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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Putnam Museum is one of 250+ museums that belong to the ASTC reciprocal membership program. To find out all the kid-friendly museums like it that are within driving distance of Omaha, read this post!
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:
During our long weekend to the Quad Cities – a collection of
cities around the Mississippi River on both the Iowa and Illinois side – we
visited several family-friendly museums and places that I can’t wait to tell
you more about. Three things that I want to highlight in this post stand out
from the others in one particular way – they are free. If free fits your budget
when traveling, read on.
Fryxell Geology Museum
Where: Rock Island, Ill.
Hours: Academic year, Mondays-Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 .m. (plus seven evenings throughout the year)
Tucked in the beautiful Augustana Campus is the Fryxell Geology Museum. This museum is a bit off the beaten path, but it was so worth the stop. It’s one of the largest and finest collections of rocks, minerals and fossils in the Midwest.
It’s a more hands-on museum than you’d expect, which is great for visiting families. The staff has found engaging ways to get your kids excited about the displays.
If you’re doing the self-guided thing, you can pick up
scavenger hunt cards. They’re simple cards that encourage kids to look closer
at displays to find the item that matches the picture.
There’s also a new iPad app that allows kids (or adults, because you know you’re going to want to try it) to aim the iPad at a fossil and see an image or an illustrated video to see what the creature might have looked like back in the day. This was way cool for the kids.
The highlighted was walking around with a staff member and
having her point out cool fossils – like fossilized poop – and answering
questions my kids posed.
Things to look for:
There’s a rock display behind curtains in theback of the museum. Take a peek to see the “glowing” rocks. It impressed myyoungest.
The Cryolophosaurus. This large dinosaur is one of the first things you encounter at the museum. It’s got a great story– the first dinosaur found in Antarctica AND found by an Augustana professor. There’s a display to learn more about that years-long process of uncovering the bones.
John Deere Pavilion
Where: Moline, Ill.
Hours: Monday–Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Closed major holidays.
This pavilion, to me, is half history museum and half children’s museum. Even the website tells you: “The only requirement for kids inside our doors — BE A KID. Climb on board. Pretend you’re driving…”
So, the history part is fairly obvious. You can see the earliest tractors and how they and other farming equipment have evolved over 180 years. Walking the whole length of the pavilion, you can’t help but be impressed. And, when you reach the other end of the building, you get a glimpse at present time and what innovations are ahead.
What’s great for kids is that they can climb into the cabs
of many of these huge machines.
The space that felt like a mini children’s museum part, the Discovery Zone, was the area my kids wanted to spend the most time. There are hands-on displays and train table, as well as a stop-motion table. My son’s favorite was a video he can manipulate, speeding the image up or slowing it down.
There’s a row of screens that you can sit in front of and try out simulations of driving some of the machinery. This appealed to the grown-ups as much as the kids. There were quite a few screens, actually, throughout the pavilion that allowed for a fun way to learn more about the brand and farming.
This one was a fairly quick stop for us, whereas I think the others could spend about an hour or so there. If your kid is really interested in the machines, check out this John Deere website with coloring pages and videos.
Where: Davenport, Iowa
Hours: Daily, 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
I first learned about the Skybridge through pictures,
because this hidden gem (or maybe not-so-hidden) gives you a great birds-eye
view of the Mississippi River.
Pretty much, it’s a walkway over a highway from a parking garage to the riverfront. But, it’s done in such a cool way, that it’s worth checking out. If the weather’s crummy, it’s also a nice, long corridor that kids can run up and down. When we were there, two women were running laps for a workout.
At night, I hear the lighting inside is pretty sweet, too.
We were there during the day, so I can’t vouch for the lighting. But, the view
The river was at flood-level, so we could see water seeping
up onto the Iowa banks.
We didn’t head downtown just for this view. We actually decided to add a visit to the Skybridge at the last minute since we got downtown in record time and the Figge Art Museum wasn’t open yet. The Skybridge is super close to the Figge and killed about 10 minutes.
Plan a Quad Cities Family Trip
I’ll be sharing more in-depth posts about some of the places we visited in the Quad Cities in upcoming posts. Check back to learn more about:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.