconic “Bean” sculpture at Millennium Park.

For the ultimate Christmas tree experience, head to Millennium Park. There’s ice skating with the giant Christmas tree lit up in the background. We visited on a Friday night and they had live Christmas music by “Cloud Gate,” AKA, The Bean. Everyone in the crowd sang along. These concerts happen every Friday from 6 to 7 p.m. during the holiday season.

Christmas trees on Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago.

Chicago is a great city to see holiday lights. We happened upon gorgeous displays on walks from our hotel, Loews Chicago. Two great trees can be found on Wabash Avenue by the river, right by the Ghirardelli store.

Holidays at Chicago museums

Museums were definitely on our itinerary, and the ones we visited had their own Christmas decorations to enjoy. I already mentioned Museum of Science & Industry, and that was, by far, the most decorated place of the three we went to.

The Field Museum has decorations up during the holiday season.

The Field Museum had holiday lights set up in the main lobby and on stairwells, plus some wreaths hung up. It was minimal but done really well.

Tip: If you have a membership to Omaha Children’s Museum,you get reciprocal free admission to the Field Museum. This is a HUGE savings.

The extra exhibitions at The Field Museum are a considerable add-on. Admittedly, the one we chose was not worth it.

The Art Institute of Chicago, the iconic lions out front have wreaths placed around them. If you head to the Thorne Miniatures Room, a couple of the rooms had some Christmas-y décor added to them 

The lions in front of the Art Institute of Chicago are each adorned with a large wreath during the holiday season. When we did the JourneyMaker activity at the museum, my daughter chose the lions as one of our stops.

Tip: If you take little ones to Art Institute of Chicago, you’ve got to stop first at the Ryan Learning Center in the Contemporary Building. There, in addition to some great art activities, you’ll find the JourneyMaker center, where kids can create a mini tour of the museum based on a theme they choose and the artwork they choose to see within that theme.

The kids loved it, and it made an extremely large museum manageable for a child. We had four stops on the tour – both kids chose creatures theme – and it took us to quite a few galleries, including my favorite, the Impressionists area. In about an hour, we had found the art, did the little activities associated with each stop and made it back to the learning center to collect their prize (a postcard of their choice).

The JourneyMaker at Art Institute of Chicago let’s kids create their own themed tour of the museum that includes activities for each stop and a prize to collect at the end.

Chicago restaurants decorated for Christmas

Most Chicago restaurants we visited had some sort of decoration, but one stood out for the decor and another stood out for the food.

The Walnut Room is a restaurant in Chicago that is truly decked out for Christmas.

I already mentioned the Walnut Room at Macy’s. The giant Christmas tree is a show-stopper, for sure, but the food is very good too. And, it’s kid-friendly with a menu for the little ones.

Another downtown restaurant we enjoyed was the family-owned Tortoise Supper Club.

Disclosure: We were guests of the restaurant on our visit.

Exterior of Tortoise Supper Club decorated for Christmas
For a special night out, we dined at the Tortoise Supper Club in downtown Chicago. Photo courtesy Tortoise Supper Club

While there was some classy holiday decor, the memorable thing for us was the food during our visit. It’s not as kid-friendly, in the sense that there is no kid’s menu or kid portions, but the staff warmly welcomed my kids and the other families in the restaurant.

I’ll write more about it soon, but if you do find yourself there, my tip to you is to get the dessert (key lime pie or tortoise pie).

Ice skating in downtown Chicago

Time did not allow for us to fit in a trip to an outdoor iceskating rink in Chicago, though there are two that were within walking distance of our hotel, Loews Chicago. The one at Millennium Park is traditional oval shaped with a very charming Christmas tree in the background.

The walk from Millennium Park to Maggie Daley Park in Chicago was easy thanks to this cool bridge.

The other is at Maggie Daley Park, which is just a bridge walk from Millennium Park. It’s an ice skating ribbon, which looks a little more fun than just going in loops.

We skipped the ice skating, though, and went straight to the amazing playground at Maggie Daley Park. I think we made the right call on a particularly mild winter day.

Maggie Daley Park in downtown Chicago has a massive playground as well as an outdoor ice skating ribbon in the winter.

Christmas while you shop in Chicago

The Christkindlmarket was on my wish list to visit for years. Modeled after German Christmas markets, it’s an outdoor market with vendors selling gifts, food, and drinks.

All smiles before the immensity of the crowd at Christkindlmarket really sunk in.

It’s very charming, in theory, but the crowds are overwhelming.  I was warned by many to go early, and man, did I try to get there first thing one morning. We ended up arriving  about 30 minutes after it opened, and it was packed. One particular aisle was crammed, and we shuffled our way barely seeing the booths. My kids still enjoyed it, and found souvenirs for themselves and a gift for one aunt.

An ornament found at the Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago.

I did, at least, have some tasty pastries and gluhwein, so it wasn’t a total wash.

Christmas is everywhere in stores, and Chicago retailers do it up well. Downtown, you’ll want to check out Macy’s window displays of exquisite scenes.

Shoppers on Black Friday in downtown Chicago.

A train ride away, or in our case, a car ride, is the Fashion Outlets of Chicago in Rosemont, Ill. We were guests of the mall and got to try out a pretty high tech Santa experience called Santa HQ, presented by HGTV. The cost is comparable to photos with Santa at other malls, but this is an immersive experience that goes beyond the typical wait-in-line-for-a-photo Santa experience.

The entrance to Santa HQ at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago. It’s an immersive experience that ends with kids meeting Santa Claus.

The kids were able to go through the Elf Academy, and make digital elf versions of themselves, step on a Naughty Or Nice detector, and use an iPad to see virtual elves around Santa HQ. Pretty nifty stuff.

My daughter trying out some of the techy fun at Santa HQ at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago.

It ends with photos with Santa, and sharing wish lists with him, plus the kids receive goodie bags.

Where to stay for all the Chicago Christmas fun

I partnered with Loews Hotels for this trip and found the downtown Chicago location to be absolutely ideal for my family’s trip. Many of our destinations, like Millennium Park, are within walking distance.

Our hotel for most of the Chicago trip, Loews Chicago, was located in downtown Chicago.

In the winter, Loews Chicago offers the Snowed Inn package for families, which includes cookies & hot cocoa, a rented movie, and valet parking. Nice right? They also set up a cute tent and campfire set for the kids to play with.

We could see Navy Pier from our window on the 14th floor of Loews Chicago.

Can’t beat the view, either! That’s Navy Pier in the distance, with the big ferris wheel lighting up the background.

The lobby at Loews Chicago was charmingly decorated for Christmas.

If you think Santa HQ is another destination for you, there’s a Loews Hotel location (O’Hare) that’s super close. If the weather hadn’t been crummy, we could’ve walked to it.

The lobby at Loews O’Hare was large and set up for gathering. There were neat artistic touches throughout the hotel.

Check back in a few weeks for reviews about our stay at each hotel! I’ll tell you about the rooms and the family-friendly amenities at each.

Plan a Chicago Getaway

Want to visit Chicago with your family? Here are a few additional posts to help plan things. Start with my Chicago Holidays Bucket List – there’s quite a bit on the post that isn’t just for Christmas time in the city, too!

Dec. 17 – Staying In Downtown Chicago With Kids At Loews

Dec. 26 – Taking Kids To Tortoise Supper Club In Chicago

Jan. 3 – Tips For Visiting 3 Big Chicago Museums With Kids

Jan. 10 – Staying Near Fashion Outlets Of Chicago – Loews O’Hare

Get some more ideas by following my Pinterest board for Chicago!

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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.

Family-friendly things to do in Chicago at Christmas - Where to find displays in downtown Chicago, kid-friendly restaurants, and more #holidays #familytravel #Chicago #OhMyChicagoHoliday
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

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.

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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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.