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.

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

If you’re doing the self-guided thing, you can pick up scavenger hunt cards. They’re simple cards that encourage kids to look closer at displays to find the item that matches the picture.

There’s also a new iPad app that allows kids (or adults, because you know you’re going to want to try it) to aim the iPad at a fossil and see an image or an illustrated video to see what the creature might have looked like back in the day. This was way cool for the kids.

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

The highlighted was walking around with a staff member and having her point out cool fossils – like fossilized poop – and answering questions my kids posed.

Things to look for:

  • There’s a rock display behind curtains in theback of the museum. Take a peek to see the “glowing” rocks. It impressed myyoungest.
  • The Cryolophosaurus. This large dinosaur is one of the first things you encounter at the museum. It’s got a great story– the first dinosaur found in Antarctica AND found by an Augustana professor. There’s a display to learn more about that years-long process of uncovering the bones.

John Deere Pavilion

Where: Moline, Ill.

Hours: Monday–Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Closed major holidays.

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

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

This pavilion, to me, is half history museum and half children’s museum. Even the website tells you: “The only requirement for kids inside our doors — BE A KID. Climb on board. Pretend you’re driving…”

So, the history part is fairly obvious. You can see the earliest tractors and how they and other farming equipment have evolved over 180 years. Walking the whole length of the pavilion, you can’t help but be impressed. And, when you reach the other end of the building, you get a glimpse at present time and what innovations are ahead.

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

What’s great for kids is that they can climb into the cabs of many of these huge machines.

The space that felt like a mini children’s museum part, the Discovery Zone, was the area my kids wanted to spend the most time. There are hands-on displays and train table, as well as a stop-motion table. My son’s favorite was a video he can manipulate, speeding the image up or slowing it down.

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

There’s a row of screens that you can sit in front of and try out simulations of driving some of the machinery. This appealed to the grown-ups as much as the kids. There were quite a few screens, actually, throughout the pavilion that allowed for a fun way to learn more about the brand and farming.

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

This one was a fairly quick stop for us, whereas I think the others could spend about an hour or so there. If your kid is really interested in the machines, check out this John Deere website with coloring pages and videos.

Davenport Skybridge

Where: Davenport, Iowa

Hours: Daily, 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

I first learned about the Skybridge through pictures, because this hidden gem (or maybe not-so-hidden) gives you a great birds-eye view of the Mississippi River.

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

Pretty much, it’s a walkway over a highway from a parking garage to the riverfront. But, it’s done in such a cool way, that it’s worth checking out. If the weather’s crummy, it’s also a nice, long corridor that kids can run up and down. When we were there, two women were running laps for a workout.

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

At night, I hear the lighting inside is pretty sweet, too. We were there during the day, so I can’t vouch for the lighting. But, the view was neat.

The river was at flood-level, so we could see water seeping up onto the Iowa banks.

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

We didn’t head downtown just for this view. We actually decided to add a visit to the Skybridge at the last minute since we got downtown in record time and the Figge Art Museum wasn’t open yet. The Skybridge is super close to the Figge and killed about 10 minutes.

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

Plan a Quad Cities Family Trip

I’ll be sharing more in-depth posts about some of the places we visited in the Quad Cities in upcoming posts. Check back to learn more about:

Fun Things To Do With Kids In The Quad Cities

Where To Stay In The Quad Cities – Illinois Side

The Figge Art Museum And Kids

Exploring The Putnam Museum With Young Kids

Comparing Hotels Around The Quad Cities

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 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.

Exterior of the Figge Art Museum with a crochet cover on a tree
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

Stairwell at Figge Art Museum in Davenport Iowa
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.

Drawing space at the Family Activity Center in the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa
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. 

Small stage at the Family Activity Center inside the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa
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.

Painting in the temporary exhibit about French Moderns at the Figge Art Museum
“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. 

Inside the temporary exhibit space at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa
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

Comparing Hotels Around The Quad Cities

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

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

October 21, 2018

Where To Stay In The Quad Cities – Illinois Side

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

Review of the Element Moline located in the Quad Cities

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

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

Hallway at the Element Moline in Illinois
With cement floors and unique light fixtures, Element Moline didn’t look like a typical hotel.

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

Guest room with two double beds at the Element Moline in Illinois
Our room at Element had the look and feel of a chic loft – brick walls, concrete, and a kitchen.

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

Exposed brick in the guest room at Element Moline in Illinois
The room had blackout curtains to help with an impromptu nap one of my kids needed during our trip.

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

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

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

Dining room at the Element Moline in Illinois
The breakfast crowd on a Monday morning was decidedly more business than families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you go

Element Moline

Where: 316 12th Street, Moline, Ill.

Website

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

Other places to stay in the Quad Cities

We returned to the Quad Cities area twice on a recent road trip. Each time, we stayed in a different hotel of the region. Each place had their pros and cons. Read this post comparing three hotels in the Quad Cities to see if one suits your family’s traveling needs.

Plan a Quad Cities Family Trip

I’ll be sharing more in-depth posts about some of the places we visited in the Quad Cities in upcoming posts. Check back to learn more about:

Fun Things To Do With Kids In The Quad Cities

Taking Kids To The Figge Art Museum

Free Things To Do With Kids In The Quad Cities

Exploring The Putnam Museum With Young Kids

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.

The Egypt exhibit at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa
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.

Simple Machines exhibit at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa
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.

A temporary exhibit about French moderns at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa
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.

Family Activity Center at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa
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.

Inside the Davenport Skybridge in downtown Davenport, Iowa
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!

Inside the Family Museum in Betterndorf, Iowa
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.

Kid-sized shops inside the Family Museum in Betterdorf, Iowa
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.

Clay studio inside the Family Museum in Bettendorf, Iowa
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.

Entrance to the Fryxell Museum at Augusta College in Rock Island, Illinois
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. 

Touching a shark's jaw at Fryxell Geology Museum in Rock Island, Illinois
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.

Viewing fossils with a special iPad app at Fryxell Geology Museum in Rock Island, Illinois
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 farm equipment at the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois
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.

Dining room at QC Coffee and Pancake House in Rock Island, Illinois
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.

Exterior of the original location of Lagomarcino's in Moline, Illinois
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.

Ice cream sundae at Lagomarcino's
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 Company kid's menu
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.

Guest room at the Element in Moline, Illinois
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.

Breakfast options at the Element Moline hotel
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

Comparing Hotels Around The Quad Cities

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 1, 2018

Taking Kids To The Motown Museum

Motown music was on heavy rotation during our Great Michigan Road Trip in preparation for our final stop: Detroit. With a great variety of museums to choose from in the city, I felt it was essential to visit the Motown Museum. But, there are a few things to keep in mind before taking your family there.

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

Planning a family trip to Detroit, Michigan? Here are a few things to know before going with kids, especially young ones who may not do well on a guided tour. #Michigan #MIGreatRoadTrip #familytravel #museumtips

Before you go to Motown Museum

Really, there are just two things I suggest doing before you go:

1.  Book the tour. You can’t peek inside the museum, AKA Hitsville USA, without a taking the one-hour tour. So, you’ll need to buy your tour tickets for a specific day and time in advance.

There’s always the option of trying to walk up and buy tickets the day of, but when we were there, we saw people turned away. Don’t risk it if this museum is important to you.

2. Listen to the music. This was my favorite way to introduce the kids to the people and music they would be learning about. 

You can see where Motown began at the Motown Museum in Detroit. Photo courtesy Visit Detroit

What to expect at the Motown Museum

You’ll want to be prompt for your timed tour. You’ll meet your tour guide and learn the rules. The big one? No pictures.

Most of the time. I’ll get to that exception in a second.

The tour takes you through Barry Gordy Jr.’s flat, past displays of gold records, costumes, and historic photos. We heard inside stories about artists who passed through the studio, like how Stevie Wonder was just a kid and there was a rule about not switching out the order of the candy in the vending machine so he’d always be able to buy the candy he wanted on his own.

The highlight for me? Standing in the Studio A. It was, like, goosebumps special. Our guide talked about recording artists who were inspired by Motown greats visiting and weeping when they entered the studio.

Studio A at the Motown Museum in Detroit
The Temptations, The Supremes and many other famous Motown artists recorded hit songs in Studio A. Visitors to the Motown Museum visit the studio during the tour. 

It’s fascinating to hear the stories of who recorded there, and to know which songs were recorded in that very space. This was the lone place where we could take pictures. We all sang “My Girl,” and for me, it was a pinch-me moment.

What ages are best for Motown Museum?

The Motown Museum is packed with insight and history into Barry Gordy, and the musicians and songs behind Motown Records. There’s nothing on display that is inappropriate or over a kid’s head necessarily. However, it’s not for all ages due to the tour structure.

One of my kids managed better on the guided tour than the other…but both insisted on getting Motown Museum T-shirts, so I guess it did make an impression on both.

Motown Museum was not a good one for my 6-year-old. The tour goes through a home and rather than having free reign to roam, your tour group follows the guide room-to-room, and there’s no lingering or moving ahead if your little one gets bored. That was tough for my daughter.

My daughter was overly tired and wanted to sit at each tour stop while the tour guide talked. There also aren’t many places to sit, except for when we sat to watch the short documentary before taking the tour. 

Which leads to the other problem for my youngest: She’s not into documentaries. Go figure. That was the longest couple of minutes ever.

My son is slightly older and no problem with anything on the tours, besides not having a good sense of timelines and social significances of certain songs or people.

If you go

Motown Museum

Where: 2648 W. Grand Blvd, Detroit, Mich.

Cost: Tickets in 2018 are $15 for adults, $10 for children, and FREE for children ages 4 and younger. Tickets for tours are first come, first served and often sell out, especially on Saturdays. Tickets can be purchased up to 21 days in advance online. Tours are about an hour long. Here’s the link for tickets, and hours, as well.

News to note: The museum has launched a campaign for a $50 million expansion. There was no construction going on when we visited nor have I read when that may begin, but I’d recommend checking on construction plans if and when you plan to visit, just in case.

What to expect if you bring little ones to Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan. #tips #familytravel #USA

Read more about things to do in Detroit

Planning a visit to Detroit? Start with the Detroit Bucket List, and then check out these posts for further details about different Detroit museums:

Detroit Museums For Families

“Star Wars and the Power of Costume” At Detroit Institute Of Arts

Things To Know Before Taking Kids To The Henry Ford

Where To Stay Near Detroit

This was the final stop of an epic Michigan road trip. Learn about all of our fun stops here.

Thinking about taking the Motown Museum tour with your kids? Here are few things you should know before go. #Tips #Detroit #Michigan #USA #FamilyTravel

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September 12, 2018

Exploring Grand Rapids Public Museum With Kids

The surprise hit of our Grand Rapids weekend was the Grand Rapids Public Museum. A surprise because we almost didn’t go. If you’re in the city, with or without kids, this is a must-visit.

Streetcar inside Grand Rapids Public Museum
A streetcar, a sperm whale skeleton, and more at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Not knowing what to expect at the museum added to the adventure of discovering things at each turn.

Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by Experience Grand Rapids. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Grand Rapids Public Museum favorite exhibits

There are some can’t-miss things on display that you, literally, cannot miss since they’re in the main hall. The large sperm whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling comes to mind. 

Sperm Whale skeleton in the main hall in Grand Rapids Public Museum
You really can’t miss Finny, the sperm whale skeleton hanging over the main hall.

It’s name is Finny, by the way.

My favorite area was a replica of an old street scene, complete with stocked stores, street lights, and a unicycle photo opp. The scene is 1890s Grand Rapids.

Old streetscape inside Grand Rapids Public Museum
Storefronts from the olden days of Grand Rapids. There’s a full street of them at the Grand Rapids Public Museum – and don’t skip taking a seat on a unicycle while in the area.

We allowed such a short amount of time, so regrettably, we rushed through some things. And there’s so much to see! Exhibits on musical instruments, phones, history, animals…a little bit of everything.

Exhibit at Grand Rapids Public Museum
“Collecting From A-Z” is the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s way of showcasing a variety of items, some exquisite and beautiful as well as some bizarre.

My kids are 6 and 8 years old and they were fully engaged here. There’s even a space for them to learn about space.

The Carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum

You can’t really go to the museum without stopping by the carousel. The 1928 Spillman Carousel is a little extra to ride, unless you have a membership, but it’s iconic and a kid-pleaser.

Old carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum
You’ll hear the music before you see the carousel at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

If you go

Grand Rapids Public Museum

Where: 272 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Hours may be found here

Website

Grand Rapids Public Museum was a hit with kids and adults - History, hands-on exhibit pieces, and a carousel #familytravel #Michigan

More about Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids was the first stop of an epic road trip adventure through Michigan. Go ahead and check out where we stopped and what we did, or use this ultimate Michigan Bucket List to plan an awesome road trip.

Weekend in Grand Rapids

For Grand Rapids highlights, read these posts:

48 Hours In Grand Rapids With Kids

Where to Stay in Downtown Grand Rapids

Adventures At John Ball Zoo

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